Traveling Cheap – SwagGrabber Style! FYI I am Going on Vacation!

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I announced on Facebook a few weeks ago that my family and I were taking a week long vacation…we leave today! I am thrilled because this is the first vacation we have taken since before my son was born, over 5 years ago! Don’t worry though, the site will still be updated all day everyday, just probably not quite as much. I will also be hard to get on email for a few days but everything will return to normal on 2/28/11.

Since I am extremely thrifty, frugal, cheap I set out to find the best vacation possible for the amount we had saved up. I was pretty amazed at what I was able to get! Below is how I did it….hope it helps you guys plan your next great trip CHEAP!

The trick to traveling cheap – BE FLEXIBLE….

Here’s how I did it: The cruise
First I went looking for any trip. We knew we wanted warm, possibly something tropical so we started looking at all-inclusive resorts, cruises, and local venues. I got lucky when I stumbled across the Priceline Cruise-a-thon that is currently going on. Since we live in Florida we are pretty lucky to have several ports within driving distance. We started looking at Mobile, Miami, Port Canaveral, and Tampa. We were looking anywhere from February to May. We ended up finding a 4 night cruise out of Miami for $229 per person for an ocean view room….not bad!

We were concerned about passports (I had one, hubby’s expired, boy didn’t have one) so I called Carnival. Turns out they still had us in their system from 13 years ago when hubby and I went on our honeymoon and we were eligible for a 20% discount plus upgrades. After some negotiating I scored two ocean view cabins (on an upper deck) for $198 per person + taxes & fees. Yes a little under $1000 for four of us for 4 nights! We were thrilled! So if you have ever cruised before find the best price you can online then call the cruise line, chances are they will probably beat the online price!

Taking a cruise includes food, that is going to save us a ton over the 5 days. We have two stops Key West and Cozumel. Not the best cruise but it should be fun and this will be son’s and sister’s first cruise. Not too mention we are going on Carnival and they have kids activities and water slides! Plenty of things to keep the kiddo busy. We figured this would be a great way to get the most bang for our buck!

The two most expensive things on a cruise are drinks and excursions (not counting the casino…LOL). Each person is allowed one bottle of wine and one six pack of water or sodas. Make sure to take these with you – that will save you about $100 right there!

For our last cruise, we by-passed booking an excursion through the boat and found a local place that gave us an amazing tour of St.Lucia for about $25 per person (booking through the cruise line was $100 each!). Of course this is probably NOT the safest route in some areas but it worked for us and we plan to do it again this trip. Just be cautious…we always are. If we can’t find a reputable company we will simply walk around and save the $400+ for the tour.

Another place they get you on a boat is tipping. Now don’t get me wrong I am a FIRM believer in tipping, actually I normally tip 20-30% depending on service because I have waited tables and it stinks so I get it. BUT on a boat you are expected to tip EVERYONE. I have no problem tipping the cabin steward, waiters, childcare workers, and anyone else that makes our trip enjoyable. BUT you will be amazed at the people you have never seen before that come out of the woodwork on the last day wanting a tip. Also I noticed this time they automatically add 15% gratuity to all drinks (which is fine) and a $10 per day, per person gratuity to the bill. The $10 per day charge CAN be adjusted and I will be adjusting it. I prefer to give the tips to those that deserve it so watch out for those!

I also was able to use Florida Vacation Auction to score four trolley tickets in Key West for only $25. These are normally $19 each so that alone saved us over $55 and we can hop on and off all over Key West.

Before the Cruise: Daytona
Our first choice was not Miami because its 8 hours away but we saved $700 by cruising out of there, so it is worth the drive. With that in mind, we now have an 8 hour drive to Miami….with a four year old. We also decided to save ourselves the headache and break the trip up so he won’t go stir crazy. We decided to do at least one weekend in Orlando because our son has never been to Disney and another weekend…somewhere else.

First off, I have saved up my Redbox Groupon codes especially for this trip. I have six, so we will have new movies for the boy in the truck all the way there and back. Gotta love Redbox…and the fact they are EVERYWHERE!

We started looking at places to stop and decided on Daytona. We ended up getting a 2 bedroom suite at a 4 star Hilton hotel on the beach for $23! Did you catch that? Yes, we got it for $23 after a $40 Priceline Groupon, even after the cost of the Groupon we only paid $43. I simply offered a bid of $10 and was FLOORED when they actually accepted it. So start super low, you can always go up!

We also bought a Groupon for a local restaurant for $15 for $30 worth of food so dinner is done as well!

After the Cruise: Orlando
This was the BIG score of the trip. I was able to score a 2 night stay at a 4 star resort for only $110 (including taxes and fees) in Orlando through Florida Vacation Auctions. We ended up getting a 2 bedroom condo with free shuttle to Disney as well. I was thrilled about this because this resort has 7 pools! That should keep the boy busy….LOL.

We also scored four tickets to the Pirates Dinner Adventure in Orlando for $70, these are normally about $60 each. My boy has a thing for Pirates so he should LOVE this! And yet another dinner checked off the list!

Our last big expense is Disney, as hard as I tried I have not been able to score a SUPER CHEAP deal on this. The best deal I could find was Florida Resident tickets for $119 for four days. We don’t NEED four days, we only need one BUT considering one day is $75 per person I am thinking we will be buying four days and going back in a few months to use the others. I would much rather pay $39 a day rather than $75! If anyone has a way to save on Disney tickets, I would LOVE to hear it!

