Today I somehow booked a week long Mexico family vacation in a matter of hours for…wait for it…5 days from now. I don’t think I’ve ever booked anything for such a length of time in such a short amount of time. Long weekends? Sure, I’ve booked plenty of those last minute. Travel within the U.S.? Sure, I’ve booked those last minute too. But another country for a week, less than a week from now, was a new experience for me. Here’s how it played out.
My husband had some random time off so we decided to take advantage of that and take the kids somewhere. First on our list was Red Frog Beach in Panama. We’ve been wanting to go to Panama for awhile, but the timing for travel and the last minute cost of the resort was causing issues, so we changed our plan and decided on Mexico. Keith and I went for our ten year anniversary and loved it. Taking the kids with us for our 2nd trip there seems logical!
When I book a trip, I usually start with the hotel. We usually have one in mind whenever we go somewhere and if we are really attached to one and it’s booked, there is no point in going to that location! So first up, making sure the hotel had room. We wanted to stay in the Mayakoba area of Playa del Carmen, so I checked the Fairmont Mayakoba first. There are 3 hotels in the Mayakoba area and the Rosewood Mayakoba and Banyan Tree Mayakoba are not only extremely expensive, but also not super kid friendly. Fairmont offers a free kid’s club and a kid’s eat free program so it was the logical choice. On the website, I looked for bed and breakfast rates and found some decent fares.
After the hotel website, I went on Kayak and looked up the hotel to see if I could find any competing fares. Kayak is great because it compares all the discounted sites and consolidates them for you. Bizarrely, none of the discounted sites could compare with the hotel’s website, so I booked directly through the hotel. I also requested an upgrade in my booking to see if we can swing a beach front room. At this late date, many hotels are trying to fill rooms so it never hurts to ask for an upgrade. I learned that in this great article. Basically, it never hurts to ask. In addition, I called the hotel to confirm that breakfast is included and had that confirmed in my email. I’ve been to too many hotels where there is a some sort of glitch and we’ve found that there is a loophole where in fact, breakfast is NOT included.
Before I moved on to our airline tickets, I checked my email for anything from the Travel Hacking Cartel. This service scans 100s of deals and glitch fares and gives great advice on how to pad your mileage accounts for a yearly fee. I just joined so I haven’t had too much time to take advantage of it and didn’t see anything related to our trip, but the website seems like an awesome resource. You can join through my link – http://travelhacking.org/melandkwed-wants-you.
On to the airlines! Keith has 181,000 miles on United so we wanted to use them for the trip. I checked fares throughout the morning to see how many tickets we could get using his miles and it looked like two tickets would be free of charge. BUT, I waited until noon because Tuesdays at noon is the best time to buy airline tickets and take advantage of drops in the rates. Sure enough, when I logged back onto my computer, I was able to get THREE of our tickets using Keith’s United miles and the rate for one economy class ticket had dropped by $100! Score! Total for our tickets? $535 for mine and only $350 total for Keith and the kid’s mileage tickets. Tomorrow I plan to call United directly and ask that our tickets have a “Y” or “B” booking code in hopes of getting upgraded. Again, it never hurts to ask!
After I sorted the hotel and tickets, I checked my American Airlines credit card to see how many miles I have accumulated. Then I checked my United Airlines account. I wanted to see if there was anything I could redeem, such as a one night stay at the hotel or a prepaid credit card of some sort. Unfortunately, American Airlines does not have anything related to Playa del Carmen and there weren’t quite enough miles in my United account so no luck there. Next I checked my Chase Ink business credit card. I had 40,000 miles accumulated, equal to around $400. Chase transferred the $400 directly into my checking account. Another score! Some cash for a day trip to Talum and the Mayan ruins at least.
All in all, I think we got a great deal for our trip. Can’t beat paying for only one ticket, getting some free travel cash and the deals at the hotel are great because it’s off season, one of my favorite money saving tips!
Before our Mexico family vacation next week, I’m enrolling both the kids in American Airlines and United Airlines mileage clubs. They’ll be able to earn miles right away with this trip. We travel enough and mileage clubs offer such great deals that I think it’s worth it. I also just bought Nomadic Matt’s book on travel hacking so I can become an expert at traveling for free! 🙂