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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Finding the Beach Getaway

Last month, in an effort to escape the winter, my boyfriend and I set out to find the perfect beach getaway. We knew that sandwiched between work travel was the only way to do it. In addition to having an idea of the week we could go, we knew we wanted this to be a relaxing, beach front vacation with nonstop airfare. And, I have champagne taste with slightly more than a beer budget. In this post, I'm going to share some of what I learned while booking our beach getaway and how we saved over $1000. In a follow on post, I'll share some experiences we had on our trip.

For a week, any minute that we weren't working, we were working on planning our trip. We were checking different week period's in March or April in either Mexico or Puerto Rico. We knew we could get non-stop airfare and would get to use some Spanish. If we were going to stay in the Cancun/Playa del Carmen area, we'd need to choose an all inclusive resort, and those were outside of our budget. Puerto Rico only has one all inclusive option, so we opted to look at different hotel and flight configurations versus focusing on booking all in one place. Finally, we decided on Puerto Rico in March.

My route to booking travel is usually to go through a credit card to see what deals are available. At this time of year American Express and other credit cards have great deals to save with nights free and resort credit. I also consulted with a travel agent from Liberty Travel and AAA's booking site. My boyfriend prefers to research it himself on TripAdvisor and find the best deal on a booking site. Needless to say, we had a lot of searches going on.

We had finally narrowed our search to either El Conquistador, about an hour from the airport for 6 nights, or the Condado Marriott for the same amount of time. We loved the idea of being remote at El Conquistador and having a private island, but we were concerned about the drive to and from the airport given that we didn't have a full week to be away. The Marriott seemed fun and came highly recommended and was close to the airport. While we tested different options, advertisements for the "number 1 hotel in Puerto Rico" kept coming up. I had eliminated the Condado Vanderbilt because of cost. It looked nice, luxurious, relaxing, beachfront, central, historic, but it was more expensive than the others. We realized the only airfare we would book from Boston was through JetBlue, so for fun, we searched their getaway deals.

At JetBlue Getaways we played with the flight time, and the dates and which hotel we wanted. As we continued testing different options, we found out that the Condado Vanderbilt for 5 nights, all fees included, was less expensive than a six night stay at the Marriott or El Conquistador, where the fees were variable. I had the same set of hotels open on the Amex site and he had the hotels up on Expedia and we were each toggling back to JetBlue. Condado Vanderbilt became a great option for us. We looked to arrive Sunday evening and leave Friday evening. The JetBlue getaway deal was over $1000 less than if we had booked flight and hotel separately. It seemed too good to be true. We called the hotel and then we called JetBlue. They confirmed that we indeed found the deal of a lifetime.

Finally after a week of hunting, we booked our JetBlue Getaway to San Juan, Puerto Rico for nonstop airfare, 5 nights in a 5 star hotel, taxes and fees, and a checked bag a piece included for under $2,500 total. Once we finally booked it, we felt elated and proud. We had figured out how to create a great vacation, on a budget where we could celebrate warmth, a beach and relaxation. The research was worth it and I would highly recommend doing all of the research and prioritizing needs and booking it. Stay tuned for more about our fun in San Juan, Puerto Rico.