How To Have A Perfect Vacation

Some of you may know that my family and I are on a much needed vacation this week. We typically visit Disneyland once or twice a year as my wife and I both have family in the area but this year has been different. We weren’t able to go to Disneyland during our usual time at the end of last year so we decided to plan a much larger and more spectacular Disney trip for this year.

We got a really nice hotel room about 15 minutes from Disneyland, annual passes and we’ve been saving our pennies to make sure we could enjoy our trip without having to worry too much about money. It’s been a great trip so far and has been worth all the time, money and effort we put into making it happen.

But it has taken a lot of planning, effort and money to make this happen though so when I see the chance to save some dough, I take it. One thing that may slip peoples minds when they are on vacation is to keep you eye out for deals while traveling, not just before and after. So here are some ways we have saved money on this trip.

Travel Travel

When you travel, there are certain costs that come into play like gas if you drive your own car, parking, bus rides and taxis. Those costs really add up and I can see why people like to find their destination on a beach somewhere and just chill for a week. But we have places to go and things to see so sitting in the hotel is not an option.

To cut travel costs once we reached our destination, we called the different hotels in the area to see who offered a free shuttle to Disneyland. Not all the hotels nearby offer this service but if you find one that does, that can help you decide where to stay. A shuttle to and from your desired destination is not only going to save you gas but you’ll be spared the cost of parking and the headache of trying to navigate unfamiliar streets and traffic. Even if the shuttle costs a few dollars per person, it’s worth it if you compare the cost of what you would deal with if you had to drive your own vehicle.

While most shuttles only go a few select places such as the big events near the hotel, be sure to ask your hotel staff if they have free or discounted shuttles, taxis or hotel vehicles to other nearby attractions you may want to visit.

Special events and event discounts

Hotels have the hookups for sure. If you have an idea of the things you want to see once you reach the hotel, be sure to check with your hotel staff to see what kind of event tickets, discounts and bonuses they have for nearby events. Some hotels have free passes to places you may want to go and all you have to do is ask for them. In other cases, the hotel can sell you tickets to events right at the front desk so you don’t have to worry about getting tickets in advance or at the door. Our hotel did have standard Disneyland passes at a %20 discount but we had different plans so didn’t take advantage of this option.

Trust the locals. Become a local.

Special events that are location dependent like Disneyland offer special rates to locals. I can see exactly why; how many times have you heard of someone discovering a tourist attraction in their own back yard? Most of the time this happens after someone moves away and realizes what they are missing and because of that well known phenomenon,  attractions like Disneyland want to do what they can to get local attention and local patrons.  Disneyland offers a huge discount for annual passes to Southern Californians. One thing you may not know though is that passes like this can be given as a gift and can even be purchased online.

My parents still live in California so we enlisted their help in grabbing some hugely discounted annual passes. All that is required is the local resident use their credit card to purchase the ticket so the zip code on the cards billing address can be used to verify the purchasers residence in the qualifying area. So we had my parents buy our tickets and paid them what it cost. We were able to get annual passes for both Disneyland and California Adventure for almost the exact cost of a 3-day park hopper pass that lets you in both parks. Because of that, we are able to go to Disneyland as much as we want this week, we aren’t rushed or worn out by trying to fit our entire Disneyland trip into one or even three days and we won’t have to pay for Disneyland tickets when we come back in the next year. We will probably try and go to Disneyland twice more before the passes expire and that alone will save us over $1,000 in total cost.

No matter where you intend to travel, enlist the help of your friends that have been there or live there. See what kind of discounts are offered to locals and see what secret tips your local friends can offer you. They will be a huge asset when it comes to cutting costs and getting the most for your money.

One final word of advice when it comes to asking for help:  make sure you do all the research you can so your friends or family only have to do what you absolutely cannot do. You can even offer them a cut of the savings as a convenience charge if you feel the need to. Don’t take advantage of your friends and family to save a buck.

Manners count most.

My final tip today will be your greatest weapon in cost saving as well as the easiest to do.

When I got to the hotel, I spent some time getting to know the lady that checked me in. I asked her questions, smiled and had a pleasant conversation. I learned her name and could recognize her face when we walked by during our stay. I made a point to talking to her and other people at the front desk whenever I was near there.

Why waste my time? Because these people are the ones that have control over our stay. If we needed fresh towels, cleaning, room maintenance or to book the shuttle, we needed to go through them. I wanted to make sure they knew me by name and that they wanted to help me when I needed something.

Soon after we checked in, I realized that one thing we never checked on was if the hotel had free wi-fi. As it turns out, the wifi cost $10 per device per day and that could have really broken our budget. For some people, that’s no big deal and they just don’t use the Internet but even on vacation there are things I have to do on the Internet on the freelance side to keep my clients happy. While I did have a backup plan in case there was no Internet in the hotel, I went to talk to my friends at the front desk.

I simply brought up the fact that the Internet was not free in our conversation and the lady at the front desk happily comped the Internet cost for the entire week.

Another bonus I discovered in our conversations at the front desk is that the hotel has a lounge that offers free drinks during a certain time. I decided to check that out on our first night. I found that while all drinks were free, virgin drinks were limited to some soft drinks set out for kids and families to help themselves. This was nice but a little disappointing. While I was there though, I got to know the bartender a little bit. I spoke with her about our trip, plans and schedule. We had a great conversation and the next night she greeted us with a smile. Not only that, she offered to make us whatever virgin drinks we wanted, special. So we had her  make up a couple drinks and lounged around for a while. We talked with her as she worked for about an hour and at the end of her shift she brought out some cheesecake for my wife and I.

