|by Jason Steele|
Them mission: My family of three wishes to escape the icy clutches of Denver this January to bask in both the warm sun of Florida and the warm embraces of my grandmother. It would be pretty simple to book three airline tickets, four hotel nights, and four days of rental car for a good $1000-$1,500. That simply wasn’t in our budget. In fact, we want to do it for under $500.
Air Travel For Three: $200
Through use of my Southwest Airlines Visa, occasional paid air travel, and other various promotions, I came within 5 Rapid Reward points of two award seats. To fill in the remaining 5 points, I transferred 7,500 Starpoints from my Starwood account to my Rapid Rewards account. While it was probably not the best conversion ratio ever, the whole point of having Starpoints is the flexibility to top off accounts in this manner. With two tickets down, we were able to a third ticket for a mere $200 after the Cost Plus World Market discount I had told you about.
Since Southwest has fairly generous award seat availability, we had little difficulty finding two award seats on non-stop flights from Denver to Ft. Lauderdale in January. Try that with United, Delta, or even Frontier and you will be extremely disappointed.
Lodging For Four Nights: $100
Here I was able to use one of my favorite frugal travel tricks, the best price guarantee. In the past, I have been able to find lower priced rooms than the ones I booked on Expedia, and I have received a price match and a $50 coupon good for future lodging. By booking each night stay separately, I was able to book four $75 rooms for $25 each. Using TripAdvisor, I am fairly confident that we will enjoy our stay in this particular hotel, even at this rate.
For Days Car Rental: $104
My first attempt to find a rental car for four days was about $160 through a couple different search engines. Next, I went to National’s site, using a coupon I had, and got that down to $130. Finally, I found Hotwire had it at $104. I booked a compact car, which should be sufficient for the three of us to do some sightseeing. If experience is any judge, it is unlikely that we will actually receive such a car.
For just over $400 my family of three will be enjoying four days and nights in south Florida this winter. Credit card, frequent flier mile, hotel, and rental car deals are not just an academic exercise for me. They are an applied science that will allow my family the comforts of a nice vacation without the expense.