Welcome to the first installment of my series on April’s back-to-back cruise on the Carnival Pride out of Baltimore, Maryland!
Parking is always an important consideration when you are road-tripping to your cruise port. The ports charge a premium for parking that can really add up depending on the length of your cruise. In many cities, there are lower-cost parking alternatives with free shuttle service to the port. These options are very limited in Baltimore, making the cruise package with Holiday Inn Express on Russell Street a good option. I was driving from Virginia and didn’t need an overnight stay, but it turned out the hotel night plus parking only cost a negligible amount more than if I had parked only at the port for the back-to-back cruise. So I planned on staying the night before to relax and have a stress free transfer to the ship on cruise day!
Convenient round-trip shuttle transfer to the cruise port included
Free parking for up to 8 days, and discounted extra days if needed
Comfortable hotel room in a great location next to Horseshoe Baltimore Casino
Breakfast included (although it was underwhelming, and available to everyone)
Fairly expensive when I reserved (although your results may vary, and it was a better value than just parking)
I appreciated the ability to get my drive out of the way the day before, even though I could have fairly easily made the trip the morning of the cruise. There was no rushing to get ready and get on the road in the morning. Instead, I woke and had breakfast at my leisure before boarding the shuttle. And the night before was enjoyable and relaxing. I had a great dinner steps away at Guy Fieri’s Bar-b-que Joint at Horseshoe, followed by trying my luck on the casino floor. Horseshoe Baltimore is a Total Rewards casino with a large assortment of table and machine games, a lively poker room, and several restaurants. After the fun and exciting nightlife, I was ready for a good night’s sleep on the comfortable bed in my room to prepare for the full day of cruising ahead!
I recommend the cruise package at Holiday Inn Express Baltimore. Considering the cost of parking alone, I found it to be a very worthwhile value, and enjoyed my stay.
My YouTube video on the Holiday Inn Express Baltimore cruise package is now live!:
Please consider donating $2 to this blog so I can afford to keep it going!
Next week: a review of the Carnival Pride cruise ship!
You CAN travel more for less! So with all the expenses involved in planning a trip, how is that possible? I am frequently asked how I’ve managed to make travel such a consistent part of my day-to-day life. Therefore, I wanted to provide some tips for ways I have been able to accomplish this. Some sacrifices and compromises are necessary, and may not be for everyone. But I for one think they are well worth it! This is a long post – and that’s good news! It means there’s a lot of ways to save money on travel!
Time and Money
It really comes down to two obstacles: time and money. Often, people have plenty of one and not the other. Maybe you are retired or between jobs and have plenty of time, but money’s tight. Or maybe you have a very demanding job which pays you well but doesn’t allow you the time to enjoy it. Unfortunately, if you want to live a more nomadic lifestyle, it will probably require some compromises. You may need to wait until any children are older. Or it could mean swapping jobs for one that allows more flexible scheduling. And it may mean passing on the big house, new car, and other luxury expenses to put money away for travel. But there are some easier solutions that may not turn you into a nomad overnight but could help you move in that direction.
Tokyo, Japan Skyline
Time: Friend or Foe?
First, I’ll address the time issue. Life is short, and it’s up to us to make the most of that valuable, and all-too-limited commodity. While that bigger paycheck is tempting, and could certainly help with travel, what good is it if it takes workaholic gymnastics to earn it and you don’t have time to enjoy it? There aren’t enough flex-time jobs out there – but they are out there. Jobs that allow telecommuting and/or setting your own schedule (like working monster hours the week before and after the trip so you can miss a week, or job sharing so you can take “turns”) are ideal for the aspiring nomad. If you are satisfied with your career and this is not an option for you, there are other ways to incorporate travel into your life in a bigger way.
Take an Inventory of your Schedule
Take a look at what days you do have off. How many of those weekends or long weekends could be spent elsewhere? Think outside the box. Travel comes in many forms: long and short, close and far. And the world is more connected than ever. But what about all of those chores and errands you do over the weekend? Here’s where the compromise comes in. It may mean harder work the rest of the week – the job and all of these other things. That’s one way to free up your weekend, or week if you work flex-time. (I can tell you first hand it’s worth the effort!) Where there’s a will, there’s a way!
