One of the most stress relieving activities that people of all ages can indulge in is travelling. Let’s be honest, vacation time is one of the most anticipated events of every working person’s year. Unfortunately for many of us the economy has made almost impossible for many of us to take a much needed relaxing getaway. I’m no different. I’ve dealt with layoffs and cutbacks and have found myself increasingly watching my bottom line which made taking a break from the stresses of “real life” just that much more important. Being from the Gulf Coast, I grew up going to Mardi Gras every year and when I moved away I continued the tradition of showing up each year for the festivities. Once recession kicked in, it made my annual pilgrimage stop and consequently I hadn’t been in several years. After being very ill for a good portion of last year on top of having financial worries, I decided that a trip to Mardi Gras was not only a luxury, but a medical necessity so here’s how I did it…
Getting there for cheap
Flights to the Gulf Coast from Atlanta during the Mardi Gras season were running as high as $700 per person round trip. The cheapest that I could find them was for $400 per person round trip. During better times there is no way that I would even consider this, but I wasn’t about to spend $1,000 for two tickets. Well we packed up the car and made the drive down. The round trip gas cost was only around $250. This saved us the $40 per day we going to spend on a rental car which for our 4 day trip would have come to approximately $150 (due to taxes and fees).
Total Savings: $900
Save on places to stay
This part took a little bit of pre-planning and a little bit of prior travel experience. As I stated earlier, I used to be a frequent visitor of the Gulf Coast and on my frequent visits I liked to gamble. The first rule of gambling in a casino is that you don’t put a penny in a slot machine until you get a player’s card. Every casino offers player’s cards for free and you get rewards (known in the casino as comps) for your play. The more you play, the better your comps. Rooms on the coast during this time of year average around $150 per night which would have been $600 for our stay. Rooms on the weekends are most expensive and I had a 2 night free comp from the Imperial Palace in Biloxi. I used my comps for Saturday and Sunday night. I moved to the Palace casino after the first 2 nights. The Palace’s rate dropped dramatically on Monday night, so I booked a room at casino rate for the next 2 nights at $65 per night. Once taxes and fees were calculated in my total cost was about $150.
Total Savings: $450
Eating for little or nothing
When you get that player’s card from the casino, you not only get free or discounted rooms, but you can also get casino meals at dramatically discounted rates or free. If you’ve never eaten at a high end casino restaurant then you’re missing out on a real dining experience. I figured that for the both us we were going to spend about $75 per day on dining on a five day total that comes to about $375. Using my existing casino comps, I was able to get us both 3 buffet meals for absolutely free at various casinos. Then we enrolled in the player’s club at a casino we never play at and got a free buffet just for joining. Each of these meals carries a cash value of approximately $25 each, so for two of us that’s $200 in free meals. Because we had so many great casino buffet meals, we were able to do lighter fast food type options with a couple of other smaller local restaurants as well which cost us a total of about $75 over the course of our stay.
Approximate Savings: $200
You may not be able to drive to my destination, but if you’re in the northeast you can go to Atlantic City or out west go to Las Vegas and do the same things. You do have options. After getting to my beloved Mardi Gras and taking part in the festivities, I felt refreshed and was mentally prepared to go back to “real life” and the day to day monotony that was my life. The reward of taking that vacation still echoes as I write this nearly 3 months later as I am now completely illness free and getting good marks from my doctor’s visits. Some would say that I have beaten my nemesis. I would say that my favorite and most cherished reward from that vacation won’t come for a year later and I wait with anticipation. You see since I took that vacation and wrote about, that entire trip becomes tax deductible and will bring a huge smile on my face when filing next year!
Approximate Savings: Immeasurable
More from this contributor:
How to Survive Tough Financial Times
Living a Six Figure Lifestyle on $30,000 per Year
Purchasing a Home with Bad Credit