My SO & I Self-Funded a Weeklong International Vacation! Here’s How!

It was May in spring 2019 and finals were finally over. Towards the end of the semester, I began hearing chit chat in class about all the places my peers and friends were going in the summer. I sat there, envying these future adventures since I would be stuck in Tallahassee ALL summer. I had to take a few classes since changing my major and I was bummed about it. A few weeks after the end of spring and the beginning of the summer session, the Instagram posts started flooding in. I’m seeing trips from Jamaica to Europe, my Instagram was endless vacation posts. Of course, I was jealous, and most seemed to be family vacations, but I was surprised to see so many of my peers vacationing with just their friends or SO. Along with jealousy, I was also questioning how they could afford these independent adventures. I understand that everyone isn’t in the same financial situation, but the two-digit number in my checking account was SHAKING. Luckily, my boyfriend also had to take a couple of classes and I didn’t have to endure the summer alone. Both of us were constantly scrolling past all these summer adventures and decided we wanted to go on a trip too. Thus, the search for the perfect vacation began.

The first step was deciding on a vacation spot. We both agreed that something warm sounded nice to us. Beaches and palm trees were calling our names, so we landed on a tropical adventure. The Bahamas and similar islands are quite close to Florida so a flight wouldn’t cost too much, but sadly we realized this wasn’t an option since my passport expired last year. Passports can take weeks to get and our goal was to go at the end of the summer and I just didn’t have spare cash at the time. Then we looked to our dream destination: Hawaii. It was perfect! When the idea came up, we both realized our shared desire to visit the Aloha state. Then we started planning around the idea. We quickly ran into many financial obstacles like the $700 plane ticket to get there from Florida and such. Also, we realized since we were both 20 at the time, we couldn’t rent a car, meaning the only way around would be via uber and that can add up rather quickly on any of the islands we chose. We found ourselves stuck in a rut. I was going through my own Instagram a day later and I came across forgotten vacation photos from a few years before. Once I saw the picture of me ziplining in Mexico with a giant boat in the background, it hit me. We were going to go on a cruise!

Cruises may not seem like the go-to for college-aged adults with the various stigmas of it being for families and older couples. However, in my past couple of experiences, it is the perfect vacation for a student in terms of budget and fun. The idea of a cruise brought us right out of that rut. We could go to foreign, tropical destinations and I wouldn’t even need a passport, just a birth certificate! Also, it solved the financial obstacle we faced, like paying for pricey Airbnb’s and plane tickets. Cruises are almost all-inclusive, meaning our “transportation” was paid for as well as housing and food. That not only solved the basics, but there are endless activities on board, meaning there is always something to do. We scrambled to find one for the end of summer, but to no surprise, this would, of course, be peak season. Then we thought of the next option of when to go -- winter break. After much thought, and realizing it was cheaper, we ultimately decided on going as soon as fall semester ended. This was a better plan overall because it allowed us to have more time to save. Finally, we put down a deposit on our seven-day trip where we were going to three tropical destinations and it only cost each of us about the same as it would have for a plane ticket to Hawaii.      

Now for the final step, which also happened to be the most difficult -- saving. Knowing I would have a lot of free time in my day since I only had one or two classes for each summer session, I got a second job. When we weren’t in class, my SO and I were working. At the time, we worked at one of the same places, so it made things easier. Also, if you’re one of my closest peers then you know I LOVE Bento Café and Chipotle. You could catch my boyfriend and me at one of those places like three times a week. It was hard, but we immediately cut it down to eating out once in two weeks. In summation, we basically cut out all extra spending that wasn’t necessary, this was because we still had other bills on top of our saving goals. We had to pay off the cruise in full by September, so we worked all summer to achieve this goal. Midway through the summer, it was tiring working all these hours; sometimes I would go to both jobs in one day. The only reason I was able to power through was due to the feeling I knew I’d have after finishing payment. I would, for the first time in my life, have self-funded a vacation. Once every dime was paid for, it was an incredible feeling to be able to go on an amazing trip without having my parents pay for it.

As soon as finals week ended, we headed to Miami to board our gigantic cruise. As soon as we pulled up to the port, all the hard work we endured in the summer was worth it. It’s not every day you get to go on a week-long vacation with your SO and YES it was as fun as you could imagine. Exploring different cities for three days and relaxing at sea the other days was much needed after the semester. If you’re looking for a more affordable way to vacation, I highly recommend cruising because college students deserve a break too!

All photos courtesy of Vanessa Valles.

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