Vacations Are Fun! Take One, For Cheap!

“Shoppers Are Choosing Experiences Over Stuff,article Last night, my husband shared an interesting article with me. is riveting - check it out.” was published in the Washington Post last year. He shared the fascinating stats that millennials are the main factor why retail stores like JC Penney, and Payless are going out of business. We’re simply buying our items cheaper online, or we’re not buying at all. We’re also spending more money on restaurants than groceries for the first time in the history of humanity. Air travel sales hit an all time high in 2015, even with those pesky fee increases (I’m looking at you, Spirit.) Really, the

Now, neither Loren or I have any interest whatsoever in business or trends. Closings malls doesn’t affect us on a personal level, and we don’t own a restaurant, so we care little that the industry is booming. But we got a chuckle out of the article because just moments before we were discussing our upcoming vacation - while we were sitting on our 5 year old couch that’s in desperate need of replacement. Loren put down the article and made an offhand comment, “We could have a baller apartment if we didn’t just book a trip to Mexico.”

We both laughed, because given the choice to hop on a plane and sit on a beach for a week or replace, well, several aging items in our rental, we’d pick the beach every time. That’s an interesting shift for us too. My husband and I have been together for seven years, and only last year had a true vacation - the relaxing resort style experience that you see in travel magazines. Truth be told, it was wonderful! And after 6 years of busting our butts in our careers and sacrificing pretty much every aspect of our personal life, the trip was needed. When we came home from Mexico last year, we vowed to set aside money each year for a vacation, just the two of us.

Trust me, I understand that a fancy trip just isn’t in the cards for many people - it wasn’t possible for us even a year ago. But we were able to get a 5 star vacation experience for a 2 star price last year. Once we finally just did it, it made it easier to plan ahead for this year’s vacation. So I wanted to share with you some tips on getting the most for your money when vacationing.

When we decided to take a trip last year, we were pretty set on keeping the cost down as much as possible. We honestly thought a fancy trip abroad was out of our reach - that was until we found an all inclusive, brand new Mexican resort for $500 total. Food, drinks, activities, room service, a one bedroom apartment overlooking the ocean - everything included for just $500 out the door! There must be a catch, right? Of course there was. We found out that to get that amazing price we had to sit through a 2 hour timeshare presentation.

I did a ton of research on these timeshare presentations in exchange for super discounted vacations. Some reviewers said the experience was a nuisance, while others said it was worth it for the deep discount. Loren and I weighed the options and decided to go for it - it was either take the discount or stay in the states, and we were desperate for an adventure.

So we booked the trip at the Villa del Palmar in Loreto, Mexico. Since we booked several months in advance we had time to save for our flights, and we did so by stocking up on our credit card points. Through our Capitol One credit card, we had always received 2% back on our purchases, but instead of cashing in the points each month like we had been doing, we saved them up for 5 months and was able to lop nearly half of the price of the flights by the time we boarded the plane.

So off we were to Mexico for 6 days for both of us for under $1,000! And it was one of the most incredible experiences of both our lives - even with the timeshare presentation. Honestly, I didn’t mind the sales pitch one bit. I actually liked learning about the different resorts in The Villa Group and the options to buy a vacation package down the line. The staff was friendly, pushy yes, but accommodating when we turned it down and got back to our vacation.

You’ll actually be amazed at how many companies offer deals like this to get you on their property. A quick google search landed me to the Villa Group with many resort and location options that offered the discount. Later I found out that many of my friends have done the same thing to get a wonderful vacation at an incredible price. It's worth it, guys, and a great way save some money!

So, after 6 days of being waited on hand and foot at the resort, a private boat tour where we were surrounded by dolphins, wonderful food and recharged batteries, Loren and I had been bit by the travel bug. We decided to take steps to vacation like that every year.

We immediately started saving our credit card points. Guys, if you’re not on some sort of plan that gives you cash back on money you're already spending, you’re behind. DO IT! Without even thinking about it, we were able to take $1,000 off our vacation this year. We decided to upgrade our resort with that money and I can’t WAIT to reveal where we’re going!

We also booked our vacation in an off season for the Caribbean (hint, hint). It sounds wonderful to escape winter and travel somewhere warm in the middle of January, doesn’t it? But booking during high travel seasons will cost you up to 50% more. Here’s a few rules. Don’t book during the winter if you can avoid it. We booked in May, which is between spring break and the summer season and saved 30% off the regular resort price. Flights were cheaper too.

Another thing we did was prioritize our spending. Remember the couch that needs to be replaced? It still does, as does our outdated TV, my personal computer, the rug in the dining room, and a laundry list of other things. But, does it really though? Outdated, yes. Functional? Also yes. My husband and I decided make due with what we have instead of running out to buy the latest and greatest. Instead we’ll wait until we buy a place of our own to replace anything and add that money to the savings account. (that’s not just a lesson for vacation saving, it’s a lesson for life…)

Which ties back to my generation, what the article was getting at. I’ve always been a champagne kind of girl - I like my nice things. But after my first real vacation I realized I like my nice experiences more, and clearly I’m not the only one. I think millennials have figured out that memories last way longer than what you can buy at a mall. Loren and I still say that sitting in the middle of the ocean, not able to see land or another person, and watching hundreds of dolphins jump around us was one of the top 5 moments of our life. Way better than a new couch.

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© 2018 by Heather Gardner.