Hey guys – I have to admit, I’m quite proud of myself for writing this post less than two months after the trip took place. To catch you new readers up, I started this blog back when I didn’t have a full-time job, and was balancing a few different part-time gigs, many of which didn’t involve looking at a computer all day. Now that 90% of my time is spent in front of a screen, I find coming on to write in my spare-time difficult. But I know there’s that 0.00000000000004% of the people reading this that enjoy my dumb humor, so this is for you!
Last month, the boyfriend and I (oh yea, I have a boyfriend now – I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned him before. Let’s just call him Chipmunk) went on vacation together. Which was a big thing for a few reasons: first being it was our first couple-trip together, and second, I had already done my big vaca back in July, so doing a 2nd one within the year was a new financial challenge for me. But I’m awesome, and figured it out ;)
Ok, back to the point (kind of). Chipmunk and I had planned to go to Walt Disney World and Miami in Florida. It was supposed to be a week trip where we’d go to Disney, Universal, and then off to this zoo in Miami where you can play with large animals like tigers and jaguars (don’t believe me? Skip down below!).
Round-trip flight in-and-out of Fort Lauderdale, pick-up and drop-off the car at the same airport, easy-peasy, right? Well, it’s me, and I can never resist a good deal! One day, I’m at work and my coworker announces that JetBlue is having a sale: $31 one-way flights if you leave on 10/31 (which was just 4-days before our original flight was scheduled for). I knew Chipmunk had friends living in North and South Carolina, and JetBlue had flights heading to both Charlotte and Charleston. (SIDEBAR: I’m bringing this up because to this day, my mother still has no idea where I was. Charlotte is in NORTH Carolina, Charleston is in SOUTH Carolina. They are different places, hours apart!)
I gave Chipmunk .2-seconds to decide (because I already knew we were doing it, but you know, you’ve got to let your guy think his input matters ;P ) that we’d extend our trip and start-off in Charleston so he could see his friends and we could see more states we’ve never been to! Now, if this was a travel blog, I’d go day-by-day, minute-by-minute describing our trip. But since this is more about how we saved money while vacationing, I’ll just give you a quick rundown of the trip before going into money-saving tips:
- 10/31 – 11/2: Charleston, SC –> Halloween, tour of a haunted warship, plantations, aquarium, lots of food!
- 11/3: drive to Orlando, stop in Savannah, GA on the way –> walk around town, prettiest street in america, a big tree, lots of food!
- 11/3-11/7: Orlando, FL –> catch-up with a friend, both Universal Studios, Magic Kingdom, Epcot + Food & Wine Festival 2x, Hollywood Studios
- 11/7-11/10: Miami, FL –> nice date night, visit to the zoo to play with baby tigers, pool and beach
On to the point of this post: ways to save money during adventures and activities! This trip was a bit tougher than past ones – Chipmunk and I had never been together for more than a few days at a time, so I didn’t want to scare him with my travel-craziness. Plus, there’s some things friends like to do that couples don’t (for example, barhopping is something more to do with friends, rather than just your significant other), so the planning process was a bit different. Here are some ways we saved money but still had a great time!
I’ve posted about AirBnB before – it’s a great way to stay in a city and not spend a fortune on sleeping accommodations. If you’re like me, when you go on vacation, all you really need is a bed to sleep in and a shower to keep clean. AirBnB is perfect; you can find an affordable place in a location that fits your needs. Something new I did with this trip was look to rent a Private Room instead of an Entire Place. The Entire Place provides you the privacy and security that a hotel room offers; a Private Room is more-or-less like a dorm room: you rent a room within a house or apartment, and share the entire space with a host or another guest. Normally, I’d never consider this, especially if I was travelling alone or just with females (I’m a horrible feminist; I feel like I need a male there in order to feel safe in this situation, just let me be on it), but since Chipmunk was with me, I felt confident with this choice. For Charleston and the first 2-nights in Orlando, I found us Private Rooms where we’d have access to our own bathrooms. Total cost? $303 for 5-nights! That’s just over $60 per night! We had queen-size beds, our own bathrooms, and the hosts never bothered us at all. There was parking at each place, fresh towels, and they even provided us toiletries in the bathrooms. It was all we needed and helped us save money! Go search Priceline for hotels in either place, and see the difference in cost. Go ahead, I’ll wait…….see! As long as you read the reviews on AirBnB and make sure it has the accommodations you actually need, a Private Room is a wonderful way to go!
