Friday, November 4, 2016

Happy Friday! - Planning Wallet-Friendly Weekend Getaways

You can say that again! I'm super infatuated with Friday's in November since half of them are holidays! This coming Friday, we observe Veteran's Day, which is a great opportunity to take a long weekend and explore America. At the end of the month, we celebrate Thanksgiving - another long weekend full of family, friends, and food.

Next weekend, Ross and I are taking advantage of the long weekend, plus a few days, and some awesome travel rates to head out to San Francisco for a few days. I can't wait! Neither one of us has been and we would love to explore a new city with the few days off from work. This is a much better way to spend a long weekend than sitting home doing laundry!
Seriously...which would you choose?!
In general, when the schools are closed, travel rates go up. We did our homework and found some great airfare rates out west ($200 roundtrip). Once we secured our transit, the search for hotels began. San Francisco has a lot of great, accessible neighborhoods, but being a major city, hotels tend to cost $200+ per night in the more convenient parts of town. I knew we had to be able to find a better deal than this. My go-to travel deal resources are TravelZoo, Jetsetter, and Priceline. I successfully bid on our trip to Orlando using the Priceline Name Your Price Tool and snagged us a room at the Sheraton for 50% off, so my search started there.

Priceline's Name Your Price Tool Map & Star Rating
For those that are unfamiliar with Priceline's Name Your Price Tool, it is quite the adrenaline rush. It allows you to select any or all neighborhoods in a city that you are interested in, as well as star rating of the property. You then plug in your reservation dates and name the price you would be willing to pay. You enter payment information and submit your bid. If your bid is accepted, you will immediately be confirmed with a hotel. For our trip to Orlando, I bid on the Disney Springs Area. I started with the highest star rating and as bids were rejected, worked my way down. Conversely, when I offered my bid price, I started low and worked up in $5 increments. My first bid was $70/night for a 5 star property. I worked my way down to 4 star and up to $80/night until my final bid was accepted and we were confirmed at the Sheraton Lake Buena Vista, which was an awesome property with free transportation to the parks. I have since used this tool successfully for booking a rental car in Orlando and when booking Ross a surprise anniversary trip to Chicago this December.

Check out some of TravelZoo's weekend getaways
and take a break yourself.
I followed the same tactic with San Francisco. We were interested in the Union Square area or Fisherman's Wharf. All of my initial low bids in these neighborhoods were rejected, including bids up to $120 for 4-star and 3.5 star properties. At that point, we began to explore other options. I had signed up for emails from TravelZoo and Jetsetter several months ago. Both are independent travel deal websites. TravelZoo is a great resource for spontaneous travelers or those looking for a bargain. They send out a weekly "Top 20" email, featuring great hotel rates, getaways (including airfare and hotel), and local hot tickets. Check out this week's Top 20 here. They feature a search tool just for last minute getaways, with deals for this weekend. It just so happened that both were featuring properties in San Francisco. Jetsetter features global hotel deals at highly rated properties. Jetsetter featured a great boutique property in Union Square for $129 per night (plus taxes and fees). This was for a queen size room and came out to $90 per night less than the rate offered by our travel agent at the same hotel. TravelZoo featured a few properties in Union Square and Fisherman's Wharf, but we were interested in one specific property in Fisherman's Wharf. This property came out to $155 per night, but offered a $25 food and drink credit, daily (which takes the cost of breakfast out of our expenses). The same property through our travel agent was another $90 per night. This property also offers a daily happy hour to guests - now you're really speaking my language!

Did someone say cocktails?
TravelZoo has since earned themselves a spot in one of my top go-to travel websites. They now rank above our travel agent. Despite the higher upfront cost, their rates for this trip were unbeatable, given the benefits of booking through TravelZoo (food and drink credits). Membership to TravelZoo is free, you just need to create a log-in. I highly recommend signing up for their Top 20 email. Even if travel is not on the mind, it keeps you affront to great deals, what running rates are and what locations are on their slow season (aka have great deals). Create a new account here, and sign up for emails.

The only downside to the great deals from TravelZoo and Jetsetter in my inbox? I suffer from constant FOMO (fear of missing out) and wanderlust! But, it could definitely be worse! I love the inspiration to get out and see new places, rather than hit the same, safe, familiar cities. These email blasts keep me conscious of my spending vs. saving and budgeting for more travel. Do you have any travel booking tips and tricks? Any great travel websites? Share them in the comments! Happy travels!