At the Train Station
As for the money issue – there are a number of ways to do more and save money doing it. Some of my favorite ways to travel that save money are:
Road trips force you to stay overnight on the way to your final destination (depending on distance), allowing you to see MORE, and that’s the idea. Not only is it cheaper than other ground transportation, it allows you more freedom. And compared with air travel it might cost you more depending on how many hotels you book along the way… BUT when you compare apples to apples – if you flew to all of those places you will be stopping at which one would have cost you more? And, obviously, the more people you are traveling with the greater the savings, since there are no individual tickets to buy! You may find some amazing surprises and hidden gems in places you never expected traveling this way.
Like long road trips, cruises allow you to visit multiple destinations. The difference? You have a floating “hotel” room throughout the trip. (No schlepping luggage once on board!) Many things are included, like meals and entertainment. And as for anything else, you can pre-pay practically everything now, which helps with eliminating the financial anxiety of unexpected expenses during travel. I don’t know about you, but that has been a concern of mine. I have found cruises to be an excellent value offering great peace of mind. Just don’t go “overboard” (pun intended!) on your spending on non-included shopping and other optional luxuries on the ship!
Road trip to cruise port, then cruise!
For the same reasons noted above! If your cruise port isn’t close by, consider road-tripping it!
If you need to park and fly or park and cruise, research your options. The airports and cruise ports charge a premium for parking. I usually use Way Parking for cheap and reliable airport and cruise port parking. They have a great app where I have my receipt and everything else I need in a convenient, digital format. And my car is always locked up safe and secure. Some hotels also offer cruise packages that provide parking. Google “hotel cruise package” and your port city for those.
Don’t underestimate the value of more “local” travel. If you can’t afford a major trip, or your time is severely limited, see what your home city or state/province has to offer, or a neighboring one. You might be surprised what was in your backyard that you never knew about!
Pictured Rocks, Munising, Michigan
Financial planning to facilitate travel
Here are some of my favorite ways to facilitate saving for travel:
Debt imprisons you. It forces you to work more hours to cover the bills (including interest), leaving you less time to travel, devours more of your paycheck (and, in some cases, most of your paycheck!), and cripples your ability to save for more travel. Sure, it’s nice to have a bigger house, newer car, and all of that cool stuff you can buy with credit cards. But the price is too high if travel is a priority for you. If you can (it may take time) pay those cards down to zero and save them for travel emergencies. Or get travel reward cards to use for groceries, utilities, and gas that you have to pay for anyway and pay them off every single month. Big mortgages and car payments not only hinder your ability to travel, but put you at risk. So make more modest choices if you can. If a financial emergency comes up, and your home or transportation to work are at risk, travel will be the least of your concerns.
More frugal lifestyle
This may seem obvious, but people don’t often implement it. Be more minimalist at home and save that money for travel. This is related to eliminating debt too. Smaller home, older car, going out less often at home… I have found that a smaller home has the added benefit of being more low-maintenance, which is more consistent with a nomadic lifestyle. Of course, with children you may need to wait to downsize these things. Look at your monthly bills and see if there is anything you wouldn’t miss. For example, I prefer video games at home to regular movie nights out. I can get unlimited (fun!) use out of that video game for the cost of a handful of one-time movie theater tickets. And I would rather go out to restaurants when I’m traveling than when I’m at home.
Location, location, location…
Location over size in housing. I would rather have a smaller place closer to many destinations I’d like to visit than a bigger or more elaborate place that is more isolated. If you are in the market for a new place, are your “local” travel options abundant or scarce? This is even more important if your time is limited. I’ll be saving by getting a small condo… and increasing my travel options by purchasing in Florida (more to come on that in future blog posts!)
Money around the World
DISCOUNTED travel! Don’t pay full price, ever!
