Sometimes vacation plans change due to certain reasons and sometimes you need to find a backup vacation plan. My family had a vacation planned at a Mexico all-inclusive resort and we were all excited to go. We had already purchased all our plane tickets, payed for the resort, and coordinated going with another family. Everything was set. After reading some recent negative reviews at the resort that appeared to be from Covid effects and factoring some unknowns, we decided to cancel our trip. Fortunately, we were able to get a full refund on everything. The biggest question now, what is the backup plan? We needed to quickly plan a budget friendly vacation and we knew that last minute bookings wouldn’t be cheap.
Here are a few tips from our experience and the decisions we made.
You’re trying to find last minute vacation plans. Some dates may not work. Cost will factor where you can go. Have multiple destination options in mind. One thing we absolutely wanted was the beach. Besides that everything else we were flexible. Our vacation was two days less than our original Mexico trip.
Find alternate destination
We knew we needed to stay in the states; we wanted to go to the beach; and we didn’t want to over spend. Based on past experiences, we know that Florida tourism slows down in August. Schools in that area start back up in early August which means tourism is slower and cost to travel there could be lower. We also considered other locations with beaches like Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Atlantic coast, and the Pacific coast side of the U.S. After doing some preliminary travel pricing, we found our alternate destination…Florida panhandle area. This isn’t our first time here so it’s a place we were comfortable with.
Find travel accommodations
Flights and lodging go in tangent with each other. The cost of flights can drive which dates you can fly. The cost of lodging can also drive which dates you want to stay. You have to check flight prices then check the price of lodging on those dates. Repeat with different dates. You will likely be looking at multiple rentals and on different dates. On top of that, there’s three airports where we live and three airports in the panhandle area: Pensacola, Destin, and Panama City. Imagine checking for flights from BWI to Pensacola, Destin, and Panama City. Repeat from DCA. Repeat from IAD. Repeat again for different dates.
One advantage of this complexity is having a number of options to choose from. If one airport doesn’t work out, check the other airport. If one airport is more expensive to fly from, check with the other. Once you book your flights, don’t think that’s it. We love flying Southwest and one of the benefits is that they refund you the difference if your flight price goes down. This only works if YOU find the price difference. I checked my exact flight everyday. Southwest allows cancellations without penalty. My flight went down in price twice. I called Southwest both times and they refunded me the difference both times.
Looking for places to stay is another major factor. There are sights like Airbnb and Vrbo that lists vacation rentals. Some rentals are posted in multiple locations and depending on the fees, one site might be less expensive than the other. Hotels are another option. Again, so many options to choose from but consider what your preferences are. Do you want to stay in a high rise with many units? Do you want a quieter location? Do you want to be close to the beach? Again, searching multiple sites for multiple dates. Also, take the time to read reviews. People post reviews to help the next renter make their decisions to stay there or not.
If you’ve been to Florida, you have to have a car. As you know, car rental shortages are making renting a car very expensive. Initially, we weren’t going to rent a car and Uber/Lyft around. If everything was walking distance, it could be an option but if you know Florida, you need a car. One place I always compare against is Costco Travel if you have a Costco membership. I compared car rentals and went with Costco Travel. One benefit with Costco Travel rental cars is that I can cancel my reservations without penalty. One thing to do with rental cars, similar to airlines, is to check everyday and see if the prices go down after you’ve booked. I checked everyday up to the day before our trip. Rental car prices dropped five times. I canceled my reservation and rebooked for the lower price. I did this five times and at the end, the rental car price dropped around $100 from the original booking.
Go with others
Depending on the accommodations you choose, it might cost less to go with others as a group. If you rent a condo, you’re paying for the entire unit regardless how many people go. We went with family so we split the cost of the rental unit. Our original plan was to vacation with family so we knew we would be splitting the lodging cost. Plus the more the merrier.
After 8 hours of straight researching, trying different combinations, we finalized our reservation to Florida. It’s a place we are familiar with. We used Airbnb for our lodging and we are flying with points. We have points and we were able to transfer points from our credit cards to book all our flights which helped keep our costs down. If you want to read about my favorite travel awards program and my best travel hacks, you’ll know why I like this specific rewards points. Being able to get flights on points is always a plus.
We stayed flexible, we took the time to research as a family plugging in many combinations, and we were able to quickly plan a budget friendly vacation. One key thing to do after you book your vacation or any trip is to follow up on pricing to see if the price of your flights go up or down, if your hotel goes up or down, or even your rental car. If you check the next day or the next week and the price goes down, don’t hesitate to call to get a price adjustment. Prices fluctuate everyday. I would consider this a successful budget friendly vacation with flights reserved with points, lodging split with family, and rental car prices going down. If you are experiencing something similar I hope some of these tips will help you to quickly plan your budget friendly vacation. If you are interested in following my journey, email subscribe to get alerts of latest posts or follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.
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