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Prioritizing travel plans

barcelona06For the past three months I’ve been quietly saving money for a potential trip in the fall. Thanks to a bit of freelance income, automatic bi-weekly deductions, and Tangerine Bank referral bonuses, I’ve managed to save just over $2,300 – with a goal to end up with about $3,500 by mid-September.

With my freelancing this year, whenever I receive a cheque in the mail, I’ve been using the Tangerine Bank app to deposit the money via Cheque-In. I’ll put away at least 25% of every cheque towards my Travel Fund, and the rest gets transferred over to my PC Financial account to spend/save like I normally would. It has worked out so well that I think I’ll keep doing this going forward, and that will ensure that I always have a bit of money in my account specifically earmarked for travel.

I’ve also got about $700 in Capital One Travel World Aspire Mastercard points, so I’ll have a total of about $4,200 to play with for this Europe trip. I don’t think I’m going to need that much, but I’d rather plan for it than end up without enough cash to do all of the things I’d like to do.

A flight will be about $1,200. Accommodation for 14-15 nights might come out to around $1,200 as well (estimating $80 per person/night using hotel/b&b/AirBnB). Then there’s food, entertainment, travel, etc. which I don’t think will come out to more than $1,800.

It’s a bit tricky to estimate how much everything besides the flight will cost. All we know is that we’re going to Europe, and we’ll either start or end our journey in Paris. We’ve been talking about heading south and going to Spain, because in the end of September the weather will be nicer there instead of going north to Amsterdam and Copenhagen, which was the original plan.

This trip means that I won’t be able to do a few other things that I had wanted to do this year. A tentative trip to Edmonton next month is likely going to fall through. As is our Canada Day long weekend idea of going to the Okanagan. We had also talked about potentially going to Las Vegas with another couple in August, but doubt that will happen either. These axed vacation plans will likely get replaced with more local trips – camping, fishing, hiking, and going back to the island. :)

Do you have summer travel plans that you’re currently saving up for?

The cost of going home more often

photoLately I’ve been thinking a lot about family, and I realize that I don’t make the effort to go home often enough. This past weekend was great, but I find I’m only coming home for specific reasons – like a field hockey tournament, or a running race. I should be coming home just to visit sometimes.

When I first moved to Vancouver, I went home nearly every weekend (because I still had a PT job there, but also because all my friends were still in Victoria). Then when I quit that job, I started going back once a month. And now, nearly 7 years later? I end up going home once every 2-3 months.

There are excuses, of course. During field hockey season (Sept-March), it’s incredibly difficult to get away because games are on the weekend and I play on a competitive team where you are expected to go to most (if not all) games and practices. I have friends here on the mainland, a boyfriend, work commitments, and travel plans. Then there’s the cost of actually getting home.

When I was in high school, I paid less than $8 to ride the ferry one-way. Now? It’s $16.25 one-way. Add in the $53.25 one-way cost to bring a vehicle over, and a trip home becomes a major expense! Parking my car and walking onto the ferry is an option. I do that quite often, but sometimes a car is necessary. Plus parking is expensive as well (at the terminal it’s $16/24 hours, and at the Park-n-Go I believe it’s $14/24 hours).

Still. I want to see my family more often, and with the health problems of certain family members, I don’t want to miss out. I want to spend more time in my hometown, and if that costs more money and more weekends traveling, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m extremely lucky that the job I have right now offers flexible work hours, so I can take time off it needed to catch an early ferry on the weekends.

I don’t think going home once a month is realistic right now, but I will try to go every 6-8 weeks. This starts in a couple of weeks, when BF and I will head over on the May long weekend. I’d like to go back again in June or July, and then my family and I will be spending a few days in August to watch the Blue Jays take on the Mariners. :)

How often do you see your family? Does cost factor into that decision?

Customer service in Las Vegas

Our long weekend trip to Las Vegas was great. Between hiking in Red Rock Canyon, taking in a Cirque show, gambling and drinking on the strip, and lounging by the pool, I think we did just about everything we wanted to do. And while all of those experiences were fantastic, we both agreed that there were two customer service experiences – one good and one bad – that really left an impression on us.

Bad Customer Service: Hertz Rental Car

hertzWe decided to rent a car while in Vegas so that we could go on a day trip to Red Rock Canyon. But words cannot express how horrible our experience was dealing with Hertz.

When we got to the car rental building at McCarren airport, there was a massive line-up at Hertz. No big deal, we thought. We have a reservation for a car, so it shouldn’t be a problem. Right?

The woman we dealt with took us to a video kiosk where an agent would guide us through our booking. We got about 10 minutes into the booking process when we were informed that it would be a 3-4 hour wait for a rental car. They had no cars to give anybody. Remember that old Seinfeld episode when the same thing happened to Jerry? Yeah.

Since we didn’t want to wait around at the airport for 3-4 hours, we asked if we could pick up our car the next day. No. Our names would be put on a wait list, and if we weren’t present for our name to be called, the car would be given to someone else … and we would end up at the bottom of the wait list again.

I turned to the customer service woman and asked what the point of a reservation was, if it didn’t actually reserve anything. She said in a very condescending tone: “it’s just like an airplane – just because you pay for a ticket doesn’t mean the plane is going to fly on time.” Wow, thanks.

We asked if we could cancel our car reservation and get a refund. Nope. No refunds allowed. Then we asked how many people were ahead of us on the waiting list. The answer? 44.

So we waited. For over two hours. Some people had waited much longer than us. Not a single Hertz employee apologized – except for the gate attendant in the parking lot once we did actually get our car – he seemed to be embarrassed about the whole thing.

If Hertz overbooked their fleet, fine. But they should have 1) told us ahead of time, 2) offered to refund our money, and 3) acted like they cared about the inconvenience they were causing to hundreds of people who were waiting around for hours when they were supposed to be on vacation.

Great Customer Service: Cirque du Soleil

cirqueBack in February, we bought tickets to see the “O” Cirque show at the Bellagio. At $150 each, they were not cheap. But we were really excited and looking forward to it as the highlight of our trip.

Our show was Saturday night, so around noon on Saturday we wandered over to the Bellagio to pick up our tickets, knowing the line-up would be really long come show time. The woman at the counter was having a hard time finding our tickets, until she realized that we had actually booked our seats for the Friday night snow. And the Saturday shows were now sold out – it had been for a while. We royally screwed up! :(

I almost cried. We were in shock, and extremely disappointed. We had just assumed the tickets we bought were for the Saturday. It didn’t even occur to us to check our e-mail confirmation. I was so mad at myself.

She said what most people in customer service would say: “let me see what we can do” and left to go to the back room.

When she returned, she was holding two tickets to the 7:30pm show. Not only that, but they were better seats than the ones we had originally paid for! “We managed to find something for you,” she said. (We realized at the show that she had gotten someone to wheel in two additional seats for us).

She could have easily done nothing. They could have just kept our $300, and that would have been our own mistake. But instead, she went out of her way to create seats for us to a sold out show. The rest of the trip, all we could talk about was how lucky we were. We even went back to the Bellagio a couple of times to see if we could thank her properly (with a tip), since we were in such shock at the whole interaction we didn’t even think about it. But we couldn’t find her… so if for some reason anyone from the Bellagio or Cirque du Soleil is reading this – thank you so much. That woman really made our trip a memorable one. :)

Anyone else have any recent customer service wins or fails while on vacation?

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