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Welcome to the final post covering our week-long trip to Boston. Here, I will break down the details. What we spent, how we saved, splurges we made….and one too-cheap lesson we learned the hard way. Hopefully, you’ve already read about the delicious food we ate in Part 1 and the fun stuff we did in Part 2.
Because we’re travel hackers, we work to earn points and miles to use for our travels. These perks are not free, though. We invest lots of time and energy and (sometimes) a little cash into earning the points. Tim finds the best opportunities to earn those points and I use/spend them very carefully.
For this trip we traded in 300,000 Marriott points and received a 7-night stay voucher and 120,000 Southwest points. The nicer and more convenient the Marriott, the more points we needed to exchange. Typically, when we stay in a hotel, we are there for 3 to 5 nights and then we’re off to another city. This option required us to stay in one place for a full week. We considered a resort vacation but sitting on a beach for 7 days wasn’t what we wanted from this trip. Boston had been on our radar for years but the high cost of accommodations (when paying cash or using points) always sent us elsewhere. We knew there would be plenty to do in Boston for a week and booked it.
We stayed at the Boston Marriott Quincy. It’s near the end of the T line which meant we could use our weekly unlimited T passes at no additional charge. The hotel is a mile from the train station (uphill, of course!). They offer a free shuttle but it stops at 9:30PM. Since it could take an hour to get to (and from) the city, that meant we needed to leave our evening activity by 8:30PM to catch the last shuttle. Twice, we stayed out later and walked back one night. A mile doesn’t seem like much for people who love to walk. However, after a long and hot day of touring, it was too much. We used LYFT one night but it took so long for the driver to reach us, we didn’t do it again.
We appreciate that the full-service property offers free daily breakfast to Platinum members in their Executive Lounge. Happy to have this status!
Lesson learned – If we aren’t driving, choose lodging that is very close to a subway station. It’s worth the points (or money!).
Here are some of the ways we saved:
- We have the Southwest Companion Pass for 2017 and 2018. This pass allows me to fly free with Tim any time he buys a Southwest ticket with money or points. Southwest has a sweet policy. If you book a flight and see that it gets cheaper, they will give you a Southwest credit (if you paid with cash) or redeposit your points (if you paid with points). Fares go on sale frequently. However, the credit is not automatic. I get Southwest’s emails which alert me to their sales and then run a quick fare check for all itineraries we have booked. We often renegotiate the price…sometimes many times on a single trip. You can do this online or with a quick call. They also allow free checked and carry-on bags.
- We use Top Airport Parking to get the best rate when parking at Denver International Airport and the rate is $3.99 per day (uncovered only). Think Priceline Express Deals for airport parking. Top Airport Parking works with many off-site companies, all within 10 minutes of the airport. Their partners all have free shuttles that pick you up and drop you off at your car 24/7. In order to get their rate, you need to book via their website. Once that’s done, they immediately send you a confirmation that tells you where you’ll be parking. They operate at many U.S. airports and the rate is different for each one. They offer free cancellations, which makes this a no-brainer!
- Boston is a great city to get around by foot or using public transportation. We each purchased a 7-day unlimited CharlieCard. This gave us unlimited access to the subway (T) and bus. We each used it 15 times. A single T ride is $2.25 so this was a good deal. It saved us $25 total, plus is was more convenient to skip the lines.
- Two of the activities we booked provided discounts for add-on options. We enjoyed the first part of the Freedom Trail tour so much, we wanted to take part 2. We showed our original tickets for a $12 discount off part two. The Boston CityPASS provided entrance into the Museum of Science. Their planetarium has lots of optional shows. We bought tickets for a laser light show featuring Prince’s music. Instead of the normal $10 charge per person, we paid $6 since we added it on to our museum entrance.
- If you have a AAA membership, ask about discounts. The one time I asked, we received $2 off per ticket at the JFK Library. Note to self…ask more often.