Here are my favorite ways to get DISCOUNTED travel!:
Founders Card. This is NOT a credit card. This has been the number one most significant way I have been able to save on travel for the past several years. It is a selective program that requires application, but if you can get approved the value is endless. (Entrepreneurs and executives have the highest rate of acceptance). With this membership, I have annually been promoted to Total Rewards Diamond tier level, Hilton Honors Gold, and much more. You can also get instant tier level upgrades on car rentals and airlines, as well as discounts on many other travel and lifestyle products and services. To give you an idea on how much I save with this card, I’ll use Total Rewards Diamond as the first example. It takes 15,000 tier points to earn Diamond the “hard” way. How much casino play is that? One point for every $5 on slots and every $10 on video poker. Tables are variable, but it’s not any easier. The math is pretty clear here. The Total Rewards benefit alone pays for Founders Card several times over.
You also get a $100 celebration dinner yearly, free valet, no resort fees, 20% discount on Norwegian cruises, and skipping all of the lines on Total Rewards Properties (skipping lines=priceless!) Another example: Hilton Honors Gold. This one requires 20 stays or 40 nights in one year at Hilton properties. But with no stays, I was received the welcome gifts, free upgrades, and free $15 breakfasts at Hilton Garden Inn properties. So if I had to name the one thing that allowed me to save the most on travel, it would be Founder’s Card. To apply to join Founders Card, or get more information, visit Founders Card.
Founder’s Card Website
AAA (American Automobile Association) Membership
AAA Membership. AAA has a membership fee, but is well worth the cost. My favorite thing about AAA is that I can get AAA discounts while still booking directly through my favorite hotel brand websites. It means I will earn rewards for my stay, while still getting the discount. Hotel websites like Hilton and Marriott have a “special rate” option with AAA listed. If I were to book through a travel website for a discount, like Expedia, I would not get credited through the hotel brand’s rewards program. An added bonus with AAA is that I can also save on emergency road service (great peace of mind for long road trips), car repairs, and get free maps and other goodies. I have found AAA well worth it, and been a member for over two decades! AAA has a reciprocity agreement with CAA in Canada, so whether you’re in the US or Canada, road service is covered!
Costco Travel. Like AAA, use of this site requires membership. I consider the travel discounts, along with other benefits of the card (discounts on gas, groceries, and more), worth it. Car rental rates and theme park packages are especially good on this site. Perks are often offered with cruise bookings, like on-board credits.
Cruise Line Websites
It’s often worth checking cruise line websites directly. A google search will get you to your desired cruise line’s website quickly. Many of the major cruise lines run promotions frequently. For example, the “Free at Sea” promotion through Norwegian is (at least as of this writing), very commonly found on their site. It’s an outstanding offer that lets you choose from several coveted freebies. Best of all – even if you have a cruise voucher from a casino and aren’t paying for the cruise you’re still eligible for the promotions on NCL (your results may vary here depending on cruise line.) I like to compare offers on the different cruise lines when I’m ready to book. You may still want to check one of the other resources listed here too for comparison. I’ve found that the best deals of the year on these sites can be found around Black Friday.
Norwegian Cruise Line Website
Hotel Reward Programs
Google your hotel brand for the link to the rewards site where you can sign up for free. The perks you receive are based on your tier level, which increases depending on the number of stays you have purchased (or not, if you have Founders Card!) The “basic” level, at zero stays, usually has limited perks but will usually give you something, like free internet. As you increase in tier level you will start to see perks like free gifts at check in, free upgrades, premium internet, and free premium breakfasts. And if you’re a member with the hotel’s rewards program, they will often “price match” third party websites like Expedia.
Online Third-Party Sites
Kayak, Viator, Expedia, and other online travel sites for air travel and activities. As I previously mentioned, I don’t like these sites for hotel reservations because I cannot earn rewards through my loyalty programs. However, I have booked flights this way and still earned loyalty rewards from the airline. (Your results may vary depending on airline.) Since I’ve found that flight costs vary a lot more from airline to airline, and different airlines fly different routes, I don’t necessarily want to stay “brand loyal” when it comes to flights. The ease of use on these sites is a plus too, especially if you need to book complicated open-jaw or multiple destination trips. Bear in mind you may need to make your seat reservation through the airline’s website or customer service number. Tourist attraction and activity tickets can also be a good value on these sites. I prefer Kayak for airline tickets; I usually find the lowest prices there. And I prefer Viator and Expedia for things to do, because they offer the best selection.
