Happy New Year and Happy Travels!
The HH and I decided pretty much last minute to take a getaway to warmer weather. Affordable last minute flights were not available, but we didn’t want to drive a long time to reach our destination. We decided to head due south to Pensacola, Florida. Since we had not made arrangements to kennel the dog, we needed a dog friendly hotel, and IHG properties did not provide opportunities for this in the area, so we would have to pay for a hotel. What! We are traveling without using air miles, frequent flyer parking rewards, or hotel points? Yep, that is what we did, and it has still be an affordable trip.
A little research online located a very pet-friendly hotel that allowed larger dogs without any fees beyond the cost of the room. The La Quinta in Pensacola met our needs, and after pulling out the AAA membership card, we were able to book a very nice room with a King bed for about $60 per night plus taxes, which meant our lodging cost would be about $200.
Three small suitcases packed (one for the HH, one for me, and one for the pup) and loaded into the car, we were ready to roll in our Ford Fusion Hybrid. Having filled the car after having it serviced two days earlier, we got a decent price on fuel. The cost for the tank of gas was less than $40. Have I mentioned that I love my Fusion? We drove all the way to Pensacola from the Nashville area on 3/4 of a tank, which left us running around gas. Gas was more expensive in Florida, but the tank of gas to finish our “touristy” driving and get us home was about $45, leaving us under $100 for fuel costs for the trip.
Food can be a big expense when traveling, but we did well thanks to breakfast each morning being included with the cost of our room and some very timely Christmas gifts that were restaurant gift cards with locations along our travel route. On the way down, we used the Applebee’s gift card for lunch. Dinner was at the Denny’s near the hotel; we got a discount because of where we were staying. Lunch the second day was at a local joint, but it only set us back about $25 including tip. The big expenditure for food was a special dinner at a nationally known spot, McGuire’s Irish Pub. We had to wait an hour to be seated, but boy, oh, boy was it worth it! The place is huge, yet we lucked into being seated in the original pub area with live music and entertainment. The food, the atmosphere, the service, and the entertainment was worth the wait and the price. There are no regrets here. Today, New Year’s day, we used a Red Robin gift card, on which we still have about $10 since my meal was free for my upcoming birthday. Dinner was at O’Charley’s, where we used another gift card. We have one final gift card to use for our lunch on the way home tomorrow, and dinner will be with my dad and step-mom’s house that is two hours out from our home as we go back north.
We explored the beach, the city, and attended the festivities on New Year’s Eve, watching the Pelican drop. It was a blast, and our activities did not cost us anything except for the $1 toll fee we had to pay to reach the Gulf Islands National Sea Shore. Probably the thing out of which we got the biggest kick was watching the dog take his first plunge into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
Doing just what we wanted to do; eating what we wanted to eat, and in no way trying to be excessively careful in expenditures, this is what our unplanned trip cost us:
- Travel: $95 in fuel costs
- Lodging: $205 pet-friendly hotel
- Food, snacks, drinks, and tips beyond gift cards: $145
- Attractions: $1
Total Expenditure for the 4-day getaway: $446
Using your head and making use of resources available to you, inexpensive trips can be taken, even during prime travel times like the week of New Year’s. Travel well; travel often, and travel inexpensively.