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Investing in a Long Distance Relationship

You guys warned me, but I didn’t listen… long distance relationships are expensive! And most of those expenses fall into the form of cross-country airfare. When CB and I first decided to do this let’s-start-our-marriage-on-opposite-coasts deal, I thought we’d be fine seeing each other every couple of months. Now that we’ve been apart for a while, I’ve realized that the every-two-month schedule is one of Last Resort. We need to figure out a way to visit at least every 6 weeks, ideally every month.

After crunching numbers and checking calendars, we’ve worked it out so that we will see each other every month from September to December. Of course, all these cross-country flights don’t come cheap: just yesterday I plucked down nearly $600 for a Thanksgiving ticket. This fall, at an average of $500/flight, those four visits will cost us $2,000. Even though it hurts to spend the money (and CB is probably even more reluctant to spend than I am), I think this is the right move. It’s hard enough to be in a long distance relationship without having those little visits to look forward to.

On the other hand, even though I miss CB quite a bit, it is nice having time to just do whatever I need to get done. Many of my classmates have their spouses/families here with them, and I see how difficult it is for them to balance school, job search, and family. I envy them (because their loved ones are close), but I feel lucky that I don’t necessarily need to have “balance” right now. I can focus on whatever I need to get done. Then when CB and I visit, we can devote our time to each other. So, those plane tickets as “price of admission” to a successful long distance marriage. And high as it might be, it’s a price I’m more than happy to pay.

If you are in a long distance relationship, how much money do you spend on flights / travel to see each other?

  • Emily @ evolvingPF - Well, when we were in an LDR we were only a gas tank apart, so I guess about $60/trip. We saw each other about twice every five weeks.

    I'm surprised you're estimating so much for flights, though… Maybe you'll be pleasantly surprised by your non-holiday flight prices. How long is each trip – only a weekend, or a week-ish? ReplyCancel

  • Kim - We dated long distance for the first year and a half of our relationship…it was only Los Angeles to Berkeley, but that's still a 6 hour drive or a $150ish flight, which for little ole undergrad us was a LOT! We still managed to see each other almost every month, thanks to rideshares and random flight deals on Southwest/Jetblue, which was so worth it. ReplyCancel

  • jeff sustainlifeblog - man, that is a lot of money to spend on flights, but im sure it's worth it. when I was doing long distance with my then girlfriend (now wife), we saw each other almost every weekend, but we were 'only' about 100 miles apart. ReplyCancel

  • MLISunderstanding - In my long-distance relationship (which went on for about a year and a half before she moved in with me), we were separated by about 400 miles — a long day's drive if either of us had a car, but neither of us did (she had occasional access to her roommates', but it wasn't up to the long trip, and I don't drive). We took turns flying back and forth, usually with those $39 or $49 tickets offered on special. Big holidays were the exception, but we booked those well in advance and used Kayak to compare rates. I racked up a lot of frequent-flyer points and actually opened my first credit card because it had a points/miles program. (We're now paying for our honeymoon flights with some of those.) ReplyCancel

  • frugalportland - We spend money on our long distance relationship, either gas money, or date money, or both. We wait until we're together to go to the movies, for example. We also try to make our time together as "normal" as possible so that it's not "let's do x, and then y, and then z" and just get exhausted and ready for a break by the end of the weekend! ReplyCancel

  • Mo' Money Mo' Houses - I never really thought about how much a long distance relationship cost in money, I just always hear how it's hard to do. But it sounds like you made the right decision and it may cost a lot now but it's not forever. ReplyCancel

  • Lance@MoneyLife&More - I was in a long distance relationship for a couple years (we have since moved in together) at a distance of 2 to 5 hours depending on the time frame. We visited each other every other weekend most times but it was only a short drive away. For a couple months we were 14 hours away and she drove down on her spring and christmas breaks only. ReplyCancel