BE CAREFUL with travel insurance. Some travel insurance offers are deceptively limited. Many of them won’t pay except in EXTREME cases, particularly in the case of flights (read: documented death in immediate family or severe personal illness and nothing else!) Don’t expect them to necessarily pay because your transfer form of transportation didn’t arrive in time, work won’t let you go after all, or you made a mistake. If you need comprehensive coverage, read the fine print!
Organized tours and passes.
I often take advantage of tours to save me both hassle and money. My transportation is efficient, reliable, and covered. And the cost of all of the attractions are combined, usually at a cheaper expense than if I’d visited each one independently. Same goes for city passes, which often include things like double decker bus tours and water taxis that cover my transportation. My favorite companies, both of which I’ve had great experiences with, are Viator and CityPASS. Tours and passes are available in single-day and multi-day varieties. Best of all with these passes, you can usually skip the lines!
New York Pass Website
Groupon. This site offers a number of travel options, but where it really shines is with attraction and entertainment tickets. You can often find cheap attraction tickets to theme parks and other tourist sites. And Groupon is also a great place to find discounted professional sports tickets and concert tickets. Inventory changes frequently, so if you don’t find what you were looking for you may want to check back at a later time.
Casino Players Clubs
My favorite way to cruise: with a FREE cruise voucher from a land-based casino where I had a free room and meal to go pick it up! Do you have to play? Yes. Do you have to be a high roller? NO! You just have to play smart. This means while you don’t need to be a high roller, you do need to be aware of something called your “ADT” or “average daily theoretical.” You aren’t rewarded on your total play, but how much you play on an average day you’re there. So, you should go less often and play more, not go often and play less. DO NOT use your players card for comps or to check your balance at the kiosk if you’re not playing much: it triggers a “trip” and hurts your ADT. If you play the way that maximizes your ADT, the better rewards you can get, including cruise vouchers, free rooms, and meals. I’m partial to Total Rewards because of the Diamond upgrade I get from Founders Card and the huge number of locations to choose from.
Caesar’s Total Rewards Website
Delta Skymiles Vacations and Cruises. I want to thank Mr Traveler on YouTube for this suggestion which I was not previously aware of. Delta is offering sweet perks for booking with them on travel arrangements besides air travel, and, as an added bonus, they will reward you miles in their Skymiles program for booking all kinds of travel with them. I’ve received great customer service from Delta in the past, and it’s definitely one of my favorite airlines.
Delta Sky Miles Website
Other groups that are often eligible for discounts include AARP members, members of the military (active and retired), students, and senior citizens. Always bring your ID cards (college ID, military ID, etc.) when you travel! These discounts are often available at attractions and are sometimes available on hotel rooms and transportation. For example, I typically save huge at museums with my student ID, such as a full year membership at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts for $10!
If you have children…
If you have children, things are more challenging. I waited until my children were older to ramp up my travel ambitions. But here are some tips:
Road Trips! With no individual tickets to buy, this is the cheapest way to travel with a larger group. Just remember – children are less patient with car rides. Plan frequent stops.
Camping Trips. Camping is cheap, doesn’t charge by the person, and offers a lot of high-energy activities that are great for kids like hiking and swimming. (As long as the adults can tolerate “roughing” it!)
Amusement Parks. Kids love amusement parks, and often you can find great deals on sites like Groupon. Sometimes you can find “rain check” tickets on Ebay too.
Group Lodging. Some hotels charge a surcharge for extra people in the room. And most hotels have limits on how many people can sleep in the room, so it may not even be an option with a larger family. Rental cabins are a good solution.
Keep in mind, not all of these websites that offer discounts on multiple providers will offer every provider, so shop around. (For example, no Southwest Airlines on Expedia.) Finally, I have one more suggestion. A trip is only a good value if you have a positive experience! That’s why I often refer to Tripadvisor for reviews of hotels, restaurants, destinations, and more! Planning and researching ahead is critical to budget, and high value, travel!
