We Almost Traveled to the Olympics in Rio (But Why We Didn’t)

This post was written by Nancy, who is a regular contributor. She also runs a blog Savingforadream and has an awesome YouTube channel.

Four years ago, my husband and I were watching the London Olympics. We were really into it. Glued to the TV, in fact. We asked ourselves, “Why didn’t we go to London to watch these live in person?” Oh yeah, we had three young kids, including a 1-year-old.  We also kicked ourselves for not traveling before to other Olympic games in earlier years that were much closer, like the ones in Salt Lake City and Vancouver.

So we hatched a plan. We would do whatever it takes to travel to the Rio Olympics in four years. We just needed to save up a lot of money and find someone willing to watch our three kids. Easy peasy, right?

Planning for Rio

We started working on our plan almost immediately after the London Olympics. I researched package prices  to get an idea of possible prices for Rio. I read online bulletin boards with information on lodging possibilities. We also asked family members if they would consider watching our kids.

I discovered that condo rentals in Rio were very reasonable as long as the Olympics or the World Cup were not happening at the same time. Beautiful condos right on the beach were relatively inexpensive. Of course, the prices were triple for stays during the Olympics.

Many private condo owners were already taking reservations for the Rio Olympic games. We found a condo that was central to the event venues and close to transportation, and we were ready to put down a deposit for August 2016. We figured that if we actually took care of lodging we would be more motivated to follow through with our plans and make this trip happen.  LET’S DO THIS!!!image00

Take my money already!

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As fate would have it, the owner of the condo started stalling on our communication. Maybe he got busy, or maybe he was seeing if he could get more money from someone else. Other lodging options wouldn’t be released until about 18 months before the event, so we would have to wait.

As the months passed, I continued to get updates from travel agents specializing in the Olympics, but our enthusiasm for the trip waned. We focused on other family trips that were closer on the horizon. We began to have second thoughts.

Why We Didn’t Go

For starters, childcare was an issue. Finding someone to watch our kids has always been difficult, but finding someone to watch them while we left the country for a week was a tall order. My family in Colorado agreed, but we would have to fly our kids there and back in addition to getting us to Rio. We really didn’t want to bring our kids with us to the Olympics because it would drastically raise the price of our trip, and I didn’t think they would be interested in some of the events we wanted to watch.

We also started to think about what we’d have to give up in order to go to the Olympics. 2016 was my oldest son’s last year in elementary school and the last year I would feel comfortable pulling him out for a week or more to go on a trip. We wanted to go on a Disney Cruise during the last half of the school year in order to get the cheapest price. Due to cost and work vacation days, we would have to choose between Rio and the Disney Cruise.

I’m betting most people would have chosen Rio over the Disney Cruise. After all, the Olympics only happen once every four years. However, it wasn’t the best decision for our family. It just didn’t feel right. Although we would miss the Olympics in Rio, we would have another chance to go  when our kids are older and better equipped to travel with us and appreciate the experience.

When I think about how old our kids will be for future Olympics, I freak out. My oldest son will be 16. SIXTEEN!!! My youngest child will be 9, almost 10. And if we wait until 2024, when the Olympic games have a chance at being in Los Angeles, I will have two teenagers and a 20-year-old son.  

This week, we have been watching the Olympics on TV as a family. My kids are more into it than I thought they would be. We’ve enjoyed watching swimming and gymnastics, and we recorded the opening ceremonies to watch later.


Watching the Olympics

Dreaming About Tokyo

My kids heard my husband and I talking about our “almost-trip” to Rio, and now they are asking if we can go to the next summer Olympics in Tokyo. At first I laughed it off and told them it would be way too expensive. Then my oldest said, in all seriousness, “But Mom! You can use miles and points to get us there!” I guess he has been paying attention when I tell him that our trips are made possible due to miles and points.

The truth is, we would love to travel to Tokyo with our kids (someday—see my post about why I don’t want to take them overseas just yet). I traveled to Tokyo twice in my mid-20s for my job. It was amazing and different from the USA in every way. One of my trips was in April, when the cherry blossoms were just beginning to bloom. This photo doesn’t do justice to the beauty of the flowers.


