Last year around this time I started looking for trips a couple or family could take that were reasonably priced and would be a fun weekend trip.
I thought I would start earlier this year as people like to plan more than 1 month in advance!
A couple of things about these posts.
1. Why $600? It’s the amount of free travel you get when you get the Amex Gold Rewards Card and refer your partner to it. (you $350/partner $250) I have done many posts on this. It works.
2. Most of the flights will be out of Detroit and most with Spirit who charge extra for checked bags, boarding passes, etc.
Part 1 – Myrtle Beach
Well, Spirit once again has great prices to Myrtle Beach out of Detroit this summer if you book them early enough.
I am part of their $9 club so I saved $40 per round trip flight.
Here is a screenshot of what you can get late summer.
So, about $150 CDN.
Well…2 options here.
1. You could use your Amex points to pay for most of those flights for 4 people and just pay for your hotel.
2. If it is just you and a partner, you still have $300 in travel to use up for 3 nights!
I would use one of my Starwood/Marriott/Best Western/IHG accounts and have free nights, but let’s say you are paying for the hotels.
Expedia can show you the way here.
You could easily stay in some places for $100/night that have a pool and are close, if not on the beach.
Here is a shot of some of those.
Of course you could spend a little extra money and get a nicer hotel with more…
So, depending on the hotel you stay in, this trip can cost you next to nothing or a few hundred dollars.
Still, a great little getaway late summer just using points that you can get for free!
I hate picking up a rental car when we fly in to an airport.
It’s usually later at night, everyone is cranky, and we just want to get to our destination.
To top it off, this time we had a 2 hour drive after getting the car AND there was an hour and 15 minute wait just to get to the desk.
I could put up with all of that if I didn’t have to talk with an agent though.
This time, since I had over an hour wait I thought I would watch people’s reactions to the agent’s “suggestive selling”
Let me start at the beginning.
Car was booked in January (I looked for months, that was best price) for March break.
Car total came to $328.00 US for the time we needed it.
Let’s go through this process.
I did it online through their website.
1. Pay now or pay later – I saved about $30 to pay now – no big deal there – I knew my dates and everything else and knew that price was as good as it gets.
2. Price posted at first isn’t final price – next page you get final price after taxes – fine – no big deal there either as I expected that.
3. Many, many options like GPS, safety seats, roadside assistance, liability insurance, emergency sickness insurance, etc.
My Amex Gold Card has me covered there for insurance. We brought our child seats along and our GPS.
No additional charges – booked it on my credit card. Done. $328.00 US.
Fast forward to airport check-in.
1. People’s reactions to the agent’s “upselling” not good. Some waving their hands around, some taking over 20 minutes to get their car. This should be interesting.
2. You think you can just pick up your car after signing? WRONG!
A) Gas options – fill up your tank yourself for the “expensive way” or pay that extra fee and don’t worry about it! I did that once and had to pay way too much for that option. It is way easier to fill up the tank within a 20 minute drive of the airport yourself when you return the car – I have never had an extra charge for that.
They used to have high pressure sales on that, but they focus the high pressure on 1 thing now.
B) LIABILITY INSURANCE.
I have NEVER seen a salesperson be as misleading as what I am about to tell you.
It is very obvious they work on commission and the only way they make good money is selling you the LIABILITY INSURANCE.
Here is the exact quote from the agent.
“BASIC COVERAGE OR THE EXTENDED COVERAGE FOR THIS CAR?”
I was very tired, as I am sure most people are after getting off a plane and waiting over an hour and I said “Just basic, I don’t need that stuff”
Boom. He just made a sale. Without me knowing it.
His demeanor changed immediately and was very upbeat and seemed to be moving quicker.
The whole process seemed to speed up and about a minute later he showed me the screen where I had to sign.
Except there was one huge problem. Total – $632.00.
I was mad. I had my phone right there and showed him my total from my email. $328.00
“But sir, you wanted the basic coverage so I added it for you”
Two things about that sentence.
1. I would have chosen that when I filled out the options online the first time.
2. I never wanted any coverage, he slyly added it to my bill with obvious misrepresentation.
“I have that coverage with my Amex card and my personal insurance – don’t need anything, bring that bill back to $328.00”
Wow, his demeanor changed again. Surprise.
He spent 5 minutes trying to convince me otherwise, even though I researched this option plenty before my trip.
In the end, I got my original price.
Is this a scam? Well you may say it’s just high pressure sales, the agents just doing what the company wants, or maybe it is just normal behaviour.
Or maybe it’s part of doing business with these companies.
I got a good price on my car and paid nothing extra.
Other people got a good price and paid extra.
Free market? Capitalism? Let the buyer beware? Plenty of Competition?
Note – this information is also good for spends less than $10,000 -it’s more about getting near 10% back on credit card purchases.
Now, he used the Amex Gold Rewards Card which got him 10,000 MR points.
Let’s call this option 1.
Option 1 gets him either $100 in travel credits through Amex (1% return) or if converted to Avios points he could actually get one ROUND TRIP flight from our area, Detroit to NYC/Philadelphia/Washington,DC or Charlotte (Avios short haul flights)
That’s a better option and I’d say worth at least $200 or a 2% return on money spent MINIMUM.
Option 2 is pretty nice as well – he just recently got the Amex Starwood Card and that would get him 10,000 Starpoints.
