Vacation planning insanity

This year is the big ten year wedding anniversary. It’s hard to imagine that I’ve actually been married that long. We decided that for our anniversary we would go to Italy this year. It’s something that we’ve always wanted to do, but we kept pushing it off for “a better time.” I’m not really sure what “a better time” would be, but that’s what we kept telling ourselves. Well, about a month ago, we decided that there was no better time. If we were going to go, we should go now. We’ve got the time and the money so it’s a good time to go.

After a lot of research, we decided we would take a cruise on Norwegian Cruise Lines. I like the idea of freestyle cruising and it was a way for us to see what we wanted without being on tour buses all day, every day. At first, we were going to go in August. Then I started researching pricing. If we decided to go in June, we could save over $1,500 on our trip. That’s a good reason to go earlier, at least I thought so.

I was amazed at the differences in pricing among different booking sites. Make sure to check any groups that you are associated with. There are discounts out there via AAA, AARP, Unions, warehouse clubs (BJ’s, Costco, etc) and various other organizations. We booked our trip through BJ’s travel services, because the pricing was the best and we got other incentives, like a free on-board credit and a BJ’s gift card. If you book with certain credit cards, there may be other incentives as well. Check with your credit card companies before you book to see what they are offering.

You also have to be really careful about “free upgrades” and other bonuses your travel company may be offering. Norwegian Cruise Line was offering free mini-suite upgrades if you booked a balcony room. When we were going over the pricing with the agent over the phone, we realized that the air fare with that free upgrade was $600 more per person that the air fare for a balcony room. I would highly recommend that you book your reservation over the phone. It was completely worth it to talk to someone who didn’t work for the cruise line but took a lot of cruises. The representative at BJ’s travel was a great resource for us. She had lots of tips and suggestions, plus she was willing to go back and forth looking at different pricing options with me.

Sometimes the pricing on the website is deceiving. We found that a package that looked less expensive at first glance, turned out to be much more expensive. Again, this is why I suggest calling a representative so you can ask all of your questions.

If you are considering going abroad and don’t have a passport yet, it might be a good idea to just get it now. When I went to the U.S. Passport website, there are some places on the site that state the waiting time is 4-6 weeks, other spots say four weeks and some spots say up to 8-10 weeks. Because we waited, we ended up having to pay the expedited fee of $60 per passport. Make sure you get your passport early. When we booked the cruise, we couldn’t finish our registration with the cruise line because we don’t have our passports yet. Hopefully, they’ll be here soon.

Now that we’ve gone through the headache of booking the trip, we are both really excited. For the first 24 hours, I just kept saying “Hey Honey, we are going to Italy” with a silly little smile on my face.

By the way, it’s amazing how frugal you get when you are trying to build up as much spending money as you can for your trip. I may have no pantry left when we get home but at least I’ll have good spending money.