Wednesday, June 25

thrifty travel trips [flights and lodging]

I've been putting off writing about our Roatan vacation, partially because any summation means the trip is truly in the past. But, as my blog is loosely intended to be a place where I share the many corners I cut and tricks I've learned to live a fulfilling, fancy life while on a budget, this vacation absolutely needs to be part of the narrative. We did this on the cheap, y'all.

(Before we get started, I want to remind you that I shared some cheapy vacation tips after D and I did Vegas and LA last summer, over here.)

the view from our favorite spot on the beach (we hung here for at least an hour 5 out of 7 days)
Let me preface this by saying that vacations, in my mind, are a lot like weddings; you can do them totally low budget or totally astronomical, depending on what you're prioritizing and what you're willing to sacrifice. So, if your heart is set on fine spas and first rate service, maybe don't book a vacation rental in a third-world country, get what I'm sayin? 

Our vacation rental included free beers in the fridge. Man they were good to us!

Our priority for this trip was a peaceful beach experience, which let's be honest, eliminates a lot of affordable options (Cancun, Miami, etc). We chose Roatan, the largest island off of Honduras, because my friend L had been there to scuba dive years earlier and knew it checked our boxes: incredible free activities (snorkling along the world's largest reef, after the Great Barrier in Australia), plenty of affordable vacation rentals (no crappy resort food, no stomach-bursting buffets, no crowded beaches, tons of privacy and space), and all the other amenities you'd want with island living: clean sand, warm water, fresh seafood, temperate weather, friendly locals, and so on.

a friendly local. more specifically, the first mate on our snorkel/fishing boat. once his English improves, he'll run his own.
Let's talk flights, because that's where you really get hit with Honduras. We booked in March, just two months before our May trip, and flights were $600. We hemmed and hawed a bit about that cost, but the other expenses (we'll get to that in a moment) were so low that the total cost produced vastly more bang for the buck than going with an all-inclusive trip or a week at a cheaper flight destination, like Puerto Rico or Mexico. Had we booked a month earlier, prices were $480, but we didn't see them any lower than that, even further in advance. I use Kayak to set up price alerts, which you can receive directly to your inbox when there is a change. This is a GREAT way to track prices, especially if you're a bit flexible on dates, which we were. Quick note: I used points for my flight (actually, the 40,000 bonus points awarded when you sign up for Chase Sapphire Preferred, my credit card of choice, more than covered the cost). Now, I think intelligently utilizing points for travel is a phenomenal frugal tip- you wouldn't believe the ways I've benefited from collecting miles, hotel points, rental cars, and so on- but I recognize that not many folks travel as frequently as I do, and I don't recommend opening a new card without serious consideration, so we'll table that discussion for another post.

Our VRBO home from above! It was a 3 minute walk down a gentle hill  and you'd roll right into the water. We liked to head North another 5 minute walk through town to our favorite beach spot.

After flights, your biggest expense is lodging. We paid less than $1,200 total for 7 nights, 8 days in a VRBO vacation rental, which is less than $40 per person per night for a spacious and well-equipped home. We had a full working kitchen (including some nice perks, like a coffee grinder and french press, a milk frother, plenty of tupperware, ice cube trays for our many tropical drinks, etc), washer/dryer, two full baths, two private bedrooms, a balcony with a grill, lounge chairs and an ocean view, a pool, a roof deck for incredible star gazing, AIR CONDITIONING, free internet and water, a tv, movies, books, beach towels...basically, a home away from home. Of course we had to prepare our own food, but we were looking for health/frugality/quality reasons, so that was a perk rather than a drawback.

yay for open concept! bedrooms were off to the right, and the rest was one long room leading from the front door to the balcony. this place really felt like home.
I wanted to share flight and lodging today, and I'll share more about our time on the island and how we saved there next week!

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