That is enough for a FRI/SAT/SUN weekend in a Starwood Cat. 2 hotel such as these ones. http://www.starwoodhotels.com/preferredguest/account/starpoints/categories/popup.html?spgCategoryCode=2
I have done numerous posts on Starpoints and would conservatively put that as a $350 weekend or better, so lets call that 3.5% return on money spent (or better)
Here is an article from last year – that gets you a 5% return easy.
In general, I would say put all purchases on the Starwood card – they are the most valuable points in the industry according to numerous bloggers.
The thing is…you need to be aware of credit card bonuses out there for Canadians and know when to get what card.
This is one of those situations. This article explains what I mean.
What he could have done is this:(knowing he was about to spend $10,000)
Option 3 Got the Amex Business Gold Rewards Card for himself.
(After spending $5000 first three months you are awarded 40,000 MR points plus the 5000 you get for spending)
It is the third one down when you click the link.
Referred his wife (spouse/partner/friend all work) and received another 10,000 points.
She also gets the same 45,000 points for the $5000 spend.
Knowing the vendor takes Amex and knowing they could put the purchase on 2 cards – BINGO! In 1 transaction (he uses card for $5000, she uses card for other $5000) they pick up 100,000 MR points between them (can’t be split – 45,000 + 10,000 for him/45,000 for her)
At the VERY WORST they are getting $1000 in travel for that, or a 10% return on money spent. Many bloggers put the value of MR points at $.02 each when converted to airline miles so that is actually more like a 20% return on money spent.
Do you know what 100,000 MR points converted to Avios or Aeroplan can get you?
Avios – 5 round trip flights Detroit – Miami (as 1 example)
Aeroplan – 4 round trip flights Detroit – wherever in Canada/continental US
In this game, knowing the bonuses out there and timing can go a long way.
Option 1 gets him 10,000 MR points.
Option 3 gets them 100,000 MR points – on the exact same purchase!!!
Know what is out there!
Obviously there are other cards out there – but many give you a 2% return at best – because Amex gives bonuses you win with them!
Update – As of April 2, you can still get the SPG bonus, but we are not sure for how much longer.
I did a post a couple weeks back on Disney on a Budget.
After that post I kept looking into Disney pricing, hotels, food plans etc.
If you break down your trip, it seems to come down to 4 main expenses.
Yes, obviously there are other expenses but those are the big ones and the ones I will address.
So, to start I looked at 5 days at the end of August because I was told by a few people that was a good time to go – crowds less, prices down etc.
I mentioned in my first post don’t use Disney to find your flight – if you just let them pick any carrier they seem to pick Delta which won’t always get you the best air price.
1. I also mentioned use points to find free flights, but if you can’t do that, here is what I found for well priced flights.
That is CDN too, so about $211 each plus maybe 2 checked bags for a family of 4 gets you to about $1000 CDN for 4 round trip flights.
Seems good, in my previous example I said $300 per flight so there is some money saved.
2. Hotel – Dolphin – Disney Resort.
Again, in my previous example I showed you how to use Starpoints to get your hotel for free for those 5 days.
Yes, you can. I’ll leave it at that for the hotel. Hotel valued at $2000 CDN. FREE.
3. Tickets. A 5 day trip. How many days worth of tickets is enough? 2?3? all 5?
Well, I think 3 days out of 5 works. You don’t get there till about noon, why waste a days ticket that day? Hang around the pool, explore the area, etc.
Here is what I found.
1131 US = about $1410.00 CDN today March 26/15
4. Food – in my previous post I also went over the food packages.
Basically, the middle food package which seemed like enough food for an average family was about $40 per person per day US.
So, $50 CDN times 4 people times 5 days = $1000 CDN in food.
I think that seems reasonable. But then I found if you don’t get one of their packages, you can’t get in on one of their dining packages. You know what? That’s fine. I think I could probably spend about that amount in meals per day. It comes out to $160 US per family per day.
So…how do you get that HALF PRICE?
Like I said before, you have to be willing to get a couple credit cards to make this work, and refer your travel partner.
1. Airfare. If you had the Amex Gold Rewards Card, referred your partner, that is $600 CDN in free travel money – the card has no annual fee the first year.
So far: Trip Cost of $1000 – $600 paid by Amex/$400 paid by you.
2. Hotel. If you had the Amex SPG Card (bonus good till March 31), referred your partner, that is 50,000 “family” Starpoints – the card always has a $120 fee x 2, but the points pay for the hotel with 10,000 points leftover. (Note – after March 31 you would have 25,000 Stapoints and would have to do some spending on card to get up to 40,000 points – $1 spent is 1 point)
So far: Trip Cost of $3240 – $2600 paid by Amex/$400 paid by you + $240 in annual fees paid by you.
3. Tickets $1410 CDN
So far: Trip Cost of $4650 – $2600 paid by Amex/$1810 paid by you + $240 fees.
4. Food $1000 CDN
End Result: Trip Cost of $5650
$2600 paid by Amex
$2810 paid by you + $240 in fees
Of course there are different ways to save money – economy hotels, bring snacks, bagels, go to theme park less etc, but from my conversations lately with people that have been to Disney or are about to go this seems like a pretty normal scenario.
For time reasons if you are contemplating this, you should get the second card mentioned, the Amex SPG first, or before March 31 to fully take advantage of the 20,000 sign up bonus they will end in April.