  • Kristin - Our cities were both Southwest hubs, so we could usually get flights for about $300 round trip with no baggage fees. I think we saw each other every two months or so. I moved mid-August, he visited in mid-October, I went back over Christmas, and then he visited during spring break (late March). I went back to visit again when classes were over in May. ReplyCancel

  • fabulouslyfrugirl - BF just moved away to Boston and I've already booked 2 flights (Labour Day and Canadian Thanksgiving long weekends). We will definitely try to see each other once a month and I was able to score a good deal on the flights ($220 round trip average). Hopefully there will be more good deals, and maybe a few road trips with friends : )

    LDR is definitely expensive, but worth it! ReplyCancel

  • MakingSenseofCents - Wow that's expensive! I think it'll be well worth it though. I couldn't imagine being that far away for too long. ReplyCancel

  • Nora - My boyfriend and I are long distance – opposite coasts (SF and DC). It's AWFUL. And expensive – not only because of the airfare, but because whenever we're with each other we feel like we need to make the most of it and end up going out and doing all sorts of fun but expensive things (getting dressed up for nice dinners, bed and breakfast, zoo, museums, concerts, etc.) since it feels like such an event. We try to see each other every month or every other month and a trip will usually cost us about $800 (airfare for 1 person, dinners and fun things).

    But we found a few money saving tricks – one is that Virgin America is awesome if it services your city and often runs 20% off promos or a 'pay $50 to get 50% off a future flight promos' . We've gotten DC to SF flights for ~$250-$300 this way. Another is that free things like Skype, or 'Pair' the coupley phone app, or even just like Words with Friends are absolutely essential to have in order to feel really involved and connected with each other. ReplyCancel

  • Vota - I used to see a girl who I met on holiday, she lived about 150 miles away. I used to go see her every weekend bu after about 6 weeks it got really tiring to travel all that way just to see here, she was on a low income so could not really afford the expence of traveling.

    It did`nt last long. :( Nice girl too. ReplyCancel

  • plantingourpennies - We did the long distance gig for about 4.5 years – one year of that we were even on separate continents. Aside from the separate continents time, we found that we pretty much had to get to see each other 2x/month. So each of us would travel to see the other for a weekend every 2-3 weeks. Costs varied a decent amount depending how far apart we were, but it was worth it. =) ReplyCancel

  • Marion - My SO and I are about 500 miles apart for the next year or so. In an ideal world, I'd be seeing him every other weekend (taking turns traveling back and forth), but those visits may end up spaced further apart later in the semester when his classes start getting really crazy. It also might be the case that I end up shouldering more of the cost of travel, because I'm employed full-time while he's a grad student.

    Luckily, Southwest flies between our cities, so the airfare isn't too bad. I got a sale fare for $130 round-trip for this weekend, and it looks like flights will typically be in the $200 range. I also signed up for the Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card, which came with a pretty great sign-on bonus that I think will cover 3-4 round-trip flights.

    Being in an LDR means that it will take a little while longer to meet my savings goals, but it's also a good motivation to say no to myself when I'm contemplating adding a new pair of shoes to my already stuffed closet or buying lunch out instead of eating the one I packed. ReplyCancel

  • Ann - My boyfriend and I have been doing the long distance thing for a while now (he's in California and I'm in Boston) and it definitely gets tough and expensive. Last year, JetBlue brought back their Blue Pass which gave you three months of unlimited flying from Boston to 13 cities for a price of around $1,000. It's a nice chunk of change but we ultimately saved so much money for flights during those months. Try keeping an eye out for that deal or others similar! ReplyCancel

  • Jordann - I did the long distance relationship thing for two years. I will never, ever do it again. I couldn't spend that much time away from my fiancée, and more importantly, I wouldn't want to. We decided a few years ago that wherever we go, we go together. I think you're definitely making the right decision about plunking down the cash now to ensure a healthy marriage for years to come. ReplyCancel

