The addition of Baby Girl has made us all a bit stir crazy up in here. Don’t get me wrong, all is well over here. Life is good, baby is good, mommy is good, Persie feels slightly dejected now that we don’t play fetch with her as much — tough luck, kitty.
All that said, we’ve seen way too much of our off-white walls and cable TV. Things have gotten so desperate that I noticed Joanna has been recording The Bachelor on our DVR. That’s gotta be some sort of red flag, right? All of this cabin fever has got us talking vacation plans for this year, as well as discussing past vacations. And what’s a discussion about vacations without talking about how much they cost?
Whenever we review vacation costs, there’s a past trip that always comes up and derails our optimism of getting a great deal. Why, you might ask? Because it was the BEST FREAKING DEAL EVER!!! Sorry, that was dramatic, but seriously, let me explain.
We had been living in NYC for a year and needed out of the concrete jungle. Preferably a beach in the Gulf of Mexico (since we had honeymooned there and loved it). And preferably a vacation that wouldn’t cost more than the total of our paid-time off for the trip. So armed with our location preference and budget, I got to searching.
I started by looking at options a la carte: flights, hotels, cruises, all-inclusive resorts, rental cars, etc. Very quickly, I realized our options would only be 3-4 day trips and limited in selection. That didn’t seem like a long enough time to get the City out of our bloodstream. So I kept searching.
This time, I looked at package vacation deals. And since I had a JetBlue reward card, I started on their site. The prices were looking moderately better, but the options still limited us to a pretty short trip. So then I started playing with different dates, different Gulf Coast airports, and different trip durations. After throwing together different combinations for two hours (yeah, I have problems), something weird happened.
I was searching deals in the Tampa area and hadn’t found anything worth considering through the first two months of the summer. Then I searched the week after the 4th of July, and there it was: a 3.5 star resort on the beach for 5 nights + 2 non-stop round-trip flights for a grand total of…. $540. $540!!! I looked up how much just the flights cost alone and it came to $400.
So follow my basic math: $540 – $400 = $140 / 5 nights = $28/night. Now that’s a deal.
Feeling pretty awesome about my find, I decided we could probably splurge a little and add an extra night to our trip. So I searched again with an extra night on the end. And the total came to… ready for this? $500… Did you catch that? $500. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s a full $40 less for an EXTRA night. Nothing was different about the deal (RT flights at $200/each and room options), just that it was now cheaper.
So here’s the math again: $500 – $400 = $100 / 6 nights = $16.75/night.
I started freaking out and called Joanna to come over and make sure I hadn’t forgotten to carry the one or forgotten how to read. But she confirmed what I was seeing. It was hard to miss it in the search results since it was about $800 lower than the next cheapest option. I stopped asking questions, pulled out our credit card, and booked that thing faster than I’ve ever spent money before.
And then we waited.
We expected to get an email within 24 hours letting us know there was a glitch and they couldn’t honor our deal. But it didn’t come. Then a week passed. And a month. But it never came. And the next thing we knew, we were in our hotel room on a white sand beach in Tampa.
We rented a car using Priceline Negotiator for a whopping $14/day so that we could get away from expensive hotel food and eat comfort foods that we didn’t have access to in NYC, like Cracker Barrell and Chick-fil-A. That’s right, we do things realllll fancy.
We mostly hung out on the beach, swam in the ocean, and caught up on books we’d been meaning to read for months. But since we had saved so much on the trip and since Joanna’s birthday was right around our trip, I decided to splurge on a birthday gift for her that would win her over for life (alright, maybe a week): a trip to Universal Studios’ World of Harry Potter.
She loved it, and despite my complete Harry Potter illiteracy, I thought it was pretty cool, too. Would we have done it if we hadn’t gotten our smashing vacation deal? Probably not. So thank you JetBlue glitch for making me an awesome husband for a day.
All in all, it was an amazing vacation. Soaking it up on a perfect beach in perfect weather is made only more perfect when you can turn to each other and remark, “Ehhh, I guess this isn’t bad for $16/night.”
To date, I’m still not sure how or why we got the deal. There was no hotel construction. The hotel wasn’t hurting for more customers. It wasn’t a last minute deal to fill a bed. I even tried contacting JetBlue last week to no avail. So while you won’t hear any complaints from us, the mystery still remains.
How have you fared? What’s the best travel deal you’ve ever snagged? Any tips/tricks that you use to get the best deals?