June 25, 2010

Our Frugal and Not So Frugal Vacation Spending

My wife and I took a vacation to Disneyland and Las Vegas.   We flew down to LA and then drove over to Las Vegas from there.  It was a great vacation and we enjoyed ourselves a lot.  Total cost of the trip was just over $2,500

Here is how our spending broke down:

Round Trip airfare : FREE using airline miles
Economy lot Parking at Airport : $70
Baggage fees : $20 x 4 = $80

Rental Car for 8 days: $329
Gasoline : $50
3 star Hotel 1 block from Disney in Anaheim, CA : 4 nights for $254

5 star Hotel in Vegas : 3 nights for $640
3 days at Disney : $245
Broadway show in Vegas : $183

Food : $432
Souvenirs : $77

Other uncategorized : $201
Gambling expenses:  (we won $9)

Total  : $2,552


Roundtrip airfare - FREE
We got the airfare to California for free since I used airline miles.   Normally we'd have to pay around $250 to $300 per ticket to fly down.   That means our airline miles saved us $500 to $600.

Rental Car - Spent a bit more for preferred company
We spent $329 for our rental car.  I booked it via Hertz online directly.    I paid a little more to go with Hertz specifically since I have had good service and no hassles with them in the past.  I've had problems with some other car rental companies in the past so I wanted to stick with Hertz.    I spent $50 more to go with Hertz rather than book a cheaper company and I pent about $100 more than if I'd used Hotwire to book and pay in advance.   I also saved a few bucks on the Hertz rental by using a discount code from American Express.   There are various discount codes available for Hertz.    I declined all of the optional insurance products that Hertz sells.  Liability insurance $12.95 / day, Loss Damage Waiver $15 / day and Personal accident / personal effects coverage $5.95 / day.   If I had bought all of those optional insurance products then I could have ended up paying another $270 or more.   I have liability coverage via my standard auto insurance and my American Express card provides damage waiver coverage.  

Hotel near Disney - Decent Value with Airline miles discount
We paid $254 total for our hotel in Anaheim.    The normal cost would have been $333 but I cashed in airline miles from American Airlines to save another $122.   But then we also got hit with a somewhat surprise $10 per night 'resort fee' during check in.   I can't remember if I noticed that fee when I got the reservation initially.  I shopped around a fair amount to compare hotels and find a good hotel that was close to the Disney park for a reasonable price.  The hotel we booked is usually about $110 a night.   The cheapest 3 star hotels in Anaheim run around $85 a night.  The cheapest hotels in the area are around $50 a night but those are less 2 star level or worse hotels which are not close to Disney.   We chose to go with a hotel close to Disney so we wouldn't have to deal with driving and parking or hotel shuttles.   Parking at Disney is $14 a day in the normal lot.  But the hotel wasn't as close to Disney as I thought.   When I reserved it, it looked like it was "next door" to Disney when you look on the map at Google but thats actually a 15-20 minute walk each way to the park entrances.   So we ended up paying $4 a day for shuttle tickets.

3 Days at Disney - Great Deal with a friends help

I have a friend who lives in Southern California and he gets a discount on Disneyland tickets via his employer.  My friend volunteered to buy the tickets for us so we could get a discount.   My friends discount price was just $245 for two 3 day park hopper tickets.   If we'd bought the same tickets ourselves we'd have paid about $370.   My friend saved us about $125.

5 Star Vegas Hotel - Splurged
For this item we totally splurged.   We spent about $640 for 3 night stay in a 5 star resort hotel.   You can easily get much cheaper hotels in Vegas that are perfectly fine.   We could have gotten a decent 3 star hotel on the Strip for as little as $100.    After we decided to splurge at the nice hotel I still shopped around.  I looked for prices at every online travel site I use (Orbitz, Hotels.com, Travelaxe, etc) and ultimately found the best price directly at the hotel.

Vegas Show - Great seats using employee discount
We went to the Lion King show when we were in Vegas.   Normal ticket prices are listed at $64 to $168.   I got our tickets via an employee discount from my work.  We spent $183 total so it was about $91.50 per ticket including tax/fee.   But the tickets we got were in the second row so they were the most expensive section in the theatre.  If I go straight to the website for the show and try to buy tickets in the same section we sat in then it costs $266 total for 2.  Or if I look at the cheapest tickets in the house at the back of the balcony section then those would have been $166.  Using my employee discount got great seats for the price of the cheap seats.

Baggage Fees - Spending for Convenience

We packed bags for the trip and so we ended up paying $20 each bag each way for a total of $80 extra fees.   The only way to avoid this fee would have been to cram all our clothes into carry on bags.   My wife and I both tend to over pack so thats not easy for us for a week long trip.   We chose to go ahead and just pay the extra baggage fees for $80 total

Parking at Airport - Best value

We parked in the economy lot at the airport.   we could have also parked in an off airport parking lot to save about $2 per day.   That would have cut about $16 off the cost.  We could have also taken public transportation to the airport and back.   Tickets are $3 each way which would have ran us $12 total for a savings of $58.   On the other end we could have spent $120 or $170 for parking if we had parked at the lots closer to the terminal.  We chose to spend the $70 to park in the economy lot since its the easiest way without being excessive.

Driving to Vegas - Cheaper than flying

We decided to drive from Disneyland to Las Vegas.   We could have flown from LA to Vegas and saved some time.   Cheapest flights from LA to Vegas are about $140 roundtrip.  We would have spent around $280 total to fly.   Instead we rented the car for 4 extra days for about $170 and spent $50 in gasoline.   That saved us a net $60 plus we had additional savings in Vegas since we had the car there to use and didn't have to pay for taxis.   We would have spent at least $70 or so on taxis and monorail travel in Vegas.   I did have to pay $2 in parking when we went to the Fremont though. 

Food - Medium spending

We spent $432 on food that I can account for plus some more in cash spending.   I don't think our food spending was frugal at all but it wasn't that lavish either.  Considering that it was food for 2 people for 7 days that comes out to just about $31 per person per day.  Plus one meal was $80 at a fancy restaurant.  Thats not too bad if you're eating at real restaurants and not packing sandwiches.   So while our spending wasn't really cheap we did try to keep it under control and had some nice meals as well.


What we spent extra on

3 star hotel in Anaheim close to Disney instead of a 2 star hotel likely requiring a shuttle = $100 extra
Hertz rental car instead of random brand from Hotwire = $100 more
Splurging on a fancy 5 star hotel in Vegas = $540 extra
Baggage fees instead of just carry on = $80 extra
Parking at the airport economy lot instead of using mass transit = $58

Total extra spending = $878


What we saved money on

free airfare using airline miles = $500 to $600
Using airline miles for hotel in Anaheim = $122
discount Disney tickets purchased via a friend  = $125
driving to Vegas from LA = $130

Total savings = $877 to $977

Our frugal savings basically equaled the amounts we splurged on other things.   In a way you can say that the frugal choices we made basically paid for some splurging and perks on the trip.  For example if we hadn't saved up airline miles and used them to pay for the airfare then we wouldn't have been able to splurge on a 5 star resort hotel in Vegas.

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