Are cruises the most budget friendly vacation?

Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas cruise ship

I’m not shy to admit that cruises are by far one of my favorite ways to travel. From the small luxury ships to the great floating cities, I love to cruise. You can see just about the entire world from a cruise ship. Alaska. The Caribbean. Asia. Europe. Even Antarctica has a number of cruise opportunities. Unfortunately, many people have the idea that cruises are prohibitively expensive and end up shying away from what could be their new favorite way to travel. Far from being too expensive, I’d argue that cruises are a very budget friendly vacation idea.

It is definitely true that you can find some very expensive cruises out there. One example is the 127 day Viking World Treasures cruise which can run as much as $50,000 per person. Antarctica cruises can cost up to $12,000 per person. There are even a few suites on the “budget” cruise lines that can run in the tens of thousands of dollars. But with over 20 million people taking a cruise each year, these pricey options are the exception, not the rule.

So why exactly do people think cruises are so expensive? How much will a typical cruise actually cost? And how does that compare to other vacation options? Put on your captain’s hat, because we’re about to go on a journey to see the value of a cruise vacation.

Why people think cruises might not be a budget friendly vacation?

I touched a bit on this above; there are some very pricey cruises out there and the media loves to talk about them. But even if you’re just looking at a budget cruise line like Royal Caribbean or Carnival, there can be a bit of sticker shock. Partially, this is because of the way cruise lines advertise their prices.

Advertising Gimmicks

Most cruise lines will advertise their price per person per day. So you will see an advertisement that says something like “3 Day Cruises from $99!” When you then break down the price, however, it comes out to $750. Quite a bit more than the $99 that got you excited. The problem is that the $99 price point was the cost per person, per day and didn’t include taxes and fees. Cruise cabins are designed with two passengers in mind, so the room itself is $198 per day. For a 3 day cruise that’s close to $600, and then taxes and port fees can add another $100-$200.

Thankfully, this kind of deceptive marketing is going away, although the per person rates are still advertised, despite the fact that you can’t just book that rate for one person. Most cruise lines will add a “single supplement” for anybody cruising alone. This single supplement typically brings the total cost to just a touch under the price for two people.

What’s Included

More than just a place to sleep. Cruises include food and entertainment as well.

Another reason why cruises appear to be so expensive, is because most expenses are included in the quote. When you are booking a standard land vacation you will see separate prices for the hotel, food, activities, and transportation. So with a cruise you might see the grand total of $2,000 and think it’s expensive. But add together everything from a land trip – food, hotel, rental car, etc. – and you’ll quickly see that you’re actually spending more than you anticipated.

Of course, not everything is included in the cruise fare. Excursions, alcohol, the casino, etc. will all cost extra. However, these same things will also cost extra when you are planning a non-cruise vacation. Even better, many activities on board are included that you would have to pay for otherwise. Cruises offer pools and water slides, miniature golf and rock climbing, movies and plays, comedy shows and concerts. Each of these activities could cost you $5-$50 per person on land, but are included with the cost of a cruise.

How much does a cruise actually cost?

This is a really difficult question to answer, and the best option would be to reach out for a detailed price quote. That being said, there are some general pricing rules we can follow, depending on some of the details of the cruise.

What all impacts cruise price?

There are a few different aspects of your cruise that can change what you should expect to pay:

  • Cruise Company – Different companies have different price structures, but typically your mass market cruise lines will be cheaper. Generally speaking, Carnival is often the cheapest, followed by Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, and Holland America. Celebrity and Princess can be a little more expensive, and then Disney and the luxury lines like Oceania, Silversea, Azamara, and Seabourn even more so.
  • The Ship – Even within a single cruise line, prices can vary wildly from ship to ship. Newer and larger ships will often fetch a premium while the older and smaller ships often have lower prices to entice more cruisers.
  • Room Type – There are four main types of rooms – Interior (no window, no balcony. Cheapest) Ocean View (A window that doesn’t open.) Balcony or Veranda, and finally, the different levels of suites.
  • Length of Cruise – Most cruises are 7 nights, but they can range from 3 to 21 or even longer. On a per night basis, longer cruises are actually typically cheaper. This is due to a decrease in demand as well as an anticipation of higher on board spending.
  • Destination – Destination can make a huge difference in cruise price. The Caribbean, which has dozens of ships in competition with year round cruises will often be cheaper than Alaska or Australia cruises. Speaking of Alaska cruises, the one way Anchorage to Canada cruises are often significantly cheaper than the round trip Seattle cruises.

Bottom line? At a base price expect a 7 night cruise to cost between $1,000 and $2,000 for two people. If you want a more exotic itinerary, a nicer room, or a newer ship that price can rise, but under $2,000 a week is typical and is a very budget friendly vacation.

Budget Friendly Vacation Comparisons

Prices can vary based on your personal taste, but I’ve set up a few different comparisons to see how cruising compares to other vacation options. We will take a look at a week in Europe, a week in Alaska, and a week in the Caribbean.

Cruise vs Land – Europe Edition

Cruise ship in Kotor, Montenegro
Kotor, Montenegro

For this comparison I chose a week in prime summer travel season – mid June, 2020. The cruise I chose is Royal Caribbean’s 7 night Eastern Mediterranean cruise out of Venice leaving on June 13th. This cruise visits Venice, Kotor, Corfu, Athens, Mykonos, Argostoli, and returns to Venice.

