My wife and I went to Scottsdale, Arizona, for a nice getaway and a change of pace from staying at home. It had been several months since we had been in the Phoenix area, so we took a short trip to celebrate the July 4th holiday and my wife’s birthday. We found out very quickly that we were taking advantage of off-season travel and pricing.
Last year, while sitting by the empty hotel pool in Scottsdale enjoying a glass of wine, we heard the sound of explosions and fireworks being launched. We couldn’t believe it: we had a perfect view of a large July 4th fireworks display only about a mile away. The view of the show and weather were both wonderful at that time of night.
It became apparent to us very quickly that we would turn this into an annual event. It is surprising how inexpensive, beautiful, and crowd-free the desert is in the summer. ☺
To save money, travel to the desert in the summer
We started our drive to Scottsdale right after a light lunch at our home on Friday. We soon found that there was definitely a difference in the traffic leaving the Phoenix area as compared to going to it. Traffic was backed up for miles with people traveling north toward the Grand Canyon, the mountains, Utah and who knows where. Lucky for us, we were traveling south and the highway traffic was breezing along at 75 miles per hour.
I kept thinking about this famous quote from the Oracle of Omaha:
“Be Fearful When Others Are Greedy and Greedy When Others Are Fearful” – Warren Buffet
In our situation, we try to travel off-season to save money. My new mantra: Travel to the desert in the summer, go boating in the winter.
The cost of the hotel was 50% to 70% less than the price we would pay during peak season during the winter months. I could have used points to pay for the stay; however, I like to redeem points when the standard rate of the room is much more expensive. As we strolled around the shopping areas and restaurants, we noticed that numerous discounts and early bird specials were in abundance. Walking around without bumping into people was an added bonus.
We dropped by Starbucks for breakfast and to enjoy my reverse latte factor practice. It appeared no one was there either.
Once we had our coffee and breakfast for two at a total cost $3.74 (2 free coffees for turning in empty bags, 2 free refills because I am a Gold customer, a free breakfast sandwich redeeming an award with stars, and purchasing a breakfast sandwich) we went for a walk around the Kierland Commons outdoor shopping center. What a beautiful place to visit. There was hip music playing and overhead water misters to keep patrons cool while checking out all the things we probably won’t be buying for a while. I guess they call that window shopping.
Take a look at the beautiful plant life and empty sidewalks:
Buck the trend and be rewarded
The residents and tourists in Scottsdale appeared to have abandoned the area for the weekend and provided us our own private retreat. The restaurants and shops were deserted. We traveled back to the hotel to enjoy the pool:
After we had plenty of down time and lounging, it was time to go see an IMAX movie and be surrounded by premium sound and air conditioning. Naturally, we did that in the afternoon when the temperature hit 100º.
Creative use of coupons, discounts, and birthday money
We used a combination of discounts and coupons for our trip to save money where we could. Here is a breakdown of what this cost:
- $208 for two nights at a Marriott
- $129 in dining for seven meals for two. Many of these meals were very nice. I used a combination of Restaurant.com coupons, points, and discounts. We used a $50 birthday gift to offset this cost.
- $10 Movie – 3D IMAX. I used points through work to get two free vouchers. We had to pay a surcharge of $5 per ticket for the 3D and IMAX upgrade.
- $30 Gas to drive round-trip from Sedona to Scottsdale.
We stayed two nights and three days in the heart of North Scottsdale for $377. Granted, we could have stayed at a cheaper hotel and picked less expensive places to eat. These costs were reasonable for us and we budgeted for this expense. If we were to book this same two-night stay on December 4, 2015, it would cost $373 just for the room. I can only imagine what the costs for dining would be during the peak of the tourism season!
We will continue to look for travel hacks to save money!
I think this trip provided us with a glimpse of what life will be like once we have reached our financial independence. With our flexible schedule, we will be able to take advantage of off-season deals. No worries about organizing vacation time or piecing together days to create long weekends. Perhaps we will sign up for last-minute flights or cruise deals.
We are willing to visit places during the off season to take advantage of deep discounts on pricing. A side benefit is that sometimes it is nice to avoid the crowds in resort areas, although sometimes I do like the interaction with people since I am chained to the desk for most of the week.
I think we will do this whole trip again next year. Our empty pool and lounge chairs will be waiting for us.