After just getting back from a vacation to Colorado, my girlfriend and I realized the difference between traveling smartly and cheaply. Of course, I landed on the answer to always travel smartly and not cheaply.
Traveling smartly (smart travel) means weighing the costs and benefits in total. Traveling cheaply involves just focusing on the dollar amount and nothing else. Smart travel might cost more but it usually offers more reliable services and better customer experiences. Traveling cheap sacrifices those reliable services and better customer experiences, which could end up not being worth the money saved.
Below, I explain how our initially cheap trip to Colorado cost us more money and time and how we could have traveled more smartly. I must admit this is also partly a venting post. Enjoy!
Travel Smartly and Not Cheaply – Plane
Main point: Fly a reliable airline even if it costs more
We decided to book our ticket with Spirit since they were the cheapest flight to get to Colorado. Our flight was supposed to take off at 6 am and have us there a few hours later since it was a non-stop flight. However, the Airline gods decided to spite us and thousands of other people flying Spirit.
Our flight like many other Spirit flights were canceled. So we spent the next two hours at the airport standing in line waiting for Spirit to put us on another flight. We were moved to a Southwest flight that was leaving at 8 AM. We would have a layover in Texas and then take another Southwest flight to Colorado.
When all was said and done, we landed in Colorado at 3 PM mountain time, so that was 5 PM EST. A flight that was supposed to take three hours ended up becoming a 14-hour trip.
Keep in mind we are still at the airport.
So where could we have flown smarter instead of cheaper?
For us, we should have remained loyal to Delta or flown Southwest. But because we initially wanted to save money, we took a chance with Spirit. However, trying to save that extra $100 cost us pretty much a whole day of vacation.
It also added stress and ended up costing us more money (which I will get into soon).
Overall, if we would have paid the extra $100 we would have not lost a day of vacation nor been as stressed.
Travel Smartly and Not Cheaply – Car
Main point: Never prepay
Once we arrived at the airport, we headed to pick up our Hertz Car Rental. We were supposed to pick our car up at 8 AM, but due to the Spirit fiasco, we ended up getting the car around 4 PM.
What we did not realize at the time of pick up was that Hertz still wanted us to return the car at our original return time. We asked if the car would need to be returned twenty-four hours after pickup and the attendant told us yes. But apparently, if a reservation is made where you pay ahead, the reserved return time supersedes everything. We were not made aware of this fact.
So, we ended up being charged another day for the car, since we picked it up at 4 PM and returned it the next day.
Where could we have traveled smarter?
We should have booked with Enterprise. Anytime we go on a trip that needs a car we use Enterprise. However, once again we decided to go the cheapest route and got burned for it.
With Enterprise we would not have had an issue with being charged extra, because Enterprise stays true to the return time of twenty-four hours after pickup and you don’t have to prepay.
Overall, never prepay for a car to lock in a cheaper price. You lose the flexibility to go to another car rental.
Travel Smartly and Not Cheaply – Hotel
Main point: Pay for what you know
As you can probably guess, our stay was not up to our expectations. We arrived at a very understaffed and underwhelming hotel. The level of service that we would usually see at a Marriott, even during the times of COVID, vastly surpassed the service we received here.
When we entered our rooms we had only one towel and one washcloth. We alerted the front desk and did not hear back from them. In fact, we were told that the hotel had no washcloths and they didn’t know when they would have some available for us.
Later, I found out that there was only one housekeeping person to service the hotel. Now, this might not have been an issue if this particular establishment wasn’t hosting two weddings and had other major events going on in the area.
Needless to say, that one housekeeping person was stretched too thin and it was honestly unfair to them. We ended up buying our own linens.
Additionally, the hotel was flooded with people, but there were few staff members around. The valet was there for four hours out of the day. Outside of those times, the front desk person doubled as the valet which was brutal in the mornings when check-outs were happening.
It was very surprising that management had not figured out a way to alleviate these pressures, especially with them knowingly hosting two weddings.
What’s the lesson here?
Overall, pay for what you know. In our case that’s Marriott. We get better service and usually have all the necessities provided in a timely manner.
Some other notes whenever booking a hotel are:
- To see if you can find out what events are happening at the hotel or in the local area. This can help you determine how busy the place will be especially housekeeping.
- Always ask for a room away from the ballroom or conference room.
Putting It All Together
When all is said and done be careful not to sacrifice peace for cheapness. We could have traveled a lot smarter on this vacation. Instead, we only focused on the dollar sign and ended up having less fun and paying more for it.
You use certain services and businesses frequently for a reason.
They are reliable and that reliability costs. In my experience, it is better, in the long run, to pay for the reliable service.
Hence the motivation for this post – Travel Smartly and Not Cheaply.
Thanks for reading! What are thoughts? Have you had a similar travel experience? Let us know in the comments below!
Best of luck adulting!
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About The Author
Donald Williams, Jr.
Donald is an avid believer in helping young people prepare for adulthood. He spends his time working on Adulting Starts Here and helping new adults plan for the future. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his family and going to the beach.