Cruise Costs

InteriorOcean ViewBalconySuite
Cost for 2$1,941.68$2,460.68$4,402.68$5,547.68

For the land portion, we have two options. We can just do a full week in Venice, or we can actually try to duplicate the exact itinerary. When considering each, I will come up with numbers for three different types of budgets. For low budget I will assume a cafe for breakfast, and fast food for lunch and dinner with a three star hotel. Mid budget assumes a 4 star hotel with a casual restaurant for dinner. High budget will be a 5 star hotel, casual lunch, and nice dinner.

Single City Costs

Low BudgetMid-BudgetHigh Budget
Hotel (7 nights)$690$1,275$2,950
Meals (7 days)$560$700$1,000
Public Transit (7 days)$135$135$135
One Attraction Per Day$250$250$250
Total$1,635$2,260$4,335

As you can see, the total price is just barely lower than the cost of the cruise. However, this limits you to seeing just one city while the cruise will let you see 6 cities. What happens if we were to try and visit the same 6 cities not using a cruise ship? Each leg of the trip (6 in total) would cost between $150 (bus or train) to $400 (regional flights). At the lowest budget that would make the cruise $600 cheaper to see the same cities.

Cruise vs Land – Alaska Edition

A pair of wood bison in Portage, Alaska

For Alaska, there’s no good way to travel to many of the port cities so for the land portion we will just assume a full week spent in Anchorage. The selected cruise is on Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas leaving Seward, Alaska on May 22, 2020.

InteriorOcean ViewBalconySuite
Cost for 2$1,780.68$2,180.68$2,803.68$5,905.68

Aside from the suites, this cruise is even cheaper than the Mediterranean option. The attractive pricing, the unique itineraries, and the absolutely stunning natural beauty are all reasons that Alaska cruises are my personal favorite.

Low BudgetMid-BudgetHigh Budget
Hotel (7 nights)$670$1,435$2,415
Meals (7 days)$650$800$1,200
Rental Car (7 days)$200$200$200
One Attraction Per Day$250$250$250
Total$1,790$2,685$4,065

Here we can see the cruise not only visits much more of the state, but it is also cheaper.

Cruise vs land – Caribbean All-Inclusive

The Caribbean offers amazing snorkeling opportunities

For the Caribbean we’ll try to get a bit more apples to apples. We’ll stick with just one location, but compare an all-inclusive resort to a cruise. There are a lot more cruise options, so we’ll price out three. First, the newest and biggest, Symphony of the Seas out of Miami. Next, Freedom of the Seas out of Puerto Rico, and finally Liberty of the Seas out of Galveston.

InteriorOcean ViewBalconySuite
Symphony$2,073.20$2,214.20$2,456.20$4,875.20
Freedom$1,225.78$1,503.78$1,828.78$2,713.78
Liberty $1,286.16 $1,654.16$1,787.16$3,298.16

With Caribbean options, we are now getting a much more budget friendly vacation. For the all-inclusive resorts, we will also consider three different islands, and three levels of resort as well.

Royalton Bavaro All-Inclusive in Punta Cana
3 Star4 Star5 Star
Punta Cana$1,154$1,610$2,168
Cancun$1,552$1,840$2,182
Jamaica $1,290$1,902$2,652

Here we can see that all-inclusive resorts are very comparatively priced with cruises. Indeed, AI Resorts and cruises offer many of the same amenities; it ultimately comes down to if you prefer multiple destinations and time at sea, or a single destination with a more traditional hotel experience.

Final Thoughts

Cruises are a vacation that offer a very strong “bang for your buck.” There is a cruise available for nearly any budget, and the total price of a cruise vacation is in line with more traditional types of vacations. When you consider what type of vacation to take, you have to consider all the variables, and cruises have many different pieces to them. While the total price may appear high at first, remember that you are paying for your hotel, meals, transportation, and entertainment.

If you are ready to find a cruise, all-inclusive resort, tour group, or individual travel plan, contact us today. We’ll be happy to help you plan the perfect budget friendly vacation.

Universal Orlando Vacation Packages

At the Escape from Gringotts ride at Universal Orlando Resort, a dragon breaths fire over the heads of guests.
Watch your step in Diagon Alley! Things could get a little hot if you upset the dragon guarding Gringotts Wizarding Bank.

If you are looking for the perfect family vacation, look no further than Universal Orlando Resort. Experience the magic at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, enjoy the amazing food at Universal City Walk, and check out the newest water park in Orlando, Volcano Bay.

Don’t forget to check out the all new roller coaster, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure; opening June 13th!

Active Deals at Universal Orlando Resort

  • Travel by June 30th and get 2 days FREE with purchase of a 2 day ticket.
  • Stay at the Loews Portofino Bay, Hard Rock Hotel, or Loews Royal Pacific and get a FREE unlimited Express Pass.
  • Up to $100 off any 3 day or longer vacation package when you stay at an on-site resort.

Looking for a different kind of adventure? Just let us know and we’d be happy to help!

