After a brief hiatus from blogging, I am happy to say I am back with another trip report! I post my trip reports because I enjoy showing people that it’s possible to go on great trips for very cheap. Sometimes I hear people say they don’t have time or money to go on trips. Fortunately, I am here to debunk the myth and show you that you can travel for cheap – even if you are in debt.
Check out some of my previous trip reports from the last year of travels:
This year we went on a trip to Colorado for the second time. We decided to go back to Colorado because we loved it so much in 2016. This year we discovered new areas in Colorado. With some help from Travel Hacking, we were able to score a great 4-day weekend trip for under $300 for all expenses.
Let’s review how I did on this trip and if I was able to compete with last year’s results.
This year we found another great deal on flights. After reviewing all the options, we determined it was the best deal to book two one-way flights rather than just booking round trip with one airline.
We booked the flight from Austin to Denver on United through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Since I have the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, I was able to get 50% more value on my flight when booking through the Ultimate Rewards portal. After traveling to Washington and Europe with points, we decided to save some points and do partial points & cash purchase.
United Airlines – for two tickets from Austin to Denver it cost 9k points plus $50. We split the cost, so it was $25 per person
On the way back we used the Chase Ultimate rewards portal to transfer 9k points for two tickets to Southwest Rapid Rewards. All we had to pay is the $11.20 taxes for two tickets.
The thing I love about Chase is the flexibility. I was able to find the best deal by booking through their portal and transferring my points to a travel partner (Southwest).
Total Airfare cost for two: – 18k points plus $61.20 ($30.60 per person). It’s not the cheapest deal I’ve had but not bad for Labor Day weekend pricing.
After arriving in Denver, we drove down to Colorado Springs where we stayed two nights at the Hyatt House.
As you may have guessed, I used my Chase Ultimate rewards to transfer 10k points to Hyatt to book the room. I am a big fan of booking category 1 or 2 Hyatt properties with points. Hyatt properties are pretty nice and have free breakfast (Hyatt House and Hyatt Place). For 5k points a night, it’s a steal as the retail cost of the room is anywhere from $120-$200 a night.
Total Hotel Cost: – 10k Hyatt points + $0 out of pocket
After two nights in Colorado Springs, we drove up to Lyons, Colorado and stayed in a Tiny House.
I have been teasing my girlfriend for a while that I am going to sell all my stuff and move into a Tiny Home full time. After I kept bringing it up, she discovered a Tiny House Resort and suggested we stay there. I was thrilled to try it out for our trip.
We stayed at Tiny House Resort called WeeCasa in “The Modern Tiny Home #15”. The tiny home was 190sq ft and apparently was shown on season 1 of HGTVs “Tiny Luxury.”
Although, I’m not sure if I could permanently live in a 190sq ft tiny home with another person. It was still a pretty cool experience and would recommend it to individuals who are interested. WeeCasa had a river in the back of the property where people were swimming, and there was a local park that was perfect people with kids. Location was about 30 mins away from Estes Park (north) and about 30mins to Boulder (south).
Total Cost for one night – $172.49 – A bit pricey but worth the experience in my opinion.
This year, we decided to splurge and get an intermediate sized car. Normally, I am fine getting the cheapest economy option, but we found a good deal and thought it would be worth the investment. We ended up being a Ford Escape hybrid for traveling up and down the Rocky Mountains.
We used Chase Ultimate Rewards to book the car through Dollar Rental Car
Total Rental Car Costs – 9k points + $106 ($53 per pers0n) for 4 days
We spent most of our entertainment $ enjoying the outdoors this year. After recommendations from a friend, our first adventure was in Manitou, Colorado where we booked tickets on the Cog Railway that took us to the top of Pikes Peak! The views were incredible, and the train ride up was a great experience. We got to spend about 30 minutes at the summit of Pikes Peak – you can see Kansas in the distance, it was pretty cool.
Protip – make sure to book your tickets in advance, we showed up and got put on a waitlist. Luckily we made in on the next train.
The elevation was also about 14,000, and although the views were incredible, there is a chance of altitude sickness. My girlfriend was a bit dizzy and nauseous while we were at the top.
Total Cost of Cog Railway tickets – $42.50 per person
After Pikes Peak, we drove to Garden of the Gods and hiked around the area for a few hours. The hikes were easy enough, and the views were great. If you don’t know where exactly to go, head toward Central Garden, and that’s a great area to venture through. Honestly, you can’t go wrong with any trail you go on because the scenery is incredible.
Garden of the Gods cost – Free
Next, we made the drive about 90 minutes to the Royal Gorge Bridge in Canon City, Colorado. The Royal Gorge Bridge is the highest suspension bridge in Colorado residing above the Arkansas River.
We got there just in time for sunset and was a perfect way to end the day. (I was impressed we covered all three places in one day!)
Royal Gorge Bridge Cost – $18 per person
The next day after checking into the tiny house we made our return to Rocky Mountain National Park. Last year we explored the Bear Lake area and loved the hikes there. This year we returned to the same area but went on a new trail called Alberta Falls. The weather was perfect, and I enjoyed hiking there again. Next time I return I hope to stay more than a few days and do a lot more exploring.
Total RMNP costs – $20 day-pass (didn’t get a national park pass this year)
Total Entertainment Costs – $80.50
Food, Souvenirs, & Miscellaneous Costs
Now when I go on trips, one of the highlights is trying all the best food we can. My girlfriend scouted out Yelp and friend recommendations for the best places to eat (she even made a food spreadsheet this year – it’s pretty serious).
Some food highlights included: L&L Hawaiian BBQ in Denver, Nara Sushi Grill in Colorado Springs, and Motomaki in Boulder. We returned to Dae Gee for some Korean BBQ in Denver and Antonio’s Pizza in Estes Park. All of these places are great, and I would recommend them to others.
Total Food Costs – $107.54 ($53.77 per person)
Total Souvenir Cost – $14 – 1 Tshirt for my dad
Rental Car Gas – $44.14 ($22.07 per person)
Airport Parking – $28 ($14 per person)
Total I spent on the trip – $390.36
This year I ended up paying about $95 more than last year. Although I spent more, I am still thrilled with the low cost of this trip. We were able to knock off a few items off the bucket list (Pikes Peak, Garden of the Gods, Stay in Tiny House) and it was a nice getaway. I can’t wait to go back again!
How I Save for Travel
A part of my automatic savings plan, I put money away every two weeks in my “travel fund” in my Capital One 360 savings account ** (Use my referral link and get $25 free!). Since I put money away for travel, these trips don’t ever affect my cash flow/budget for the month. If you haven’t looked into an automatic savings plan before, I highly recommend starting one today!
Question for You!
What trips have you been on recently?
How do you get the most value when you travel?
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