Travel Tuesday: There And There And There And Back Again

Lance and Jeff on a plane!

**WARNING: Major first world problems discussed in this post.

As I alluded to yesterday, my upcoming plans for Disneyland were sorta dashed, oddly enough, by the high temperatures in Philly and our own indulgence in the absurd.

But Disneyland isn’t the only vacation I’m planning for the near future.  In fact, Lance and I recently plotted out our vacations (we loosely define these as requiring at least 5 days off from work) and long weekends (4 or less days off) for the next two years.  Eep!

Here are our travels, big and small, for the next two years:

  • Big Island, Hawaii, June 2013 (me alone, business)
  • Michigan, July 2013 (me alone…again! ::sob!::)
  • O’ahu (and maybe Kaua’i?) Hawaii, August 2013
  • New York, New York, September 2013
  • San Diego and Los Angeles (and Disneyland!!!), December 2013
  • Orlando, Winter 2014
  • Las Vegas, Spring 2014
  • Western Caribbean on the Disney Cruise Line, October 2014
  • Paris, Spring 2015

We had meant to keep our traveling light this year (after it became a decent chunk of our expenses in 2012.)  Yet I have the itch and, try as I might, I lack the willpower not to scratch.

So then the challenge shifts from “resist going places!” to “how do you travel–and travel well!–and still make it affordable?”

Thankfully, most of our trips are fairly far off, which is good, because it gives me the time to shop around for the best hotel deals, wait for good airfares, save for certain activities.  While the waiting and waiting for a trip can be a killer, there’s a satisfaction in having time to put together a well-thought-out itinerary and be confident you got a decent price.

Doing things cheap does mean making a sacrifice sometimes.  

For example, in order to save $200+ on airfare, I’m flying out of tiny-ass Trenton-Mercer Airport in New Jersey (which doesn’t even have a bathroom after the one metal detector in the terminal) instead of Philadelphia International to get home to Michigan.  It’s an extra half-hour away by train, but the savings are worth it to me.

Doing things cheap also requires time for you to rack up loyalty program points.

For our August 2013 Hawaii trip, we booked the airline tickets with frequent flyer miles (free!) back in December 2012…which is good, because it gives us time to save up for the hotel, and BONUS!, we’re getting two nights for free because of Hyatt points I earn from my Hyatt credit card. So for this 10-night trip, we’re only paying for eight nights and we didn’t have to pay for airfare.

Had we only 2-3 months to plan for the trip, we wouldn’t have been able to earn Hyatt points fast enough for any free rooms, and the availability for frequent flyer award seats (which are limited on most airlines to a handful per flight per day) would’ve been nonexistent.

The same vacation is going for over $1800/person right now; we’re going to end up paying around $500/person for a ten-night vacation in Hawaii.

Doing things cheap means being diligent…and a little crazy.

With our Disneyland plans thrown for a loop, I wasn’t sure we’d be able to go at all.  I was banking on the frequent flyer miles from my business trip to Hawaii to be enough to put me over the top so I could redeem for free tickets to L.A., but that’s still a month out and frequent flyer award ticket availability could all be gone by then.

Since I’m crazy, I regularly stalk’s message boards, where people much craftier than I post the airfare deals they find online.  You have to know your airport codes to begin to decipher what they’re all talking about, but it’s worth it!

Just this past weekend, I found what I was looking for: early December flights from PHL (Philly, natch) to SAN (San Diego, not quite LA) for $175 round-trip on United.  Virgin America it ain’t, but we’ll get to California for half the cost of a normal round-trip, and we’ll be able to spend a day in San Diego (where Lance has never been) before driving (rental cars are cheaper out of San Diego than LAX anyway) or Amtrak-in’ it up to Anaheim.

AND…I can keep my frequent flyer miles to redeem on flights to other places!

I hope that gives y’all a sense of what you can do with a little…well, yes, craziness.

Adventure is out there!