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Old 07-09-2009, 12:53 PM
Location: Up in the air
19,126 posts, read 25,816,754 times
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I live where many people choose to vacation so all we have to do is ride our bikes a couple miles down the coast and we can go swimming/surfing/hiking/camping etc. whenever we want

If we really want to get away we usually drive to LA or San Francisco and see a show, be a goofy tourist or simply visit friends for the day. It's about 3 hours north to SF and 3 hours south to LA, so either one will do.
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Old 07-23-2009, 11:32 PM
Location: Tucson/Nogales
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Originally Posted by Beretta View Post
It's that time of year! (well, it is always a good time of year for a vacation, lol). Please share your frugal vacation tips and information!!!
I go down to South/Central America once a year, with a combined mission of having medical/Dental work done and having fun as well. Last April I had a crown, xray and filling done for $60 which all but paid for the trip. And then there's other medical matters I take care of while down there. You could accomplish the same mission with Mexico, but for being very frugal, I find that Central America beats out Mexico in the price of rooms and everything else, and the air fare not any higher.

I have a $1000 deductible with BCBS and no dental insurance.

Once down there, it can be super cheap with nice rooms in the teens, providing you stay off the tourist circuit. I use the ultra cheap chicken buses and ride in the backs of pick-ups, usually for nothing more than spare change.

I have yet to have a negative experience down there and I feel as safe down there as anywhere in this country. Actually, to everyone's disbelief, I feel safer down there.

But for those not in need of cheap, quality medical care, then this info wouldn't have much value.
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Old 07-24-2009, 06:26 AM
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We rented a beach house off season for 25% of the regular peak season cost and cooked our own meals. It was one of the most relaxing vacations ever.

Other frugal trips: We used frequent flyer miles and Hilton points for five days four nights in the Napa Valley. We rented a car for $120. Breakfast was free at our hotel.

When we got there we went to the local grocery store and bought lunch meat and bread and snacks and every morning before we left our room we'd make sandwiches and pack them in the softsided insulated tote I brought. We kept the ice pack in the freezer compartment of the mini-fridge in the room overnight, and that kept the lunch cool. I had also brought plastic utensils and napkins from home.

We went to 3-4 tastings rooms each day, most charged a $10-15 fee, but allowed us to split the tasting, and we averaged about $40 in tasting fees a day.

For dinner we splurged one night at a nice Italian place, but the rest of the time ate "fast food."

The total cost for the trip was about $500, which is pretty much unheard of for five days in Napa.

And one other, I used FF miles and flew to Cnada to visit one of my friends. This was when our US dollar was worth $1.60 to the Canadian dollar. We stayed at her house for about half of the time, and stayed in B&B's in the Rockies for about $17 a night US when we were driving around. Total cost for a week was $300, including grandstand tickets for the Chuck Races at Stampede one night.
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Old 08-04-2009, 10:56 PM
Location: Virginia
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I can share how we do Disney World cheap.
First of all, we go the second week of December...airfare is cheaper. I fly from CO and I don't pay more than $150 per person.
Additionally, we stay at Orange Lake which is a huge resort just minutes from the property. You can buy someone's unwanted timeshare for about $700 a week (3 bedroom 3 bath, 1800 sq feet). We were given our timeshare so we only pay for maintenance fees ($500).
We get our groceries for the week and cook at the timeshare.
Then, our Disney tickets are Mickey's Merry Xmas party, which is half the cost. The trick is... it claims you can enter the park at 6pm but they will let you in at 2pm, put a bracelet on you, and then they start kicking anyone out around 6pm. You will get free hot chocolate, apples, and cookies while there as part of the "party" so there is your evening snack. Park closes at midnight so you have lots of time to do everything.
We typically rent the economy car, but with a family of 5, they "talk us into upgrading" because they would rather keep the economy car for a businessman. So we get upgraded to a van for nothing.
There is also tons of things to do for the kids for free at Orange Lake. With my family of 5, we spend about 2K on our Disney trip- flight, lodging, food, car, and entertainment. Granted, that's a lot of money, but it isn't too bad for a week and with Disney.