Closed Loop or One Way Alaska Cruises

Seward has some amazing views, but they aren’t available on most Seattle based cruises

The Alaska Cruising season is in full swing, and here at Adventures With Anthony we are celebrating Alaska Week. Come back everyday this week for a new article about Alaska Cruises, and find out why Alaska is not only our personal favorite cruise destination, but also the most popular cruise destination for our clients.

Today’s post is all about the differences between round-trip and one way Alaska cruises. Read on to learn which cruise is right for you.

Why the different types of cruises?

Simply put, cruise lines have to abide by the Passenger Vessel Service Act, sometimes erroneously called the Jones Act. We touched briefly on the PVSA in our post on Hawaii cruises, but essentially the PVSA means that cruise lines have to visit a “distant foreign port” if doing a closed loop cruise. Closed loop is just a fancy term for a round trip cruise; the cruise starts and ends at the same port making a full loop.

Seattle is much closer to Canada than Anchorage is, so ships can easily leave Seattle, visit a port in Canada (often Victoria, British Columbia), and return to Seattle on a 7 night cruise. Cruises departing from Seward (or Whittier) Alaska, on the other hand, cannot. Therefore, these cruises have to either be 14 nights, or a one way cruise that does not start and end in a US port.

What are the differences?

The main difference right off the bat is of course the departure and arrival ports. One way Alaska cruises also often visit more ports than their closed loop counterparts, in part because they don’t have to budget time for the return trip. The two cruises also share many ports of call, but also have a few different stops, and the prices can be quite different on the two cruises as well.

Common Ports

Whale watching is very popular in Hoonah, but Seattle based cruises often miss this port

Both closed loop and one way Alaska cruises often stop at Juneau, Ketchikan, and Skagway and include a “glacier experience”. Cruises from Seattle often visit Glacier Bay, although some will visit Tracy Arm Fjord, Sawyer Glacier, or Hubbard Glacier. Seattle cruises also typically visit Victoria, British Columbia, often for a very short stop. This stop is pretty much just to meet the PVSA requirements, and it isn’t unheard of for a ship to only be in Victoria for a couple hours.

One way Alaska cruises can often visit Icy Strait Point, also called Hoonah. This native village has arguably the best whale watching of the typical Alaska ports, but is rarely visited by Seattle based cruises. The departure/arrival towns of Seward or Whittier are also not often visited by Seattle cruises.

Different Ships

Like we mentioned yesterday, both Norwegian and Royal Caribbean have big ships coming to Alaska. Both of these new ships will be sailing round trip from Seattle. Seattle is just able to handle much larger ships, so this will likely be a trend we see continuing. This is not necessarily a good or a bad thing. We absolutely love sailing Alaska on the Radiance of the Seas, a much smaller ship with a lot of viewing space.

Cruise Tours

We will discuss cruise tours in more detail on Friday, but only the one way Alaska cruises offer a land portion option. These cruise tours add a few extra days onto the Alaska end of your cruise for a guided land tour. The exact tours vary, but often they take time to visit Denali National Park and a few other areas around Alaska that can’t be reached by ship.

Cost

This is always a concern of cruisers, but is the hardest to really pin down. The one way cruises are often quite a bit cheaper than their closed loop cousins, but at the same time airfare is often cheaper for a round trip flight to Seattle. On the one way Alaska cruises, you have to purchase two one way plane tickets since your cruise does not start and end at the same place. Flights to Anchorage are often more expensive than flights to Seattle, and since the port is not actually in Anchorage, you also have to pay for transportation between Anchorage and Seward or Whittier. Our personal favorite method of transportation to the port is the Alaska Railroad, and in my opinion that is well worth any additional cost.

Mirror Lake is one of the highlights of the train ride between Anchorage and Seward

The exact costs of cruise and airfare can vary widely from cruise to cruise, so make sure you reach out to us to figure out what your best bet would be.

How Chase Ultimate Rewards Saved Us over $50,000 on Plane Tickets

No, that title is not a typo. Recently Luis and I booked two flights using credit card rewards points. The first flight was a one way flight in business class on Iberia Airlines, non-stop from Boston to Madrid. The second was a round trip flight in first class on board All Nippon Airlines, non-stop from San Francisco to Tokyo Narita. If we had paid cash, those same redemptions would have cost us $53,495. Now, being completely honest, we would never pay that much for a flight. Truthfully, I don’t think many people ever actually pay the full ticket price for first class tickets. Still, it is an amazing feeling to see those numbers when you don’t have to pay them.

Earning the Points

There are several different points programs, and picking the right one for your situation can be difficult. If you always or nearly always fly on a single airline, then it usually makes the most sense to join that airline’s frequent flyer program. Luis and I, however, will fly whatever airline works with our destination, dates, and budget. On our trip to Shanghai, we flew with Asiana. Singapore, we flew United. Iceland we are flying on Delta. On other recent trips we have flown on Jetblue, Miami Air, American Airlines, and Alaska Airlines. We just aren’t loyal enough to justify investing in any airline specific credit cards.

Instead, we decided to invest in a travel rewards program that could be used for a multitude of airlines. The three main points programs that are available include Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, and Citi Thank You Points. Each program has different strengths and weaknesses, and different partners, but in the end we decided to go with Chase Ultimate Rewards.

