Today I wanted to share with you some ways we saved money while on vacation, and some ways we definitely blew money on vacation. Shall we?
SAVE: Multi-city flights – I know it may seem counter-intuitive to save money by flying to more places than one, but in my experience that’s typically been the case. When comparing flights for our trip, I found it was to cheaper to fly from Austin to NYC and then Charlotte (where we rented a car to drive to Asheville), rather than flying from Austin to just NYC or Austin just to Asheville. I’ve also found that booking flights on the actual airline’s website, as opposed to places like Priceline.com, can be cheaper – particularly flights on Southwest and JetBlue. Another way we saved was by flying into Charlotte rather than Asheville. For some reason flying directly into Asheville was pricey. We needed to rent a car anyway, so saving money by flying into Charlotte and then driving to Asheville just made sense. We also got a rental for 4 days for only $130 total. I booked that through one of our credit card’s point sites. We actually didn’t have enough points to use toward a rental, but purchasing the rental there was still cheaper than anywhere else.
SAVE: Accommodations – Nice Hotels in Manhattan are not known for being reasonably priced, but if you dig around you can find some gems! We absolutely loved The Evelyn. (I’m still gushing about that amazing bed!) The location, 27th and Fifth Ave, was superb and we got our room for under $200 a night! I recently looked at the prices, and the rooms are currently selling for well over $200 to over $300. I attribute our savings to booking early (we booked in February for our July trip), and booking directly from the hotel’s site rather than a travel site. The Evelyn actually guaranteed that you would find the best prices on their site. We also got a discount for booking a non-refundable room. That can be a gamble sometimes, but it was well worth it. In Asheville, we booked a loft through HomeAway. The price was comparable to that of renting a hotel room, but we had way more amenities, like a kitchen and a washer/dryer. The owners even extended a nice discount to us for booking four days instead of just a weekend!
SAVE: The Subway – We had a waiter at one of the restaurants in New York tip us off to this article: How Memorizing “$19.05” Can Help You Outsmart the MTA. It’s a way to get around having unused money left on your MetroCard. It works!
SPLURGE (sort of): Uber – With my knees in revolt after just one day in New York, walking to the subway entrance or down the stairs to the platform wasn’t always an option. We tried Uber for the first time while in New York. We tipped our first two drivers, because we didn’t know that you weren’t supposed to. (Ha!) This is only a sort of splurge, because we actually saved a lot of money. There’s a promo code to get your first ride free, or $5 off your first 3 rides, or $5 off if you refer a friend to use Uber (check out retailmenot.com for promo codes). We got out first ride free, and when we got back to Austin, we realized our credit card gave us 20% back on each ride we took (about 3)!
SPLURGE: Coffee / Dining out – We probably tasted coffee in just about every borough of Manhattan, and we have no regrets. We each got a latte every morning and every evening. Dairy is my frenemy, so I get coffee with almond milk, which at some places came with a nice up charge. I liked tasting coffee from different shops though; it was like a coffee adventure. I will say our favorite coffee in New York was Irving Farm Coffee Roasters in Grand Central Station, and in Asheville it was the Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar. As far as dining out, we did a lot of it in New York. Our entire family is gluten-free (not by choice), so it can make dining out a little more difficult at times. Thankfully, however, we were not in short supply of places to eat in NYC or Asheville. Our splurge in NYC was a 100% gluten-free Italian bistro called, Risotteria. It was probably the best Italian food we have ever had — gluten-free or not! We even got to enjoy a bread basket before our meal arrived (a big deal for the gluten-free peeps) and had an amazing tiramisu for dessert.
SAVE: Eating In – As much as we splurged on dining out in New York, (and some in Asheville, too), we also saved money by cooking breakfast, lunch and a few dinners at the loft in Asheville. Most homes on HomeAway have kitchens fully stocked (pots, pans, etc) for cooking meals, which is why we typically choose them over a hotel. We hit up the local grocery store and bought easy quick-meal items like: sandwich supplies, nuggets + fries, and snacks.
SAVE: Activities – In New York we took a tour of Grand Central Station through Free Tours by Foot. The tour was absolutely free, with the option to pay the guide what you felt they earned at the end of the tour or not at all. We had an amazing guide, so we paid him about $25. The ferry to Governor’s Island only costs $2 per ticket, and the bike rentals were free for the first hour on weekdays. One of our most memorable times in NYC cost $4 — not bad! Another place we saved was at the American Museum of Natural History. Their suggested ticket price is $22 per person. Here’s the thing, it’s suggested. You can actually pay whatever you’d like. We paid $6 a ticket. When I told Michael that we should offer to pay $6 each, he looked at my like we were going to be arrested, but the guy at the ticket counter didn’t even bat an eye. I totally support the preservation of history by museums, so I felt slightly bad for paying so little, but I also support the preservation of our bank account. Many of the other museums’ admission prices are suggested, and a few of them have completely free visitation days. In Asheville, we saved money by driving the Blue Ridge Parkway (free), and going to Looking Glass Falls, which only cost us about $15 in gas money.
SPLURGE: Activities – Even though we saved on most of our activities in in New York, we definitely did some splurging in Asheville. We went to the movie theater twice (to see Ant-Man and Pixels). We did save a little money by going to the matinee for Ant-man — but not much. We also spent $100 for to tickets to tour the Biltmore Mansion. I mentioned in a previous post, I wouldn’t recommend it. In both New York and Asheville we did some souvenir shopping. There are places in New where you can get I <3 NYC shirts for 10 for $10. We couldn’t remember where we saw them, so we ended up going to a more expensive place, only to see the shops we were looking for on our way back to the hotel. (They’re on Fifth Ave, in case you’re wondering.) Downtown Asheville is filled with interesting local shops. I ended up buying a shirt there and a leather Moto jacket. I had no intentions of buying such things, but sometimes when you randomly find clothes that fit like they were custom made for you, they end up in your suitcase.
So those are just some of the ways we saved and splurged while on vacation. I’d love to hear your tips for saving money while traveling, so hit up the comment section! Seriously. I want to know your secrets!