I would highly suggest renting someone's unwanted timeshare if you need a place with a lot of space. Never ever buy a timeshare new. Let someone else do that. What happened to us: in-laws bought new at a not so desireable resort and every year, they pay the 100.00 fee to change places. So, we can go anywhere we want by trading it.
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Old 10-21-2009, 08:15 PM
Location: Tucson/Nogales
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Default Experimental frugal car-less vacation in December

Flying to Dallas in December. You can get a $3 all-day pass on their DART light rail system. Going to stay at an Econo Lodge just three blocks from a train stop. Only going to areas of Dallas where the train goes. There's also a TRE communter line from DT Dallas to DT Ft. Worth.

Then a Greyhound bus to Houston (haven't been on a American Greyhound in 30 years), use the local buses there and their light rail line.

Then Greyhound to Sheveport, Tulsa and back to Dallas.

Rental car for two weeks, including Loss Waiver Damage, would cost $750.
And that doesn't count gasline costs.

Look forward to it. Should be very, very interesting.
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Old 10-21-2009, 09:43 PM
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Staycation baby.... cheapest and most recharging type of vacation one could ever get. I've always been amazed at the level of stress that's involved in your average vacation. Most people get home needing a vacation from their "vacation". I've found that largely to not be the case with staycations, which when combined to their exponential cost reduction, tend to deliver a much better outcome.
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Old 10-21-2009, 10:35 PM
Location: Tucson/Nogales
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You're probably correct and I can't disagree with you. I come back from a trip, yes stressed, tired, threatening to never, ever do it again. But that only lasts a couple weeks, and I'm back on the travel sites researching yet another trip. Call me a masochist with insatiable curiosities that will probably never be arrested.

Yet, at the same time, once back, and recovered from the "injuries" I'm always grateful I went through all the torture and abuse.
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Old 10-22-2009, 04:26 PM
Location: New Jersey
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Most frugal vacation, where you actually GO somewhere: Las Vegas. As long as you are not a gambling addict and have some self-control/money management discipline (which most frugal people are very good with), Vegas easily offers the most value for the money.

The key to making a Vegas vacation "frugal" is to go in an off season. My favorite times to go are in December, the week or two right before Christmas, or in August, the third and fourth weeks of that month.

The biggest cost is the airfare. If you plan well in advance, you can get a relatively low rate. For me, a reasonable or low rate is under $300, a VERY low rate is under $250 (fees/taxes included). I just ran a search, and I'm coming up with a fare of $278 ($295 including taxes/fees). I know from experience that if I wait, as time goes on and they aren't selling seats on those flights, the price will go down. I usually pay around $250-270.

Other than that, the rest is pretty cheap. Hotels at that time of year can be had for anywhere from $10 to $40 for a decent, simple, clean hotel/casino downtown, or even at some strip or near-strip properties that are good. I always budget for $30 a night, and I have never spent that much - usually find something for $10 a night, or I get some free nights from being in a casino's "player's club".

Car rental is cheap enough usually so I get a car. I hear that it has gone up, so if that's the case, I would only rent a car for 2 or 3 days to go out into the desert. The other days I would just make use of public buses, monorail, walking, and free shuttles.

What to do in Vegas for little or no money? Lots!
  • Just walking around and seeing the sights is fun, and it's free. The Casinos resorts on the strip have themes and it's interesting to see how they accomplish the theme. Along the way, you will find lots of spectacles, shows, musical performances, etc. all for free.
  • In casinos you will often find many bars and lounges near the casino floor which feature live music which you can watch for free, or you can sit at a table and enjoy the entertainment for the price of a drink.
  • When you sign up for players clubs at the different casinos you can get small gifts, free spins on special slot machines, etc.
  • If you want to see a show, many are expensive, but many are not. There are also several ticketing companies which offer last-minute, reduced price tickets for shows (often 50% off). I saw a magic show with big cats (lions, tigers) for about $16 which normally cost $40 or so.
  • You will find various tourist-aimed guides and magazines. Spend some time bringing these back to your hotel room and scouting out deals. 2-for-1 buffets, discounts, free shows or combo packages are to be found in these.
  • Another word on shows - many people are lured to the "big-name" and "big spectacle" acts like Celine Dion, Cirque du Soleil, etc.; however, these shows will run you bare minimum $80, more likely well above $100 (just for the cheapest seats, if you can even get them!). Even from a last-minute ticket discounter, you're looking at $50+ per ticket. Instead, try to find some of the few remaining VEGAS shows - the old-fashioned type with the showgirls and all. These are usually much cheaper, plus they often have deals. One time I saw "Viva Las Vegas" (one of the oldest Vegas shows in Vegas) for free when I ate at the hotel's (Stratosphere) buffet and bought one drink for $6; another time, I got a coupon at Harrah's festival court to see an afternoon magic/comedy show for $10, and that included a free (alcoholic) drink! These shows are a lot more "Vegas-ey" than things like "Mama Mia" (which I can see at home, anyway) and a FAR greater value! They are cheesy, but that's part of the fun of it, feels so much more "Vegas"!
  • Natural and educatonal attractions like Red Rock Canyon, Lake Mead Rec. Area, Valley of Fire, Mt. Charleston, Hoover Dam, The Old Mormon Fort, Spring Mountain Ranch, etc. Many of these require a car, and some of them have park entrance fees of $5 to $10 for the carload, but it's well worth it. The area is so beauiful, and you will see and learn things that are very interesting
  • Outdoor recreation like hiking, boating and swimming in Lake Mead are also available; obviously boating will cost some money but could be worthwhile for a group or family; hiking is free (with the price of any park fees) and unlimited, and incredibly rewarding!

