Finances & Money

We’re finally going on a big vacation!

You might be surprised to learn that Stacie and I don’t take many vacations. In fact, Stacie is maxed-out on her PTO (paid time off) at about 24 days, and I have about 18 days saved up (I max-out at 23). Our last big trip was to Utah in 2004 to see a friend. And the last trip we planned just for ourselves was our honeymoon to Ireland in 2003.

In that time, we’ve also visited San Francisco (for a work conference), and traveled the northeast from Connecticut to North Carolina to see friends, but we’re now yearning for a trip where the only purpose is our own enjoyment. We like visiting friends and family, but we’re doing it at least twice a month and it’s taking a toll because everyone is at least 3 hours away.

So when Stacie noticed an arranged tour in our church’s bulletin a few weeks ago, we jumped on the opportunity. We’ve been wanting to go back to Ireland, or go visit Italy. We’ve also considered a trip to India or the Philippines, but we just haven’t pushed ourselves to plan anything.

But the trip that we chose was never one we thought we would make.

We’re going to Israel!

Yep, later this year, we’re embarking on a “Holy Land Tour” with 40 of our fellow parishioners to places like Jerusalem, Nazareth and Bethlehem. So in the same year, we’ll have attended a mass led by the Pope AND visit the source of our faith (and a lot of troubles).

However, neither of us are making the trip as a spiritual journey or pilgrimage. Rather, we’re interested in seeing what these places are really like since we hear so much (but so little) on the news. Yes, we’re a little fearful for our safety, but you can’t live in fear your entire life.

What’s the cost?

This past weekend, we put in the deposit of $878. That’s $600 towards the trip and another $278 for travel insurance (for both of us).

The entire trip will be $3,900 total, plus the $278 for travel insurance and probably about $300-400 for various airport surcharges for a grand total of about $4400-4600.

What does this price include?

We’ll be spending 10 days, including travel days, on the trip. It also includes:

  • Round-trip airfare from our area airport
  • A private double room (i.e. we don’t need to share with anyone else)
  • A full “Israeli breakfast” AND dinner each day (lunch is on our own)
  • Accommodations in “3 and 4 star hotels” with private bathrooms
  • Sightseeing and tour guide
  • All gratuities for the guides and drivers

So all that’s left for us are lunches, tips for waiters/room service, travel to and from the airport here in the US (I think), and any extra airline fees that might be added between now and the departure dates.

What does the travel insurance cover?

Since we never know what might happen to us OR in Israel between now and the trip, or even during the trip, it’s almost a no-brainer to get the insurance. It only costs a fraction of the total trip cost and even if we don’t need to use it, I feel more comfortable having it. It includes:

  • Accidental death/dismemberment of $25,000
  • Medical Expense/Emergency Assistance of $25,000. This includes accident and sickness medical expenses and/or emergency evacuation and repatriation
  • Pre-departure trip cancellation (up to trip cost) caused by a documented traffic accident en-route to the airport, destruction of residence by natural disaster, jury duty, or theft of passports. If a sickness, we would need documentation from physician.
  • Post-departure trip cancellation (up to trip cost) caused by unexpected strikes, weather or mechanical problems with the plane
  • Travel delay up to $100 per day ($500 max)
  • Baggage and personal effects up to $1000
  • Baggage delay up to $100

Did we save up for this trip?

No. This was a spur-of-the-moment decision to do this trip, but we’re giving ourselves 6 months to pay for it. We’ll be using our $1200 rebate, $1400 state refund and then some savings to pay for the trip, but our budget can easily take the hit.

Could we have done something like this even 1 year ago?

No. We had little savings and about double the debt. We didn’t have nearly enough buffer in our budget to handle an extra-high gas bill much less a $4500 vacation. Also, a year ago, we were on a mission to cut our expenses and debt. But since last summer, we’ve felt we really needed a vacation for just ourselves and now we’ve decided to actually take one, but leave the planning up to someone else.

This trip isn’t the type we normally take. The 2 times I’ve been to Ireland (once with a friend and the other with Stacie), we just planned the first night’s lodging. After the first night, we drove wherever we wanted and just called a few hours ahead to find the next hostel or bed & breakfast. With this trip, we follow someone else’s schedule. It’ll be a change.

What’s the one problem?

Well, we never got Stacie’s passport changed to her new married name (uh, 4.5 years ago), so now we have to submit a brand new application AND a certified marriage certificate (wait, how can it be a certificate and not be certified?). I’ll be filling out this paperwork soon, and I’m sure I’ll let you all know if and when I have complications. I guess if we don’t get the passport back in time for the trip, perhaps we can count it as stolen and get a full refund?

About the author

Clever Dude


  • Wow it all sounds very exciting. We are not planning holidays for a while, as the children are young they will not remember it and do not like bieng away from home for long so it seems like a waste of money. Instead we have decided to start our vegetable garden and we know that we will be around all summer to keep it watered.

  • It sounds brilliant and I hope you have a great time. I bet Israel, whilst not as safe as home, is a lot safer for tourists than people think.

    Do you really need to change Stacie’s passport? Obviously if it’ll run out in a year or so anyway (or it’s free to do so), you may as well but otherwise I’m not sure that I’d bother. Of course this is coming from someone who has absolutely no intention of ever changing her name, so I’m not exactly au fait with the legalities when it comes to passports and so on.

  • @Plonkee, good question about whether we really need to change the passport. As of 2003, Stacie (maiden name) no longer existed and she is now Stacie (married name), so I can only assume we have to get a new passport.

  • Put the trip documents (plane ticket, etc.) in her maiden name, leave her married named IDs (driver’s license, etc.) at home, and you’ll be able to use the current passport without issue.

  • Have a great time! My wife and I just got back from a similar ten-day church trip. Going by tour bus ensured we got to see many sites and everything went without a hitch. No safety concerns at all. The Old City is wonderful, and there are many nearby sites such as the Mount of Olives and the Shrine of the Book. I hope you take the cable car up Masada and go out on the Sea of Galilee also. Not a once-in-a-lifetime experience, as I want to go back and see more!
    If you do the paperwork for the passport be sure to the use the new form, which has a box for checking off name change. (The old form didn’t.) Incidentally, my passport came in only three weeks.

  • For the record, you do have to get her a new passport if her name has been legally changed. You are only allowed to travel on the old one for 1 year, with your marriage certificate. I was in the same situation, and I just got a new one. She just needs to go down to the post office with her old passport and the marriage certificate and passport photos. I ordered mine about 3 weeks ago and it came in less than 2 weeks. I was amazed! And I didn’t put down that I had any travel plans, either.

  • That is great that you are coming to Israel. You might enjoy checking out people and places on for things to do during any spare time on the trip. For example, kayaking and snorkeling to see ancient sites underwater accompanied by a marine archaeologist is surely a unique way to explore Israel. Or caving expeditions to crawl through caves from the time of the Romans… just a few ideas. Have a great time.

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