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Getting to Aruba for Less than $300
Many people like to travel. The biggest problem with getting to do so is the cost. Most of the best and more desirable locations can cost thousands for even a single person to visit. Add a spouse and children, and the cost becomes unattainable for many people. There are ways around the major part of the expense, transportation and lodging, when it comes to taking a dream vacation.
Getting to Aruba--The List Price
This hub is about my personal story. I literally just went to Aruba for less than $300, not counting food, onsite transportation, a tour and souvenirs. I had an important anniversary coming up this past year. I really wanted to do something special with my wife, so I threw out a few choices. We settled upon the Eastern Caribbean island of Aruba.
The main costs when it comes to international travel (or even cross-country travel) is related to getting and staying in your chosen destination. I checked the internet to see how much my chosen trip would cost. The airfare was about $550 per person for a round-trip flight from both Pittsburgh and Cleveland, which were both in the vicinity of relatives we were going to visit around the trip. The hotel that I chose was going to cost nearly $200 when taxes were involved. This was a trip that would have cost $2,100 for two people. I purchased these portions of the trip and wound up paying less than $300. Here's how I did it.
Frequent Flyer Miles
The most expensive part of many international trips is the airfare required to get to the final destination. This trip to Aruba was going to be no different. About nine years ago, I took a Northwest Airlines flight to Colorado out of Charleston, WV. I started looking into their frequent flyer program, but did not join immediately. I finally did join NWA's WorldPerks program and took about two flights with them. I added a one-way flight on Delta to my account as they were code share partners at the time. Overall, I had flown about 5,000 actual miles on Delta as of 2010.
My wife also signed up for an account and started earning. In addition to the infrequent flights, I also signed up for e-Miles, which landed me a few miles here and there. I had a delay once and got certificates for about 4,000 NW miles. Until 2010, We had about 15,000 miles combined. This is when NWA got swallowed up by Delta.
In the past couple of years, I've had four domestic flights on Delta and one to Europe. Overall, these flights have added up to about 22,000. I also earned a 35,000 bonus for signing up for Delta's credit card. Combined with a few miles from stays at Choice Hotels, where I opt for 250 miles per stay rather than points, and e-Rewards, which I joined in 2012, we had about 85,000 miles combined. The trip to Aruba cost 100,000 miles for two people, so I transferred in enough Marriott Rewards points to get to the required amount. The total cost of this flight (not counting a transfer fee from Delta to get miles from my wife's account to my account that was around $70) was just $125. This fee was a $62.50 tax that is not waived under any circumstances. Total cost of the flight was just under $200. Not too bad for $1,100 tickets.
For my hotel, I used Marriott Rewards points. I have been a member of the Marriott Rewards program for nearly 10 years. I have used the points for a night or two here or there and also for a week-long vacation in Hawaii back in 2005. My wife and I had enough to stay at one of the properties in Aruba. Here is my review of Marriott Rewards.
For the five nights that we were to spend in Aruba, we chose the Renaissance Aruba Resort and Casino. We chose this resort because it was a category 5 hotel and would cost only 100,000 points as opposed to the 140,000 points necessary for all of the other Marriott properties on the island. It was hoped that we would have a nice stash for later stays with this strategy. I've reviewed the Renaissance Aruba Resort and Casino here. I did have to pay a $20 per night upgrade fee that came out to $100 for the length of the stay. In all, the cost of the hotel and the airfare came to about $298, which I would consider a success.
Patience Is the Key
The key to getting great vacations at great prices is patience. It took over seven years to compile the stash of points and miles needed to make the trip work without churning a bunch of credit cards. Some people can do this more quickly with credit card bonuses. I had a total of 35,000 bonus miles from Delta. The rest came from doing things online, staying in hotels, actual flying, and using the Marriott Rewards card. I'm hoping my next major vacation takes less time to achieve, but if not, these tips are a great way to cut the cost.