A Complete Breakdown of What My Long-Distance Relationship Costs During COVID
When I was a teenager, I thought the height of romance was dating a handsome, mysterious man abroad, preferably someone who rides a Vespa. As I’ve gotten older and learned that my love languages are quality time and physical touch, I figured out that a long-distance relationship was not the ideal situation for my needs.
And then I met my partner. We got engaged and unfortunately, the pandemic hit. Due to coronavirus and impeding visa complications, he moved back to Scotland, and I accidentally found myself in a long-distance relationship.
Almost immediately I knew that I was willing to temporarily give up my stance of being anti-long distance for this specific relationship. In doing so, I had to rework my perspective, and my budget, to fit the unexpected costs to stay connected with my partner.
How Much I’ve Spent Being In A Long Distance Relationship (So Far)
Flights to visit your partner is the obvious and largest expense. While I already save a large chunk of my paycheck for future travel, I reduced the amount I was saving for future, bucket-list travel, and put aside a portion of this money for travel to visit my partner. Knowing that this a temporary shift in my budget has made it easier to not save up for my dream vacation, while still working towards my short-term immediate needs.
On top of flights, I’ve started incorporating thank you gifts into my travel budget. Due to the pandemic, my partner currently lives in his parent’s home. As a token of my appreciation, I always bring his parents their favorite treats from America. While this expense is not compulsory, I would not feel comfortable showing up to their home empty-handed.
One of the more surprising costs of having a long-distance relationship is the uptick of sending small gifts to my partner. When we were both living in the same city, we did not buy each other gifts. Instead, we showed affection by planning dates, supporting each other’s creative ventures, or cooking for each other. By not being physically present, it makes it much harder to cheer someone up or show small ways to show affection to your significant other.
While we still watch tv shows together, have a nightly check-in, and text each other memes, since we are both heavily reliant on our computers for our jobs, having a non-digital way to express our affection with each other has become incredibly important. For us, this meant sending small gifts or surprises. When the United Kingdom was not under strict lockdown, I would Venmo my partner to grab a coffee or a treat for themselves. I have also sent snacks, ingredients to recreate our favorite happy hours spots, and silly cards through the mail. My partner has ordered my favorite foods and had them delivered to my house. I now have a line item in my monthly budget for tokens of affection for my partner because they have become a small, physical reminder that the other person is thinking of you.
So with that said, here is a general overview of what I’ve spent, in the past year, to accommodate my long-distance relationship:
— 2 Roundtrip Flights: $1,533.90
— Thank You Gifts for 2 Trips: $208.67
— Unexpected Covid Test Required by the UK: $168 (120 UK Pounds)
— Two Travel Insurance Policies: $106
— 1 Year’s Worth of Small Thinking Of You Gifts: $305.32
— Holiday-Related Gifts and Postage: $250.78
— Cards and Postage: $43.45
— Flight Credit (I have one canceled flight from January 2021 due to the new UK strain): $608.12
— Grand Total: $3224.24
How Distance (& COVID) Changed The Dynamics Of My Relationship
While it is obvious to say that the pandemic has changed international travel, the pandemic has made a long-distance relationship even trickier to navigate, both financially and emotionally. A persistent question I have been asking myself is: How often can I see my partner without posing a risk to myself or others?
While this is not a direct financial cost, there is a significant emotional and mental price of traveling to see your partner during the pandemic. For each trip to spend time with my loved one in rural Scotland, I have to juggle the health risk of traveling, the shaky airline industry, and staying informed with two different government’s international travel rules that are rapidly (and constantly) changing.
In order to be as safe as possible, I quarantine two weeks before and two weeks after I travel. In addition, I quarantine at my partner’s family home for two weeks, per the United Kingdom’s regulations. With each trip I take, I am isolated for six weeks for the safety of others. I’m lucky that my job is remote, so my quarantines have not been an issue; however, it takes significant scheduling just to hop on a plane.
Once I do finally decide it is safe enough for me to travel, purchasing a flight has been a bit tricky. While airlines have very flexible change and cancellation policies, there is a certain amount of risk when booking a flight during a pandemic. Flights have been canceled by the airlines due to a lack of customers or new government regulations. When buying a ticket, I take a moment to check my budget and ask a) can I afford this ticket and b) if this flight was canceled, am I comfortable following up with an airline for months for a refund? c) If one airline cancels my flight and I don’t receive a refund right away, do I have enough money to purchase another ticket so I can travel in the planned timeframe? If the answer is yes to all of these questions, only then do I make the purchase. So far, I was able to travel twice to the United Kingdom in the past year; however each trip, my fight plans changed three to four times through cancellations or date changes.
Governments rules and regulations international travel regulations have been changing at a rapid clip. Often, there are only a few days of notice before the new rule comes into effect. In contrast with my other pre-pandemic trips, I traveled with a significant travel insurance policy and a larger amount of easily accessible cash. In previous trips to Scotland, I had to dip into this emergency fund for new regulations about required Covid-19 tests to board the plane that was put into place two days before I left the country.
While my partner and I are still in a long-distance relationship with no end date (or even when we are going to see each other next!), we are still committed to making a long-distance relationship work through small gifts and remaining connected digitally.
Devin is a program assistant and writer based in NYC. She is currently engaged to her partner!