AIRBNB pt 2:
I knew Miami was going to be the tough city to save money. It’s kind of like NYC but on the water – aka, it costs a lot! AirBnB came to the rescue again, but this time, instead of a Private Room, we rented a…wait for it…boat! Yup, there’s more than just traditional locations on AirBnB. They have treehouses, private islands, teepees, vans, and yes, even boats! We found a cute 2-person boat in a marina just south of the main part of Miami. It had great reviews and only cost $381 for 3-nights. I know, you’re thinking that’s a lot, but go research some of the 5-star, beach-side hotels Miami has to offer, or even the inland 3-star ones, and then I’ll say “I told you so” :P We really wanted to be by the water, but opted for ON the water instead. It was amazingggg (ok, minus that the shower is over the toilet, which broke. But the marina had a shower and toilet, and for 3-nights, it was totally fine!)
RENTAL CARS vs. UBER:
Here’s a little secret from me to my fellow New Yorkers: Uber is an incredibly cheap option if you take it anywhere else besides in New York City! Yes, taking it at 4pm from Midtown to Chelsea will cost you $50. But taking it anywhere else in the world, for the same distance, at the same time of day, will cost you maybe $10 tops…maybe! Knowing this fact, I opted to get rid of our rental car while in Orlando. Because we were no longer flying in-and-out of the same airport, the cost of the rental car increased since the pick-up and drop-off locations were changing. When doing the math, I found we could save over $70 if we returned the Charleston car as soon as we arrived in Orlando, and picked up a new car on the way to Miami. This saved us the rental fee, gas, parking fees, tips for any valets, and more. Instead, we had to spend a few bucks on some Ubers to get to and from some parks and the gym. Because we weren’t in a city like New York, our Ubers totaled maybe $22. Of course, you have to see if the hassle of returning the car and picking another one up is worth it. Well, the drop-off location was across the street from Universal, and the pick-up was 2-miles away from our Disney hotel so… totally worth it to save the $70!
FRIENDS & FAMILY:
As you get older (because for this part, I’m going to pretend you’re a teen I’m giving advice to you), you realize how importation relationships and connecting with people are. This trip helped affirm that belief. To begin with, when I told my mother of the trip, she recalled that we still had Disney park passes from the last time we went (umm, 2001? 2002?). I emailed and called with Disney, and discovered the 2 passes still had 1-day, park-hopper passes on them that were valid! This saved us $330! Secondly, I’m fortunate enough to have a friend in Orlando who was able to score me 2 free tickets through his job to Universal Studios with a park-to-park pass for Islands of Adventures. This was another $300 in savings! (Of course, don’t be rude – send a thank you gift, or take your friend to dinner in return. Plus, it was great to finally catch-up with him outside of a work environment!!) Lastly, Chipmunk’s parents have a timeshare they graciously let us use, which scored us 2 free nights at a Disney World resort, thus saving us even more money! Oh wait, a different lastly: when I began planning this trip, I had reached out to a PR-friend of mine about connections in Miami for a hotel. While the prices didn’t work out through that, one of the connects offered Chipmunk and I passes to the pool at her hotel, which was the absolute perfect ending to our trip and only cost us the drinks I ordered!
Overall, the trip was a success (Chipmunk and I didn’t kill each other and had a great time!) and we managed to save money where we could. I’m not really sure where this trip ranks in regards to total-cost compared to my previous trips. I do know it was a few hundred more than I had hoped for, but that could also be because we splurged at the zoo in Miami and went with the $300 Feline Encounter option instead of the $120 choice, which only got you a photo with the baby tiger instead of playing with it for 20+ minutes. I also discovered boys eat more than girls, so the whole splitting 1-entree I’m able to do with my female-friend in order to save money on dinner didn’t really work with the boyfriend LOL but the food was just so yummy, I was ok with it :) Here are a few photo highlights from the adventures –
Tea Plantation in Charleston:
Famous willow-tree in Charleston:
One of the most-photographed streets in Savannah:
Fun at Disney:
Boat and Zoo in Miami: