…How much did my East Coast escape cost?

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Talk about suspense huh.

I’m trying to avoid falling into the trap of blogger’s guilt because I feel like nowadays everyone’s blog starts with the usual  “sorry for the delay, i’ve been so tied up!” apology. So I guess that’s my way of saying sorry without actually saying sorry.

Because – like with work e-mails – you know nobody really means it when they say sorry so what’s the damn point amairait.

Anyway, this specific post has been sitting in my drafts for at least two weeks. I actually did my calculations a few days after I got back, but it did actually get quite hectic for me so I never got round to finishing it up. Better late than never, here we go:

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(don’t bother trying to decipher; just carry on reading below. plus this is slightly inaccurate, there have been tweaks since i took this picture!)

All prices will be quoted in Brunei dollars (BND) 🙂

I hope you’re able to recall from my last post – there are three Critical Aspects you need to factor in and consider when planning for (and budgeting for) a holiday. Make momma proud, what are they?

..

Ya ok not that I can hear you anyway so let’s just get straight to it. First up:

1. FLIGHT TICKETS

I had alluded to the fact that this trip was extremely last minute for my standards, an “emergency expense” of sorts (I’d like to emphasize the inverted commas since we all know a holiday isn’t a true emergency). In a nutshell, a group of close friends had been planning a trip to the US for months now, which I’d known about but had not seriously considered joining – until about four weeks prior to the trip. I found out that one of the girls had not even bought her flights yet at that point, so I jumped on the opportunity and told her – when you buy your tickets, get mine too.

She’s based in Singapore so all that I needed was to meet her there and we could hop on the same flights and make our way across the world together to meet the rest of our crew. I applied for work leave as soon as I’d made the decision to tag along and a couple days after that the flight tickets were booked and paid for.

The fact that I had a comfortable (and fairly well-stocked) short-term savings fund sitting around without a specific purpose definitely, definitely made this decision easy for me. If you’ve seen how my savings are structured, you’ll know that as soon as my short-term fund grows into a good size (and it’s not earmarked for any specific purpose), it’ll slip downwards into my medium-term tray and then become completely untouchable for holiday purposes. So it was perhaps a serendipitous thing that I was presented with a decision to go on a last-minute holiday ngam when I had a fat short-term fund which had yet to be transferred into my more locked-up accounts.

My return flight from Singapore (SIN) to New York (EWR) cost $1,519 via United Airlines, and I paid $401 for my return flight from Brunei to Singapore via Royal Brunei Airlines. So I spent a grand total of BND $1920 on flights.

I can tell you that that’s actually quite a good deal. Three years ago I flew to Washington DC and paid about $2,200 in total.I remember having to pay $500 to get from Brunei to Singapore (and back), and then I took Emirates from Singapore to Washington (via Dubai) which cost ~$1,700. I had bought those tickets a couple of months in advance too and at the time the price was considered to be fairly reasonable. If you think about it, flights from Brunei to London can still cost upwards of $2,000 during peak season. A “good price” for a Brunei to London flight is $1,600-$1,800 so $1,920 from Brunei to New York is actually not bad at all, especially if you think about how it takes eight extra hours to make that journey.

I will be writing a separate note eventually on how to plan flights; i.e. which route did I take – eastwards past Japan or westwards past Dubai?, how to search for good deals, etc. but right now let’s just stay on topic and dive into how much everything else cost me.

2. ACCOMMODATION 

My trip was two weeks long (including travel time), and we had to think about accommodation for 12 nights. Five of those nights we stayed at a friend’s relative’s house in upstate New York so we only had to plan and pay for 7 nights of accommodation. Like I’d just mentioned, I’ll get into detail about what types of accommodation you should think about (and all the other travel tips) next time. Right now let’s just talk dollars and cents.

We were on the move the first couple of days so we stayed at an inn near the airport the first night, and a motel the second night. The benefit of travelling in groups is splitting room costs; we had two double-bed rooms on both nights (for four people) which cost approximately BND $45 per person, per night.