- If you know a Boston resident with a Boston library card, you can reserve free or heavily discounted tickets to museums and attractions – click here for more info.
- Look out for free stuff. Here are some of the places we enjoyed free activities, entry or tours – Christian Science Center, Boston Public Library, Institute of Contemporary Art, JFK’s birth place and childhood home, Harvard University, and the Tall Ships Grand Parade of Sail. Many cities offer free music and other events throughout the year. Walking around interesting neighborhoods is one of our favorite things to do when we travel and it costs nothing. Some of the best things we experience during our travels are free!
- Check out the websites for the National Park Service (U.S., Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and American Samoa only) and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It’s not just well-known national parks. I was surprised to find the JFK home on the list with free entrance.
- We bring our meals on flights as well as an empty water bottle. We fill up after we go through security. We like the filtered water station trend we see in many airports.
- If you’re staying in a hotel, pick one with free breakfast.
- In some cities, you may not need (or want) a car. This might seem obvious to some, but I know people who always rent a car when they travel. Cars can be a hassle and parking may be expensive. If you need to leave the city, rent for a day or seek out alternative options…bus, train, Uber, etc.
- The Boston CityPASS provided us with entry to 4 attractions – the Skywalk Observatory (incredible views from the 50th floor of the Prudential Tower), a Boston Harbor Cruise (which can be used at the Harvard Museum of Natural History instead), the New England Aquarium and the Museum of Science. This pass is priced at $56 for adults and $44 for kids. While the Museum of Science was not our cup of tea (since we weren’t traveling with kids), the other 3 stops were excellent and highly recommended. Since those alone would cost $76 for an adult, it’s a sweet deal. If you are traveling with kids, an even sweeter deal! (Side note – CityPASS offers discounted passes in 11 U.S. cities and Toronto. They are all priced and packaged uniquely.)
There was so much frugal fun to be had, our splurges were small potatoes. That is, unless you count caloric splurges…that’s another story altogether.
- I want lobster when I’m in Boston – two lobster rolls at a casual place (with free water) set us back $40 for lunch. Not the biggest splurge but twenty bucks for a hotdog-sized sandwich might seem expensive to some. Worth every penny! (Worth-it splurge!)
- We had the best ice cream of my life twice, fresh whoopie pies three times, 2 cannoli and lots of biscotti, pignoli cookies and other amazing Italian deights. If I can get that stuff as good in Denver, I haven’t found it yet. We said “yes” to dessert a lot and I enjoyed every bite.
- We tried two new cuisines – Shabu-Shabu and Ramen. Dinner was a little pricier ($62) but we enjoyed trying something new.
- We opted for 2 guided tours along the Freedom Trail ($57) instead of following a free app. It made a huge difference in our experience. (Worth-it splurge!)
|Airfare||$22.40||25,728 Southwest Miles used – Amy’s ticket was free – this is just the taxes|
|Boston Marriott Quincy||$0||Used our 7-night voucher|
|7-Day Metro Card||$0||Two cards – Tim “erased” $42.50 of the fees with our Capital One Venture card|
|All food and drinks||$490.12||Includes tips on free breakfasts|
|Tours, entertainment||$93.40||Two Freedom Trail tours, JFK Museum, Prince laser light show – all for 2 people – includes all tips|
|CityPASS tickets||$0||Two free passes ($112 value)|
|Non-food tips||$23.00||Housekeeping, hotel shuttle|
|Parking at DIA||$35.11||Seven days plus shuttle driver tips|
Not bad for a week in one of the most expensive cities in the U.S.! If you remove food and drinks, it was $180.42!!
What’s your travel style? Blow it all on one big trip every year or two or spread out the money across lots of trips?
* We noticed an answer pop up several times when we talked travel with friends or family about vacations. In unrelated conversations, we were told the person’s/couple’s/family’s last vacation cost them $12,000. That’s correct…one person or a family, it didn’t matter. We offer an antidote to the $12,000 vacation.