Sometimes It Pays to Be a Tourist

We can debate forever about the differences between a traveler and a tourist, but sometimes it pays to step off the snob stool and just go for the best value possible, especially on a vacation. Unless you’re on a really tight shoestring budget, often you can get a stupendous deal by trolling where the tourists go to book their trips.

Case in point: my just-finished vacation in Puerto Vallarta with my family. I could have booked us into a crappy downtown hotel with barely functioning air conditioning and cramped quarters for around $75 a night for three, nothing included, with the nearby beach choices a few blocks away being lousy. Instead I went onto SkyAuction.com and scored four nights at an all-inclusive hotel on the Nuevo Vallarta beach for $82 a night all-in. For that amount we got all the booze we could drink, all the food we wanted to stuff ourselves with (three of us!), a nice room with a panoramic ocean view, Wi-Fi, and lots of activities. (The boogie boarding rocked.)

Yes it was cheesy and yes we felt like your average package tourists, but so what? My daughter had a blast, there was a never-ending Negra Modela tap going, and we ate pretty well without ever taking my wallet out of the room safe. I would definitely do it again.

I booked an all-day tour one day with Viator because I write for their blog sometimes and was working on a story for them. The snorkeling and party boat trip was a lot of fun for the money, farmed out to the best local company, but next comes the interesting part. As I got the screen with my confirmation number when booking, car rental prices popped up and one of them was $9 a day from E-Z Rent-a-car. I thought it was a typo but figured I’d give it a shot and I booked the car. I got an e-mail voucher a couple days later and after liability insurance and taxes I paid a shade over $100 for a five-day rental of an automatic with A/C. Sweet! Cheaper than a few taxi rides in that spread-out city.

I’m back in Guanajuato now, being a local instead of a traveler or a tourist, but I’ll keep going where the deals are, no matter what label is attached.

Comments
  1. Jack Norell

    That really is a bargain! Yeah, I’ve done the package thing to and found some outstanding values. Some colleagues tend to always to all-inclusive and shop around, they certainly seem quite relaxed once back.

  2. Rebekah

    Have you used skyauction.com with package deals for hotels and flights? Just wondering how good they were on flights? Didn’t want to get stuck on a flight that took 12 hours because of 2 layovers. Thanks.

    • tim

      Rebekah,

      I’ve never bought a package deal through Skyauction. I’ve been tempted, but it’s always been too close to departure and I’ve been worried about the lack of flexibility. I would do it if a) I were in a major market or that particular airline’s hub and b) I wanted to go there “sometime,” but it didn’t have to be at a specific time. Then it should be okay as there would be ample choices.

  3. James

    There are definitely great deals out there. Last chance I got to get away from my office life we ended up getting a 5 star hotel for only $125 a night when typically the same room went for $500. It was a real treat as well because they ended up filming a movie while we were at the hotel. Package deals are definitely the way to go.

  4. Andrew

    I’m curious whether the $82 per night included the various surcharges that get tacked on by sky auction? It seems you could win an auction for $50, but then have up to $600 or $700 in surcharges – which could still end up being a great deal, I’m just curious.

    • tim

      Andrew, that’s the all-in price, including the fees. The actual bid price was next to nothing, but I factored all the fees into the total (which is essential!)

  5. Weekend In Marbella

    I got to get away from my office life we ended up getting a 5 star hotel for only $125 a night when typically the same room went for $500. It was a real treat as well because they ended up filming a movie while we were at the hotel.

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