Category Archives: Travel

My "Free" Trip is Costing Me a Fortune

I’m going to Israel for free in a month. That’s all fabulously frugal.

But my passport is costing me about $200, all-in-all, to get replaced.

I’m missing at least 2 weeks of work or about $2400 of income while I’m abroad.

Now I’m finally looking into the price of a flight from SFO to New Jersey. How much could it be?

Uh — $450 is how much it could be. Talk about inflation hitting home. A flight home used to cost $330 at most, and that was on the high end. A month ago, for about one day, the flights dropped to that price, and then they went up again. Should have booked then, but what-can-ya-do?

I have the money in savings to pay for all the associated costs that go along with this “free” trip and I know it’s a great opportunity, yada yada, but still, it’s painful to justify taking such a huge “free” trip that is costing me, including lost income during my vacation time, about $3000.

$3000 for a “free” structured vacation. That’s hard to chew on.

I was (and still am, sort of) considering staying on for another week… but to change my flight it will cost me another $150-$400. Then I’d also have to figure out how much it would cost to travel and stay there… more income lost… and then there’s the cost of hostels, transportation, and entertainment. Some of the people going on the trip are thinking of going to Greece or Turkey for a bit, and that would be awesome, but now I’m thinking it’s a bad idea.

Then again, I’m getting a free flight, and mostly free living expenses for two weeks in Israel. My rent will still be due back home (sigh) but at least I’m not paying for a hotel and such elsewhere during these two weeks. Plus, I’ll be spending some time in New Jersey before and after the trip, with my parents, who will hopefully feed me and such – so maybe my other costs for the month won’t be that huge.

BUT — my boyfriend was supposedly going to meet me in Jersey after I got back for a small vacation of his own. We’d stay at my parent’s place, which would keep costs low, but if we want to do anything… like go see a Broadway show, etc, those costs are going to add up too.

All the sudden, I feel like this entire experience that sounded so great from afar is going to cost me $5000.

I have the money… I have $5000 in a liquid CD. Is it worth spending it all in June in hopes (and with the expectation) that my income is going up and I’ll be able to earn that money back? How often do I get a free trip to Israel? I’m so glad I traveled around Europe for a few weeks in college and I’ve been dying to go back.

Oh… and then there’s that $1300+ camera I promised myself if I ever went back to Europe.

oh, god.

Going to Israel – For Free!

One of the benefits that comes along with being born Jewish (besides being, uh, one of The Chosen People) is a free trip to Israel.

The program, called Birthright Israel, provides free trips to Israel for Jewish youth under the age of 26. They send a lot of us kids to Israel each year… trying to get us to feel connected to our past and perhaps carry on the religion for a few more years of history.

I’m not a Zionist by any means – I’m pretty much agnostic on the issue of Israel (and religion in general).

So the trip actually is FREE. It requires a $250 deposit but as long as you go on the trip you get your money back. When the deposit was do my checking account was way low so my parents spotted me the deposit money but they’ll be getting it back.

However – small costs for the trip that’s free can and will quickly add up. I don’t exactly have all of the suggested packing items. I still have to pay for a roundtrip ticket from California to New York to get to the flight to Israel (though I’m going to make the trip a vacation home to New Jersey for a week or so as well as long as I can work from New Jersey for a week or two.) There are other costs as well… (not counting souvenirs and such) so my free trip costs…

$100 passport (I lost my old one. At a bar. Don’t ask.)
$350 round trip flight to New York
$30 water shoes “teva shoes” (from suggested packing list)
$60 sleeping bag (I’m going to try to get one used? Or borrow one?)

and then the big cost that I’ve promised myself (If I can be good and save for it…)
$600-$2000: A DSLR Camera – either Nikon or Canon.

For the past few years I told myself if I get on the Birthright Israel trip (or ever travel abroad again) I will be bringing a nice DSLR camera to take pictures. Last time I was in Europe I had a film SLR camera that broke a few weeks into the trip… but seemed to be working. So I wasted tons of film and lost dozens upon dozens of pictures. My digital camera that I brought was kind of crappy and while it took a few good shots, the quality was not that high.

I want to get more into digital photography anyway and I can’t think of a better excuse then to save up and splurge on a nice DSLR.

That’s coming last, though. First I need to pay my estimated quarterly taxes!!! But it’s a good excuse to try to work extra hard over the coming months.