What about food? Forget about it! CHEAP and GOOD, no matter what level of dining you select. Some of my favorite food deals:
  • 99-cent shrimp cocktail at the Fremont or the Golden Gate
  • Buffet at Main St. Station, Palace Station, Orleans or Gold Coast, about $12 with lots of good options
  • Buffet at Green Valley Ranch or Rio - about $20 but excellent quality
  • Buffet at Planet Hollywood, about $25 but top quality
  • Lunch buffet at Palms, well under $10 and very good quality with Lebanese food amongst tons of other options
  • Garduno's at the Palms - New Mexican food, a big meal will still be easily under $20 with tax and tip, great environment, service and food; if you like Mexican food and have never yet had New Mexican food, this will be a hugely pleasant surprise, it's so delicious!
  • Being an East Coast guy, I take advantage of In-N-Out Burger, where a full fast-food combo meal only runs under $6 - cheaper than McD's but WAYYYY better. I also enjoy Fatburger, Carl's Jr., Jack-in-the-box and Raising Cane's when I'm in Vegas - they are all tasty, quick, easy, and inexpensive
  • Rubio's at the Monte Carlo - a fast food "fresh Mex" chain from San Diego who popularized the fish taco, and theirs is excellent! I never miss this when I go. Another cheap meal, fish tacos are $2 and change each (which is higher than normal but still cheap for what you get)
  • Plenty of other great mexican taqueria's around Vegas with great, cheap Mexican food
  • Lotus of Siam - off the strip, great Thai food, and cheap to reasonable in price
  • One of my FAVORITES - the off-the-menu $7.77 Steak-and-shrimp special at the Hard Rock "Mr. Lucky's Cafe"; great sit-down casual place, you get a tasty salad (nothing great, but good), Steak (which they sell on the menu for upwards of $16), a skewer of three shrimp, a side of your choice of potato (but they have always graciously substituted steamed broccoli for me). With soda, tax, and tip it's still only around $12. When I go with a friend, we also get a great appetizer to split and we each end up paying about $14.
  • Many higher end restaurants seem to run a good 20% or so less than if I went to their counterparts in L.A. or NYC. I went to Nobu at the Hard Rock and it cost much less than when I went to the one in NYC, and it was without the wait that I had in NYC (not to mention reservations). If "fine dining" is important to you, you will save money doing it in Vegas in most cases.

As for gambling, you don't have to gamble at all. You will definitely have to deal with being exposed to the casinos; those great rates are a way to get you to walk through their casinos, after all. But nobody requires you to gamble a penny if you don't want to.

However, I suggest you do try it, as long as you don't have a problem with it. More to the point of frugality - you can be frugal and gamble and have fun doing so. How? Downtown, most casinos have very low minimums. Pick a budget and stick to it. Play the minimums and see how long you can play. I enjoy the 25-cent/$1-minimum roulette at the El Cortez, or the 50-cent/$2.50-minimum "Rapid Roulette" at the strip hotels. I also like to play a little $2 or $3 blackjack. Pai Gow poker is worth learning - most of the time you "push" and neither win nor lose, so you can sit there for quite a while having fun gambling. Video Poker is one of the best games to play in terms of least house advantage, and you can play for 5 cents a hand if you want - or 25 cents, or 50, or a dollar, or upwards of 5 dollars....

