skip to Main Content

Balancing want vs need: a practical case with plane tickets

Last Updated on September 21, 2021 by Mr. FightToFIRE

One of the main ways to reach Financial Independence is to distinguish between what you need and what you want clearly. All amazing in theory, but there is a massive gap between this theory and reality, as my recent experience will demonstrate.

International travel is a pain

One of the, ehm, “downsides” to having a partner from another continent is that meeting family isn’t as straightforward as a car ride to a different town or even neighboring country -like say The Netherlands-.

No, it requires a long-distance flight of at least 11 hours and one layover in Schiphol Amsterdam. If we add corona to the mix, which prevented us from flying the last two years, it becomes apparent that international travel isn’t something easily made on a whim.

Now that we have a daughter, this is double true. She is only a couple of months old so traveling by default becomes even more of a hassle. That isn’t to say it’s impossible; it’s just that, if you think travel was already a pain in the bum, it’s an even bigger one now.

Feeling home sick
If you feel homesick, it’s always nice to know you’ll see your family soon. Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash


So why do it? Well, for one, my wife does feel homesick from time to time. This is highly personal, so it’s hard to judge this though I can understand it.

Our cultures differ on many fronts, so after a while, it’s not hard to imagine you miss certain foods, activities, or just your family and friends that are now literally impossible to meet in person.
Even though she gets along with my family and friends (praise Jibbers Crabst!), it’s not the same, and if you cherish these relationships like my wife does, it happens on occasion she misses her home.

Can’t technology help?

You might be wondering this. Yes, it does help a bit. Even as recently as mid-September did my wife have a video call with her friends.

Family video call
Making use of technology is one way to keep in touch, though it’s not ideal. People photo created by –

Two things made it not ideal:

  1. Connection issues: While all of them had a good internet connection, the occasional connection loss resulted in a sub-optimal experience, thus reducing the feeling of closeness.
  2. Direct physical contact: Yes, the corona is still a thing, though as we are vaccinated, a closer contact would have been possible, which is important for a person’s mental well-being.

As a result of these limitations, the feeling of separation remains. But wait, there is more.

 A sense of urgency

My wife’s grandparents are in their 90’s.

Waiting another year or more is not as easy, especially knowing they start to get those old-age ailments. We can’t wait a year or more. On top of that, we experienced a covid death in her family, making my wife and even more anxious to go back home for at least a couple of weeks.

Meeting their granddaughter before it’s too late

My wife and I thought long and hard about when to go and how to manage it all with our daughter. Maybe, they could come over? But if they are already struggling now, an international flight is out of the question.

So we had to decide whether we would go during Christmas or wait till a more calm period such as April/May. Initially, we would wait till April, but as news about her grandparents’ struggling health kept coming, we decided to go in December.

December is almost synonymous with ‘holidays,’ so it will not surprise anyone that this period has exorbitant plane ticket prices.

International flights are expensive; ridiculously so during holidays

How expensive does December get? Well, the closer you get to Christmas and New Year, the higher the prices go.

Departure flight cost from Brussels to my wife's home country on 19 December
Just how much can an international plane ticket cost during the high season? €1512.

The best option for flying from Belgium close to 24-25 December is about €1500 one way! The round trip makes this flight around €3,000 in total for two adults and one baby. It is not going to happen.

That is way too much. We had no other choice than to lengthen our trip duration to a month -5 weeks and 2 days- to get semi-decent prices. In the image below, you can see the total price we paid for:

  • 2 adults
  • 1 child younger than 23 months sitting on our lap
  • Round trip
  • No extra checking luggage (we will order that separately)
Total price for flight during high season
This is the total (excl. reduction thanks to air miles) that I had to pay to get a flight to my wife’s home country during the holiday period. The final prices were 2 x €787.16 + €87.27 for our daughter.

Budgeting sometimes clashes with the harsh reality of life

As you can see from the above prices, even a more reasonable period is still relatively expensive, and there is no way around it. There is no alternative, well, not one that doesn’t take weeks sailing across the Atlantic.

The above scenario shows that even with the best will in the world, it is not always possible to obtain the best price or wait for the best period to purchase, in this case, plane tickets.

Is it a bit frustrating as someone who likes to travel with a reasonable price/quality ratio? Yes, but necessity knows no law.

I’m more than happy to give my grandparents-in-law (is that a word?) a chance to see their great-granddaughter before it’s too late.

I'm a developer for a major financial institution in Belgium that is present in over 40 countries. I have over 8 years of working experience in the development of customer applications focussing on all aspects of banking. This helped me gain a deep understanding of the inner workings of a commercial bank. All of this experience in both banking and life culminates in this blog about personal finance and my fight towards FIRE.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Back To Top
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x