Travel Smarter, Not…Expensiver

I’m going to let you in on a secret: I almost didn’t write about going to Puerto Rico at all. I don’t want people to think we’re living some kind of luxurious lifestyle, when we really aren’t.

We’re lucky to be able to live comfortably — that fact was only made clearer this past weekend when the blizzard hit and we witnessed it from the centrally heated cocoon of our condo. But this trip to Puerto Rico is the result of a couple of weeks’ worth of research and price hunting. If you’re thinking of escaping the cold, it’s totally possible to have an amazing vacation on a budget. Here’s how we did it:

Don’t fall for the resorts. While it sounds great not to think about what you’re spending on food and drinks while you’re on vacation, the reality is that you’re paying for all of it and then some. It’s almost always a bad deal. We found a great hotel with a pool and four restaurants for about a third of the price of the nearby resorts — and on top of that, we have access to those same resorts because our hotel is a sister property. (What’s that? Cake? And we can eat it too???)

Read lots of reviews. The hotel and resort websites make everything look beautiful, but the reviews will tell you what’s behind it all. The one with the sleek pool may have terrible rooms or dangerous bathrooms. We almost booked one hotel, then read a handful of reviews that said the rooms smelled of mold.

Fly during the week. This is equivalent with buying fashion off season — the fewer people you’re competing with for the prices, the better. Avoid flying out on Fridays and returning on Sundays, when prices are bound to be more expensive because of commuters and weekenders. My favorite comparison tools are Kayak and Bing’s travel function. And in case you’re wondering, Bing didn’t sponsor this post (but thanks anyway, Bing!)

Search outside of packages. Sometimes packages are great deals. Other times, you’ll do a lot better booking the hotel and flight separately. This time, we got a much better deal by booking our flight through Jet Blue directly.

Look for specials. Hotels often have discounts for holidays and special occasions. If you don’t see one on the website, call and ask if they’re running any. We’ve gotten everything from free parking to 20% off to meal credits just by asking what deals the hotels have going on.

(And, yes, I know “expensiver” isn’t a word. But it should be.)

Have any travel tips of your own to share? Let’s hear ‘em!

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