Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Wonderful Vacation!

Somebody (i.e. me) didn't post for three days. If the picture to the left doesn't make it clear, then hopefully, these words do....I was gearing up for, and later enjoying, a vacation!!!

My dear friend married his college sweetheart on Thursday, April 28th and many guests enjoyed a cruise afterward. The days prior to his wedding were fraught with shopping (What to wear to the wedding!? What to wear on the cruise and for the excursions!?), planning (They want me to pay WHAT for an excursion!? Let me deal directly with the vendor!), and packing (What can I pack in my carry-on (clothes, shoes, toiletries)... What do I have to purchase once I get to Florida (liquor, large sunscreen, liquor)...)

The wedding was beautiful and the ensuing cruise was a blast! I got to spend time with friends, a little more time with my boyfriend, toured Ernest Hemingway's Key West home, parasailed, ate, snorkeled, danced, laughed, ate some more, played cards, snapped a ton of pictures, learned a "fancy" way to play Black Jack, ate again, and napped. My boyfriend ran into an old friend (and his girlfriend) and we shared a few experiences (we're looking forward to hanging out with them).

I hadn't cruised in several years and was anxious to find ways to spend less money where possible. This is how I did it:
  • I read the FAQs like my life depended on it an learned that each person could bring 750mL of wine for embarkation day. Considering that cocktails on board started at $7 (plus 15% tip),  I made sure to take advantage of this opportunity: 1 bottle of pinot grigio and 1 bottle of Arbor Mist (my boyfriend likes fruity drinks) cost less than ten bucks at CVS.
  • Long before the cruise set sail, my boyfriend and I explored the shore excursions we wanted to participate in. We settled on the Ernest Hemingway museum and parasailing in Key West and snorkeling in Cozumel. Had we booked through the cruise, the per person cost would have been $40, $90, and $60, respectively. I decided those amounts were too high and shopped around. I made online reservations for the Key West activities with local vendors ($11/pp for Hemingway's house and $35/pp + tax for parasailing). Once we arrived to Cozumel, we asked three vendors about their prices and settled on one for $45/pp (in hindsight, we probably could have negotiated with them). Nevertheless, instead of paying $380 (for the both of us), we paid $187.24....for the same exact thing!!!
  • I printed coupons. In asking about places to go for our trip, Pancho's Backyard came up. We went to the website and printed out coupons for free lime margaritas. They were DELICIOUS!!!
  • We booked early. As soon as my friend set the date, I booked the cruise (March 2010). Since then, I'd been setting aside $100 each month to pay for the cruise (which was paid for by October 2010) and spending money. A few months, I spent the "cruise spending money" on other (i.e. more immediate) fun things, but at the end of it, I still had $400 left.
  • It wasn't a "way to spend less" but a financially savvy decision nonetheless...My boyfriend has a rewards credit card that earns points for every dollar spent. We each received a card that granted us entry into our stateroom and allowed us to make purchases on board (a few rum punches and mojitos, room service, coffee, and daily gratuities, for instance). Both of our cards were assigned to his card. So the $202 we collectively spent will translate into points that he can use at a later time.
Despite spending a ginormous amount of money on clothes ($700+), the amount of money we spent during the actual vacation was very reasonable. We had an amazing experience and are looking forward to our next trip! Perhaps next time, I can wear what I bought this time around and really keep the numbers in check!

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