I spent last week vacationing in Martinique with my family. For those who have never heard of Martinique, you are not alone. I had to explain to the young lady from my credit card company where it was located when I informed them I would be traveling with my card. Martinique is a French State located in the Caribean: white sand beaches, volcano hiking, and all things French Culture. We spent 7 nights there this year, our second trip. If you recall we set a New Years Resolution to pay for our vacations with a combination of credit card cash back and travel hacking. So today’s post will be about traveling to the Caribbean on $300 dollars.
Before we start the discussion I will point out that Martinique is on the Euro. I have converted all the values to USD for the purposes of this post, but most expenditures were in Euros.
So, obviously the first thing we need to get to the Caribbean is flights. The total for a family of 4 flying to Martinique including all taxes and fees was $858 dollars or $214 dollars a person. We made the decision to go to Martinique a second time mainly because of how cheap the flights were. We booked about 3 months in advance for the best deal. I also found that using a PC yielded a price difference of about $30 dollars cheaper a person. We purchased from Expedia rather then the airlines website. Expedia was not only cheaper then the airline website, they threw in baggage to boot.
Once there we needed a place to stay. I chose to stay at an AirBnB rental. We went with my in laws so they could spend time with my kids. The cost of the AirBnB rental was split in half. The total cost was $1300 dollars, so the 3 bedroom 2 bathroom house with a pool cost me $650 dollars. A tip we didn’t previously discuss in my post about travel hacking is to consider traveling with another couple. Booking an AirBnB and splitting the cost not only means you get a bigger place, but you also end up with better perks then you’ll normally find in a smaller less expensive place.
To get around the island we needed a car. Martinique is not known for public transportion or single location resorts, so a car is required. We had to get a 7 passenger SUV to accommodate our 6 people. This means the cost for the week was 540 dollars. Without kids you could go much lower.
For food we spent about $200 dollars for the trip. My in-laws paid most of this bill in exchange for their portion of the rental car. However, we still kept the bill in check by only eating out once the entire trip. The rest of the time we bought food and alcohol from the supermarket. We cooked everything ourselves. The $200 dollars included a souvenir towel and a few dollars for things like soap.
To get to the airport we purchased a Groupon. Total parking cost at the airport, $65 dollars for 7 days 3 hours. I hate that you are charged for a full day if you exceed 7 days by a few hours. Still it averaged out to 8.15 a day. Comparatively, on a recent work trip parking off site cost my employer $11 dollars a day, so I saved quite a bit.
We spent nothing on activities other then $37 dollars in gas. That didn’t mean we lounged around the pool doing nothing all day. Our rented villa was 4 miles from multiple beaches. Most days we could be found cavorting on some beach or other for majority of the day. There seemed to be an endless supply of white sand, black sand, and coral sand beaches.
Another day we took a walk around the main city, Fort-De-France, checking out an old church and library for my father in law.
We also hiked up the island volcano, Mt. Pelee. It took us about 4 hours with fantastic views of the entire island.
So total out of pocket costs were: flight $858+ car $540+ airBnB $650 + parking $65 + gas $37 for a total of $2150. Now for the credit card hacking portion. In November we picked up the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card. A $450 dollar annual fee provides $1000 dollars of statement credit plus a $300 dollar annual credit for travel. Since we booked with airBNB in November, a portion was charged in November and the remaining in February. The card provided 2 $300 dollar credits for this trip. After offsetting the $450 dollar annual fee we netted $1150 towards our trip from signup and credits. We also netted about $100 dollars additional from our normal spend.
In January we picked up the American Express Gold Card which provides a $500 dollar signup bonus. Combined the two cards provided us with an offset of $1750 dollars of our $2113 dollars spent. I will also offset $100 dollars additional because in a normal week we spend ~ $100 dollars on groceries that we did not spend while on vacation. So in the end I spent $2150-$1850= $300 dollars out of pocket for a 7 night trip to the Caribbean. This is a great start as we completed the international trip of our 3 planned yearly trips. I will find another card here shortly that will both cover this $300 dollar deficit and start to save for the next two trips.
Have you done a trip this year? Did you use cards to hack travel costs?