It doesn’t take much for a trip to spin out of control; a flat tire, a miscommunication with reservations or a hidden charge that throws off the whole budget but if you have a plan set out and enlist the help of new and old friends, everything will turn out just right.

Do you have any tips for having the perfect vacation?

Image by Rdoke

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13 People have left comments on this post

» Stacie HoganNo Gravatar said: { Jun 2, 2011 - 11:06:24 }

Fantastic info! Thanks Jess

Jesse MichelsenNo Gravatar Reply:

Thanks Stacie!

» SquirrelersNo Gravatar said: { Jun 2, 2011 - 02:06:05 }

I agree that it’s a good idea to make nice with the hotel staff when visiting. Really, it’s good manners to be friendly and decent to those we encounter, but we’re often so busy or distracted than many of us simply deal with people in “transactional” way. When you treat the other person as an actual person, it can stand out. This can help you and make the other person feel good.

One example of how that helped me: went to a hotel with an indoor waterpark for my daughter. The night we booked had a promo rate of $99 – fantastic for this place. I then asked, after already checking in and liking the place, if we could extend for a night. The answer: sure, but at our $149 regular rate. Great price still, but it was $50 more than the bargain I got. The person I asked was a guy I never talked to before.

I said no thanks, but an hour later was by the lobby again and saw a different person there. This person was the same lady that was there at checkin, who I was nice to and made friendly small talk with. I asked her the same exact quesion about extending, and she offered to give me the same $99 rate as when I checked in orignally. Why? Well, I suspect that it might be due, in some part, to the having already established some positive rapport.

Jesse MichelsenNo Gravatar Reply:

Perfect example there Ray! A lot of times, these workers have the power to make your visit really great or really crappy, it’s best to be on their good side! And who knows what may come of things in the future. Your next business partner could be the lady you made small talk with at the front desk, ya know?

» Marie at familymoneyvaluesNo Gravatar said: { Jun 3, 2011 - 02:06:56 }

Next year is our 40th anniversary and we are taking our grown children and their families to see Yellowstone Nat’l park (since we couldn’t ever afford it when our kids were young).

I knew that park lodging filled up fast, so I called last winter to see when I could start reserving for 2012. I was told I could start on Memorial Day weekend this year.

So, a couple of days before Memorial Day, I went out to reserve our desired rooms at Old Faithful Inn and found them already booked for most of the summer!

I was steamed. I waited until I had fumed down and called the next morning. I explained my situation to Debbie in a non-whiney voice and asked her what she could do for me. She was very helpful and put in for several extras, even though we did have to settle for less desirable rooms than we wanted. So long story short, good manners are important.

Jesse MichelsenNo Gravatar Reply:

Yellowstone is a wonder! I have relatives in the gateway town to all the national parks in that area, they are all about an hour from there. I hope you have a great time!

» Printing on canvasNo Gravatar said: { Jun 4, 2011 - 04:06:33 }

Perfect tips! I really love to travel and take some photos with my camera. Having a great vacation will really satisfy a traveller like me. Thank you so much for your tips. Keep on posting. Thanks.

» Finance ProNo Gravatar said: { Jun 6, 2011 - 08:06:48 }

Just reading this article makes me want to start planning my next vacation time. These are some great tips in order to begin a relaxing and affordable time away. The biggest thing for me, is planning ahead and making sure not to over look the small details. Calling around to different hotels and comparing options like free shuttles, complimentary food and drinks, and nearby internet access are the small things that tend to add up fast when you’re away from home. Adequate planning such as this will ensure your vacation time stays well within your expected budget.

Jesse MichelsenNo Gravatar Reply:

Thanks! It was really hard to come back from this vacation, it was probably our most enjoyable in the past few years.

» SusanNo Gravatar said: { Jun 10, 2011 - 07:06:00 }

I’m curious as to how your parents purchased the passes but didn’t have to use their names…unless you did and used their photos? I’m confused how it was exactly done. Whenever we got our passes, we had our IDs.

Jesse MichelsenNo Gravatar Reply:

We thought that as well but found out that tickets can be bought as a gift using the online system. All that has to happen is the tickets have to be purchased with a credit card that has a billing address matching a qualifying location. My parents live in SoCal so their credit card address qualifies and they were able to buy our tickets with their credit card. We simply paid them cash in full for the passes so they didn’t incur any fee.

After you buy the tickets online, you get a printout with a bar code. That printout is your ticket to get into the park. Once you’re in the park, you can go get your official pass with the photo. No ID required.

I hope this helps!

» Andrew HallamNo Gravatar said: { Jun 19, 2011 - 02:06:33 }

While traveling the costs really do add up. I know we try to choose locations that are cheaper than others. And while we’re there we look for less expensive activities. Your point about ‘going local’ has helped us many times. We didn’t get local prices but we did ask the locals where to go. On one of our last trips we had the option to hike up to a waterfall, but we’d have to pay $20 per person. We opted out of that one, but did find out from some friendly locals that there was a different waterfall in the area that was free. As you can imagine, that one wasn’t as well marked for the tourists. We had a blast.

Jesse MichelsenNo Gravatar Reply:

Nice find. You know the locals aren’t paying for that tourist stuff and ya just have to buddy up with them to know what they do. It’s great and you can make some great long-term friends too.

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