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Travel & Lodging Costs | Vacationing on a Budget, Part 2

Now that I established what our vacation options are for this year, I've started breaking down costs.  Not all of the costs- but the travel costs that we're going to have in some way, shape, or form, anyway.

But first, some tips that are good to keep in the back of your mind no matter what.
  • Consider looking into a credit card that offers hotel or flight points.  If credit cards aren't your thing, I know Hilton and Holiday Inn brands both have rewards cards that you can still earn points when staying at hotels.  Same with Delta Skymiles.
  • Unless your vacation dates are non-negotiable, try using the flex-date feature when looking for plane tickets.  Keep checking for tickets sporadically, as they may appear cheaper.  I check about once a week to see how/if ticket costs have changed.  I'm also still kicking myself for not booking tickets to Salt Lake last year, when we found them for $230 each round trip.  That was about 6 weeks (if that) before we were taking vacation (and still didn't know what we were doing.) I'm hoping to plan a little earlier and better this year.
  • Use a spreadsheet to keep track of things- even things that apply for every scenario- so you don't forget to include something.  You can also use simple formulas to auto-fill a cell and do the math for you, leaving less room for error.
So far, here is my comparison price-wise for Alaska and Charleston- Salt Lake is a little tricky and deserves its own post- coming soon!


We'd do a longer trip for Alaska- being up there for 10 full days.  We probably won't have enough hotel points to stay a full 11 nights for free.  But, Hilton allows you to split between cash and points.  We should be able to get a pretty good deal, even if it's not free.

Both our employers have a contract with Avis rentals, so we get a special contract price.  I've based them off my work, though Scott's may be a little better.  In figuring up the math, I believe it would also be cheaper to rent a car to drive from Tallahassee to Orlando, turn it in, and then rent one for the drive back.  Though, he thinks that we could use the cell phone parking area for about $7/day, which would be cheaper than renting.

Gas is the only thing I haven't accounted for in this rough outline-  that's because we know full well that we'd be driving everywhere, exploring.  It's what we like doing, so it's kind of like a "splurge" item.  Plus, fuel in Alaska is already more expensive than in the lower 48 states.

Food is a very rough estimate, and hard to account for, especially up there.  The hotels have free continental breakfast, and we'll eat just about anything.  But, as with the gas, it'll be more expensive up there.  At this point, we're looking at roughly $3000 just to get up there, have a room to stay in, and a car to drive.

Wow!   This was much easier!  This would be a 5-day, 4-night trip.  We would be staying at a Hilton hotel because of the points accrued (there's many more options for brands in Charleston than in Alaska!) I feel pretty confident that we would have enough points saved for 4 free nights at the hotel.

The gas included is to get there and back.  Not while driving around and exploring the area.

Clearly this is the most cost-effective trip.  Which is also why we have the potential to do this and a bigger trip.  But probably not a 12 day Alaskan trip.

My next step in this process is the research phase.  Check back soon, as I will be doing the travel/lodging budget and a potential itinerary for Salt Lake City!

You can check Part 1 out here!

Linking with All Kinds of Things and Oak and Oats!


  1. I need to be more organized and budgeted {like you!} when it comes to traveling. We're lucky that his parents and my parents typically pay for a place to stay for a week during the summer so we just pay gas to get there and any expenses while we're there.

  2. Ha! It only seems that way! Usually, we go to Maine and/or Tennessee during the year, and that eats up most of our vacation time. Last year, we were trying to figure out where we wanted to go as a mini anniversary trip, and we wound up not really deciding until about 2 weeks before. In an effort to (maybe) get out of the southeast this year, I figure I should get a head start now!

  3. Biana Perez9:47:00 AM

    You are so organized it's amazing!!! I love that price that you're getting for Charleston - I want to go!!! xo, Biana - BlovedBoston

  4. I know right?! The cost of Charleston makes it very hard to say okay to anything else! Those hotel points really add up- that's how we did Savannah 2 years ago, and St Augustine last year. And we were able to stay in the downtown hotels so we could walk the area!

  5. This is such a great post! We like to fly on off days because it's SO much cheaper - when we go to FL next month, we're flying on Sunday and Thursday and it was almost half the price!

  6. I always use excel to plan our trips! Moneywise yes, Charleston wins,... but if Alaska is doable, do it!
    You should also link this post to the #traveltuesday link up!

  7. It's true! I actually JUST got done looking at prices from Orlando to Salt Lake City, and they're only $338 right now!

  8. Thanks for the info! We've wanted to visit Alaska for a very long time. We're trying to decide if we should jump on it this year, or if we should do Charleston and save the money to put toward a big Alaskan trip next year.

  9. Will it be bigger than the big trip you'd be doing this year?

  10. potentially- it would give us an extra year to save- both money and vacation time- so we could do a longer trip. Though I can't think of much that would be out of budget that we'd want to do. We mostly want to drive around and hike and explore!

  11. We will be, eventually, though we're not sure that it'll be this year. July is something to keep in mind, but that's only 4-5 months from now, so we'd probably do better going in July 2016!

  12. We watch just about every Alaska-geared show on tv!!

  13. Haha we do too! Glad we're not the only ones ;)

  14. Discovery Channel has done wonders for Alaskan travel, I'm sure!


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