I just spent four days at a Las Vegas hotel, and I’m about to spend a week in Mexico. When you’re kinda cheap like me, the thought of spending money on 10 days of vacations is enough to make you sick.
But never fear! Every vacation doesn’t have to be expensive. Here are a few ways I’ve saved money on these two vacations, and how you might be able to save a few bucks on your next trip.
Get Free Flights With Miles
My flight to Vegas cost $5. That was the security fee I had to pay on an otherwise free flight. I used my Southwest Airlines free flight from the old Rapid Rewards program where you could get a free round trip to anywhere after flying something like 8 round trips. Unfortunately that program no longer exists (which is why I don’t fly Southwest anymore), but I was able to use my last free certificate to make that flight free.
Two round trip flights to Mexico cost just $180 total thanks to miles on Spirit Airlines, which has by far the absolute worst rewards program on the planet. Their rewards claims are essentially false advertising and the program is horrendous, so I would never recommend anyone use their program or credit card. Redeeming my miles for this trip was worse than pulling teeth, but at least it’s done. Never again!
Most of the time I fly I use American Airlines thanks to my British Airways credit card. You can get up to 100,000 Avios points if you sign up for that card now (not an affiliate link because I can’t get approved for the program *sadface*). I got the 100,000 promotion last year and I can fly round trip from Dallas to St. Louis for 9,000 miles and $5.00. Those 100,000 points are worth 11 round trip plane tickets that usually cost $250. That’s $2,750 of benefits from that credit card. It’s worth it!
Use Groupon to Get Cheap Hotels
I got a whole week at a fancy schmancy resort in Mexico for $350. That’s $50 a night for a place that is about 206 times better than a Motel 6 (which costs about $50 a night here in Dallas).
Unless you have a very specific destination and time in mind, there’s no reason to pay full price for lodging on any vacation. Just check the deal sites like Groupon, Living Social, and others until you find a location, time, and price you like.
Use Priceline to Rent a Car/Hotel
When I travel to Cincinnati in September for The Hoff’s wedding, I’m going to need a car. I got a rental car on Priceline.com® with unlimited miles for $13 a day. You may also remember my cheap hotel from Priceline for a wedding earlier this year. If you name your own price, you can save boatloads of money on hotels and rental cars.
I freaking love that website. And William Shatner.
Buy Non-Perishable Food and Eat Cheap
I want to eat some super fancy dinners when I’m in Mexico, but I don’t want to spend money to eat every single meal at fancy (aka expensive) restaurants. The plan is to pack a bunch of breakfast bars, granola bars, cereal, and anything else that doesn’t need to be refrigerated. I can eat this cheap stuff for 1-2 meals a day and then go all out for dinner and not have to feel guilty about the bill.
It’s pretty simple; you save a crapload of money when you don’t drink alcohol. This applies at all times, but especially on a resort with $12 margaritas.
Vacations Don’t Have to Break the Bank
If you are smart you can take a really nice vacation without spending an arm and a leg. It cost me less than $550 for two round trip plane tickets to Cancun and a week of lodging at a fancy resort because I was smart about my purchases. You can do the same if you look hard enough.
With that being said, I’m taking a vacation from everything in the next week. That means you’ll get a few guest posts here from some of my friends, and I’ll be back on Monday, May 7th. I love you guys.
Carnival of Financial Planning at Boomer and Echo
Totally Money Blog Carnival at My Personal Finance Journey
Carnival of Financial Camaraderie at My University Money
Carnival of Money Pros at My Journey to Millions
Yakezie Carnival at Faithful With A Few
Carnival of Retirement at Broke Professionals
Have a fantastic trip!!! There are wonderful Mayan ruin sites in the area (my favorites are Coba, Tulum, and Chichen Itza, in that order) and they only cost about $5 for admission. Be careful at the gas stations– Make sure the attendant sets the gas back at 0 before he starts filling your tank, and give the money to him with both hands, saying out loud the amount you’re giving him.
There are some amazing, cheap places to eat authentic Mexican food (like tacos for 20¢ each) so keep an eye out for hole-in-the-wall Mom-and-Pop restaurants. If you see locals inside, that’s a good sign!
I haven’t been to the ruins near Cancun, but I saw one in Belize. I really recommend seeing them though. Amazing architecture and beautiful areas.
have a great trip! grocery stores save me tons, too.
I use frequent flier miles too. I try to use them only for overseas flights because you receive maximum value. I usually fly business or first class which really helps on long flights.
I used to have a hotel rewards card that I would use to get free rooms and upgrades as well.
And don’t forget about hotel credit card points. There are some good Starwood and Hyatt properties in Mexico with reasonable point levels. Cash and points can also be a good saver. Maybe not quite as much of a steal as Priceline, but can be helpful during peak periods.
I have been using the free miles for travel saving. I don’t en-cash them i just keep accumulating it. When I travel i use them for travel savings.
You have pointed out great ideas on how to save during vacation. This reminds me of my adoration to a senior colleague who is able to fly to China/Japan/Vietnam at a very minimal cost. Really really low expenses you can never imagine possible. We even joke around that she should put up a travel agency.
The secret is with careful planning, in depth research, and tapping connections(friends/relatives). Each vacation is carefully planned, detailed itinerary with corresponding timetable up to the minute details.