The Ultimate Rewards Cards

The three cards we used to get our free flights. Chase Freedom, Sapphire Preferred, and Ink Business Preferred

Ultimately, we have four cards that are able to earn us Ultimate Rewards. The first is the Chase Freedom, which does not earn Ultimate Rewards points on it’s own, but can transfer points to another card which does earn points. We then have a Chase Ink Business Preferred, and we each have our own Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Sign Up Bonuses

The bulk of our points came from initial bonuses just for getting the cards and reaching a minimum spend amount. These bonus points are not repeatable, but they do offer a very large head start towards reaching your first redemption. The Chase Ink Preferred business card came with an 80,000 point sign up bonus. The Chase Sapphire Reserve originally had a 100,000 bonus, which I was able to take advantage of, but it currently only has a 50,000 bonus, which is what Luis received. Still, for the three cards that was 230,000 points. Enough points for the first class ANA redemption, which runs 220,000 points.

Intelligent Spending

Aside from the sign up bonuses, the other way to quickly earn a lot of points is to maximize the bonus opportunities. The Chase Freedom has rotating categories; every quarter a few new categories will earn 5x points. The Sapphire Reserve, on the other hand, has a set of static bonus categories; 3x the points on all travel and dining purchases. By consistently using the right card for each purchase, you can rapidly earn the points needed for a redemption.

The Redemptions

Now, for the fun part! Once you’ve earned enough points it’s time to start planning some trips. Now, just because Chase is not affiliated with a single airline does not mean you can transfer to anybody; Chase currently partners with only 9 airlines. Still, with the proper planning and knowing about alliances, your options are nearly limitless. The 9 airlines Chase can transfer points to include: British Airways, Air France, Singapore Airlines, United, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, Korean Air, Iberia, and Aer Lingus.

Business Class on Iberia Airlines

Since Iberia is partnered with Chase, we were able to easily transfer points from our Ultimate Rewards account directly to Iberia. Iberia has an award chart that varies by route and time of year, but for BOS-MAD in October the normal fare would be 34,000 points per person from the east coast or 42,500 points from the west coast, each way. We were able to find a special deal, where our flight would only be 25,500 points each, but we had to fly from Boston.

Since we live in Nevada, Boston is quite a ways away for a flight, but a deal’s a deal. A quick check on Google Flights, and we were able to find a flight from Salt Lake City to Boston for only $100 per person on Delta in basic economy.

Business Class for 2 on Iberia would have cost us $13,000 had we paid cash

The cash price for a first class ticket from Boston to Madrid on our travel dates is currently $13,024.80 for two people. Instead, we booked it for 51,000 points, $180 in taxes, and $206 for a flight to Boston. Our total savings? $12,638.

First Class on ANA

Unlike Iberia, ANA is not a partner with Chase. However, three of Chase’s partners have the ability to book ANA flights: United, Singapore, and Virgin Atlantic. Each option has pros and cons; United has the lowest taxes, Singapore allows you to book one way awards, and Virgin Atlantic offers redemptions for the fewest points.

Ultimately, because of the amazing value, we went with Virgin Atlantic for our redemption. Virgin Atlantic can book first class on ANA for only 110,000 points round trip from the west coast, or 120,000 points from the east coast. Compare this to United which charges the same amount of miles for only one way. That puts Virgin Atlantic in a very sweet spot for Asia redemptions. There are a couple of downsides; you have to book a round trip ticket, it has to be non-stop (which means there are only a small handful of eligible US airports), and seats only become available 336 days out. There are only 2 seats on each plane available for these reduced rates, so it is possible that travelers booking directly with ANA or with another partner have already booked all the available award seats. Still, if your dates are somewhat flexible and you can book almost a year in advance, Virgin Atlantic offers an amazing redemption opportunity for ANA.

Round trip First Class tickets on ANA would have cost us over $40,000 if we had paid cash

The cash price for a first class ticket from San Francisco to Tokyo and back on our travel dates is currently $40,470.44 for two people. Instead, we booked it for 220,000 points, and $513 in taxes. Our total savings? $39,957.

That’s a grand total of $52,595 in savings over two trips.

Why you Should Stay at an All-Inclusive Resort

Private Pool area at the Chic Mansion in Punta Cana

The world is a stressful place; the last thing you need is a stress filled vacation. Stress can’t necessarily be completely avoided, but one vacation that promises to minimize your stress is staying at an All-Inclusive resort. All-Inclusive resorts are certainly not for everybody. They are typically one of the least adventurous types of vacations you can take. In fact, when staying at an All-Inclusive resort you never even have to leave the property if you don’t want. Still, the number of US travelers who stay at an All-Inclusive resort is on the rise. According to PhoCusWright, in 2010 8% of all US travelers stayed at an All-Inclusive resort. In 2012 that number rose to 14%.

So why are All-Inclusive resorts gaining in popularity? I believe it is because people are finally starting to see past the old misconceptions. The fact is, there is an All-Inclusive resort option for every kind of traveler. And as an added bonus, with an All-Inclusive resort there is no second guessing your budget. Unless you choose to go off-site or get a spa treatment, you will know upfront exactly how much your vacation will cost. And here at Adventures With Anthony, we can easily package your resort and airfare into a single purchase, saving you even more.

