Once Mr. Mo and I realized WHY NOW is our time to walk our Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, it was time to focus on finding a Way to make it happen! Logistically, and financially. If I hadn’t experienced what happened next myself, I wouldn’t have believed – but it is truly wondrous how the Universe will bring everything together for us once we set a goal. Also, we are seeing how “The Camino Provides“!
MIND OVER MATTER
Travel planning is a matter of questions and answers.
- How much time COULD we afford to leave home / job / choir / family / church service commitments if we went NOW?
We determined we had 10 – 11 days max.
This involved looking at multiple calendars – including the ultimate agenda that has guided all of our lives for the past decade – The Tabernacle Choir’s Advance Planning Calendar.
It can be daunting.
I realized the last time The Choir’s Advance Planning Calendar was being printed out and scoured for “windows of opportunity” was the first day of this year. On the stroke of midnight January 1, 2018 Daughter A said “Yes!” to her sweetheart, and a few hours later we were choosing her wedding day (four months away)!
Now, here we are today – four months already on the other side of that blessed event!
Try not to blink. Life happens so fast.
I wanted to carve out a window with only 2 Choir absences. My attendance percentage is important to me – and it is critical with another Tour coming in 2020, so this became the deciding factor for when we could walk our Camino. I also could not miss any extra rehearsals, performances, or General Conference. [Finding a 10 – 11 day window with these specifics IS NOT EASY!!!]
- How about immediately AFTER General Conference which ends Sunday October 7 – and before Christmas rehearsals start?
Yep. That works. Perfect.
October 8 -18, 2018 was our magical window that opened!
But, since Mr. Mo will only have 8 paid days accumulated by then, we need to fly back on October 17th so he can return to work [although very groggily I’m sure] on the 18th.
OK! So, now we have 10 whole days to do this whirlwind adventure!!
Our travel time requires 2 days going over, and 1 day returning, so that leaves 6 days for walking and 1 day for a cushion, or “tourist-ing”.
Ok. It’s a little tight, but we’ve totally got time to walk 100K in Spain! Boom.
- How much money do we have for this adventure?
Well, okay. New challenge.
For us, the biggest concern was always if we had the TIME – because the mindset was that we would never really have the time, so we never got to thinking about the MONEY barrier. It would take a bit of a miracle – literally – to pull it off.
As it turned out, our miracle had already been in play for a couple of months without us even knowing.
The biggest expense for American pilgrims (and West Coast or small USA town pilgrims in particular) is the airfare. This can blow the entire budget to pieces. Regular round-trip pricing from SLC International is rarely under $1000, and then there are the connecting flights, trains, buses or taxi to get to smaller cities. So, that can set you back anywhere from $1200 – $1500 just in travel expense per person. Aak!!
Once you get to Spain, expenses are relatively low. There’s very inexpensive lodging for pilgrims, and cafes offer “pilgrim meal” options for a set price. So, it’s really just the getting there and back again that’s the rub.
SECRET DEAL REVEAL
Psst… ok, if any of you want to travel, here are the top two secrets that will save you $$$$
- Travel Rewards Credit Card we researched thoroughly earlier this year, and chose the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card which fit for us. There are multiple cards and deals with different requirements and points plans. [A good site for tips choosing is The Points Guy.] We use this card for absolutely every purchase we can – just like a debit card – gas, groceries, restaurants, and a few monthly service payments that allow them (sadly, mortgage payments don’t allow it, but possibly rental agreements?…). Then twice a week we pay it off, just as if it was coming out of our bank account directly. [** tip: we did not change our spending habits! That would be counter productive. Just keep spending the same as usual, and watch the points grow]
- Pomelo.com – This was an amazing find. These are real people who spend their days scouring for every flight deal possible. They only send you an email if they find true deals, (like $120 to Figi round trip from SLC because it was a computer error and should have been $1120. But hey, if you catch it in time, they’ll honor it!) The deals only last 24 hours or less. Usually just a handful of hours. So, you need to be ready to buy.
Here’s the quick version: We got the points card in April (before Choir Tour) and started using it for everything to build up points because “someday” we might be able to walk our Camino and we “might as well start now” saving for travel rewards. When we got home from tour (July 3), that’s when I felt so strongly we needed to GO NOW and not wait – so, we sat down and chose our dates, and then I let the lovely people at Pomolo what we needed. I gave them our time frame in October, and the 5 airports to watch that would work for us round trip from SLC.
Heathrow, Paris, Madrid, Barcelona and Lisbon. Then, I waited.
On Thursday July 19, I returned home from a late Choir rehearsal and almost didn’t check my email. But I did. Pomolo had highlighted a deal from SLC to Paris for $449 round trip! Mr. Mo suggested that I just call Chase and see if there was any way to use some of our points (even though we didn’t have a ton of points in comparison to what is needed usually). Well we had 64,000 points saved, and booking through their portal you get 1.5 points per point. After a few minutes:
Agent: “OK. I can get you $250”.
Me: “WOW!!! Really? Ohmigosh. That’s getting the deal half price per person, amazing!
Agent: “Oh no, it’s $250 total Ma’am. Only $125 per person!”
I sat down very hard… (I may have slightly passed out).
Another Camino miracle!
Tomorrow I will tell you all about the route we will be walking to Santiago de Compostela from October 8-17!
¡Buen Camino! – Holly
Update: Read more posts about our Camino experience here.