Cheapskate Travel Tips

new new cruise with text

Ideas to help you plan a vacation that you think that you can’t afford to take

I need to switch gears for a bit but before I do, this blog is about saving money on travel and I just found a Groupon that allows for the purchase of a night in a Fernie,  BC lodge plus 2 chairlift tickets for  as low as $69.00 per night.  There are 5 other options if you want different days or more than one night.

My last writings have been about how to deal with the immediate needs that arise as a result of income or job loss. While blogging about surviving income loss is a passion, so is travel.  Summer is here, and while I usually don’t do a lot of summer travel because I can live with the summer temperatures here, I do like to get away in the winter.

I once was is in a restaurant where the lady serving us could hardly wait for her shift to end because she was going on vacation.  Her vacation was a trip to a small city an hour and a half drive away, with a 2 night stay at a hotel with a waterslide.  It didn’t seem like much of a vacation to me, more like a getaway, but for her, it was a full on vacation and I shared her excitement of her anticipation of this trip. On the other hand I have friends that both have very good jobs that expressed that they would love to go to Hawaii some day but just couldn’t afford to go.   Eventually they did take their trip and they told me that they paid $600.00 per night for their lodging on Maui for a two week stay.  This answered my wondering about why they felt that they could not afford to go to Hawaii. That is $8400.00 for lodging alone.  When I went to Hawaii a couple of years ago I paid $800.00 for my airfare for 2 and $1100.00 for my hotel for a week.   The point here is that everyone has a different definition of what comprises a vacation and what they need in order to make the trip enjoyable.

Flights:  I do use travel reward points from credit card purchases to pay for the majority of the flights that I take.  I have 2 credit cards that I use extensively.  I put every purchase over $20.00 on a card and then go home and pay off the purchase via online banking.

The banks are quite freely handing out credit cards and will use enticements of 15,000 – 20,000 points or miles to get you to sign up.  This is enough for a shorthaul return trip for example from Calgary to Vancouver .   I use my Alaska Airmiles mastercard that  I have had for over 10 years at Costco and No Frills, and my other Visa for other purchases.  Many cards offer companion air provisions for one flight per year, although these are better used for long haul flights as the cost of the ticket may be as high as $150.00 plus taxes which is no deal on a short haul flight. Alaska Air offers good priced flights for US travel, but travel usually routes through Seattle unless the flight is booked through partner airline.  When flying to the US I find that the taxes are lower if I fly out of Canada on a US carrier as opposed to on a domestic carrier.

These websites offer some insight into how Canadian travel rewards cards stack up:

Cross border travel:  We don’t usually consider this to be an option in Alberta is not particularly if you live in Northern Alberta.  If, however you live in Southern Alberta,  and if you don’t mind driving to Great Falls Montana,  Allegiant Air offers very inexpensive flights from Great Falls to Las Vegas and to Phoenix.  It is a  5  hour drive from Calgary to Great Falls.

As an example I made this price comparison:

Dates I checked are for a hypothetical return trip to Phoenix, Arizona for Nov 6-10, 2016, Prices in Canadian Dollars for 4 adult travellers

Allegiant Air Great Falls to Phoenix return:    C$1102.48 or C$275.62/person
Westjet  Calgary to Phoenix return:  C$1704. 16  or C$426.04/person

Car Rentals: I checked Enterprise to see how much it would cost to rent an economy carin Phoenix  for these same dates and was quoted a US $385.89 for a Toyota Yaris or similar.  A check of came back with a price of US $224.16 for the same vehicle.  Check with your credit card and your auto insurer to see if you need to purchase the rental car company’s insurance.  Often your own insurance will render the additional purchase of a insurance as redundant and unnecessary. It is also usually cheaper to rent from offsite from the airport.  You may have to take a cab or public transit to get to the office, but it may be worth it to save on the daily rental fee.

Food: If you are going on a trip and want to go to some nice places for dinner,  go to the Groupon website for the city that you are visiting.  You often can find some very nice restaurants wherein you can get 2 dinners for the price of 1. Part of the beauty of this is that you have already paid for the meal before you even get to the restaurant.  We did this a couple of years a go in Miami and enjoyed several meals in very popular ocean front restaurants.

Hotels and lodging:  Companies such Homestay, VRBO and AirBnB have really opened up alternatives to the conventional hotel stay. I love to stay at a nice hotel where there are all kinds of amenities and daily maid service, but these other options are ideal for longer stays or stays wherein several people are staying together in one place.  My hotel budget can usually be served well by and if I am going to pay for hotels I may as well stay somewhere that will reward me with a credit toward a free nights stay after I have stayed 10 times.  They have a good choice of hotels that will suit most budgets.

Given that I am a cheapskate and that I love to travel, I would rather find as many ways as I can to travel often by minimizing the costs as much as I can.   Rewards cards let me fly for nearly free a couple of times a year. It means forgoing extravagance and staying in 2-3 star hotels, and sometimes driving a Yaris but it gets me away a couple of times a year.

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