Because I am still waiting out the rain…
I have been asked how I can afford two vacations a year. Part of the answer is that I budget for it. Part is that I work the rewards systems that are the perq of my business travel. Part is that I make conscious decisions about what I am willing to pay for.
I am 95% loyal to one airline and have never paid for a flight to Hawaii. These trips are the very purpose of my frequent flier miles. My last two summer vacations were to Orlando and Toronto, so I paid for those out of pocket. (Actually, I may have had a voucher for the Toronto trip. But either way I didn’t use miles.) A plane trip to Hawaii can cost $1,000. The one to Orlando was in the neighborhood of $300. That makes a big difference.
Some people say the best use of miles is for upgrades, but as long as my Premier status holds that doesn’t interest me at all. However, I am hearing that it will only become more difficult to snag the Saver Awards using miles, so planning in advance is a big deal.
I generally stay at chain hotels because I like rewards programs and I know what to expect. I remember rejecting an inn on Kauai because the reviews suggested that “organic” meant “bugs in the sleeping rooms”. Not happening. Also, many independent inns required payment in advance, which I do not like. Cancellation policies are generally better at the chains, as well. Obviously, I do not have much experience shopping around for the best hotel deals and I understand that I am paying more for that reason. However, I always make note of whether I will be paying extra for parking (yes) and wi-fi (no).
The question of where to stay often goes hand-in-hand with whether to rent a car. In Hawaii, I have been renting in order to see everything there is to see (and on my schedule). However, in Toronto, I skipped the car. I pulled it off by staying in a central location, taking the subway and paying for a day tour to Niagara Falls. I think that if I go back to the Big Island, I may stay in the town of Kona and skip the car. I can find a day tour to visit the volcano again.
Once these big budget items are decided, there is a question of how to spend time and pocket money. For example, some people want the foodie experience. I am not a gourmet, so outside of New Orleans I don’t care to spend my money on fancy meals. I remember being on a cruise ship with some friends once, and we all spent our pocket money in different ways. I was at the spa, Bill was at the bar, Rich was in the casino and Andrew went snorkeling (or something).
I do not go much for souvenirs and other shopping. I generally find one “local” book and that is it. I do not enjoy gambling.
On this trip, I spent $250 at the spa. It was a good decision considering the deal (BOGO 1/2) and the weather. I found it by taking a short walk off property, spotting the spa up the street and seeing a sign. I spent $100 for the boat cruise. The company was recommended by the concierge and I went online to find the deal. I think it saved me $20.
And if the rain stops I may spend another $50 on two nearby tours. It isn’t looking good. But just so I have a picture in every post, this is the Wailua River. I think I took this on the other side of the road form the waterfall. The Fern Grotto is somewhere near here: