Back in November, one of our friends in New York sent out an email detailing plans for a group ski trip to Montana in March.
We immediately jumped on board. Sam had organised a similar trip in early 2016, but as we had only just moved to USA and were therefore fairly broke at the time, we decided that we couldn’t afford it. This time though, we’d paid off our debts and were ready to join in.
It sounded like a perfect opportunity to explore some parts of USA that neither Rob or I had been before. We’d heard that Montana was absolutely beautiful.
When our friends started booking their flights to Bozeman, we checked our options from New York. There was one direct flight every Sunday, but the price was about $200 more per person than flying via Minneapolis or Chicago. Being fairly tight with our travel budget, we chose the cheaper and longer option.
Clare, who would be travelling with us from New York, found an amazing ski-in ski-out vacation home on VRBO that would hold 10 of us for the week. It had 4.5 bedrooms and bathrooms, multiple living areas with fireplaces, a huge kitchen and dining area, and a hot tub and sauna for us to relax in after hitting the slopes each day.
The whole trip sounded very exciting… until it came time to pay.
As I listed out all the costs including flights, car hire, accommodation, lift passes, and ski hire, I balked at the final price. This 8-day trip was going to cost us over five thousand dollars, which is more than half our annual travel budget.
Trip costs (for 2 people):
- Flights from New York to Bozeman: $1,354
- Car hire + fuel: $141
- Accommodation: $2,026
- Lift passes and ski hire: $1,424
- Snowmobiling day trip: $300
Total: $5,246 USD ($2,623 USD per person)
When I put together a travel budget for 2016, I calculated that we spent $118 per person per travel day. For this trip, that number was a whopping $327!
It actually killed me a little inside to know that we were spending this much on such a short trip. I was worried that the extra cash wouldn’t necessarily amount to extra fun.
But when I first walked into that amazing house, with layers of fresh snow settled around the property, incredible views of the surrounding mountains, and a bunch of great friends to spend the next week with, I knew I was going to love it.
We rented our skis, grabbed our lift passes, donned our gear, and skiied out the back door for our first day in Big Sky. The views from up on the mountain were so pretty that I found myself constantly stopping in my tracks to admire the scenery.
And the skiing was incredible. We had people in our group who had only ever skiied for one day (Rob) and others who were happy to snowboard down the black runs on the summit of the mountain. Big Sky offered a huge range of slopes for beginners to experts.
I am actually directly to blame for adding an extra $300 to our trip cost. When I realised how close we would be to Yellowstone, I jumped at the chance to do a winter snowmobiling trip through the national park. We grabbed a few of our friends and spent an entire day snowmobiling from West Yellowstone to Old Faithful and back.
It was every bit as fun as it sounds! That $150 per person went to a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience. You can see the video of our snowmobiling adventure on YouTube.
There were also a few days in the trip that I chose to just hang out at the house. I settled in for a day or two of work in the crows nest of our vacation home, glancing up every so often to admire the incredible view behind my computer. If I could choose one place to be my permanent office, it would be that spot.
Honestly, I wouldn’t spend that much money on a trip anytime in the near future as I know how much further I can stretch out my travel funds, but I also have no regrets about splashing out this time around. This ski trip, that took me to one of the most beautiful places in America, was a wonderful experience that I’ll never forget.
I’ve splashed out on unique experiences a handful of times on my travels. A day tour to Chernobyl in Ukraine, a helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon, and a sunrise Hot Air Balloon flight over Arizona have all been activities where I’ve questioned the cost, but gone through with it anyway.
And the funny thing is, these are actually some of the experiences that stand out the most when I think back on my past travels.
I’m not saying that we need to spend money to create memories. Far from it. Some of the best times I’ve had on my travels have cost absolutely nothing. But what I’ve learnt is that we shouldn’t forego a unique experience just because of the cost. Sometimes, those unique experiences are worth the money.
So, if there’s something you really want to do but it’s a tad more than you want to spend, just do it. Most of the time you’ll be thankful that you spent the money on the experience. After all, you might not ever get the chance to do some of these things again. Take the opportunity while you have it.
Here’s a video of us skiing in Big Sky! Take a look at the scenery for yourself, it’s truly awesome.