Your turn to travel more for less!
I hope this post helps you save some money – and time – in your future travel ambitions! Next week: my series on my back-to-back cruise on the Carnival Pride will begin. I hope you will come along!
For more destinations, travel tips, and hotel and cruise ship tours, check out my YouTube channel!:
Disclaimer: ultimatetraveladventures.blog is a participant in affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. There is absolutely no cost to readers, and all proceeds will be strictly applied to covering the costs of maintaining this blog so that it can continue to serve readers for years to come! And at ultimatetraveladventures.blog we do not promote ANY product or service we do not endorse and personally use.
Atlantic City tourism is usually associated with summertime. But my favorite times to visit are spring and autumn. Ideal temperatures and smaller crowds make a stroll along the historic Boardwalk and views of the miles of public beaches idyllic! Casinos are more eager to please, because there are fewer visitors (specifically on weekdays) and perks are more abundant. And it is easier to find an empty seat on the Boardwalk tram – allowing you to see and do as much as possible – an irresistible prospect!
Caesar’s from Boardwalk
Centurion Tower Room
Augustus Statue, Lobby
Caesar’s… a resort fit for an Emperor. Both the public areas and private rooms are dripping with luxury. The main lobby is a spectacular rendition of ancient Rome, down to the depiction of the Augustus of Prima Porta statue. He stands tall next to a fake but convincing palm tree that is home to a family of live birds that, from time to time, will fly along the backdrop of the cloud-painted ceiling, welcoming visitors. Or perch themselves on Augustus’ shoulder, chirping and drawing attention to the great Augustus, poised in contrapposto pose (art history speak for addressing an audience). This lobby is truly breathtaking and easily one of my favorite hotel lobbies I have ever visited. In my room, I enjoyed spectacular views of the beach while I contemplated how I would spend my day in this, one of my all-time favorite cities.
The Quarter at Tropicana’s decor is inspired by Havana, and provides a pleasant and inspiring place to dine in delicious restaurants, explore chic boutique shops, and, if you are so inclined, try your luck at the games. The Quarter is bursting with energy and eye-candy!
Steel Pier and beach
The Boardwalk trams were back after their winter hiatus, and for $3 ($6 for an all-day pass), you can cover the length of the Boardwalk. I took a ride down to the Steel Pier, enjoying the sites and scents of salt water taffy shops, massage and psychic parlors, arcades, and other bastions of fun along the Boardwalk on the way, many of them just waking up from their winter hibernation. The amusement park at the Steel Pier was not yet open – the one aspect of coming during this season I consider a disappointment. But it’s okay – because I can’t get enough of this place and surely will return in the summer. The Steel Pier is not only fun and exciting, but historic, still standing from the 1890s.
If you haven’t had enough shopping at the Quarter, The Tanger Outlets and the Playground provide additional opportunities for an endulgent shopping binge! Between the casinos and the shopping, working overtime before your trip to Atlantic City never hurts!
If you have been following my posts and YouTube channel, you may be aware that my husband recently passed away. The most pressing reason of all I wanted to return to Atlantic City at this time was that this was his favorite place to visit. We traveled extensively, and internationally, and whenever a trip was over he would ask, “When are we going to Atlantic City again?” I have so many cherished memories of our time spent together here, and longed to be surrounded by that at this tremendously difficult time. It was a great comfort, and one that I hope, in some way, he was able to share in.
My YouTube video from this trip is posted, which you may view here!:
Please consider donating $2 to this blog so I can afford to keep it going!
Charleston, South Carolina is quaint, calm, colorful, clean, and a snapshot into the past, so a horse-drawn carriage seemed the perfect way to experience it. I was informed by my tour guide that a local resident has stirred up a “controversy” involving the horse-drawn carriages in the city, which are operated by several different companies. She asserted that the objections she was making about the life of the horses was a guise for her disapproval of having to share the road with the (slower) carriages. But we “pulled over” frequently to let cars pass, and the tour guide was eager to describe the ways in which her company was making a better life for the horses.
