Travel is not free. Having the mobility of a ‘speedball on fairy dust’ (Entourage phrase) requires an investment of time to reduce travel expenses or sustainable income to support your travel addiction spending habit. Travel can develop into a cocaine-like binge of chasing the next suite/seat upgrade and airport lounge drink.
Most of us fall into the middle of the road traveler. Why do you think Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express are the largest hotel brands in a sector of the travel industry that is all about brand names and your active travel lifestyle? Hilton, Canopy; InterContinental Hotels Group, Even; Starwood, W; and of course feeding the masses are Priceline, Airbnb, Expedia, TripAdvisor…
You can give up opportunity time to reduce travel expenses through credit card games with manufactured spend, shopping bonuses and credit card enrollment bonus miles and points, while also reducing your available time for other lifestyle pursuits like sports, family time, education and socializing.
Or just do plain nothing, kind of like vacation time in your own day-to-day life. Then, pay the asking rate when you decide where to go when you want to go. I meet many happy people who don’t care they could have got their hotel stay and flights for a fraction of what they spent. They are happy on a trip and the expense was worth the convenience of vacation planning without the vacation finance planning concern.
Another tactic for bargain travel is sit back and wait for travel opportunities to appear in the dynamic world of airfare fluctuation. Be prepared to strike fast when the deal is around. That happened for me this week.
San Francisco to Dublin $538 British Airways via London Heathrow.
The flight deal from TheFlightDeal.com came this week on Monday night when there were blog posts coming out about crazy, low fares to Europe. Hack My Trip questioned if these were mistake fares. The base fare for tickets to Europe were as low as $58 and $450 to $700 after taxes and fees added. There were several cities around Europe under $700 all-in from San Francisco.
US Airways and American Airlines had some very low fares, yet there were other gems. US Airways would fly you to Dublin for $465 from San Francisco, but if you preferred flying United, then Belfast, Northern Ireland was only $100 more at $565.
The real deal was San Francisco to Dublin for $465 on US Airways. I paid $539 to fly British Airways directly to London Heathrow rather than fly via Philadelphia on US Airways. My ticket destination is Dublin. London is a $51 RyanAir round trip fare or around $100 for an alliance carrier.
Deep in the heart of Taxes
A real flight deal was in the words hitting blogs Tuesday morning. All kinds of crazy low fares to Europe were listed from the USA, including San Francisco to Dublin for under $500. But, not Monterey. Believe me I tried. The airfare jumped $400+ out of Monterey to cities in Europe.
I was deep in the heart of business taxes when I saw mention of low fares to Europe. I checked the fares, found great prices and placed tickets on 24 hours hold through the American Airlines website Tuesday morning October 14. That was a reason I did not buy the $465 US Airways San Francisco to Philadelphia to London route. US Airways did not give me the hold option.
Completing taxes by October 15 was my priority. Spending $2,000+ on a whim for a trip not in my head when I woke up and got out of bed was a decision worth pondering for me and probably most people assuming your economic situation is not Richie Rich.
The opportunity to place tickets on 24 hour hold through the American Airlines website is a major benefit from a consumer perspective rather than promoting reckless spending. I have purchased more nonrefundable airline tickets that I did not fly than I like to remember.
I kind of break into a chilling sweat when I hit the keyboard enter button and think that I have just committed myself to spending $2,000 to $3,000 for a trip to Europe. The hotel is generally the only luxuriating aspect of my travels. Rolling my suitcase along cobblestone streets, dragging luggage up tram and train stairs and dining on free hotel apples for lunch is not uncommon.
Short Lived Fares, Long Live the Republic and God Save the Queen
The discount fares to Europe only lasted about 24 hours. If I were not connected to travel bloggers and social media, the event would have come and gone with no major impact on my life.
I would not be planning a trip to Dublin and London over the next few weeks.
