A lot of people think travel is expensive and unattainable, so we like to show all the costs around the travel we do and how we get good deals, and which things just cost what they cost.
We purchased plane tickets Seattle to London on Norwegian Air for $381 round trip per person. Total for three people = $1143. We used our Alaskan points to fly from Portland to Seattle for free. We bought the tickets in December so we had plenty of time to pay down the balance on the credit card well before the trip. How do we get good deals like this? Lots and lots of work!
The first step towards getting a good deal on plane tickets is to block out time. Once we have the week or ten days set aside on our calendars, we start searching for the destination and waiting for a good deal to come along. We subscribe to Flight Deal on Facebook, and we subscribe to NextVacay – which alert us to super low priced travel deals. Our list of places we want to go is pretty long, so we open ourselves up to priced based destination uncertainty. When we saw ta FlightDeal alert for Seattle to London we jumped on it!
Another way we get good prices on airline tickets is to search GoogleFlights. It’s a map based program that visually represents all destination airports that are served by carriers from your ‘home’ airport. We often lay in bed with our laptops and run searches from Seattle, Portland and Los Angles for different dates. Sometimes the difference of a day of the week, or the time of day will make a huge difference in price.
We’ve also gotten familiar with airport and countries that subsidize their own domestic airlines. Iceland Air is subsidized by Iceland – they want to make it easy for you to get to Iceland so that you will spend your available cash in their country. Helsinki is another airport that is subsidized to encourage tourism.
So back to the England trip costs. Our flights for the three of us totaledl $1143.
Enterprise rental car for 5 days – $281 (the tax was more expensive than the rental fee). Getting the smallest car possible was for once the wisest choice due to the narrowness of the roads. This was also one of the only times I’ve purchased the supplementary insurance which was another $60. I figured that would cover me ripping the side view mirrors off in a narrow hedgerow.
We reserved four nights in a two-bedroom Cotswolds cottage through AirBnB which cost $700 total. We got a nice one with moderns upgrades and a washer and dryer as well as a kitchen. There were many cottages available for much cheaper – but we were targeting a certain vibe…and found it. Two bedroom places were difficult to find throughout England and were much more expensive than a single bedroom unit. Charming lodging in The Cotswolds through a pub or AirBnB were priced as low at $70 per night.
Once we ditched the rental car we needed to ride the train from Bath to London, which for three people was $68 total. Booking three weeks in advance saved us hundreds of dollars (Thanks Dan!).
International cell plan – $10 per day, per phone.
Throughout the whole trip our entries to museums, car parks and national heritage sites cost us a total of $300ish.
Our biggest expense aside from airfare were two nights in a crappy two-bedroom London apartment in the Soho district, $800 (taxes hit hard on this one). The closer we got to London the more expensive things became. There were cheaper places to stay in London but the transit times into the heart of the city would have eaten a lot of the day so the decision came down to money or time.
Taxi charges and airport transfer in London – $200ish. There were lots of app based taxi options. They ranged in price and all were normal ‘city expensive’. We walked to many of the city locations we wanted to see. The airport was an hour out of the city’s core.
Food for three people averaged $100 per day. Some days were cheaper, others were more. A meal for all three of us at a village pub with a few beers was 45-55 pounds. Light breakfast for everyone -24 pounds. In London a decent meal and several glasses of wine was 80-120 pounds.
A few days before we were too depart we took a swing at auction upgrades to premium seating (1st class) and won at our bid of $200 each. While somewhat opulent seeming this choice helped phenomenally with minimizing exhaustion on the return home. Being able to lay mostly flatish and sleep was huge!
Our total for a 7 day trip to England for three people – $4500-5000.
Oddly If it had only been the two of us the trip would have cost us half of what we spent because the lodging options that included the second bedroom tripled the price over a traditional one bedroom lodging.
So…the auction that allowed us to upgrade to first class….
Almost all the airlines offer some sort of mechanism for ‘gambling’ into an upgrade. Alaska Airlines is pretty straightforward. They usually send you an email, or give you a link through their app to simply ‘upgrade’ The price is based on the number of seats they still have open and what they perceive the commodity to be worth. We’ve seen upgrades as low as $49 and as high as $1000. It all depends on the timing and how empty first class is when the flight time is nearing. Asking at the ticket counter when you arrive at your gate is worthwhile.
Delta, Norwegian, Iceland, and American have gone to auction systems. You bid on the upgrade a day or so before your flight and they let you know a day before you leave. The values of these upgrades and strategies for success are detailed nicely in this article.
For us, it’s only worth the upgrade on a flight greater than 6 hours. The value of being able to lay somewhat flat is pretty high on an overnight, or 8 hour timezone change flight.