This was the challenge:
Destination: Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Type of Vacation: All-Inclusive, Family-Oriented
Budget: Less than $2,000
Time Frame: Late November-Early January, 5–7 days
Required Amenities: Pool, alcohol and food included, beach access, spa credits, transportation to/from airport.
Oh, Lordy! These travel deals nowadays are crazy!
You just hop on Groupon or Living Social and you get to go to an all-inclusive for $1200 for EACH PERSON! INSANE!
I listened to some girls talk about this recently at my local coffee shop, trying to keep a straight face.
“Should I tell them about how I got this incredible deal for the same price they paid for themselves, for 6 people?!”, I thought to myself.
I let my favorite barista finish her conversation, not wanting to dilute her enthusiasm into a simmer of a bonfire. She was so ecstatic, I didn’t want her to feel like she got a bad deal.
This is a dilemma I run into every day, when people are expressing to me the amazing travel deals they have just recently landed.
To tell or not to tell, that is the question.
Granted, there are friends and colleagues of mine who do in fact land out-of-this-world incredible airfare and hotel deals that are superbly difficult to discover. However, it’s amazing to know that just about anything we can think of is possible.
Name the destination, and challenge yourself to find the best deal you can (or cannot) fathomably imagine.
At first, I’m thinking to myself: “This is crazy”.
I know websites such as Apple Vacations were charging, at the cheapest rates, $700–900 a person to go Punta Cana and stay in a 2-to-3 star hotel. Eek. A lot of money for cheap all-inclusive packages and even cheaper amenities. (Who knows how the beach looks at those spots?)
For myself and my wife, we just wanted to get a place that was decent and plenty of fun for the kids. After all, this was indeed a family vacation. It was all about the kids having an amazing and memorable experience that they would remember for years to come.
So then, it was time to get to work. I cracked my knuckles, and got to work. Here is the exact steps I took:
#1: Check current points balances across rewards accounts (flights)
Using AwardWallet.com, I quickly took a glance to see what I was packing in my rewards accounts. I quickly remembered that not too long ago (this was April or so at the time), Southwest Airlines (@Southwestair) had recently started flying to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic and this would be a perfect airline for our family to fly.
I checked my account, and I had close to 100k points sitting in my account. :O
I quickly logged into Southwest, and found that it was only 21,500 pointsroundp-trip each person!
That means I could go ahead and enjoy a family trip, all-expense paid for airfare, with just over 85k points!
BOOM. Booked. Done deal.
#2: Look for hotel options
Next, I started looking into hotel options.
We knew that with a family, all-inclusive resorts would be the best deal.
What ended up being the best option?
Once I looked through all-inclusive resorts directly, making several phone calls (based off of TripAdvisor’s ratings and traveler feedback), I bumped into a travel agent at the same time.
I was able to get her to price match be for a great price to the Riu Bambu in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
Click here to get great travel deals from my travel agent (let her know that you were referred by me, Edwin J. Goitia from Travel Rebel).
#3: Make sure passports were updated
When I first booked this trip, I made sure that I had my passport ready to go. But then, oh no! I found out that everyone else needed to update their passports (in the case of our youngest one, she just needed a new one). I went ahead, and got all paperwork ready and planned with my lady on a deadline to get this all done (about 2 months before the trip, at the latest).
Luckily for us, everyones passports are in and good to go!
#4: Re-check for best deals 4–6 weeks before
I’m sitting at home in late October, thinking to myself: Did I truly get the best deal?
I sit there, pondering, outside on my porch with a cup of joe on my newly-renovated patio, looking out in the green grass of my backyard. Then, all of a sudden, it hit me. The Southwest Companion Pass. I was SO close to getting it, I couldn’t just NOT get it.
I started looking into all the ways I could get to the 100,000 miles to attain the ultimate glory of being a Southwest Companion Pass holder.
About 30 nights of stays at Marriott, several transfers from other partners, using the Southwest Credit card for everything (including a balance transfer), I finally hit 110k points. YES! It felt so awesome.
But wait, I thought to myself. I could designate the wifey to be my companion, and therefore free up a ticket (since she would fly for free as my companion, plus about $5 in fees!). Another realization: I could take someone else for free with me without spending another dime.
I looked into it, and it would end up being about $100 in fees for that extra person we would have to cover. Thank Jesus for my Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card, which reimburses up to $350 a year in airline fees, upgrades, Wi-Fi, and in-flight beverage, food, and entertainment. Boo-yah.
Super excited, I’m thinking to myself, who do I know that DESERVES to fly with us to the Carribean. Who has impacted my family the most? So, naturally, I opt to fly my mother-in-law out. Her reaction when she found out? Priceless.
#5: Getting ready to pack and buy new swimwear!
So, now that that we are literally weeks away, we are ALL getting swimsuit-ready and packing our bags!
All for less than $1200!
Airline Fees/Taxes: $150 ($100 of this is being reimbursed from Ritz-Carlton)
All Inclusive: $1100 (for 5 people plus a baby!)
Final Results: Success!
We will just have to take money for tips and souvenirs, and we are set!
Learn more about how you can become a Travel Rebel at http://www.travel-rebel.com
Thank you reading! Please leave any comments or questions below and share with your friends!
Live well, Travel Rebel.
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