I Saved $700 With a Travel Package — Reader Success Story
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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Douglas, who got a major discount on a recent last-minute trip:
Due to a family emergency, my wife and I needed to make last-minute arrangements to get from Atlanta (ATL) to Charlotte (CLT) for two days. Driving was an option, but we preferred to fly if possible. Since we were buying tickets less than 48 hours before departure, Delta was charging over $550 or 46,000 SkyMiles each, while other airlines had similar prices.
Knowing that we would also need a hotel when we arrived, I checked Delta Vacations to see our options, having booked with them in the past. Luckily for us, we found a package including flights and hotel for under $800. The hotel we ended up in was going for $210 per night, and we could have saved even more if we were willing to stay farther away from our family.
Without Delta Vacations, the trip would have cost approximately $1,520 ($1,100 for flights and $420 for the hotel including taxes). Instead, the cash price was just under $790, so it was $700 less because we booked it as a package. Thanks to the Pay with Miles option, it only cost us 78,984 SkyMiles, which we have plenty of thanks to our Delta credit card and The Platinum Card® from American Express. Even better, we'll still earn MQMs, MQDs and Delta Vacations bonus SkyMiles in addition to being able to take advantage of our status with the airline and hotel.
Vacation packages are a useful trick to have up your sleeve when you're paying out of pocket for flights, hotels and other big ticket travel expenses. The steepest discounts tend to come when you're booking at the last minute or flying in a premium cabin, and in some cases booking a package can save you money even if you don't actually need a hotel or other add-ons. This story is a perfect example, as the package price was lower than what Douglas would have paid for airfare alone. You won't consistently find deals that good, especially for domestic economy flights, but it's worth making vacation packages part of your search anytime rates are high and you can't find award availability.
One caveat is that booking a package may impact how you earn rewards from your trip. You'll generally still receive airline miles and elite credits, though not at the normal rate, since airlines sometimes classify package flights as special fares with a unique earning structure. That might or might not work out in your favor; the moral is simply to pay attention if you're banking on rewards from a vacation package to help you qualify for elite status. Unfortunately, you probably won't earn points or elite credits for packaged hotel stays, which is typical when booking through a third party. It's also a toss-up as to whether you'll be able to use your existing elite benefits — some properties will still recognize them, but I recommend verifying ahead of time if you're counting on any in particular.
I love this story and I want to hear more like it! In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending Douglas a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own award travel success stories to firstname.lastname@example.org; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. Feel free to also submit your most woeful travel mistakes, or to contribute to our new award redemption series. If your story is published, we’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. Due to the volume of submissions, we can't respond to each story individually, but we'll be in touch if yours is selected.
Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!