After our first week in upstate New York, we were down to three people and drove to Washington DC and NYC. We checked into Airbnbs, which is an excellent option in big, expensive cities. This is a picture of our Washington one:

 

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nice huh?

That cost me $181 for two nights, which is roughly BND $90 per person, per night. It was almost double the price of the motels, but you have to remember (and factor in!) the fact that DC and NYC are espensif citiz. Nevertheless, BND$90 a night is still a reasonable amount in my book. In general, if you want to be very safe I’d budget BND $100 per night for accommodation. Chances are you’ll be able to find sleeping situations much lower than that price range, especially if you’re travelling in groups. I think hotels in Singapore (based on my vague memory of Royal Plaza on Scotts rack rates) are like $200+ for a double bed right? And that’s kira mahal sudah.

This is what our NYC Airbnb looked like; so cool right!

nycairbb
artsy

In NYC space is a luxury so the apartment was much smaller than the DC one, but had loads of character. For three nights, I paid $319 which is about BND $106 per night. Not ridiculously cheap, but still reasonable in our opinion – we stayed in central locations and chose to book places where we had the whole apartment (without a live-in landlord or anything like that).

In order to protect the privacy of these locations, I can’t/won’t share exact details on my blog. On Airbnb they actually don’t reveal the exact locations until you’ve confirmed your booking. But if you’re really interested (and are seriously planning a trip to either city), let me know and I can tell you the general area I chose to stay at, which Airbnb I booked, etc. Or I suppose I could give you a bunch of travel tips for either/both cities in a separate post including which areas to stay in. LIATLAH kalau datang rajin.

In total, I paid BND $590 for 7 nights of accommodation in both Washington DC and New York City.

3. DAILY LIVING EXPENSES (i.e. Dailies) 

Unfortunately I can’t give you an extremely accurate figure for my daily expenses, mainly because when I travel with friends there are always a bunch of I.O.Us flying around; we take turns paying for meals, taxis, etc. and then just tally up and split the bill after the holiday is over. And because we don’t over-scrutinize and closely track this movement (and a lot of these I.O.Us are paid at the very end once a NETT, NETT, GRAND TOTAL I.O.U list is developed) there’s no way I can precisely categorize and keep track of how much I spend each day on food, transport, sightseeing, etc. I can give you a rough figure though, based on how much cash I brought and spent since most of my dailies are paid for in cash. Sort of.

I brought USD $900, which I converted according to two different rates (1.35 and 1.38) and that cost me a total of BND $1224. Cross-checking with my shopping receipts, I spent BND$298.60 of my cash on my smaller shopping expenses (with everything else being charged onto my credit card)… So we can assume that the remaining BND $925.40 was spent on dailies. According to our final tab, I owe one of my friends BND $255 for a number of sightseeing expenses, mealtimes, and Uber. Another friend owes me BND $77 for dailies too. So if we add the first two numbers and knock off the final number, we can sort of assume I spent approximately BND $1,100 on daily expenses. Considering I was there for about 12 days, a budget of BND $100 per day seems fair. This includes all meals, transport, sightseeing.

I can tell you (according to our tabs) that a ticket to Top of the Rock in NYC cost BND $70 and a tour of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty (from New Jersey) cost BND $25. If you’re planning a holiday, it’s probably worth checking early to see how much the sights cost if you plan to do them. We didn’t actually check early and like I said, we’re not very bekira about these things; but if you’re on a budget, plan as much as you can early so you minimize surprise expenses.

BONUS item number four!

4. CAR

We had a rental car for most of the trip; we picked it up the day we arrived and only dropped it off as we got into NYC for the final three days before our outbound flight. I think the rental was over 9 days, and it cost us BND$380 per person. Since there were three of us, the total rental would’ve been about $1,140 which means the car was a little over BND$100 a day to rent. As I keep repeating, if you travel in groups it works out to be a great deal because you split the cost. We had a large sedan, which would’ve easily fit 4 (or even 5) people… So it could’ve been even cheaper had we brought along an extra friend!

