Figuring Out When “Deals” Are Really Worth It

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Two years ago I had the lofty goal of taking our family on a 2 ½ week European trip for $6,000. While I didn’t meet our goal, we were okay with that because the extra money we spent to see Paris was worth it to us, and still cost much less than planning to see Paris on a separate trip.

cruise with childrenThis weekend my husband and I found an amazing cruise deal for $229 per person for one-week in the Caribbean. The timing was perfect with all our obligations, we knew my parents would be up for going with us, the trip was six weeks away, Spirit Air was having an online $35 OFF sale (still going on through tonight) so we didn’t have to go to the airport to buy our tickets… until we started crunching the numbers to see what the total cost would be.

For four people, $229 per person comes to $916 total. Then we need to add tips for a cruise. $12 per person per day comes to $336. $1252 is still not bad. Then we looked at flights, the best we could do was on Spirit for $150 per person. Not the best deal I ever found, but still okay considering most other airlines would be twice that. With flights and including one bag each way with my $9 fare membership we’re at $1904. Then I looked at taxes and port charges for the trip. Another $500. Including incidentals and anything else that might come up we’re looking at a “deal” of at least $2500 for one week in the Caribbean. Eh.

IMG_1495.jpgWith that idea scrapped I asked my husband how much he wanted to spend on a trip. I could plan us a much cheaper trip to Florida and we could still go see things in Florida we haven’t been to before. He said the answer wasn’t a single number. He would be okay with $2500 for a week to a place we haven’t been before, South America, Australia, Japan, etc. But a $2500 price-tag for a trip that, for us, was been there, done that, he wasn’t willing to spend the money on. Fair enough.


First lesson, if you’re on a budget, make sure you include all costs of your vacation, not just the first number. It would have been too easy to reserve that trip without looking at what everything would have cost us resulting in a bad case of buyer’s remorse.

Second lesson, part of vacation planning is not only having a budget in mind, but having a goal in mind. For us, part of that goal is traveling the world, going to different places and giving our kids these different experiences. We may not find a better deal in the next few weeks and we may end up doing a cheaper family trip to Florida. Don’t get me wrong, that is nothing to complain about. But right now we still have the time and flexibility to see if something else comes up that’s a little more in-line with our long-term travel goals.


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Tiff's first big vacation was a Caribbean cruise when she was six. She first started getting interested in deals when her husband showed her the tricks to getting bought off your flights back in the late 90s. She started flying nonrev when they got married; the first unusual nonrev she did was in '05 when her family flew through San Juan to get to Dallas from Philly. They have two boys, ages 11 and 7, who she usually drags along on their travels and hopes they will grow up to love traveling as much as she does.


  1. Pingback: Figuring Out When “Deals” Are Really Worth It | Globe Trotting Winos Guide to Frugal Travel

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