How I Travel on a Tight Budget: Section 1 (hotels)

How I Travel on a Tight Budget: Section 1 (hotels)

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Want to know what the #1 question I get asked is? No, it’s not food, or fitness, or health related. It has nothing to do with Paleo budget grocery shopping or my PCOS diagnosis. It’s how do I travel the world on a single girl’s income? So, I’m gonna tell you, right now. But let’s get one thing straight. Travel is a priority in my life. And thus, I forego other things because of it. I don’t eat out regularly or see more than 3-4 movies a year in theaters. A lot of my clothes come from the ARC or Ross. I don’t have the newest or latest gadgets (ok, except my iPhone and iPad! I confess, I’m typing this post on a new iPad Pro). My laptop, though, is 8 years old. I’m also not sponsored yet. This blog doesn’t earn me any additional income, as of yet. Yes, I’ve been offered free product for review or sampling but no cash incentive. I work full-time as a librarian for a university and that’s my sole source of income. So, budget I must!  

Grand Luxxe- Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico

Another thing I will divulge. My parents own two timeshares, one with Wyndham (which is where we were this weekend) and one with Vidanta (though we have not, as of yet, used the Vidanta vacation club except through Wyndham. It’s just been cheaper to go through them). So, 3/4 of the time, I don’t pay for lodging. And as most people know, that can be a HUGE part of a vacation budget. Most of the time, I’d say that’s the single greatest expense you’ll have going on vacation, wouldn’t you say? Unless you’re staying with friends or family, camping, or you’ve got an RV. But I don’t do that kind of vacationing. My idea of camping is roughing it at a Hilton. My best friend says I’m a hotel snob. ? She’s right. Anything below a 4-Star hotel? Please! I just couldn’t! 

But I don’t always have Wyndham at my disposal for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, there’s no resort in the area I’m headed to. Sometimes, the resort is fully booked when I want to go (that’s what happened when I went to NYC at the beginning of the year). Or, I don’t have a limitless amount of points at my disposal. There are years when we vacation more than the weeks we have with our timeshare. So, there are definitely times when I have to book an outside hotel. And here’s where I head to first when that happens.

Wyndham Avon- Beaver Creek, CO

1. This is my first stop when I need a hotel. I’ve had great success finding deals with Hotwire. Yes, it’s kind of a gamble because you don’t know the name of the hotel before you book usually, but I’ve never been disappointed. Our last trip to NYC, we got a 4 star hotel overlooking One World Center for $86 a night. In Manhattan! Steps away from the subway, Battery Park, Trinity Church, and Wall Street. It was fabulous! You can chose things like star rating, location, amenities, and other things like airport transportation. You can even choose bed arrangements and hotel services. I highly recommend you give it a whirl. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised! 

2. So, yes, I get a discount with Wyndham because my parents are vacation club members. I get a 25% discount on all Wyndham owned hotels, which includes everything from Motel 6 to Margaritaville resorts. But if you join Wyndham Rewards (their free rewards program), you’ll get an additional 10% off the lowest advertised price plus great incentives like room upgrades and free amenities. Plus, I think it’s one of the best reward programs for earning free nights quickly! 

3. I actually really like Travelocity. I usually start there with both hotels and airfare because it’s great for getting a broad scope of what prices are like. I rarely book with them anymore (Sorry Travelocity) because I, unfortunately, have been burned a couple of times with booking through a third party agent. It’s best to book directly with the hotel or airline once you’ve got a general idea on prices. I’ll talk more about this when we move on to airline tickets. But Travelocity is helpful with getting a general idea of what prices are like for the timeframe you have in mind. It’s also super helpful for international pricing. I found the hotels we stayed at in London and Dublin last year through Travelocity. I was able to see how close a hotel was to public transportation and get a bunch of options that had kitchens and multiple bedrooms in them. We chose Staycity for both cities because we wanted the convenience of a hotel (with a front desk and customer service if needed) but with the amenities of an apartment. And I found them through Travelocity, then booked directly through Staycity’s website. 

4. Airbnb: This is a great option for booking rooms that include kitchens. Being a traveler with food restrictions, having a kitchen at my disposal is pretty important. It’s also very helpful for saving money on meals (which I’ll talk about in part 2 of this series). You can select whether you want just a room (a great option for saving money in popular locations or large cities!) or a full unit to yourself. You can also select what amenities you’d like, size of unit, and how many beds. Airbnb is a great option for those European adventures you might be going on! Give them a try, I highly recommend. 

Wyndham Bonnet Creek- WDW, Florida

5. Have you thought that you can only stay at a timeshare if you own there? That’s not entirely true. Many people, us included sometimes, have more points or vacation weeks than they could possibly use. These people will try and sell their extra weeks on websites like Redweek and Hotwire. Timeshares are great because they include multiple bedrooms, bathrooms, and full kitchens usually. It’s basically like renting an apartment wherever you go! Will they try and get you to buy into the property, yes. Do you have to go to their high pressure sales presentations? No. Many times, there’s additional perks such as gift cards, attraction tickets, or free meals if you do attend, but it’s completely up to you whether you decide to go or not. 

Being completely honest with you all, I absolutely, 100%, would not be able to travel at the level I do so frequently without my parents’ timeshare. That’s the #1 money-saver in my travel budget. I’ll have been to 3 5-star hotels and resorts this year alone in addition to a cruise by the end of the year. It’s a HUGE blessing in my life that I don’t take for granted. That being said, if you’re wise and a little bit flexible, you too can save mega bucks on high end travel!