And we paid BND$50 per person for tolls, which brings our total car expenses to BND$430 per person.

LETS TOTAL IT ALL UP!

You’re excited to see how big the hole in my purse is, aren’t you?

Flights – $1,920
Accommodation – $590
Dailies – $1,104
Car – $430

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*drum roll*

The total “holiday cost” of a two-week all-inclusive trip from Brunei to the East Coast of the USA and the Niagara Falls (both American and Canadian sides), including insanely long 22-hour flight (both ways), car rental and tolls, accommodation for seven days in Washington DC and New York City, food, drink, sightseeing, petrol, parking, souvenirs, subway and metro, Uber, but excluding side shopping expenses is….

BND $4,044! (but this includes the flight, which by itself cost BND$1902)

SO! Excluding the flight, my holiday cost me BND $2,142. If you divided this up across the 12 full days that I was there, it works out to be BND $178 per day. Which seems reasonable especially since in my above calculations I did say to budget about $100 per day for accommodation and $100 per day for dailies.

Although it is worth remembering I didn’t need to pay for accommodation for 5 days. Still, though – nobbad what right, 2.1k. 

Oh, and as I’d mentioned before… This doesn’t include my shopping bill, because shopping isn’t a critical part of holiday-going. Yes, it’s an inevitable part of holiday-going, don’t get me wrong… But you’ve got to form your own separate budget for that. If you’re a gal (or guy) who likes Louboutins and Chanel, pandai-pandai lah ah buat budget sendiri. I’m not going to lie – I shopped a lot. And I spent a lot on my shopping. But I did have a rough budget in mind which I thankfully didn’t break (but then again my budget was um higher than it should’ve been if I were being financially wise (which I totally wasn’t) but HEY it was my money that I’d spent and I didn’t get into debt over it.)

Which brings me to my final note: I just want to emphasize again, I paid for my trip in cashall the travel expenses including my shopping. Not literally paper money; I mean I used existing funds that I’d already saved up. This isn’t me bragging, this is me being realistic and honest because the last thing I want is to project an image of “ooh she has it all, i’m so jelez wow kaya jua eh” because that’s how people end up getting into debt trying to keep up with the Joneses.

If you’ve followed me for a while, you’ll know I save up in many other aspects of my life. I’m careful with a lot of other expenses because I choose to spend on what makes me happy; and that’s how I can afford to spend on travel. Remember, you can afford anything but you can’t afford everythingYes, I blew 4k (excluding shopping so it’s actually more) on a big holiday. But (1) it’s money I saved up (2) still no debt and counting (3) I have medium-term and long-term savings (4) it hasn’t impeded my ability to cover an emergency, should one arise (5) money (still) isn’t one of the biggest problems in my life, thankfully.

So. I think I’m good. 🙂

While I did use my credit card (for reasons I’ve repeated many times, check my old posts), I paid that off in full as soon as I got back: I didn’t incur any credit card interest, I didn’t take out a personal loan, I didn’t borrow any money. And I highly discourage you (or anyone else) from travelling or shopping on credit. While my savings did suffer from quite a drop, I didn’t put myself in a financially precarious situation; I can still pay for myself, I still have emergency funds, I still sleep well at night. Some people can’t actually say that, you know. It’s worth remembering that if you shop or travel on credit, you’re actually spending the banks money; it’s money you actually don’t even have yet, you just expect to earn it in the future. Never, ever (please) get into debt over any type of luxury or want.

If it’s worth spending on, it’s worth saving up for.

Don’t buy your iPhone 7 with money you haven’t earned yet. Trust me, dude.

So what do you think? Did my holiday cost more or less than what you’d anticipated?

 

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