Now that I established what our vacation options are for this year, I’ve started breaking down costs. Not all of the costs- but the travel costs that we’re going to have in some way, shape, or form, anyway.
But first, some tips that are good to keep in the back of your mind no matter what.
- Consider looking into a credit card that offers hotel or flight points. If credit cards aren’t your thing, I know Hilton and Holiday Inn brands both have rewards cards that you can still earn points when staying at hotels. Same with Delta Skymiles.
- Unless your vacation dates are non-negotiable, try using the flex-date feature when looking for plane tickets. Keep checking for tickets sporadically, as they may appear cheaper. I check about once a week to see how/if ticket costs have changed. I’m also still kicking myself for not booking tickets to Salt Lake last year, when we found them for $230 each round trip. That was about 6 weeks (if that) before we were taking vacation (and still didn’t know what we were doing.) I’m hoping to plan a little earlier and better this year.
- Use a spreadsheet to keep track of things- even things that apply for every scenario- so you don’t forget to include something. You can also use simple formulas to auto-fill a cell and do the math for you, leaving less room for error.
We’d do a longer trip for Alaska- being up there for 10 full days. We probably won’t have enough hotel points to stay a full 11 nights for free. But, Hilton allows you to split between cash and points. We should be able to get a pretty good deal, even if it’s not free.
Both our employers have a contract with Avis rentals, so we get a special contract price. I’ve based them off my work, though Scott’s may be a little better. In figuring up the math, I believe it would also be cheaper to rent a car to drive from Tallahassee to Orlando, turn it in, and then rent one for the drive back. Though, he thinks that we could use the cell phone parking area for about $7/day, which would be cheaper than renting.
Food is a very rough estimate, and hard to account for, especially up there. The hotels have free continental breakfast, and we’ll eat just about anything. But, as with the gas, it’ll be more expensive up there. At this point, we’re looking at roughly $3000 just to get up there, have a room to stay in, and a car to drive.
Wow! This was much easier! This would be a 5-day, 4-night trip. We would be staying at a Hilton hotel because of the points accrued (there’s many more options for brands in Charleston than in Alaska!) I feel pretty confident that we would have enough points saved for 4 free nights at the hotel.
Clearly this is the most cost-effective trip. Which is also why we have the potential to do this and a bigger trip. But probably not a 12 day Alaskan trip.
My next step in this process is the research phase. Check back soon, as I will be doing the travel/lodging budget and a potential itinerary for Salt Lake City!