The "current" opportunity seems to be in travel. We've taken several mini-getaways recently. This week we visited Fort Myers, FL. Here's the details:
- I looked on Expedia to get an idea of hotel prices and noticed several nice hotels with rates under $100. I found a Hilton Garden Inn for $73. I normally book directly with the hotel website because I want to earn loyalty points for my stay, but the same room there was $89. "Hmmm..." I thought, "I wonder if they do a price match guarantee." A quick Google search confirmed: Hilton not only matches the price, but offers 25% off the lowest competitor's price. There were two routes I could take to get the match: fill out a form within 24 hours of booking, or call Hilton to get the price match at the time of booking. Not wanting any drama, I opted to call to lock in the price right away. The call was a bit painful: I was on hold for 28 minutes, then the first agent said Expedia listed the room as "Deluxe" while the hotel website did not include "Deluxe" in the room description. Frustrated, I asked to be transferred to someone else. This strategy worked, as the second agent was able to honor the guarantee. Bottom line: we reserved a room at the Hilton Garden Inn, including a free cooked-to-order hot breakfast, for $54.
- We wanted to visit the beach and the Edison-Ford Winter Estates. I found beach parking online for $2/hour. That sure beats the typical $25 price of parking on Clearwater Beach! Our membership to the Sunken Gardens in St. Pete includes reciprocal privileges at other places, and Edison-Ford was on the list.
- For food, Doordash has a summer promotion for Dashpass members. My Chase Sapphire Reserve card includes a free subscription to Dashpass. This week's promotion is BOGO free entree at Chipotle. There happened to be a Chipotle across the street from our hotel, so we picked up our dinner there and enjoyed it in our room.
Our Strategy for Travel Deals
- I predict that fall hotel rates will remain low (or will go even lower than now). As PPP funds run out, hotels are going to be competing for a smaller number of travelers. Business travel is virtually non-existent, and leisure travel is always light after Labor Day. Our strategy is to search for business-class hotels in areas that typically rely on business travel. For example, hotels near airports are still a short drive to the activities we want to do, but will be the properties most affected by lighter business travel.
- Mid-week travel should be the most affordable, as evidenced by the bookings we are receiving at the Airbnb. Lately, weekends at our rental have been booking at higher rates than last year. Mid-week I have had to drop rates to keep the house occupied.
- Right now it usually makes more sense to pay cash rather than redeem points. Rates are so low now that there's more value in saving my loyalty points when they will be worth more. Besides, our cash helps hotels more than our points.
- We are favoring outdoor activities since they "feel" safer during a pandemic. Many of these excursions are super affordable. Hiking, swimming at the beach, and visiting botanical gardens are great ways to get exercise while breathing in fresh air and distancing from others.