Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, I had accumulated some flight credits and hotel certificates that we wanted to use before they expired. My husband also had some vacation days he needed to use. February is the dreariest part of winter in Michigan, so we planned a getaway to Key West.
I haven’t had many opportunities to flex my Budget Travel skills over the last 2 years, so I was excited to see how well I could do with this trip. My plan was to use up all of our flight credits and see if I could stretch our hotel reward nights to cover our stay.
My motto is the less we spend on travel, the more we can spend on dining and adventures. Game on!
Planes, Shuttles and Automobiles
We had flight credits with both Southwest and Delta. I booked the first leg of our trip from Detroit to Miami because Southwest does not fly directly into Key West. We had never been to the Keys, so this gave us an opportunity to make the beautiful drive from Miami to Key West.
After applying our credits, our flights to Miami cost $49 total. I also added Early Bird Check In to our reservation for $20 per person. I paid the $40 with a credit card that has an annual airline travel credit. The cost was immediately reimbursed.
So far, so good!
For the drive from Miami to Key West, I was able to secure a one-day car rental for $116. Why only one day? Our hotel offered shuttles to both the airport and downtown Key West. We planned to utilize these included services, so by returning the car the next day, we saved $348 over the remaining three days.
We needed to take a taxi to dinner one night during the trip. I was prepared for that. The round trip taxi fares came to $30 (which was still cheaper than a day of car rental). One of my favorite budget travel tricks is to pay taxi fares with our Capital One credit card. This card has the option to use points to erase travel costs. When we returned home from our trip, I simply applied the necessary points to those charges and literally erased them.
I booked our return flights from Key West to Detroit with Delta. After applying travel credits for my fare and a small number of Skymiles points for my husbands, our return flights ended up costing $0. Score!!
During our return flight we had a three hour layover in Atlanta. We have free Priority Pass lounge memberships via our Hilton Surpass credit card, so we took a short ride on the airport train to the International Terminal where The Club ATL is located. Once we arrived in the lounge we enjoyed complimentary snacks and drinks. Lounge access comes in very handy when we encounter long layovers or flight delays during our travels. Airport dining can be very expensive, so I usually value a lounge visit for two as a $50 savings on our travel costs.
Our total transportation costs came to $165.
Pre-Trip Hotel with Parking
We live about an hour from the Detroit airport. Normally, we just leave from our house because it is a pretty straight shot. For this trip, we had a 6:30 am flight. We decided since we were saving so much on the other travel costs, to go ahead and book a hotel near the airport on the night before our departure.
We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn which came with up to eight days of free airport parking and a $10 per person/per night food and beverage credit. We normally pay $12 per day for airport parking. So although the room came to $184, we did save $60 on parking and $20 for a couple of drinks at the hotel bar.
In true Michigan fashion, the weather was awful the morning of our departure, so we were very glad to have eliminated the long messy 4 a.m. drive! This stay also earned a slew of points and helped us reach a spending bonus on our Hilton account. Things just have a way of working out for the best. This extra hotel cost was totally worth it.
Room with a View
My husband had two Hilton Free Weekend Night Certificates and a bucket of points available. One of those certificates was about to expire, so we needed to use it soon. We booked our room at the DoubleTree Hotel and Resort in Key West. By making back-to-back reservations, we were able to use the free night certificates for the first two nights and redeem 135,000 points for the second two nights.
As a Diamond Member, our room was upgraded from a King Balcony room to a Two Queen Suite with an extra large balcony. This was a fantastic room that goes for $569 per night. Not only did we save $2,276 (plus taxes and fees) on our room cost, by booking a Reward Stay we also saved $30 per night in Resort Fees. That comes to over $2,500 in savings for our hotel stay.
The DoubleTree also offers members a $15 per person/per day food and beverage credit. We used this credit to cover the cost of our breakfast on 3 days of our stay and for drinks at the pool on another day. That was an additional $120 in trip savings. I think we got plenty of value for our points and certificate redemption.
Living Our Best Life
Even with splurging for an extra pre-trip hotel night, our travel costs only came in around $349. We had plenty left in our budget for dining and adventures. I am not going to lie, we lived large and ate like Kings during our stay!
This trip ended up being a fantastic break from the Michigan winter. It was packed full of fun, food and plenty of sunshine! With some savvy planning to use our credit card benefits, points and travel credits, it also didn’t break the bank!
I would call this Budget Trip a success. Planning a budget trip doesn’t mean you have to skimp. It just means you have to plan ahead and use the tools you have wisely in order to reduce your travel costs.
Dream, Plan, Save, Adventure!
Coming Soon: Hotel Review – DoubleTree Resort by Hilton, Key West