How to Bring Joy to your Birthday

Well hello there… I hope all is well and you are enjoying the start to Summer. This month is my birthday. Actually, June is a month that carries a lot of emotions for me. But, as I turn another year older, I am trying not to dwell on all the emotions and remind myself of all the blessings I am truly grateful for, like this blog, my family, my friends, a job that I love, Brutus and so much more. As a result, I like to do something truly lovely for my birthday by going on a fully self-indulgent trip focused on self-care and things I truly love to do.

The idea is to go on a trip that is truly AMAZING and something I normally wouldn’t do. I started this tradition 7 years ago when I planned a trip to Vegas for a full spa weekend. Then I continued the tradition each year since. Since it is a tradition I commit to each year, I create a budget and put aside money each month into my Birthday Trip savings. This budget can range from $5,000 – 12,000 depending on where I plan to go. Now, I know what you are thinking… “my gosh, I can’t do that every year. How do you do it?” Well, for me I plan to spend this each year. I prioritize making my birthday something I enjoy. In years past, I hated my birthday. Like I said it comes with a lot of emotions, so now I embrace it and it is something I look forward to each year. When you have something self-indulgent, FUN and a little out of your norm it makes celebrating another year older joyful. Believe it or not, when you have 365 days to plan your birthday savings account it can add quickly. Here are a few tips for how I save:

  1. Create a Birthday Savings Account (BSA) for your Trip. This account is separate from your 401k and your rainy day fund. The goal is not to touch this until your trip, so keeping it separate will ensure you don’t touch it until your trip. Something else to note is that this account will earn interest rate, which will add extra to your funds. Yes, it is small but hey every penny counts.
  2. Put a percentage of your paycheck to your BSA. The percentage is up to you, but for me I plan for ~5% each month.
  3. Round Up. My bank is not able to do this, so I have to manual pull funds over from my checking to my BSA. Basically what I do, is round all my purchases from my checking account to the nearest dollar and have that amount transfer to my BSA. It is amazing how much extra cash you can find when you do this.
Where to…

The location for my trip has varied over the last 7 years. I have gone somewhere completely new and I have gone somewhere that always brings me joy like Chicago. Here are a few tips for selecting your location:

  1. Domestic or International. I usually go domestically for my Annual Birthday Trip. Since I only travelled Internationally once and don’t feel as comfortable travelling out of the country, I usually select a domestic location for my birthday trip.
  2. SPA. Once I know I’m going to stay domestic, I have to find a city that has an amazing full-service spa. This is priority number one for me for my birthday trip. I also plan to have a full-day at the spa and want to ensure the spa has everything I am looking for. This includes massages, facials, nail services (Shellac, Dip), saunas, hot tubs and steam rooms. I take full advantage of my day by using all the services available, so these amenities are critical.
  3. Direct Flights Available. For me, I prefer to travel using Alaska Airlines. So finding locations that have direct flights are more limited flying Alaska but thankfully they have partner airlines that provide more options. But, it must be direct. Changing flights can be stressful and also extend your travel day, since my birthday trip is supposed to be relaxing, FUN and amazing, I want to make sure getting there doesn’t disrupt that. I also book a first class ticket for this trip. I usually try to use miles to book my ticket in first class. If I can’t, then I plan the cost of the ticket in my budget.
What to Plan…

Lodging. I plan my dates and book early. If I’m not going to Miraval Resorts (look for a future blog post sharing my Miraval experience), I usually find a 4-star or higher full service hotel. Someplace that has room service, drop in bathtubs and ideally a Peloton. This year’s trip, I stayed at the Waldorf Astoria in Chicago.

Spa Services. As I mention above, I always plan to do a full day at a spa getting a massage, facial, manicure/pedicure. I do my research on the best spas in the area. Once I know the location, I look at the menu of services, select my schedule and price it out to include gratuity.  While in Chicago, I always go to the spa at the Waldorf Astoria. I love that it is a full spa experience with fruit infused water throughout, small spa snacks in the waiting area and you get to relax in various amenities like the sauna, steam room and hot tub. I also love the fluffy robes you wear while visiting and when spending a full day, you get lunch incorporated into your schedule. Most spas offer these amenities, just make sure you find one that gives you a full range of benefits so you can really relax for a full day. Remember you are celebrating YOU, so you should treat yourself. 

