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We just returned from our ‘end of winter/early spring’ vacation to visit our family in Bermuda, so I thought I’d put together a short post on the money aspect of our trip. This is a personal finance blog, after all. 🙂
In a few weeks, I’ll write a more in depth post on the many things you can see and do on this beautiful island, but for now, you’ll have to settle for some number crunching.
My wife and I set a budget of $4500 for our trip to Bermuda. While it’s more than we spend on the rather epic, sub $1000 road trips we take every summer, to me, a 12-day vacation for under $5000 is very reasonable for a family of five. Let’s take a look at how we did.
What We Actually Spent
I spent a few hundred extra dollars to get advanced seat selection. With 4 flights totalling more than 10 hours in the air, it was important that we were able to sit together. Our 3 kids were together in a row, while Mrs. Mystery Money and I were either across the aisle, or directly behind them.
While I spent more for advanced seat selection, I saved over $200 in checked bag fees. One of the features of my RBC Westjet World Elite Mastercard is free checked bags for the primary cardholder, and up to 8 guests travelling on the same reservation. It’s a fantastic perk to have.
I should note, I didn’t redeem any credit card travel reward points towards the airfare, as I’m saving them for an upcoming trip to Washington, D.C., this September.
While in Bermuda, we stayed with our extended family, meaning that we had zero accommodation costs, the exception being one night in a hotel during a layover in Toronto. I was able to get a really good deal on the hotel through Booking.com, but used my credit card rewards to cover the full price, resulting in a nil net cost.
We shelled out $49 for a cab to our hotel in Toronto. Thankfully, we were able to grab a free shuttle back to the airport the following morning. In Bermuda, we spent $95 for bus passes for the duration of our trip, which is, in my opinion, the best and easiest way for tourists to get around the island. Allow me to explain why that is.
The Best Way To Get Around Bermuda
The island is tiny, approximately 21 miles long, and no more than 1 mile wide at its widest point. As such, tourists cannot rent cars in Bermuda. Your only rental option is either a scooter (moped), or a tiny, 2-person electric vehicle, called a Twizy. They look really cool, and are in high demand, but they are also very expensive.
Renting a scooter is downright dangerous, and accidents are common. The roads are congested, and narrow, with little to no place to pull over in most areas. Bermudians drive on the opposite side of the road from the US and Canada, which only adds to the chaos.
Hands down, the best way for tourists to get around Bermuda is by using the transit system, which includes a bus and ferry service. It’s cheap (less than $100 for our family of five for our entire trip), and super convenient.
Because Bermuda is so small, you only need a couple of buses to get just about anywhere on the island, and the ride never takes long. The bus drivers are always incredibly helpful and friendly, as are the passengers. It makes for a great way to get to know the locals.
Also, Bermuda buses are bright pink, so there’s that. : )
In Bermuda, almost all food has to be imported, and as such, is incredibly expensive. The typical price for a loaf of bread is $7.00, and a 500 gram jar of peanut butter can run over $9.00! If you’re looking for a Walmart or Costco, you’re out of luck. The closest one is probably in North Carolina.
Because we were staying with family, it was much easier to keep our food costs down. We did spend a couple hundred dollars on groceries that we brought back to the house, but we also ate several meals with our hosts.
That said, it wasn’t all frugal. We made sure to splurge on several restaurant meals, and we bought treats for our kids when we were out. My wife and I went to a nice seafood restaurant one evening as well. The fish chowder and pan-seared wahoo was incredible.
Most of our activities in Bermuda were free. We wanted to spend most of our spare time near the water, and it doesn’t cost a penny to go to the beach, go snorkeling, cliff jumping, or just lounge by the pool. That said, we made sure we visited some of Bermuda’s top spots, like The Crystal Caves, The Bermuda Aquarium, The Royal Navy Dockyards, Dolphin Quest, and Gibbs Lighthouse.
Our kids brought their own spending money that they used to buy souvenirs, while my wife and I spent $66 on a few small items.
We spent $165 on various gift cards as thank you’s to a few different people who helped out while we were away. For example, we had someone stay at our house and watch our dogs. They don’t expect payment, but we made sure there was food in the fridge, and we bought them a $100 gift card as a thank you.
The True (Net) Cost Of Our Vacation
According to the list above, we spent $4,049 on our vacation in Bermuda, almost $500 below our budget, but our actual net cost was even lower than that, due to this simple trick.
When we’re on vacation, it means that we’re not at home incurring many of our regular day-to-day expenses; things like groceries for a family of 5, or gas for our vehicles, which are sitting in the driveway.
This is something I always consider when I calculate the true cost of a vacation. In this case, I estimate that we saved approximately $481 simply by not being at home. That includes $300 worth of groceries (over and above what we spent on food for our house sitter), $106 on gas for our vehicles, and another $75 regularly set aside for miscellaneous expenses.
With that in mind, here’s a summary of how we fared on our Bermuda vacation:
Money Spent: $4,049.00
True Cost of Vacation (factoring in $481 of additional savings): $3568.00
We had an incredible vacation. A few highlights stood out for me: watching our kids experience Bermuda for the first time, the time spent with our extended family, and just about every moment we were near the water.
It was an experience our family will cherish forever. And while our total spend was just over $700/person for the 12 days we were away, we indulged just enough to feel as though we were basking in luxury.
It served as a reminder that you don’t need to break the bank to have an amazing vacation, and that spending money on experiences is better than on stuff. I’m a big believer in that.
I should note, we saved a significant amount of money by not having to pay for accommodations. If that had not been the case, I would have planned to redeem more of our credit card rewards to subsidize the cost of hotels/accomodations.
Do you tend to go all out on vacation, or try to stick to a budget? I’d love to get your thoughts in the comments below.
All prices listed are in USD.