  • Daisy - I don't know what airlines are prominent in your area but I know Continental is offering their lower fee credit card with the annual fee waived the first year and it comes with 40,000 bonus miles. If you each sign up for one, that should equate to roughly two free flights for the year and you can cancel the card before the year is up? Just a thought! Don't forget to sign up for the frequent flyer with your airline of choice so you can get some sort of benefit for all this flying!! ReplyCancel

  • onegirl - Make sure you get those rewards. A few trips will be free as often as you're going. ReplyCancel

  • Jane - My husband and I were in a long distance relationship for a year and a half. We were forced to do that because of the recession and I will never ever do it again. We were 450 miles apart and we saw each other every weekend. We spent about $1800 each month for airfare – pricey, but I think that was important for saving the marriage. I missed him like crazy Mon-Fri even though I kept myself busy with friends and hobbies. Good luck to you. If you make it through the LDR you know you can handle anything. ReplyCancel

  • StackingCash - I cannot fathom being away from my wife more than a day anymore. Time together is more precious than money. I spare no expense when it comes to time with her. ReplyCancel

  • MakintheBacon$ - I was in a long distance relationship for almost 5 years. We were on opposite sides of the province. When I came to visit him, I took the train and it didn't cost me anything because I got to travel for free. So he ended up spending more money, because he drove to visit me.The fact that the relationship was long distance for so long and that we didn't know when or who was going to move where was what ended it. However, being in a long distance relationship for so long, taught me how to be independent, do my own thing and spend time with friends and family. ReplyCancel

  • SP - We're in SF and L.A., so it is much easier and cheaper with RT flights at about $120. We ended up using miles cards to book ALL of our fall travel for free, and we are seeing each other at least 2x a month. Because of various social commitments, it turns out we'll see each other 4 weekends in a row in late september and early october!

    Here's my post on it. http://stackingpennies.wordpress.com/2012/07/21/t

    That being said, we have done other versions of LD before. I did a semester abroad and we were apart for months and months (this was hard), though he did come travel with me at the end. He also moved to Cali about 6 months before me and we saw each other only a couple of times. That was extremely hard! We were about 500 miles apart during many parts of college, and we saw each other about every 2 weeks. That wasn't as bad, but it involved a lot of driving. Flights were out of the question at that time, mostly because of the cities we were in.

    I hate LDR, but your future selves will be grateful that your current selves made these sacrifices and invested the money to see each other! ReplyCancel

  • My Money Design - I'd really hate to be in your position! I had one of these in high school and it was the worst! Sometimes there isn't really anything you can do about a long distance relationship. Somehow someway, you've got to figure out how to bump it up to more than every 2 months. ReplyCancel

  • Blair@LDS - WellHeeled I feel your pain! I have been in 2.5 yr relationship where 2 years we were a 1-2.5 hour drive apart. Now we are across the country from each other. We tried to prepare mentally and financially. I made the decision to move home with my parents partially to save money for flights. It is the small expenses and challenges that sneak up on me. Long drive to airport out of town is tiring, cost of multi-day parking at airport and activities when together can be expensive. It all adds up. For us, we put a specific time limit (1 yr) on our extreme distance apart and work hard to be creative and find inexpensive activities to do during our visits. Hang in there! ReplyCancel

  • Veronica - How do you put up with not seeing someone all the time? I could never do that. Expenses aside, it seems like a pain in the b*tt. ReplyCancel

  • Little House - The cost is worth it! At least you had budgeted for flights ahead of time, though it's costing a little more than what you planned. This is only for one year, or two?ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - Our cross-country LDR hopefully will end next June. Then we will have a 2-hour flight LDR for another year. Then, depending on where I end up for work, we will likely have another LDR for the 3rd year. THEN after CB graduates from his program, we will hopefully be in the same city! :-) ReplyCancel