That’s me in Tokyo, 2001

I didn’t have a lot of time to explore Tokyo since I was there on business. Of course I visited Tokyo Disneyland, but Tokyo Disney Sea was still under construction. I went on a day trip to Mt. Fuji and rode a bullet train for the first time.

But back to reality…even with the use of miles and points, getting my family of five to Tokyo will be very tough. I imagine that  if I had enough points to fly us there, award availability will still be an issue. However, there are ways we could leverage miles and points to knock down the price of the trip:

  • Use miles to fly first to a West Coast city like Los Angeles, which has flights to Japan for a lower cost
  • Use miles to pay for one or two tickets, then use cash for the rest
  • Find award availability to a different city in the same region and pay cash to fly or take a train to Tokyo. We are planning to take a big trip in 2021 to our boys’ birthplace, which is actually only about two-hour flight time from Tokyo. Maybe we could move our trip up a year, and combine it with the Olympics?

The wheels are turning in my head. I can’t commit to making Tokyo happen right now, but it’s nice to dream about the possibility and keep it as an exciting option. It would certainly be a trip to remember.

Have the Rio Olympics inspired you to travel to a future Olympic games?

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6 thoughts on “We Almost Traveled to the Olympics in Rio (But Why We Didn’t)

  1. Personally, I think if you end up going to Tokyo, might as well take the boys to show them the place where they were born. I would definitely combine the trips, but then again, my husband is always complaining that I cram in too much during our vacations. Still, if you are going to be so close, it would be a shame not to fly few extra hours! Just saying. 🙂 Of course, it will be a huge expense regardless. Hope you can pull it off!


    • You’re right–it’s going to be a huge expense regardless of when we go. We are thinking DFW to Moscow to Vladivostok to Tokyo back to DFW. A trip around the world!


  2. There are enough airlines that fly to Tokyo via various routes that you’ll likely be able to find award availability for 5 people, at least in economy class. Business class is also possible, but obviously that will cost more miles and has less availability. I don’t even think that you’d have to position yourself to LAX. I’m basing that statement upon award searches that I did 7-9 months ago to book our summer trip to SE Asia (I was checking OneWorld and Star Alliance carriers). It was tough finding business class seats to the SE Asia cities that I wanted, but Tokyo was popping up again and again with available seats. It was my backup plan to get across the Pacific, until I finally found seats to my desired destinations on dates that would work for me. We do want to visit Japan again as a family, but that’s a trip in itself.

    You’ll need about 350K points for five roundtrip economy tickets (35K one-way seems to be fairly common for US to Japan, some airlines are more, some are less. Check http://www.travelcodex.com/award-maximizer for award pricing details on many of the popular programs). I hate to say it, but hello Chase Sapphire Reserve. If you and your spouse could get the cards and complete the spending requirements, you would likely have 210K points (assuming some of that $4K minimum spend per card is on dining or travel), which is good enough for 3 tickets. I’d try to keep my Tokyo trip “bank” in flexible points systems, since you have no idea what the points/miles landscape will look like in 4 years. Good luck!


    • Thanks for the encouragement, Erik! I am definitely going to try for that Chase Sapphire Reserve. Although I don’t think I could hold onto the points for 3 years. I’m the opposite of a points hoarder. My points tend to fly out the door as soon as they hit my account. Saving up for flights to Asia is going to take some discipline!


  3. Nancy, I am going to the Tokyo olympics. Tokyo is everything this olympics wasn’t. More on that later.

    I planned on going to rio this year. We have the AA points for it, and some cash we could have used for it, and even the child care. Instead, we held off for the following:

    1. Rio is not safe.
    2. Zika.
    3. I can watch the games live given the time zone.
    4. Rios infrastructure is sub optimal.
    5. I am really over Brazil as a place I just can’t wait to visit. I used to have a determination to visit there someday. It’s gone now given all its been through.
    6. The incredible issues that exist between the poor and those who benefitted from the Games.
    7. A sense of corruption surrounding the games.

    All of that just soured the whole idea. I’d rather invest elsewhere with my
    Limited points and funds.

    We are going to Japan because it’s the opposite of above. It’s a safe, secure, orderly place with a great infrastructure. And I can’t watch the games live from my home.

    Japan also seems like an incredible place for a family to visit. I’d like to bring the kids of possible.

    Can’t wait. See you there.


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