“Yes, my darling?”
“Do we need a two-day rental car for any reason?” I ask. “I can get it for $5 total, but I’m not sure if we’d actually need it any time soon…”
“Oh, brother,” Lance sighs with an air of defeat.
This is my life lately. While I’ve been otherwise lazy as shit (no, really…that’s about as apt a simile as I can come up with), I’ll keep myself up at night, my brain doing (probably really poor) arithmetic, calculating percentages off, points transferred, miles gained.
2013 was supposed to be our “good” year. Be frugal, save some money, pay down some debt, line the coffers and such. Of course, a huge expense of ours last year was traveling, so when Lance and I sat down to trim our expenses, that was the first to go. No more spontaneous overnights to Disney World ::sadface::
This also meant no “major” traveling. We like to do at least a weeklong vacation somewhere–Vegas (ugh), Hawaii, Tokyo. As I’ve discussed before, we alternate who picks these annual vacations because there’s no way we could ever agree to one place. 2013 was Lance’s year to pick, but by agreeing to punt his vacation into 2014, Lance became frustrated and mighty sad.
Only a few weeks into this new status quo, and it was already driving me nuts. Though this is the first-worldiest of problems, I couldn’t imagine going a whole year without a vacation. In fact, I may love piecing together the elements of a vacay more than actually going on vacation. I love getting the best hotel deal, getting the cheapest flight, arranging an itinerary.
So…I looked at our frequent flyer accounts through American Airlines. Though neither of us are super-fans of AA (we’ll get to the Cookie Incident another time), we accumulated a nice chunk of miles through our first two trips to Hawaii by flying American, so we are kinda stuck with them.
We were both somewhere between 35,000 and 40,000 miles; too little to redeem for a roundtrip to Europe (what I’d been saving the miles for), but just enough for a roundtrip to Hawaii. Instead of spending $800+ each on plane tickets, we’d pay $5 a piece for taxes and fees.
I heroically offered up the miles I alone had amassed so that Lance could take his vacation. Please, no applause.
The only problem was the dates available to book flights either allowed too short of a vacation, or one that was 10+ days. I wasn’t going to spend 11 hours on a plane to only go to Hawaii for four days, but the 10-day vacation scared me. Hotels in Hawaii ain’t cheap, and eating in Hawaii is like going out to eat all the time in a big city: we’re used to those kind of prices, but doing it for 10 solid days adds up quickly.
But, the thought of going for double-digit days appealed to Lance. “Let’s do it!” he proclaimed, forgetting our whole “financially responsible” charge.
So, we booked the flight; now we needed a hotel. A nice one. And a cheap one.
We’d previously stayed at the Hilton Waikiki Beach, and loved it, but it was going for over $200 a night; the goal of this trip was to save money, not spend $2000 on a hotel room.
So I began looking elsewhere. Thankfully, around the corner from the Hilton is a brand-new Hyatt Place, which was going for $169-$212 a night.
In this case, Hyatt is preferable to me for two reasons:
- They offer a better best rate guarantee than Hilton does, where, if you find a cheaper rate elsewhere, Hyatt’ll not only match it but take 20% off.
- I have a Hyatt credit card, which I got primarily for the “no international fees” feature, but it also allows me to rack up Hyatt hotel points to redeem for free nights. Plus, I get a free night dumped into my account on my cardholder anniversary, which will be in July (and we go to Hawaii in August.)
So now I’m in the process of coming up with every possible scenario for using our free nights and paying for nights. I already have one night booked with points, and I estimate I can earn enough points via my credit card before we go to redeem for a second free night (this only requires, like, $12,000 spent on my card. You know, whatever). So there’s the scenario for one free night and nine paid nights, two free nights and eight paid nights, etc.
I’m hoping to get it down to where we’re only paying for seven nights out of the ten; I’ve already used Hyatt’s Best Rate Guarantee to bring the hotel cost down to $120 a night (from $169-212 a night). This required me scouring the internet for a cheaper advertised rate, and then calling up Hyatt and trying to convince them that all the terms and conditions are exactly the same (really, they try to find the tiniest discrepancy so that your “claim” isn’t valid).
I can’t tell you how much time I’ve spent calling Hyatt trying to get them to match rates; oftentimes, if they find a minuscule difference, I hang up and shout, “It is TOO valid, you sonofabitch!!” and shake my fist in the air all dramatic-like. And then I cry.
But it’s worth it. I love doing this stuff, and it makes going on vacation financially feasible where it wasn’t otherwise. Instead of spending $1700+ a person on a flight-hotel package deal through American, we’re aiming to spend about $450 a person on paid nights.
So that’s basically what I’ve been doing instead of writing blog posts.