So, you can even include a budget for gambling and have a frugal vacation, as long as you actually enjoy playing casino games and view the money spent as being spent on entertainment. Unlike other entertainment, you at least have a chance to leave with your money, and then some!

Something I do often in Vegas - the drinks are free in the casino, but ONLY if you're playing. If I just want to have a drink, and I'm willing to pay for one, I instead find a bar with the video poker screens built into the bar. I throw a $20 bill into a machine and start playing. The bartender will come by, take my order, get my drink, and then comp me the drink (give it for free) because he sees I'm playing. I tip the bartender and take the drink. At that point, I can cash out and walk away. So, I'm careful to not gamble more than the cost of the drink, roughly $4 or 5 of my $20. If I lose the money, it's not more than I would have paid for the drink anyway. If I lose nothing or very little, the drink was discounted or free. Sometimes I actually get on a winning streak and I push my luck. If I start a losing streak, I cash out and walk away, but I've often gotten the free drink AND walked away with an extra $5, 10, 20 or more!!!

Vegas is the ultimate frugal vacation (as opposed to a "staycation" or a short trip), IMHO. I can usually do 6 days/5 nights in Vegas for well under $1000, all included. And if I win, as I have often, it's even less; I've come back with the trip paid for and money in my pocket a few times.
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Old 10-22-2009, 04:34 PM
Location: In My Own Little World. . .
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Excellent post. Makes me want to book trip there.

Thank you for sharing all your "insider" tips with us.
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Old 10-22-2009, 04:57 PM
Location: New Jersey
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Originally Posted by tijlover View Post
Flying to Dallas in December. You can get a $3 all-day pass on their DART light rail system. Going to stay at an Econo Lodge just three blocks from a train stop. Only going to areas of Dallas where the train goes. There's also a TRE communter line from DT Dallas to DT Ft. Worth.

Then a Greyhound bus to Houston (haven't been on a American Greyhound in 30 years), use the local buses there and their light rail line.

Then Greyhound to Sheveport, Tulsa and back to Dallas.

Rental car for two weeks, including Loss Waiver Damage, would cost $750.
And that doesn't count gasline costs.

Look forward to it. Should be very, very interesting.
I notice you are a fan of the LDW when renting a car. I don't blame you - so am I. Unlike a lot of people, I won't rent a car without covering it. The last thing I want is for my personal insurance (which would cover any car I rent) to increase premiums over an accident I have in a rental car; I'd hate to pay for the trip years after I've taken it.

However, I have found some alternatives to the rental car company's LDW, and I figured you might be interested in them:

First, if you check into travel insurance policies, you'll find many of them nowadays include a LDW. A website like Travel Insurance - InsureMyTrip.com will let you compare policies from different companies; make sure you check their rental car coverage so that it covers what you want. Also, make sure the coverage is PRIMARY, not secondary, which will fall back on your personal insurance (most of the ones on that website do provide primary LDW).

From what I can figure, the best policy for a LDW is Travel Insurance - CSA Travel Protection Provides Coverage for Your Trip. Their more premium version usually only runs me about $55, covers the car rental for up to a 3-week trip (longer trips will usually result in $75 or more for the policy, or buying a second, new policy at $55). It could be more or less for you - it depends on the person. But it should still be much less to go this route than to purchase the rental car company's LDW. Another bonus is that this travel insurance covers some extra things, providing some medical coverage also, all for less than a rental car company's LDW.

I've always bought the CSA coverage for my trips but never had to use them, so I can't say how they are when filing a claim, but I am confident enough in them that I use them every time.

Another option I've found out about is that American Express offers coverage on rental cars for a fee. You may have heard that it is an included feature of having American Express; that's true, but that included coverage is secondary to your personal auto insurance policy and is NOT PRIMARY coverage. So that is worthless. However, AMEX will put a feature on your account at your request which activates a PRIMARY coverage on any car you rent, charging you $25 each time you rent a car with the AMEX card. The $25 covers you for the duration of the rental and is PRIMARY coverage. Of course, this only helps people who have AMEX.

Hopefully you'll find some of this info useful!
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