  • Emma - We had the same sort of expenses as a lot of other posters on here. What really saved us when skype was brought out (yeah, this was a few years ago). Being able to speak to each other for free anytime we wanted to and see each other at the same time made a huge difference to our lives.
    In fact, the real money problems only started once we got together, as he gave up his job to come here. This led us into some big financial problems and lot of fights. We needed to look for good advice on relationships to get us back on an even keel. I guess what I am saying is that when you are far apart and money is an issue it isn't the end of the world and you should try and enjoy each phase of the relationship for what it is. ReplyCancel

  • SavvyFinancialLatina - I don't think I could ever do a long distance relationship like that. I would miss him too much. ReplyCancel

  • Gillian @ MAG - My boyfriend and I had to date long-distance (just a far drive) for 8 months, and even that was difficult, so I understand how hard it must be for you. But I can also say that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and you will be glad you spent the money when all is said and done. And you really DO cherish the time spent together more and make more of it when you don't see eachother often, so you will have some really wonderful, memorable visits! ReplyCancel

  • Bryan - When I was getting my M.A., my wife and I lived in San Diego, and I flew to San Francisco every week to go to classes. I definitely agree that it was easier to focus on schoolwork when I was away. When I was home in SD, there were various duties that I needed to see to.

    Fortunately for me, flights between SF and SD were pretty inexpensive, so we were able to make coming home every week work. I can't imagine the reality of only being able to see your spouse once a month. ReplyCancel

  • AmericanDebtProject - We have had a long distance relationship for 3 of the 4 summers we have been together. So 3 months at a time. It is tough, but this summer I was very focused on taking care of my own goals. I went and visited him once for 10 days and we talk every day. But now that he will be home in less than 2 weeks, I just want him back so we can take care of stuff and talk, I feel like it's hard to have talks on the phone, plus with the time difference, one of us is always either working or sleeping! Our goal is that this will payoff for us in the future, putting our dues in… ReplyCancel

  • skylinefl - I'm just starting to see someone from NC and I'm in FL. We've spoken on the phone for months and he purchased tickets for me to come up at the end of August. It was just as fantastic in person as on the phone. At this point, we feel quite connected and have been having 2-3 hours conversation each night since early Aug. Since he paid for everything, tickets, entertainment, dinners out, food, gas, etc. while I was in NC last month, should I reciprocate now. He is softly mentioning my getting the next round of tickets and since we're so 'young' in this relationship, I'm wondering "when is the time I should pay?" ReplyCancel

  • Jess - Way too much if you ask me…i am in Belgium and my fiancé is in Hawaii. A round-trip ticket sets us back between $1,000 and $1,400 every time. He came to see me in August and now I'm flying out there in November. I am staying 3 months but that creates a whole other issue financially. Because I am not American, I cannot work while I'm there so I'll be spending money with no money coming in =( ReplyCancel

  • Michael Simms - I used to live 5,000 mils away from my girlfriend. Naturally it cost loads for the flights and I wasn't able to make too many trips. These days at least there is video calls on Skype to help a little. ReplyCancel

  • Jessica N - I haven't been in a long distance relationship since 2 years ago, although we split up for different reasons the relationship itself worked out well long distance. Given I didn't have to fly over there, I did however, have to drive 4 hours to see him and this meant we limited out visits. Trust was never an issue, though we missed one another terribly and really felt pains in our…… pockets lol after every visit. Truth is, if you can survive being long distance you can survive anything. We fell apart because he was 32 going on 12 and I'm 24 going on 30 so we definitely had different priorities, while he was obsessed with his softball teams, I was knee deep in studying and working. It's all about the internet and phone, those two tools can help you keep your relationship alive and healthy. ReplyCancel

  • Grant Lucas - I am also experiencing long distance relationships. My girlfriend of 4 years is in the Philippines and I'm in Australia. I get a chance to come home once in 2 years and its really pricey! But set aside the expenses, I am hoping this will still work for more years. I do talk with her on the phone or over skype but yeah its really painful not to be near with someone you love.ReplyCancel

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