Newly constructed Royalton Bavaro has a lazy river and a FlowRider surf simulator

All-Inclusive resort packages are cheaper than you might think

When you figure in all the various costs of any vacation, an All-Inclusive resort can become an excellent deal. When you book an All-Inclusive resort through us, the price includes round-trip airfare, transportation to and from the airport, and the resort itself. At the resort all of your meals and drinks are included, as well as a number of on-site activities. Price can vary based on location, time of year, and specific resort, but it is not unheard of for a 4 night package to be as low as $500 per person from select US cities.

Even if you aren’t lucky enough to snag one of these special deals, the regular price of our packages are extremely reasonable. For example, a 6 night package in a 4 and a half star resort from Salt Lake City to Punta Cana in August is only $1,239 per person. That’s $2,478 for two people to fly internationally, spend 6 nights in a suite, and have all meals and drinks included. If you were to book this trip separately, the airfare alone would cost $1,594. That is for the same exact JetBlue flight included in the package. The resort itself, the Grand Palladium Bavaro, starts at $239.70 per night. That’s a total of $1,438.20 for the entire 6 night stay. The transfer from Punta Cana airport to the resort would normally cost an additional $20 per person. That puts the grand total of the vacation when purchased piecemeal at $3,072, almost $600 more than booking one of our packages.

Even when compared to a more traditional hotel, the value of an All-Inclusive stands out. A typical 4-star hotel will run around $100-150 per night. Lunch at a fast food restaurant for 2 can be around $20-30, and dinner for 2 can range from $60 to well over $100. Alcohol is harder to budget, depending on your personal habits, but two cocktails or glasses of wine with dinner could easily add another $25. That would mean on the low end you could spend $180 per day on food and lodging, up to $300 or more. For this same 6 night vacation, avoiding an all-inclusive would cost between $2,674 and $3,394.

You aren’t trapped at the resort

Chichen Itza, one of the world wonders, is only 4 hours away from Cozumel

While many resorts have plenty of activities to keep you occupied, you are free to explore if you want. It will cost extra, but you can book transportation to local sights or even book an off-site excursion. Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic offers trips to Saona Island, snorkel and scuba trips, a canopy zipline, and the famous Coco Bongo nightlife experience. Cozumel is close to 6 different Mayan ruins, including Chichen Itza which was recently named as a world wonder. You can book these excursions in advance, although I would personally recommend waiting until you arrive at the resort. That way you will have a better idea of how much time, if any, you want to spend away from the resort.

There is a resort for everyone

When many people hear All-Inclusive, their mind tends to jump to a couples retreat. A romantic getaway to a Sandals or a Beaches resort. Something expensive and reserved for a very special occasion. Your honeymoon or a milestone anniversary, perhaps. That, however, is just one type of All-Inclusive resort. There are also resorts that cater more towards the hard partying Spring Break crowd. There are elegant, 5-star resorts with fine dining and private golf courses. If you are traveling with kids, there are family friendly resorts complete with an entire on-site water park. There is even a Nickelodeon Resort in Punta Cana, and a second one under construction in Riviera Maya.

AquaNick at the Nickelodeon Resort is a great escape for families

It doesn’t matter if you want an adults only or a family friendly resort. One that has less than 100 rooms or more than 1,000. Budget or extravagant. Reach out and we will be happy to help find the perfect resort for you.

Travel Hacking: Wyndham Rewards Mattress Run

Wyndham Kona Hawaiian Resort – Courtesy of Wyndham Hotels

Occasionally companies may offer special promotions that can be a great deal for future adventures. Currently Wyndham Rewards is offering a promotion for one free night at any Wyndham hotel after staying just two separate times. Wyndham Rewards is already a great value because of their flat redemption options. With just 15,000 points you can stay for free at any hotel under the Wyndham brand. Normally, you earn 10 points per dollar spent at a Wyndham property, with a minimum of 1,000 points per stay. That means that normally it takes 15 stays to earn a free night. With this promotion cutting that down to only two stays, the value is amazing.

In fact, the value is so great that you may even want to consider making a mattress run to get these points before the promotion expires.

What is a Mattress Run?

You may have already heard of a Mattress Run, or the somewhat related Mileage Run. If you are not familiar, a Mattress Run is when you reserve a hotel that you don’t need just to earn loyalty points. While it might seem like a waste, there are times where the value of the points earned can be higher than the cost of a hotel room. Wyndham Hotel Group is a perfect candidate for this, especially with the current promotion. Wyndham includes a wide variety of hotel brands, including some budget offerings such as Days Inn and Super 8. Depending on your location you can often find a budget hotel under the Wyndham umbrella for under $40 a night. Even if you don’t need a hotel right now, for only $80 you can earn 15,000 points and get a free night at any Wyndham hotel worldwide.

In order for the stay to count you have to actually check in, so you can’t just find a random hotel clear across the country and reserve a night. The easiest way to complete a mattress run is to book the cheapest hotel close to your house, check in, leave the key in the room, and then go home.

