Frugal Traveling Part II

I posted last weekend about some of the issues we had when traveling down to Florida for a funeral but I wanted to summarize the whole trip now.  My grandfather passed away so my sister and I planned a trip down there for the funeral.  Being so frugal (you might even say cheap) I was not willing to pay the asking price for last minute plane tickets.  As a result, we had a ton of added stress to our travel plans.

To purchase regular tickets we would have paid about $800 per person as it was so close to our date of travel and it was also the start of school vacation week.  Instead we flew on buddy passes with JetBlue which means you only pay a small fee per ticket but you don’t get a seat assignment.  Basically, you sit at the gate and once all of the passengers are on they start to call the standby passengers.  All of the flights out of our local airport were 100% booked so we decided to take a bus down to Boston, take the commuter rail to a relative’s house for the night, and fly out of Logan Airport as those flights were not full and there was no one listed on standby either meaning a greater likelihood of actually making the flight.

When we booked the tickets on Wednesday there were 12 seats available for the 9 am flight but once we arrived Saturday morning we found out there was only 1 seat available and there were others also flying standby.  I later learned that there is a priority system for the standby passengers.  First are any flight crew or employees that might be traveling.  Then are family members of employees.  And then last, are friends of the employee which is the category we fell in.  So when we originally booked our flights I thought we would be first on the list out of Boston as no one else had made reservations yet.  Come to find out that we were actually numbers 6&7.  Eek.  Let the stressing commence.

While anxiously waiting in the terminal we decided that if only one if us could make it on this flight, that I would go as I could catch a ride with my dad as he was scheduled to arrive around the same time and then my sister could take the car rental when she arrived later in the day.  Everyone else ahead of us on standby was travelling with someone else and not willing to split up so we did end up getting one seat for the flight and I was the one to take it.  I felt so bad leaving her there at the airport and was nervous all day thinking that she might not make it at all.  The services didn’t start until Sunday but the thought of her not being able to make it was extremely stressful.

When I arrived in Florida I found out my dad’s flights got delayed and he wouldn’t arrive for another 7 hours.  Now this is where my frugal nature created more issues than if I were a “normal” person willing to spend a little money.  I could take a bus from the airport to my aunt’s house but it was $42.  I could rent a car in my own name but there was no way I could get the same great rate for the last minute rental so it could cost $46 just for the day.  When I think about these options now when I am not in the stress of the moment I should have just taken the bus as it really isn’t all that much money.  But after more than 2 hours hanging by the fountains at the airport I got ahold of my aunt (who I haven’t seen in years) to come and get me.  I hated asking her to make the drive but she was willing.

A couple of hours later I finally heard from my sister who was thankfully able to get the last seat on the afternoon flight so it did turn out to be the right call to send one of us on the 9 am flight instead of trying to stick together.  She spent 6 hours at the airport by herself which was not ideal but she was able to occupy herself with doing some yoga, listening to podcasts and some coloring.  In hindsight we should have sent my sister on the first flight but there was no way to know that my dad’s flight would be delayed.

For our lodging we also went the frugal route.  My dad, step-mother and brother as well as a couple of other family members were staying at hotel nearby.  I think they paid $99 per night so not terrible but being frugal I wanted to find a better/cheaper option.  Oddly, my mother’s cousins moved to the same town a couple of years ago and said that we were welcome to visit anytime.  So we each had our own room with a queen sized bed, fresh towels and a bathroom to share, free use of the kitchen as well as a swimming pool and hot tub.  I mean, can it get any better than that?  I think our lodging in many ways was better than the hotel as we have a quiet place to come back to and decompress and didn’t have to pay anything.

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What a great way to start my morning!

