A few months ago, after I returned from deployment, we took a vacation. And by “we” I mean the Husband and I, along with 5 of our most special friends The destination: Rincon, Puerto Rico. I decided last year that for my 30th birthday, I wanted to go somewhere exotic, enchanting and within our budget. Puerto Rico was it.
The food was amazing, the night life was fun and every single beach was beautiful, especially the private one that was across from the home we rented. Rincon is Puerto Rico’s best kept secret: everyone knows of San Juan (and flocks there) but Rincon is the true diamond. Plus, it’s the perfect place to vacation on the island if you’re on a budget. Here are some of the things our big group did to keep costs down:
Every Tuesday, watch the price of flights.
This is a tried and true tip for anyone looking to save dough. With the major increase in the price of airplane tickets, we have to use as many tricks as possible to have a great flight experience. Tuesdays are the best days to book flights nowadays. If you can wait until Tuesday afternoon, even better. All airlines are now re-doing their pricing on Tuesdays as opposed to years before when they would use Wednesdays and Thursdays. An even better trick? Wait until 2 weeks before. If you don’t mind the gamble, waiting until weeks before your trip can save you hundreds of dollars on tickets. Sometimes, sites like Expedia will even do a special weekend rate, if you can stand waiting until the absolute last minute.
Go straight to the source: the Airline website.
We all love the aggregator sites that can book our flight, hotel and rental all at once. But sometimes when we don’t see the pricing we like, it does pay to go straight to the airline. Booking online is a great way to get a spectacular price, but I have an even better tip: call on the phone. Yes, we are going back to the old travel agent days where phone was king. When you call, you get a live person and through regular conversation, you may be able to get a fantastic price. Have kids? Mention it in the call and you may yield a discount and a seat closer to the front. Mention you are coming home from deployment (ahem) and you might get yet another discount. For the most part, humans like to give other humans the hook up. Machines don’t feel the same way, ala The Terminator.
Carpool to the airport.
Since we all resided in different parts of our state, we knew that we would have to come up with a way to get everyone to the airport. We all live in New Jersey, but our flight was out of JFK airport in New York City. Immediately, I suggested that we rent a van to pick us up from a central location. Those that lived in south jersey carpooled up to my home in central NJ. My husband even went to pick up our friend who lives in North jersey so the driver didn’t have pick him up on the way(and charge us for it). We got a driver to drop us off at the airport and pick us up. And because we split the cost, we were able to ride in style on the way to the airport. A party bus and champagne, anyone?
Share a Rental car(or two).
This was one of the best things we did. We had 2 people (my good buddy and my husband) rent 2 economy vehicles and that’s what we used to get around the coast during our 5 day trip. We all split the cost per person and only spent about 30 dollars per person for the whole time we were there. I can’t even imagine what the cost of taking a taxi all over the place would have been.
Rent a house.
This is by far the biggest savings we had during the whole trip. I looked up hotel prices for the area where we would be staying and they ranged from 80 to 120 dollars a night. Per Room. Two to a room. That would have been an extreme waste of money. I got wise and turned to a great site called Home Away. They had an extensive list of options for us and we ended up with a beautiful house for a pauper’s budget. Because we were so satisfied with the house, I’m going to dedicate a whole post to my experience with HomeAway tomorrow. Since we rented the house, and it came with a kitchen and grill, our food costs were very low as well. We went shopping twice while were there and we ate together at every meal.
Have a plan of attack.
Since 3 of us were coming from deployment, and rest of the group hadn’t been on a real vacation in a while, our game plan was relaxation. There was plenty to do in the area (scuba diving, boat tours, etc.) but we had all agreed to make the beach our place of fun during the trip. We did agree to try the local food, so we explored the food trucks in the area and went out for dinner almost every night. We even hit up the local bars for some fun, but stayed under budget! If everyone is on the same page, then you won’t have extra expenses if someone decides to detour from the plan.
The best part of the whole trip? We all decided that we WILL be back again. We came back tanned, at peace and with money still in our pockets.
Do you have any great tips for traveling on a budget with a group?