The Wyndham Rewards Promotion

As mentioned above, the promotion just requires two stays at a Wyndham property during the promotion period. Your two stays must be completed before June 30th, 2018, and must be two separate reservations, not just two nights. You also have to have a Wyndham Rewards account and register for the promotion.

Registering for the Promotion

To register for this promotion you must first have a Wyndham Rewards account. This account is free to create at the Wyndham Hotels website. Once you have an account and are logged in, go to the promotion page and register for the promotion. Once that’s done you are good to go and are free to start booking your stays.

Promotion Rules
  • You must have a Wyndham Rewards Account
  • You must register for the promotion on Wyndham Hotel’s website
  • There must be two completed stays at a Wyndham property by June 30th, 2018
  • The room must be booked directly through the hotel. You can book:
    • Online at WyndhamHotels.com
    • Online at the specific chain’s website
    • Via phone to the hotel or Wyndham’s Toll Free reservation line
  • No shows do not count; you must actually check in to the hotel
Getting the Most out of the Promotion

Wyndham Bali Kai Villas – Courtesy of Wyndham Hotels

In order to maximize the value of this promotion, you should focus on two points. First, minimize the cost of your two stays. If you were already planning on staying at a Wyndham property you don’t have to worry about this, but it is particularly important for Mattress Runs. Mid-week stays at budget properties will usually offer you the best prices, but it can vary depending on your geographic location. Days Inn, Super 8, and Travelodge are often the cheapest options, but it’s a good idea to search all Wyndham properties via the Wyndham website to get the best deals for your area.

The second part of the equation is deciding where to spend your free night. Wyndham Grand resorts often offer the best redemption value, although Ramada and a number of Las Vegas casinos, including Harrah’s, Caesar’s Palace, and the Rio can also offer an amazing value. Wyndham has also recently added vacation homes and condos to their offerings, adding even more amazing redemption opportunities. Peak season rates at some of these properties can start at $300 a night. That means that for about $80 you can earn 15,000 Wyndham Rewards points and get a free night valued at over $300. Without the promotion, it would take 15 stays to earn a free night, which would cost you at least $600. This represents an amazing value and an excellent opportunity to splurge at a resort you may otherwise never get to experience.

For some more ideas on where to redeem your free night, check out our post on the 10 Best Award Redemptions for Wyndham Rewards.

Royal Caribbean Panama and Costa Rica Cruise

** UPDATE ** – Royal Caribbean has announced changes to cruises on the Enchantment of the Seas. Unfortunately, this cruise has now been cancelled. Details can be found here.

The stunning views that await you in Costa Rica

Hello adventurers! We have some really exciting news for you today. Royal Caribbean has just released a 9 day cruise itinerary that visits both Panama and Costa Rica. This is currently the only cruise offered by Royal Caribbean that visits Costa Rica, and one of only three that visits Panama. This sailing departs Galveston, Texas on November 7th, 2018 and returns on November 16th. Along the way you will stop in Puerto Costa Maya Mexico, Colon Puerto Rico, Puerto Limon Costa Rica, and Cozumel Mexico. Even better, the current price of this cruise starts at only $619 per person. At 9 nights, this comes down to less than $69 per person per day. This cruise was just announced and prices won’t stay this low for long!

The Itinerary
Date Time Location
Nov. 7, 2018 4:00 PM Galveston, TX
Nov. 8, 2018 All Day At Sea
Nov. 9, 2018 12:00 PM – 6:00 PM Puerto Costa Maya, Mexico
Nov. 10, 2018 All Day At Sea
Nov. 11, 2018 11:00 AM – 8:00 PM Colon, Panama
Nov. 12, 2018 7:00 AM – 4:00 PM Puerto Limon, Costa Rica
Nov. 13, 2018 All Day At Sea
Nov. 14, 2018 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM Cozumel, Mexico
Nov. 15, 2018 All Day At Sea
Nov. 16, 2018 7:00 AM Galveston, TX
Enchantment of the Seas

This cruise is on the Enchantment of the Seas, which is part of Royal Caribbean’s Vision Class. The Enchantment is one of the smaller ships in Royal’s fleet with a capacity of 2,446 passengers. While that means it does not have the “mega-ship” feel of the newest ships, it is also significantly less crowded. Enchantment has less than half the maximum number of passengers compared to the newest Quantum of the Seas and almost one third the passengers as the current largest ship, Harmony of the Seas.

While aboard Enchantment you will enjoy a variety of activities including bungee trampolines, rock climbing, theater shows, and pool-side movies. There are three saltwater pools on board, including an adults only Solarium, and an additional splash pool for kids. For dining, you have the free main dining room or Windjammer buffet, as well as the premium Chops Grille, so you will never go hungry.

The Ports

Poas Volcano in Costa Rica

Over 9 days this cruise visits four ports and has four sea days. Cozumel and Puerto Costa Maya are both excellent ports that a lot of ships frequent, but the real highlight of this sailing are the stops in Panama and Costa Rica. You will spend nine hours in Colon, Panama, plenty of time to see the canal or the capital, Panama City. Unfortunately, this sailing does not transit the Canal, but that is partially why it is such a great bargain. Ships travelling through the Panama Canal have to pay a tax based on the size of the ship. This typically adds approximately $150 to $250 per passenger, a significant increase.

The day after leaving Panama you will spend another 9 hours in Puerto Limon, on the Costa Rican coast. I had the pleasure of spending a day in Limon in 2004, and I still remember the stunning beauty today. While in port there is so much to do. You can explore Veragua Rainforest or the Tortuguero Canal if you enjoy nature. If beaches are more your style there are miles of pristine coastline to explore. If history is more your forte, you can plan a trip to Isla Uvita, where Columbus landed on his last voyage across the Atlantic. There is a reason Costa Rica’s motto is Pura Vida or Pure Life and all it takes is one visit to understand.

Ready to Book?

While November 2018 seems far away, this is an extremely unique cruise for Royal Caribbean. We do not expect this price to last for long, and it is even possible for cabins to start selling out soon. All that you need is a $250 deposit per person to reserve your spot on this amazing adventure. We also offer a lowest price promise; any price drops between when you book and when final payment is due will be honored. If you book today, you will be locked in at the best possible price for this stunning itinerary.

Reach out to us and start planning your adventure today!

Searching Multiple Airports With Google Flights

There are several tools that can help the discerning adventurer make the most out of their travel budget, but when it comes to finding the best deal on flights there is perhaps nothing more powerful than Google Flights. This is the second in a series of articles highlighting the various tools and techniques that you can use in Google Flights to get the best possible price on your next adventure. Today, we will be focusing on how to use Google Flights to search for airfare from multiple airports. You can also see the other tips and tricks for using Google Flights like a master below.

  1. Using the Low Fare Calendar to Find the Bet Days to Fly
  2. Search Multiple Airports to Get the Best Deal
  3. Explore Destinations to Decide Where to Fly (Coming Soon)
  4. Tracking Flight Prices to Know When to Book Your Ticket (Coming Soon)

We have already seen how Google Flights can help you pick when to take your next vacation. However, when you take your vacation is not always so flexible. Maybe you are taking a cruise, going to a wedding, or have limited days when everybody can take time off. In these situations the Low Fare Calendar loses much of it’s usefulness. Still, being flexible is a great way to score a deal, and searching multiple airports could be the key. To learn how to master this skill, watch our video below or keep reading.

Many online travel tools allow you to search airports that are near your home, but they are typically very limited. For example, Orbitz gives you a dropdown with a list of up to ten of the closest airports. This list could include small, general aviation airports that have no or very few commercial flights. There is no easy way for you to specify a list of airports that you are willing to travel to or from.

The list of nearby airports as provided by Orbitz
Orbitz lists the closest airports by proximity with no option to customize

Searching Multiple Airports With Google Flights

When using Google Flights on the other hand, searching multiple airports for the best deal is as easy as listing the airports. In both the departure and arrival fields you can list as many airport codes as you like, separated by commas. The first airport that you enter will auto-complete, but after that you need to know the code for each airport you want to consider. If you are unsure on an airport code, just list that city first and let Google auto-complete. If you are unsure on multiple airports you can find several resources online by searching for “IATA Airport Code Lookup.”

Comma Separate Multiple Airports on Google Flights
Just list the airports you want to consider, separated by commas

You can also click the ‘+’ sign in the airport text box, or select “Nearby Airports” in the airport dropdown. Doing this will provide a list of airports by distance similar to the list provided by Orbitz, but with two large benefits. First, Google takes into consideration all the airports you have already entered. Second, each airport has a checkbox, so you can select as many of the airports as you want.

List of nearby airports provided by Google Flights
Selecting “Nearby Airports” gives you a list of airports close to any airport you have already entered.

Finding Multiple Airports Using the Map

While knowing the airports you want to consider or being able to find a list of nearby airports can be great, sometimes it’s more beneficial to be able to see the airports. Google Flights has you covered in that department as well. At the top of the flight search page, just to the right of the date and airport selections, is a map. You can quickly see the destination airports you have chosen on this map, but it’s real strength shows when you click on it.

The Google Flights Destination Map
Just to the right of the airport and date selections is a map showing your destination(s).

When you click on the small map you are taken to a page with a fully functioning Google Map. This larger map shows all airports as red points, and you can hover over them to get the airport name. You can zoom in and out and pan the map, and many of the larger airports will have the price for your flight dates displayed. Clicking on an airport will reset your destination to the selected airport. You can then see the cheapest flights to that airport on the left of the screen. You can also quickly see any airports that don’t have available flights, as their pins will be gray. This could help you find additional airports you didn’t originally consider, or eliminate airports that are too far away.

A Google Map displaying airport locations
Google Flights also has a full size map showing all airports with available flights.

Limitations of Google Flights for Multiple Airports

While Google Flights is extremely powerful and useful, it does have some downsides. First, when searching for multiple airports you have to have exact dates. There is currently no way to combine either flexible dates or the extremely powerful Low Fare Calendar with multiple airports. Also, additional airports after the first don’t auto-complete, so you need to know the airport codes you want to consider. The map can only be used to select a destination airport, and overwrites any currently selected airports. This means that there is no way to use the map to select multiple airports, or change your departure.

