In Fall 2014, I attended FinCon in New Orleans. Since New Orleans has a reputation as a great city, my husband, his sister, and her husband came along with me. We had a blast, and we knew that the rest of his family would enjoy a trip there as well. When we got back, we all talked about some day attending Mardi Gras together, if all ten of us could get away from our jobs and their kids all at the same time.
Fast forward 14 months later and we made it happen! Last week my husband and I packed our bags, dropped the dog off with my sister and flew to New Orleans for Mardi Gras for seven days. All ten of us were able to get away together and it was a blast. The trip wasn’t cheap, because Mardi Gras is the most expensive time of year to visit New Orleans, and because we wanted to add a little extra luxury to this vacation.
That said, we did have a strict budget and managed to save a lot of money with a little sleuthing. Here are our tips for a luxury trip to New Orleans on a budget:
My husband’s family collectively decided to attend Mardi Gras 2016 in February 2015. That means we had a whole year to plan and book our hotels and flights. My husband and I booked our flight in March of last year; we’re so glad we did! The two of us were about to get return flights from the Halifax airport for less than $1,200 total. That’s not as cheap as last time, but we didn’t have unlimited time to travel to other airports, so it was the best we could do out of Halifax, which brings me to my next point:
Consider Travelling for Cheaper Flights
As a Canadian, flying into the United States from a Canadian airport is stupidly expensive. In contrast, driving a few hours across the border to Bangor or Portland has often saved us hundreds of dollars. I went to New Orleans in 2014 and during that trip, my husband and my other travelling companions drove to Boston from New Brunswick and saved $600 per couple. Totally worth it!
For this most recent trip, several of our travelling companions drove to other airports to save money on flights. Consider it next time!
Use Rewards Points
If you’re using a rewards credit card for your daily spending, redeeming your points for a cheaper flight is an excellent way to save money on a luxury vacation. Depending on your credit card, you may also be able to use your points to pay for your hotel room, or you may qualify for free upgrades to luxury suites. Make sure to check with your credit card provider to see what luxury perks are available.
Travel With Friends
Travelling with friends is the easiest way to save money while travelling. When you go with another couple or a group of friends, you can split the cost of gas and hotels for big savings.
As I mentioned, my husband and I were travelling with a group of ten, which meant we saved a lot of money on our accommodations. We ended up renting a whole house through Airbnb, and the costs worked out to around $150/night. For Mardi Gras, this was an excellent price. The house was awesome too because it allowed us to purchase groceries and cook at home, which is cheaper than eating out, and it was in the Marigny neighbourhood, not the expensive french quarter.
Allocate Your Money According to Your Interests
What makes a vacation feel luxurious to you? Is it lavish meals? A massage? A grand hotel room? If you’re planning a luxury vacation on a budget, you can probably afford to splurge on a few things, but not everything. So figure out what is important to you, and prioritise that.
For me, a comfortable sleep is my definition of luxury, so I like spending a little extra for an excellent hotel room that has a comfortable bed and a fluffy comforter. My husband, on the other hand, likes to gamble. We rarely splurge on gambling, so when we’re on vacation, we make sure to allocate some cash for him to play blackjack at a casino while I spend an hour or two playing the penny slot machines (The Harrod’s in New Orleans is one of his favourites).
A luxury vacation doesn’t have to be first-class all of the way to feel luxurious. You can save money on certain things like flights and hotels by booking early and using rewards points, and then splurge on whatever is important to you.
Next week I’ll post the full cost breakdown of a trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. As of right now I’m still waiting for a few transactions to come through on the credit card.
Do you have tips for making a vacation feel luxurious wihtout breaking the bank? Let me know in the comments!