Friday, November 15, 2013

Friday Favorite: Save/Splurge Vacations

Do you like to save or splurge when it comes to vacation?
How about if you could save AND splurge at the same time?
My husband and I love to travel, unfortunately, we do not have a money tree in our backyard to facilitate this hobby so we came up with a few simple ways to save yet still splurge when it comes to our travels and vacations.  Here are our top 4 ways we enjoy our vacations to the fullest yet come home to a healthy bank account, without having to stay in hostels or cheap hotels.

I love airmiles because it allows you live your regular life but collect points in the meantime for an added benefit.  We collect points through the Airmiles program which is offered through Safeway and various other merchants.  In vacationing around the United States, we have never paid for our car rental and have even been able to receive day riding passes to world renowned ski resorts like Whistler/Blackcomb for free (that's currently a $98 savings per day), just by having our card swiped each time we grocery shop.
In addition to regular airmiles, we also collect points through our airline carrier.  The best rewards for airlines are the companies that are affiliated under an umbrella, such as Star Alliance.  This way you can fly with Air Canada, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, United Airlines, South African Airways, in addition to many others, all fully supported by the Star Alliance umbrella.  I've lost count of the times I have been upgraded to business just by being a loyal United Mileage Plus member.

Groupon is a very interesting concept.  Companies sign up to advertise discounts on services through Groupon and as long as a certain number of purchases are completed, the Groupon is completely valid.  You may already have bought Groupons for local esthetic, dining and recreational services however, we have started using Groupon for hotel or resort stays.  Initially I was curiously tepid to try, however the last few trips to the United States have yielded excellent results.  Plus, companies that are in smaller yet very interesting locations such as Temecula, Ojai or Pismo Beach tend to advertise as foreigners may not know about those locales.  Just make sure to do your research through tripadvisor or other reputable resources before completing your purchase and be aware of blackout dates, which are all posted clearly on the sale.  If an advertised sale is completely false or grossly inaccurate, Groupon will also refund your money as long as you provide accurate information supporting your claim. 
Our recent trip to Palm Springs included a one night stay at Churon Winery and then a balloon ride with Sunrise Balloons in Temecula, for a fraction of the original cost; imagine floating 4,000 feet above sea level, looking past the desert to the Pacific Ocean, all while sipping a glass of champagne.  This was all courtesy of Groupon and it was quite frankly, one of the highlights of our trip.

Now this third point is more for Canadians travelling to the United States.  The drinking laws are much more flexible in the United States and one of the benefits is the amazing happy hour deals you will find throughout the various States.  From outstanding seafood at Daniel's Broiler and Steakhouse in Seattle to the unending options throughout Portland, Oregon right into California and all other States in the United States.
We love Happy Hours for the simple fact that we can try various options in one evening without breaking the bank account or having to be tied down to a 3 course meal at an over-hyped restaurant with terrible service.  Most restaurants that offer these deals provide the exact same food as on their regular dinner menu.  It just involves eating a little bit earlier but most times when you are travelling, the evenings will be spent on other pursuits such as a show, a local attraction or if you are like us, just kicking your feet up on the hotel's extremely comfortable bed, recovering from the day; so those early dinners/happy hours are perfect.

This is a simple use of math.  If you book your flight out of town on a Friday late evening, then you can still work that day, it will not require an extra vacation day from the office AND your weekends
can be added as bonus days that again will not eat into your vacation days.  Some flights such as the Vancouver to New York leg provide red-eye flights that leave around midnight and arrive in the early morning.  This way, you won't even have to book an extra night in a hotel, just check your bags into the hotel in the morning upon arrival, go for breakfast, explore the city for a few hours and by the time you've done that, your check-in time should quickly be approaching.
The 4 points above have helped us tremendously while enjoying one of our favorite hobbies.  Yes, it may involve some forethought, research and potentially some risks but isn't that why we travel, for the adventure?
Happy travels and most importantly, Happy Friday!

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