It is also important to note that while this can help you get the best deal on airfare, there are other costs you must consider. Driving to an airport further away can require gas, time, and parking or rental car fees. You also need to be mindful of timezones if you book a flight from an airport in a different state. If you want some help planning an adventure, reach out to us today.

Using Google Flights Like a Pro: The Low Fare Calendar

There are several tools that can help the discerning adventurer make the most out of their travel budget, but when it comes to finding the best deal on flights there is perhaps nothing more powerful than Google Flights. This is the first in a series of articles highlighting the various tools and techniques that you can use in Google Flights to get the best possible price on your next adventure.

  1. Using the Low Fare Calendar to Find the Best Days to Fly
  2. Search Multiple Airports to Get the Best Deal
  3. Explore Destinations to Decide Where to Fly (Coming Soon)
  4. Tracking Flight Prices to Know When to Book Your Ticket (Coming Soon)

Today we will be discussing the Low Fare Calendar feature, a tool that allows you to quickly see the best priced flight each day between two airports for the next 11 months; as far out as airlines publish their fares. This is perfect if you know where you want to travel to, but are flexible as to when you actually go. One great example might be if you wanted to visit Hawaii sometime in the winter, or perhaps you have just always wanted to visit Paris and do not care when you visit, as long as you get a great deal on the airfare. Watch the video below or keep reading for a detailed tutorial showing how to make the most out of this powerful tool, and how to never overpay for your flights again.

You can find the calendar on the main Google Flights page. Just enter your departure and destination airports (it will autocomplete for you if you do not know the airport codes), and then click on the departing date field. Once you click on this field a calendar will appear on the screen as seen below.

Low Fare Calendar Screenshot
The Low Fare Calendar when searching for a flight on Google Flights

How to Use the Low Fare Calendar

Once the calendar is open you can use the arrows on either side to navigate between months; the full range of dates available can vary but typically goes out approximately 10-11 months in the future. For each day Google lists the price of the cheapest flight, and the days with the cheapest rates will have their price highlighted green. This makes it really easy to see at a glance which days have the best possible rates. The overall lowest price found will be bold as well as green; you can see an example of this by looking at December 2nd in the screenshot below. Once you select a departure date by clicking on it in the calendar, the prices will update to show you the cost of a round trip ticket that returns on each day after your departure date.

Low prices are marked in green
Lower than average prices are marked in green, while the absolute lowest price is a bold green.

It is important to note that once you select a departure date you might find round trip flights that are even cheaper than what the calendar originally showed. This is because Google uses the currently selected dates to determine how long of a trip you are planning. In this example, the original dates before I started looking at the calendar defaulted to August 8th to August 12th, or 4 days. That means that the calendar will display round trip prices assuming a four day trip, so the price displayed for December 2nd was the return flight on December 6th, or 4 days later. If you know how long you want to be away you can change the original dates to anything that matches your preferred duration. For example, if you want to spend two weeks in Hawaii, you can change the return date to August 22. This will make the calendar pull prices assuming a 2 week trip.

Calendar of Return Flight Fares
The Low Fare Calendar showing what it would cost for a round trip ticket given a specific departure day.

Viewing Flight Details

After selecting a departure and return date you will be redirected to a page detailing the different flight options that match your selection. Here you will see a list of the best flights for your dates followed by the remaining flights ordered by price. As we can see below, the cheapest flight is almost 22 hours long, thanks to an 11 hour layover. We also see that this is an overnight flight, arriving the next day.

List of specific flights and details
A list of flights available on our chosen dates.

Congratulations, you have now used Google Flights to find the cheapest flight available. However, the calendar also has a number of filtering options that you can use to find the absolute perfect flight.

Filtering Results to Find the Perfect Flight at the Perfect Price

Now we have found the cheapest flight from Chicago to Honolulu this winter, but I don’t like that long layover. Thankfully, the Low Fare Calendar also works with all the filtering options so we can choose a shorter duration. Just below the date selection boxes, we see 5 filter options; Stops, Price, Airline, Times, and More. Under each of these you have several filters you can set based on your personal preferences. Under “Stops” you can choose to only see nonstop flights; “Airline” lets you choose a specific airline or alliance. You can even exclude airlines if there are specific lines you do not want to fly. “Times” allows you to specify when you want to leave or arrive at your destination, and duration is under “More”. You can also exclude any specific connecting airports if there is an airport you do not want to travel through.

I am going to restrict my flights to those that take less than 14 hours from departure to arrival. I can do this by clicking on the “More” heading and dragging the slider bar until it says 14 hours. Once I do this, the calendar will automatically update it’s prices. Now I can see that the cheapest price has changed from $648 on December 2nd to $703 on December 4th. It’s $55 more per person, but at least I know I won’t be stuck in an airport for 11 hours.

Filters available on Google Flights
The filtering options available include number of stops, price, airline, times, duration, and connecting airport

Putting it All Together

If you know where you are travelling to, the Low Fare Calendar on Google Flights is a powerful tool. Combined with the other tools available on Google Flights, you can be sure that you get the best deal. Make sure to use the filters to your advantage and you’ll be able to quickly find the perfect itinerary. Finally, if you would like assistance or want information on an entire vacation, send us a request here. You can also call us at (800) 307-2457 and we’d be happy to help.