Both Sunday and Monday mornings I woke up and went for a run followed by a quick dunk in the pool before heading out to the services.  My sister was able to go to the YMCA one day to work out on a free day pass so she was psyched about that.  We spend the last evening with my mom’s cousin and had dinner which they cooked but we paid for as a thank you and then playing card games (a favorite family pastime).  By far, our lodging was the best deal of the trip.  I am going to send a small thank you gift to them as this was a huge burden off our shoulders.  My sister entered a raffle while at the YMCA and won a spa basket with lotions etc that she is giving to them as a thank you as well.

Food was also well thought out to help save some money.  Both my sister and I brought some food for the bus Friday afternoon, and plane Saturday as well as some to get us through the next few days as I am always snacking throughout the day.  I actually may have overdone it a little and had to cut back a little as I realized my bag wasn’t big enough.  Our food was planned fairly well except for when we got split up on our flights down and she had the cheese and I had the crackers.  Oops!  Other than this we went out to eat only once after the wake on Sunday and I bought a yummy breakfast sandwich when in the bus station on Tuesday morning.

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Um, I think I bought too much to fit in my suitcase…

The car rental we ended up putting in my sister’s name as I had paid for everything else so far and also as she gets free insurance when she puts it on her Amex.  But I found great rates by going through the rewards deals listed on my Discover card.  So interestingly we used deals from one credit card but booked on another.  If we had plenty of time we might have rented at one of the car rentals that are off site and only a short shuttle ride away but as we had a 6 am flight back I wanted something on site.  Overall though I think we got a great deal so no real complaints there.

The flight home was the last hurdle we had to cross.  Our plan was to fly out at 6 am back into our hometown airport which meant a layover at JFK airport.  The flights out of Tampa were not a problem but according to my friend at JetBlue it would be extremely difficult to get home from there and it was possible that we both could get stuck in the airport for 12 hour or more.  My friend messaged me at 11:30 pm on Monday night to say it might make sense to fly back through Boston and bus home from there.  It was not ideal getting woken up when I only had 5 or so hours of scheduled sleep anyways but I was glad he was at least looking out for us.

Once in the car heading to the airport bright and early in the morning I discussed the new plan with my sister.  We decided it did make sense to fly into Boston as there were still 14 seats available and only 8 people listed on standby.  Being that this was only 2 hours before the flight was scheduled to depart it was our best bet to get us home.  We made the flight changes, purchased bus tickets home and crossed our fingers that everything went well from there.

Thankfully we did both get on the flight and we were even able to sit next to each other so that was an added bonus.  We had plenty of time to get from the airport to South Station in Boston (taking the free shuttle) and then hung out there for 2 hours while we waited for our bus.  The terminal area where the commuter rails depart is actually pretty nice so it was fine hanging out there for a couple of hours before heading over to the bus terminal.  Thankfully this bus ride was a lot less full than the one down on Friday.  I actually paid an extra $1 per seat to reserve table seats together on the first floor.  So we not only got to sit together but we had a table so we could do stuff (I was able to work a little).  Also, being on the first floor meant I didn’t get the seasickness feeling like I had on Friday.  So all things said and done, the trip home was a little long but with a lot less stress than the trip down.

So the big question, what were our total costs?  With my dad and one of my aunts estimating they spent almost $3000 I was curious to see if our cost savings was worth the extra stress.

Joint Costs:

Bus tickets: $108.50
Flights: $210.40 + a ton of stress
Commuter Rail in Boston: $14
Car Rental: $118.81
Tolls: $10 (estimate as we don’t have the final amount yet)
Food: $76.03

Total: $537.72 or $268.87 each

Not bad!  Actually, this is pretty awesome!  We saved a ton of money by traveling frugally.  Now I know that not everyone can or would even want to fly standby on buddy passes but it turns out that if you are willing to take on a little (or a LOT) of stress, you can save a bunch of money this way.  Would I have flown down anyways if I had to pay full price?  Probably but I wouldn’t have been happy about it.  But it was the right call to travel down as I wanted to say my goodbyes, support my grandmother, and I haven’t seen this side of the family in 20-25 years.

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