Posted in Budget Friendly Travel

Planning A Budget Friendly Trip to Key Largo

Winters can be cold in Michigan. January and February can often be rather gray, dreary, and a bit depressing. To give ourselves a much-needed dose of Vitamin D my husband and I like to take a trip somewhere sunny.

We considered Arizona or Key West but ended up choosing Key Largo for the destination of this year’s Winter Getaway. There are a lot of cool restaurants and fun outdoor activities for us to explore in the Upper Keys as well as great beaches where we can relax and soak up some sun. I don’t think we can go wrong with a visit to the Florida Keys.

Once we landed on our destination, I went to work piecing together a Boujee Budget trip. To me, that means saving money on travel costs without sacrificing luxury. My goal is to plan the best possible vacation with plenty left in the budget to eat like Kings and do everything we want to do while we are there.

Airfare

We had $195 each in Southwest credits and quite a few Rapid Reward points. Because we plan to stop flying with them for a while as they address the issues that led to their recent system meltdowns, we wanted to use up all of our points and credits for this trip. I booked the reservation as 2 one way segments to facilitate using different payment methods. The first segment came to $37.96 after using all of our flight credits and I booked the second segment using points for $11.20 in taxes and fees. That brought the roundtrip total to $49.16.

I paid for the flights with a credit card that has a $100 annual Airline Fee Credit, in hopes that at least part of our purchase would apply. As it turns out, they covered all of it!

My Rapid Rewards credit card includes 2 Earlybird Boarding credits per year, so I went ahead and added it to our first reservation. I paid with the Rapid Rewards credit card and received a statement credit for the full amount a few days later. When I added it to the second reservation, I paid with a card that has an Airline Fee Credit, and that charge was also reimbursed within a few days. At $20 each per segment we saved $80 just by taking advantage of our credit card benefits.

Total for all of our Flights 22,358 20,814 points

Tip: After I book a flight with Southwest, I still check the pricing when they have a sale. For this trip, the flight booked with points dropped so I called and had it repriced. Repricing takes a bit longer than canceling and rebooking but you won’t lose your EarlyBird Check-In.

Hotels

We have been pretty loyal to Hilton for the last few years because we each hold one of their credit cards and they have a wide variety of property types to choose from when we travel. Combining Hilton Honors loyalty perks with cobranded credit card benefits allows us to stretch the budget while still staying in very nice hotels.

I originally planned to book 5 nights at Bakers Cay Resort utilizing the Hilton book 4 and get the 5th night free deal, but they didn’t have our rate for the last night. In order to make it all work, we had to shuffle the hotel nights around a bit. Since we were already planning to spend our 1st night at the Hampton Inn Key Largo, we made it a 2-night stay at the end of our trip instead. This move ended up saving us 20,000 points from our original plan and gave us more time to chill at the Hamptons’ cool beach.

Then we just needed a hotel for our first night. Our plane is scheduled to arrive in Miami at 7 pm, so we decided it made sense to spend our first night there. This allowed us to pick up the rental car, grab dinner, and be fresh and rested for our drive to Key Largo in the morning. I chose to redeem an IHG Anniversary Night Certificate to cover the cost of this stay.

IHG Anniversary Night certificates allow for a free night on rooms up to 40,000 points. The regular rate for a room at the Intercontinental Hotel Doral is 48,000 points which is more than the cap on this certificate. Fortunately, IHG was offering a 20% discount on reward nights making the rate for the room only 38,400 points. I could have booked a less expensive property, but I always try to maximize the value of any Free Night Certificates when I use them.

  • 3 Nights at Baker’s Cay Resort -1 Free Night plus 180,000 points -Savings of $2,465.42
  • 2 Nights at Hampton Inn Key Largo – 160,000 points – Savings of $847.91
  • 1 Night at Intercontinental Doral – 1 Free Night Certificate – Savings of $305.00

Total for 6 hotel nights $0 with a Savings of $3,618.33

Car Rental

Car rentals these days can be one of the most expensive parts of a trip. Therefore, whenever I need to rent a car, I check rates in several different ways. The method which provides the lowest price can vary from trip to trip so I usually try all three before I make a reservation.

  • First I check directly on the car rental website using our AAA and Loyalty Status
  • Next, I run another search using the corporate discount from my employer
  • Then I run an Autoslash search to see if they find any cheaper options.

Autoslash was coming in with the best rates for this trip. Weekly rates started out at $350 but I checked the rate each day until it dropped to $308 and then booked it with Hertz using Priceline through Autoslash. It isn’t a bad weekly rate, but I still put an Autoslash Price Tracker on the reservation in hopes of shaving off another $50-$100 before our trip.

Total for Car Rental $308.00 $273.49 (The Autoslash Rate Tracker came through with a lower rate!)

Tip: I rarely book a prepaid rate even if it is significantly cheaper. I got burned last year when we had to cancel a prepaid reservation and lost $100. Booking a pay later rate also allows you to track the reservation and rebook if there is a price drop later.

ALWAYS KNOW WHAT’S INCLUDED IN YOUR RESORT FEE!

As Hilton Diamond members we will receive an $18 per person daily Food and Beverage Credit at Bakers Cay to use for restaurants, bars, room service, or grab-and-go items. I always make sure to take full advantage of this credit even if it’s just for a nightcap at the bar or some snacks for the room. We could even order a bottle of wine from Room Service.

The Bakers Cay Resort has a lot of onsite activities and amenities. Although there are some awesome items included in the Resort Fee (which is waived when booking a rewards stay but you still get all of the benefits) some come at an additional cost. Like a 2-hour Sunset Cruise on a Tiki Boat/Bar, a Dock to Dish dinner, watersports rentals, or services at the spa.

I recently Upgraded from the Hilton Surpass credit card to the Aspire. One of the benefits of this card is a $250 credit at Hilton Resorts. I am hoping to use the full credit during our stay to cover the costs of additional activities as well as any amount that we spend over our $18 per person per day on-site Food and Beverage credit.

Final Thoughts

I feel pretty accomplished by getting our travel costs down to $308 $273.49 for this 6-night getaway. Budget travel is an addiction for me. I love the thrill of lining up the bones of a trip for the least amount of money possible while also staying at fantastic hotels. Saving on travel costs (air, hotel, and car rentals) means more money for dining, drinks, and amazing adventures.

If you wonder why I share my trip planning strategies, it’s in hopes you find some helpful nuggets and try your hand at planning a Boujee Budget trip. If you do, you will be able to travel more often and live your best life without breaking the bank!

Stay tuned for Key Largo Hotel Reviews and Foodie Finds.

Dream, Plan, Save, Adventure!

Author:

Just an Art and History Nerd from MI Who Loves to Travel, Explore, Save Money, Share Tips, Enjoy the Best Foods & Adult Beverages🍷🥂🍸 Then Blog About It!

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