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I’ve written a few posts about our recent surprise trip to San Juan Puerto Rico

While I have a few posts left to write, I thought it would be good time to give an idea of how much my “free” trip cost.  We often like to talk about how travel hacking can give you “free” vacations, but even if we discount the value / opportunity costs of getting those miles and counts (which you shouldn’t do), it’s generally very hard to take a trip and have NO expenses at all.

Even us, who are pretty frugal folks, had SOME expenses for our trip which lasted for about 4 days (Wednesday night to Sunday afternoon).  Here is the breakdown

1/21/2015Fairfield Inn Dayton North7,900 Chase Ultimate Rewards (paying cash would have been $98.75)Purchased through the Ultimate Rewards mall - Why it pays to check the Chase Ultimate Rewards mall before transferring points
1/22/2015Southwest29,120 Southwest Rapid Rewards miles (paying cash would have been $483 per ticket or $966 total)Carolyn's ticket paid for with Southwest Companion Pass
1/22/2015Southwest2,016 Barclay Arrival miles$22.40 for fees on 2 tickets (this was actually part of a $25 gift card then credited with Arrival miles (with 10% rebate) - Using Barclay Arrival miles on small transactions under $25
1/22/2015Hyatt House San Juan!24,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards - cash rate was $279 / night. For 3 nights plus taxes that would have been $1049.3 nights @ 8000 each - transferred to Hyatt
1/22/2015Don Jose Hacienda$18.00Thursday lunch/ dinner - $13.91 + tip
1/22/2015Pueblo Supermercado$7.94Food
1/23/2015National Park entrance fee$10.002 adults (kids under 15 are free) - good for both castles for 7 days
1/23/2015Casa Cortes Choco Bar$16.89
1/23/2015Taxi$17.00We walked to the Old Town (about 45 minutes) but decided to take a taxi back. Flat fare from the Old Town to Miramar was $15 + tip. We did find 37 cents in coins in the back seat of the cab but I'm not counting that 😀
1/24/2015Don Jose Hacienda$17.00Thursday lunch/ dinner - $14.54 + tip
1/25/2015Dayton Airport parking$24.00$6 / day
1/25/2015Gas from our house to Dayton airport and back$7.25127 miles @ 35 mpg * $2 / gal
TOTAL: $162.0863,036 miles (of various currrencies) which saved us approximately $2113.75

Categorizing the cash portion of our expenses, we have:

  • Food: $67.83 which covered all of our meals (for 2 people) for 3 days plus Sunday breakfast.  We took snacks from our plane trips as well as some of the breakfast snacks, and took advantage of our hotel having a kitchen to go to the grocery store to make meals cheaper than eating out.  We could have possibly cut some costs if we were staying at a hotel that offers free dinner (or lounge access) as well.
  • Transportation: $92.25 – this was the one downside of our hotel – far from the places we wanted to be.  Even though we walked more than I would say your average tourist would have, all the taxi rides added up.  We did consider taking the bus as well
  • Entertainment: $10 – though some of the taxi rides (or the trip to Casa Cortes Choco Bar) could also be considered part entertainment.

I hope that this breakdown is instructive for you – I think that it shows while a COMPLETELY free trip is likely not feasible in most cases, it is possible to use miles and points to travel for much cheaper than you might otherwise be able to do.  As you can see from the graph, the 63,036 miles saved us about $2113.75.  Now that two thousand dollars is kind of funny money since if we were actually taking a trip like this we might have done things differently (like pick a cheaper hotel), but still – this in a nutshell is the beauty of this travel hacking game that we play!

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