The Feinstein family of New Jersey hoped to take a vacation to Key West, Florida, this November.
But when they priced out the trip, the price seemed astronomically high: $5,780 for a four-night vacation. That price included round-trip flights for the family of five, four nights in a four-star hotel and a rental car for the duration of the trip.
The Feinsteins wanted to spend no more than $4,500 on the trip. Determined to get them under that budget and off to the Conch Republic, I got to work.
The first issue I needed to deal with was their flights: from Philadelphia, the closest airport, to Key West on the dates they were interested in come November, the cheapest round-trip flight was $480 each, with a layover in Charlotte. The flights alone were more than half their travel budget.
But what the Feinsteins didn't realize was that they could fly far more cheaply - and direct - to Miami, 160 miles from Key West. The cost of those flights: $140 round-trip. When trying to bring down the cost of flights, it's wise to check on prices to the nearest large airport; in this case, Miami.
Competition drives down prices, and there's far more competition into Miami airport than Key West.
In this particular case, there were added bonuses besides saving money for flying to Miami. The direct flight was a big one. But there's also the drive from Miami to Key West down US 1, regarded as one of the most scenic drives in the country through the Florida Keys.
In my opinion, it's something people should do once in their lives anyway. Finally, even with the added drive, the Feinsteins were adding in less than an hour to their total travel time when you factor in the layover they would have had on the initial flight to Key West.
The Feinsteins were well on their way to getting under budget, and we were just getting started. Next up: the rental car. When the Feinsteins were going to fly into Key West, they were going to rent from the Key West airport at the cost of $80 per day. Now that they were flying to Miami, where there's more competition among car companies (much the same as airlines), the price dropped to $40 per day.
Finally, it was time to tackle the Feinsteins’ hotel. The hotel they were looking at was a four-star hotel with great reviews, near the water and with a pool. The price? Nearly $500 per night.
Armed with that information, I took to Backbid, a site that takes your existing travel hotel plans and essentially shops them around to other hotels in the area to see if those hotels want to give the traveler a better offer. Not only did the Feinsteins get a better offer from the hotel they were initially interested in ($450 per night), they got eight other bids as well, all from four-star hotels.
The savings ranged from $199 to $1,140 for the four-night stay. They ultimately choose the Parrot Key Hotel & Resort for $215 per night, or a savings of $1,140 for four nights. The hotel, like their first choice, is four stars, is waterfront and has four pools.
In the end, with very simple adjustments, we took the cost of the Feinsteins’ trip from an initial $5,780 to $1,720, for a total savings of $4,060.
Flights: $700 Car: $160 Hotel: $860 Total: $1,720
Enjoy your trip, Feinsteins!