photo: Davide Schiano
Since Her and I graduated from college, we’ve never taken a “real” vacation together…something about paying off debt got in the way. We could never justify spending a lot of money to take a nice real vacation together.
I’ve mentioned a few times that I get to travel for my job, and that I usually get put up at nice hotels. This past summer, I was offered the chance to go to a pretty nice location for work to attend a conference. I was going to be there for a few days and would have a lot of downtime. I thought it would be perfect opportunity to have Her come along and have a fun vacation on the cheap. Here’s how we did it.
When I signed up for the Citibank AAdvantage card, I was entitled to received a free companion ticket. I made the reservation for both of our tickets with American Airlines; my ticket would get reimbursed, and Her’s was free with the exception of taxes (which amounted to about $20).
Our company generally reserves hotel rooms only a few weeks in advance of travel. Because of this, many of the hotels near the convention center were already booked. We ended up booking a room at a hotel that was a little farther than walking distance, but happened to be the nicest hotel I have ever stayed in. It might as well be the nicest hotel I will EVER stay in. We arranged a 4 night stay, but since I was doing work on only 3 of the days, we had to pay 1 night out of our own pocket. Since I was there for a conference we got a reduced rate on the room for all of our stay. We could have probably stayed somewhere cheaper for that 1 night, but all we could find were hotels that were far away from the convention center and hotel we were arranged to stay at. We decided the hassle wasn’t worth the $50 we’d save.
Since we were more than walking distance to the convention center, we needed the use of a car. We rented a car for the full 4 days we stayed there, but paid for 1 day out of our pocket. We got a phenomenal deal on the rental through the travel agency that my work goes through, so we ended up paying $15 plus gas for the rental car.
Whenever I travel, all of my meals are reimbursed as well. On the non-business day we were there, we ate pretty frugally – living in Chicago has given us an astute sense of where the cheap, but good eats are. Some of the days we ordered room service for 1 – the portions were so large that it easily fed both of us. Other meals weren’t extravagant, but weren’t all at at Subway, either. We saved a ton on food – so much that I didn’t mind the incredible pain in the ass it was to file the expense reports, separating our meals.
A lot of the stuff we did for fun was free or cheap. We’re not really into touristy stuff, and much rather prefer to go on self-guided tours and get a feel for the culture of the place we’re visiting. We did do 1 touristy activity and got tickets from the hotel since they offered discounts. I guess that is one of the perks of staying at a super-nice hotel.
After I was reimbursed for everything, our total out of pocket costs for the vacation was approximately $400. Not bad for 2 roundtrip flights, 4 nights hotel, 4 days of rental car, 4 days of meals, and entertainment. Oh yeah, and we got rewards for ALL of the vacation. The only downside is that I actually had to work on two of those days; although if it weren’t for my job, we wouldn’t have been able to have our first “real” vacation together.