Lifestyle Inflation Through Travel

The reason I haven’t written much lately is because I’ve been busy traveling.  Recently, I went on a trip to Asia to visit a few clients and took a personal weekend trip. The contrast between the two made me realize that I’m starting to get accustomed to a higher quality of travel.  Hopefully this post does not come across as too out-of-touch.  In any event, it is bad news for an aspiring ERE-type!

Let me provide some more context.  When I travel for work, my trips are generally expensive.  When I fly within the U.S., I buy full-fare economy tickets which give an automatic upgrade to first class, when available.  I have TSA Pre-Check so I generally zip through security.  Like I said, this time we’re flying internationally, which is another level beyond domestic travel.  At 10 am, my driver picked me up in his shiny black Towncar.  I met my partner and we hung out in the first class lounge, drinking wine and eating sushi until it was time to board.  I was the second person to board the 747 (my partner has an invite-only status level).  I went upstairs and settled into my lie-flat seat in business class.  On the flight, I ate, drank, watched movies, and slept comfortably.

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(image courtesy of Qantas — not from my flight!)

We landed at our destination and got whisked to our 5 star hotel in a black 7-series.  The rest of the week was basically going to meetings during the day and lots of eating/drinking at night.  My expense report totaled $13K for a one-week trip and I gained 8 pounds.  Not a bad way to travel (except for the weight gain), but the danger is getting used to it…

Literally the week after I got back, I took a short trip that I had to pay for out of my own pocket.  I flew on a discount Southwest ticket.  Southwest is not my usual airline so I don’t have status (SWA status is not worth much anyways).  Somehow my Pre-Check status didn’t make it on the ticket so I’m standing in a horrendously long security line while the Pre-Checks are all zipping through in the next lane.  The line is so long, I’m worried I’ll be late.  I have to go through the security procedures that I’m now accustomed to not having to do like taking off my shoes, assuming the position in the scanner, etc.  Blood is literally boiling.  Then I get to the gate and lo and behold I have a C-2 position for boarding.  For those of you who do not know, Southwest does not assign seats, but rather assigns a boarding order and you sit wherever you can find a seat.  C-2 basically means over 120 people get on the plane before you.  So I’m one of the last people to board.  The entire time, I’m stressing about whether my luggage will fit in the overhead bin.  Luckily I got the last spot.  The flight was only two hours, but it felt like an eternity — especially because I had someone’s knees poking in my back for the entire flight.  I actually felt bad for him because he had no leg room due to being in the back of the plane.  Repeat on the way back.

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I used to fly like this all the time and I viewed a flight as simply a means to get from point A to B, but at some point I had gotten used to a higher quality of travel.  Anyways, this tale of two flights only made me realize I am becoming a softie.  Is it better to never have known the comforts of flying?  Should I start sitting in economy for my future business trips? I enjoy travel, but simply cannot afford this level of luxury as an early retiree.

I’ll try to be more conscious of my thoughts and emotions during our vacation this summer to Europe.  We are definitely not paying for or redeeming business class tickets for this trip.  Will I be comparing our trip to my business trip to London a few months ago where we similarly traveled high on the hog?  Will I be resenting our economy seats?  We’ll see.

2 thoughts on “Lifestyle Inflation Through Travel

  1. We’ve been thinking about these issues as we just got back from a trip to Australia. The work portion of the trip was 5 days, and work probably spend $10-$12K on us during that time period. (We’ll get the full non-monetary compensation summary later in the year.) 5-star hotel, performances in the Sydney opera house, sailing on the harbor, dinner in the nicest restaurant in the country… it was a VERY fancy 5 days. But then the next 5 days we were on our own dime, so we stayed in a bargain B&B (but still in a nice area of town), and did all the cool stuff that costs a lot less, like hiking in the mountains, viewing their biannual contemporary art show, etc. We spent about 90% less than the previous 5 days had cost, but didn’t really notice a difference in enjoyment. Okay – truthfully, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the hotel. Cockroaches in the bathroom on the last day kindof ruined it for me.

    But our answer to this is that we’re hoping our travel (once we reach FI in a few more years), will be much slower travel, preferably by sailboat for a while. I think, to us, that will feel much more luxurious than any type of air travel, even private jet, and yet it should still come out on the right side of the cost equation and keep us out of hotels with cockroaches.

    • Thanks for the comment! You’re absolutely right — slowing everything down and taking stress out of the equation will make everything feel more luxurious. We hope to do some extended traveling in the near future too. But probably not on a boat — I think I would get too seasick!

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