I have airfare alerts, but some days I don’t check email. I still have the ability to disconnect from blog life. I have missed several short lived fare drops in the past year that were back up hundreds of dollars in the few hours I was away from social media.
14 Days and $2,000?
The real flight deal $540 airfare gets me from California to Dublin, Ireland. Then what?
There are other expenses.
$200 to $300 for basic transportation between my California home and SFO ($100), then transportation from Dublin airport to hotel locations and Heathrow to hotels ($50) and then getting around the cities of Dublin and London ($50 to $100). Also, I want to travel from Dublin to London for one week of my two week trip. RyanAir round trip plane ticket Dublin – London ($75).
How much are twelve days of expenses for food and attractions in London and Dublin? That can be anything from $5 to $100 per day and likely $200 to $1,000 for a 12-day trip.
Figure $1,000 for a frugal traveler and up to $2,000 for someone who likes to wine, dine and do things that cost money.
Now, double that if you travel with a partner or even more if you travel with kids.
$2,000 is the trip cost for a $500 airfare deal and that is before considering your likely biggest single travel expense – lodging for the time away from home.
$500 airfare Deal + $1,000 for 12 days of travel and now add in hotel cost
The hotel cost is where I focus my attention as Loyalty Traveler since the hotels are my lifeline when sitting around some place else away from home.
The cost of hotels is not an additional factor from one person to two people and may not even be much additional cost for a couple with two children.
A city like London can easily set you back $300 per night.
Club Carlson offers 18 hotels in London to choose from using Club Carlson points.
Club Carlson reward stays in London
I plan to spend six nights in London and this will be a Club Carlson trip. My objective is to spend around 150,000 to 200,000 Club Carlson points for six hotel nights. The Club Carlson points were collected mostly during the 2011 and 2012 Club Carlson promotions where one night at a Carlson hotel brand earned 44,000 or 50,000 points. Then, Club Carlson launched its Visa credit card at the end of 2012. One of the high value benefits of the credit card is one free night on award stays, up to 50 free nights per year. Two night reward stays reduce the points cost by 50% from the normal rate.
Club Carlson has 12 hotels in London in category 6 at 50,000 points per reward night. Two hotels in category 7 are 70,000 points per night at The May Fair and Plaza on the River. Four more hotels in London are category 5 at 44,000 points.
Most of these hotels have rates around $270 to $330 per night. There are 8 of 12 hotels with higher room rates for my dates than the two category 7 hotels. The May Fair is 265 GBP is $426 USD.
Getting value from 2-night Club Carlson reward stays at a variety of London hotels is a benefit of Club Carlson Visa membership. Those 12 Radisson Blu Edwardian and Park Plaza hotels in London are only 25,000 points per night on a 2-night reward stay.
Thinking back to the less than $100 per night average rates I paid in 2011 and 2012 to earn 44,000 or 50,000 Club Carlson points one night at a time at Radisson and Country Inn and Park Inn. The redemption value of $600 on average in London for two nights makes those hotel trips a couple years ago worthwhile. Loyalty Traveler – Club Carlson 50,000 points for Radisson stay Nov 10-Dec 30, 2011 – Nov 2, 2011. Club Carlson 50,000 points for Park Plaza stay – June 28, 2012.
The San Francisco to Dublin $500 round trip airfare came at a good time when I was ready to plan and spend for a trip quickly.
Travel is not free.
Our tax refund will cover the trip expense for two weeks in Europe. If we travel frugally.
Exchange Rate £1.00 = $1.61. £200.00 = $321.30. Six of 18 Carlson Rezidor Hotels are over £200.00 per night.
Club Carlson points provide great value. I stayed at Park Plaza Westminster Bridge in March 2013.
Ric Garrido of Monterey, California is writer and owner of Loyalty Traveler.
Loyalty Traveler shares news and views on hotels, hotel loyalty programs and vacation destinations for frequent guests. Check out current hotel loyalty program offers across all the major chains in Loyalty Traveler’s monthly hotel promotions guide.