I am a Budget Traveler and absolutely love getting a great travel deal. But being a Budget Traveler doesn’t mean we skimp. Instead it means that I plan ahead and work hard to secure the best deals on our travel costs (like hotels, car rentals and airfare) so that we have more money for cocktails, dining and experiences. Saving more money on each trip, stretches our travel budget further and also means we get to travel more!
Smarter use of points, miles and loyalty programs also means we don’t always have to fly Economy and we can stay in better accomodations. It’s important to set travel goals so that you know what points and miles you need in order to meet them. Even though earning the right points and miles takes a little extra thought and planning it can really make a big difference to the cost and quality of your trips. I know it has completely changed and improved the way we travel.
Our Best Budget Trip So Far – Hawaii
Last fall I was able to plan our best Budget trip yet. We were able to spend 6 luxurious nights in Hawaii without spending a fortune.
Southwest had just added new routes to Hawaii. I took advantage of my Southwest Companion Pass and combined it with my Rapid Rewards points to fly my husband and I round trip for only the cost of the taxes and fees ($44).
We used 45,000 points to stay for 3 nights at the Hyatt Centric Waikiki which was an absolutely fabulous hotel. Because Hyatt waives the Resort Fee on Reward Nights, using points for this stay also saved us the $37 per night Resort Fee.
After much deliberation, we chose not to book a car for our time in Waikiki. The hotel would have charged a lofty $45 per night for on site parking. Since we were centrally located, we figured we could walk or use public transportation for much less. So we saved $135 in parking plus the cost of 3 days car rental. Two taxi rides cost a total of $64 and I used my Capital One Card to pay so that I could use points to erase those charges. After seeing the crazy traffic in Waikiki, we were really glad we didn’t rent a car anyway!
I landed a great rate of $105 through Autoslash on our car rental for the 3 days we stayed on the North Shore. It was originally $126 when I made the reservation, but Autoslash tracks your reservation and alerts you to rebook if the rate drops. We got lucky and ours did.
Our big splurge was for 3 nights that we stayed at the Turtle Bay Resort (so worth it!!). We paid with a credit card that earned 2 points per dollar on travel. Even though we received a good rate when booking our resort stay, they posted a better promotion later and I was able to renegotiate to the lower rate, plus grab a $100 resort credit. We also earned our credit card sign up bonus with the payment on this reservation and used 45,000 of those bonus points for our 3 Reward night stay at the Hyatt.
We saved a lot of extra money on this trip by paying attention to the rates for reservations that we had already booked and renegotiating when necessary. Being familiar with the points we would earn and the benefits of our credit cards (like the travel eraser on Capital One) also added more savings and rewards opportunities. So with airfare, awesome hotels, taxis, car rentals, city tours, a booze cruise, a visit to Pearl Harbor and eating like Hawaiian Kings, we spent under $1500 for the entire trip and had an amazing time.
Challenges in 2020
2020 has been like a Final Destination Movie with so many weird things happening this year like murder hornets and a pandemic. Covid-19 has not only turned the world upside down, it has made it a huge challenge to travel at all. Most of us have had to cancel any trips we had planned for this year due to travel restrictions, stay at home orders and to ensure our safety.
After months of staying home, my husband and I decided to spend a few days in one of our favorite nearby Michigan destinations. Part of the challenge would be trying to plan a trip that also allowed us to social distance due to Covid-19. With all the budget trips I had planned being cancelled this year, I was excited to see how well I could do planning our little getaway trip up north.
- Because of Covid-19, instead of staying at a chain hotel that we have loyalty with, we chose to stay at the Homestead Resort which gave us some social distancing options. No regrets there since the property was gorgeous and we had a wonderful stay.
- The rate at the Resort was comparable to the other hotels in the area.
- We paid for our 3 night stay on our Chase Sapphire Card and earned 2 points per dollar. Although we could have earned more points with another card, we wanted to boost our transferable Chase Ultimate Rewards points instead.
Two of my Chase credit cards currently have limited time offers for 5 points per dollar on groceries and gas. During this promotion I have been utilizing my IHG card for fuel. Since this was a road trip adventure, we racked up quite a few IHG points along the way for our gas purchases.
- A few months ago my old Bank of America Rewards credit card (that I rarely use), posted a one time offer for a $50 statement credit on dining out. Having just booked our trip when this offer was posted, I made sure to take that card with us to use for dinner one evening. It worked perfectly, and the credit actually posted within days of the charge!
- For most of our other meals, we used our Hilton Surpass card that earns 6 points per dollar spent on dining or a Delta card that has a limited time offer for 4 points per dollar. I always like to take advantage of extra Delta points promotions because when it is safe to travel again, I am going to burn through some Delta miles!!!!!
I am not really much of a shopper. However, I did bring home a few bottles of wine and an awesome sweatshirt from one of our favorite breweries. I put these purchases on the Hilton card because they earn 3 points per dollar spent.
Although this may not have been our best budget trip, it was a little slice of normal and time away we really needed. There just weren’t a lot of areas for big savings to be found. But by planning ahead to use our one time dining credit, utilizing high points categories and taking advantage of limited time credit card offers, at least we were able to maximize our points return for this trip.
2020 has turned out to be a year for earning points instead of burning them. Paying attention to promotions and limited time offers for higher points returns throughout this year has helped us build up a solid bank of points on most of our credit cards and loyalty programs. I can’t wait until next year when it’s time to use all the points that we have earned this year to plan a big boujee budget trip to Europe!
Even when it’s a challenge, don’t lose sight of your travel goals or be afraid to change your strategy to reach them.
Dream, Plan, Save, Adventure!