The tour guide explained that their horses are purchased from Amish auctions, where they are rescued from the potential of being bought by others which, in some cases, could result in their cruel treatment and even death. Not all countries regulate the humane treatment of animals, and the auctions generate attention from international buyers. Her happiness in describing the regular “vacations” the horses take, and far, far lighter workload than they had become accustomed to on the farms was very apparent. Horses are rotated on the tours and given plenty of rest, water, and food in between tours, and given regular days off out at pasture.
The first issue is the way the carriages can stall traffic. But given that tourism is the top industry in the city, and the carriages have become a major part of it, I find it amazing a local would want to jeopardize a big part of the economic prosperity of their city to avoid a little traffic congestion. The second issue has to do with a horse “throwing” a tour guide off a carriage. But my response is that this is to be expected. Tour guides understand and accept this risk. Horses are intelligent animals, and can be stubborn and exercise a “mind of their own” from time to time. Anyone who has spent any time at all riding horses is probably aware of this. The third issue has to do with someone in a T-Rex costume spooking one of the horses. Again – my take is that this is normal and expected for a horse to get spooked from time to time – and has nothing to do with the carriage companies being “inhumane” to the horses in any way. The next complaint had to do with a horse tripping and falling – an accident that I would argue could easily happen to any horse at any time, anywhere. It’s an accident that can happen to even the most pampered horse – just as well as it can happen to even the most pampered human. The last complaint mentioned was that the horses are out in the heat. Yee quotes Broderick Christoff, Owner of Charleston Carriage Works as saying: “We never had a heat-related incident,” and that the horses’ temperatures are taken regularly, including after every tour. (Yee, Gregory. “Charleston’s carriage tour companies, animal advocates hold opposing events amid controversy over horse conditions,” The Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C., 2017: (https://www.postandcourier.com/news/charleston-s-carriage-tour-companies-animal-advocates-hold-opposing-events/article_e0421270-7a0b-11e7-852f-cb7ebfa7e48f.html).
After the tour guide discussed the way her company cares for the horses, it was time for some history. As someone who has visited Savannah, Georgia several times I found it interesting the way she described why Savannah has more Colonial architecture, while Charleston more Victorian architecture: due to fire damage Charleston suffered during the Civil War. The architecture is breathtaking, most notably on “Rainbow Row” where a plethora of pastel delights the eyes – both on the buildings and meticulously maintained gardens they hold. Quaint streets are dotted with the Palmetto palm trees the state is famous for, their leaves rustling in the gentle breeze. Inviting cobblestone alleys lure you to linger and get lost among the fine old buildings and luxurious gardens bursting with life and color.
Spring Hill Suites Riverview
Of course, no trip to Charleston (or anywhere!) is complete without a place to rest and a good meal after a long day of sightseeing. Hyman’s Seafood is a Charleston institution, established in 1890. The walls are covered with signed celebrity photos – customers of Hyman’s through the years, and tables sport placards with the names of who (famous) dined at your seat. It’s very impressive to see how many celebrities have been drawn to this place. I opted for the fried clams and collard greens, and local beer. The dinner provided a very satisfying and delectable finish to a very satisfying day! I wandered through their country store after my meal and could not resist picking up their “To think like a fish you need to drink like a fish” t-shirt, a fine souvenir of my visit here!
I stayed at the Spring Hill Suites – Riverview. They have a shuttle which will run you into the historic district in the evenings and on weekends. I enjoyed a balcony, mini-kitchen, work space, ample room, and a very comfortable bed. The options at the free breakfast had been reduced since my previous visit and I wished the shuttle ran all day on weekdays, but other than that I had no complaints.
Charleston, along with Savannah, is a great stopover for people heading from the mid-Atlantic and northeast down to Florida, as I have often done on my way to the cruise ports. I will certainly want to return again and again! My YouTube video on Charleston is now live:
Source: Yee, Gregory. “Charleston’s carriage tour companies, animal advocates hold opposing events amid controversy over horse conditions,” The Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C., 2017: https://www.postandcourier.com/news/charleston-s-carriage-tour-companies-animal-advocates-hold-opposing-events/article_e0421270-7a0b-11e7-852f-cb7ebfa7e48f.html.