Desktop view of maps and passports, trip planning

High spirits

Oct 6, 2020
Empower Insights

With her Paris plans up in the air, one mom is maintaining a first-class mindset

To Kresta Trujillo, Paris was going to be well worth the wait.

Worth every penny, too.

“There’s so much to do,” Trujillo says. “The history, the food, the sightseeing — you can’t beat the experience.”

Last winter, after she “fell in love” with the iconic city on a previous visit, Trujillo began mapping out plans to return to the popular destination with her children as a special trip to honor her late son. With stops at Notre Dame Cathedral, the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre Museum on the docket, as well as a short stay in Munich for Oktoberfest, the family scheduled two weeks abroad to relax, reflect and remember.

“He had a strong passion for foreign cultures,” Trujillo says. “We felt this would be the perfect way to commemorate him.”

For now, though, the festivities will have to wait.

In what has become a common occurrence for many Americans during the current pandemic, Trujillo elected to delay her much-anticipated getaway in light of the coronavirus outbreak, doing so before any flight restrictions were imposed by the European Union in March.1,2 She’s not alone, either, as 50% of individuals have taken action to change their upcoming arrangements due to COVID-19 fears.3

“It was disappointing,” says Trujillo, who lives in the Denver area and works as a compliance specialist for a large retirement firm. “We had to weigh all the risks and make a tough decision.

“We just weren’t sure.”

However, Trujillo is sure about one thing — instead of dwelling on everything that has gone wrong when it comes to her travel itinerary, she’s choosing to focus on the many finanical factors that have gone right:


Trujillo calls it her “fun cash.”

She deposits every annual bonus she earns from her employer, as well as her entire tax refund, into a personal account for leisure, recreation and enjoyment. In fact, that’s been Trujillo’s savings blueprint for almost the past decade as her prior experiences have taken her from the Mediterranean to Iceland.

“As a single mom, I feel like it’s always been, ‘pay bills, pay bills and pay bills,’” Trujillo says. “Those  discretionary dollars give me a little wiggle room to explore my interests once I’ve taken care of all my fixed expenses. Without that additional money, I don’t think I’d be able to afford to take my kids anywhere.”

For Paris, in particular, Trujillo had allocated enough to cover airfare, lodging and entertainment for herself and both of her kids, with plenty in the bank for meals, souvenirs and other expenditures.

“I didn’t want us coming home and having to worry about any debt,” Trujillo says. “I was prepared for this.” 

View of Eiffel tower at sunset, Paris France


Maybe it was too good to be true.

While casually searching for flights to Paris last October, almost a full calendar year before her desired departure date, Trujillo stumbled upon a flash sale that caught her by surprise. For three roundtrip tickets to the French capital on a major carrier, she would only have to front a collective cost of $1,500.

Done deal.

“It was an amazing offer,” says Trujillo. “I wasn’t going to pass it up.”

Shortly thereafter, Trujillo secured a rental house in France for a total of $1,100 and budgeted to purchase a trio of cheap commuter flight tickets to Munich. The original idea was to spend the first part of their vacation in Paris, head to Germany for Oktoberfest and to bunk at the residence of a close relative for two nights, and then fly back to Paris to complete the final leg of their overseas journey.4

Of course, while it didn’t pan out like that in the end, Trujillo still learned a valuable lesson for her next adventure.

“When I travel internationally, I typically don’t reserve anything so far out,” Trujillo says. “This was an exception. But there are actually some huge discounts and bargains available when you start the process early.”


Trujillo saw the writing on the wall.  

As the novel coronavirus began spreading across the U.S. in the spring,5 Trujillo didn’t hesitate to react. She immediately terminated her agreement for the private rental property in Paris within the eligibility window to collect a full repayment. And because she had tacked on a $150 policy for flight insurance as an extra layer of support (after all, “you never know what might happen,” Trujillo emphasizes), she also expects to receive 100% reimbursement for the three plane tickets to Paris soon.

They were swift moves that, when the dust clears, will allow Trujillo to recoup every cent she had put down for Europe.  

“With all the different unknowns, concerns and questions at that time, we decided to play it safe,” Trujillo says.

“Just as a precaution.”

In terms of what’s on the horizon, Trujillo is holding off on making any new reservations with so much uncertainty in today’s world. Plus, with her daughter tying the knot in April 2021, she may use a portion of her recovered Paris funds to help fulfill the long list of wedding obligations that can “add up fast.”

“Right now, I’m just plugging away at work,” Trujillo says. “Once life gets back to normal, we may try it again.”

Save for your next vacation with an Empower Investment Account.

1 Paul A. Einstein, NBC News, “You're not the only one with no summer plans: This year's vacations will be last minute, says AAA,” June 2020.

2 Monica Buchanan Pitrelli, CNBC, “Why Americans shouldn’t be surprised that Europe is blocking them,” June 2020.

3 Kenneth Kiesnoski, CNBC, “Travel changed after 9/11; Here’s how it will look after the Covid-19 pandemic finally recedes,” May 2020.

4 Andy Eckhardt, NBC News, “Munich's Oktoberfest cancelled due to coronavirus concerns,” April 2020.

5 John Bacon, USA Today, “A dire phase of the coronavirus outbreak? 'Boom' of US cases 'should be expected' as global death toll tops 3,000,” March 2020.

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