Celebration Dinner. Since this trip is to celebrate me, I plan one night where you go to a fancy restaurant for dinner. It is fun to get all dressed up and eat really good food. I like to research the 4-star or higher, fine dining restaurants in the area and book reservations. One tip, make your reservations as early as possible. It is important to plan ahead because most new and highly rated restaurants are booked up far in advance. So I definitely plan to have at least 5 choices just in case. For me, I do like to make a full evening out of my dinner, so usually do 3 to 4 courses. I also enjoy mocktails/cocktails while dining. So, I will easily spend ~$180 or more on this dinner. I know full well I’ll have leftovers to enjoy the next day.  This year, I went to BLVD Steakhouse in the West Loop. They offer a unique bread service including multiple breads and infused butters, so I didn’t have an appetizer. Their salads were all entree size so my meal was really two courses. I ordered a filet with two sides (asparagus and twice baked potato with all the fixings) and dessert (German Chocolate Cake). I also enjoyed their raspberry spicy margarita. BLVD was fantastic and I would definitely go back. 

Activities. If I am going to a city I haven’t been before, then I research what activities I should not miss. I try not to over commit on activities or my trip agenda because the goal of my birthday trip is relaxation. So, I usually only plan 1 – 2 activities for a 6-day trip. Here is how I planned this year’s trip:

  • Day 1 = Travel
  • Day 2 = Spa
  • Day 3 = Long walk around the city, shopping & Celebration Dinner
  • Day 4 = No Plans or Tourist Activity
  • Day 5 = Tourist Activity (ex. Aquarium)
  • Day 6 = Travel Day

Now you have planned my trip, I create my budget. I use a spreadsheet to manage this budget and my BSA.

  1. Use Points. Once I select my hotel and my flights, I like to confirm those early. For the hotel are they part of Hilton where I have a majority of my points and status. If yes, then how many nights can I secure using points and how many nights do I have to pay out of pocket. Then book as needed and incorporate any out of pocket charges to my budget spreadsheet. I do this after I already saved a few months in my BSA.
  2. Meals.Plan for how many meals you are eating out or ordering room service. You can either estimate an amount per meal or look at the menus and plan what you’ll be ordering and budget this way. No matter which direction you go, remember to plan for ~20% gratuity as well as ~10% service charge for room service. Ideally I would only plan to eat out two or three times. This includes your celebration dinner.
  3. Grocery Shop.To help save money on food I will grocery shop for a few items to have in the room so I don’t have to eat out for every meal. This will include a box of cereal, milk, microwave meals, fruit (bananas, grapes or berries) and some pantry snack packs. I will plan for ~$80 for these items in my budget. Note to ask for a mini-fridge and microwave for your room if it is not already incorporated in the room amenities. Also remember you’ll probably have leftovers from your celebration dinner and other meals when you eat out.
  4. Transportation.Take advantage of free transportation where you can. If you can get a ride from a friend or family member to and from the airport, do it. If not, add an additional ~$200 for parking. Also, check to see if your lodging provides airport transport service for free. Note, don’t pay for hotel transportation because they usual have a convenience surcharge. Also, plan for cab or Uber/Lyft charges. This is hard to estimate, so I recommend putting $300 in your budget.
  5. Activities/Shopping. I make sure I have at least $500 set aside for this. Sometimes I budget more if I know what I am shopping for and can plan accordingly. One thing I should mention as part of my birthday trip is I like to treat myself to a birthday gift. This year, I bought myself the new Nike Dunk Low in Ice Blue/Phantom.

This year was truly lovely and I had so much FUN. I even got to see my friends which was a wonderful surprise. Now I am off to start planning and budgeting for next year. Do you like celebrating your birthday? If so, how do you make it joyful? Please share your thoughts and celebrations in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time, have a joy filled day.

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