So there you have it, how I booked my trip as you can tell I used every resource to save as much as possible and get the most out of the trip. I hope my rambling will help you save (and improve) your next trip!

More Tips:

Check all of the Daily Deal sites months before your trip to find deals!
Pack light, it costs more to travel heavy!
Take snacks, this can save you a ton!
Take sample packs of Tide. You may have to pay for the machines but why pay for detergent!

17 Comments

  1. Sarah on February 20, 2011 at 8:39 am

    well I dont know about your type of cruise but usually internet is a HUGE RIP OFF on cruise ships!!! and I used my phone on a cruise one time and had a $200+ fee for roaming, which I didnt realize because it said it had servie (stupid me). So just to warn you since you said you would be updating the site every day, it might not end up such a frugal trip LOL



    • SwagGrabber Sheri on February 20, 2011 at 8:57 am

      Oh I know, its like $50 an HOUR or something crazy. Luckily we only have two days where I can’t use my cell phone so I won’t be updating those days, or very little. No worries though, I have about 80 posts set to go this week, there will be TONS of new stuff!



  2. Roxanne on February 20, 2011 at 8:41 am

    Sounds like you did a great job planning this trip!! I save any money and gift cards I make for spending money on our trips. I also do a restaurant search for the are we will be visiting and check for coupons! I don’t know if anyone has used vrbo.com but we did this past christmas and were able to stay at a luxury home for less than the price of a hotel!!

    Enjoy your trip!!



    • SwagGrabber Sheri on February 20, 2011 at 8:55 am

      TOO funny! I use VRBO last summer for our vacation house, the post about it will be up in a few days 🙂



  3. Melissa (melhelsin) on February 20, 2011 at 8:42 am

    Thank you, those are some great suggestions!



  4. Lisa G on February 20, 2011 at 9:00 am

    You can usually save $$ by purchasing an unlimited internet package. It’s still expensive but definitely a better deal if you need to go online. And look out, internet is really slow.

    Have a wonderful cruise. Cruising is our favorite way to vacation. RCI is our favorite cruise line and we’ve been so many times we get lots of perks like free drinks, free internet, etc.

    Bon Voyage!!



  5. Jennifer on February 20, 2011 at 9:08 am

    Wow..that’s incredible! I never heard of Florida Vacation Auctions, but I’m gonna check that out! Unfortunately, Disney controls their ticket sales very tightly and ways to save are limited beyond the FL Resident deals they offer. You could sit through a time share presentation (not even an option in my book). Or if you have AAA it may save you a few dollars…the $119 FL Resident tix are about $116 right now. Not worth joining AAA, but if you already have it, could save a few extra bucks. Mousesavers.com has a ton of info about saving at Disney in general and refers you to a discount ticket sales company, but I have not ever seen a better deal than the Florida resident rate on there either. We go four times a year, so believe me I have researched this to death. I think at this point we are going to break down and get the annual pass. We’ll probably about break even the first year, but on the renewal years we will save money. So even though the $119 hurts now, it will be awesome when you go back and use your two extra days and your budget for tickets is $0! Enjoy your week!



  6. sylvia on February 20, 2011 at 9:34 am

    Have a Wonderful time!
    Your hard work & dedication to your site has helped save me personally a boatload of $$ (sorry, couldn’t resist!)

    Looking forward to hearing about how much fun you had, when you get back.



  7. Amiyrah on February 20, 2011 at 9:54 am

    Does your husband have his dd214? There is a discount at Disney for all active and retired military members, you just need proof of enlistment. His dd214 counts as proof.



    • SwagGrabber Sheri on February 20, 2011 at 10:24 am

      He does, but it looked like the FL resident discount was a better deal 🙂



  8. Jmom4 on February 20, 2011 at 10:08 am

    I hope and your family have a wonderful week. RELAX! Don’t worry about keeping us updated, we will still be waiting for you!



  9. Renee on February 20, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    Hope you have a great time on your vacation, and don’t forget to take lots of pics!!! you know its always nicer to see what you got for soo cheap! lol



  10. Megan on February 20, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    I hope you have a great time! FYI the military tickets this year Are like 125 dollars for 4 day park hopper…. worth looking in to if you can get on base to get from the mwr office.



    • Megan on February 20, 2011 at 2:33 pm

      Also I forgot most of the Disney restraints are on restraunts dot com so that makes for some cheap meals



  11. Nathan on February 20, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    I think around the Orlando area there is quite the market for selling your unused days to the parks. I live in Lakeland (and am military also) and there are several kiosks around Orlando that advertise that. It would seem that you may be able to buy someone else’s unused days to theme parks from these guys… I have no idea on pricing, just throwing it out there. Worst case, maybe you can sell your 4 day passes afterwards to offset the cost…?



  12. Tresa on February 20, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    wow1 Sounds like an awesome trip!! Have fun. Wish I could give you our free Disney passes that we had for the give a day get a day. We were never able to use them 🙁

    It’s really hard for us to go on vacation because my husband is a teacher & we have to go during the Summer or during the really expensive times in the Winter which is when I really want a vacation. AND with this new snow storm that is hitting us today in MI, I could really use a tropical paradise 🙂

    The last real vacation we went on was our honeymoon 16 yrs ago. that was a cruise & it was awesome!



  13. Sara on February 22, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    Woah Sheri you are the bomb! Let me just say that I have printed off this post and will be highlighting the areas I need and will be using some of these tips for my vacation this year! woohoo. You continue to save me money again and again! awesomeness!



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