Anatomy of Vacation Costs: Weekend Cruise from Los Angeles

Here are the exact costs from last month’s three-day cruise out of Los Angeles…

$718.16 Carnival Cruise fare $906.86 TOTAL
$77.70 cruise tips 3 days
$158.00 Airfare SW
$10.00 MAX tickets $302.29 Daily average per person
$5.50 LAX to pier transport $151.14 Daily average per peson, per day
-$130.00 Onboard cruise credit
$27.50 Lyft fare from pier to LAX $796.00 Cruise only portion with tips
$5.00 Elephant’s Deli dinner PDX $265.00 Daily average per person for cruise
$15.00 Souvenirs $133.00 Daily average per person, per day for cruise
$20.00 Extra drinks on board


Our cruise fare came plus tips came to almost $800, which breaks down to around $265 per day and $133 per person, per day.  This is not the sweet spot of cruise deals and one that we would probably pass on.  However, the dates were just right and we were just looking for an excuse to use an unused Southwest Airlines credit, so that is why we picked the cruise we did.  It also helped that we were able to get $130 in shipboard spending money, so when we factor that bonus in the cost of the cruise ends up being $800 – $130 = $670, bringing down the per day cost to $223 and then only $112 per person, per day.

Our airfare on Southwest was only $158 round trip and the reason why that fare is so low is because we have the Companion Pass, which allows Lisa to travel for free as my companion.  Without that pass, the cost would have been $316 round trip.  Our only other expenses were transportation related on public transit and one Lyft ride.  Food was covered by our Priority Pass lounge pass for Friday breakfast and Sunday lunch, and we bought dinner at the Portland Airport Sunday night at Elephant’s Deli (using their 50% off evening discount).

In total, we spent just a shade over $900 for our three-day weekend and that covered everything from food, airfare and cruise fare.  While our aim is to be under $200 total per day, given the circumstances that we just needed a short weekend getaway, $300 per day was doable and necessary.  Despite the short duration, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and if the timing, cruise fare and the airfare were right, we would definitely do it again!

Anatomy of Vacation Costs: Weekend Getaway in Seaside

Here are the final expenses for our just completed weekend getaway in Seaside.  We scored a great deal on Living Social for the room, and to save costs we ate cheaply in the room with groceries (the room had a fridge for all that cheese we ate!).  Eating out, we only got some breakfast sandwiches to-go at McDonald’s, and ate out for dinner once and lunch twice.

$162.00 Seaside Inn Living Social – 2 nights $281.31 TOTAL
$17.37 Hotel tax 2.5 days
$11.76 Grocery Outlet food / groceries
$36.50 Osprey Cafe lunch $112.52 Daily average per person
$14.20 Tom’s Fish and Chips dinner $56.26 Daily average per peson, per day
$4.00 McDonald’s
$3.59 McDonald’s Lodging $179.37
$15.89 Red Robin lunch Dining $85.94
$13.00 Gas Transportation $13.00
$3.00 Hotel tip Total $278.31

Anatomy of Vacation Costs: Weekend in Minneapolis

Here is a full breakdown of our recent weekend getaway in Minneapolis/St. Paul Minnesota:

Days:  3

Total Spent:  $641.73

Per day breakdown:  $213.91

Per person/ per day breakdown:  $106.96

$270.00 Delta Airlines ET
$138.94 SW Airlines ET
$4.00 Bus fare
$7.00 Bus day pass
$8.00 Bus day pass
$2.15 Barnes & Noble book LT
$4.60 A&W Rootbeer Float
$16.09 Doc Popcorn
$20.00 Admission – American Swedish Institute
$8.53 Disco Fries
$6.47 Glam Doll Donuts
$22.40 FIKA lunch
$24.00 Minnesota History Center
$3.00 Tips
$16.49 Revival Burger
$16.00 Groupon Afro Deli
$1.75 Bus fare ET to airport
$12.00 Mill City Museum
$40.00 Royal Family Theater tickets
$2.67 Dunns Bros Coffee
$7.74 Golden’s Deli
$9.90 Bottle of wine from store


This trip was planned about two weeks beforehand when Lisa was presented with the opportunity to attend a conference in St. Paul.  Since the conference was to begin on Tuesday, and since Monday was Presidents Day, that basically gave us three days before the conference to fly in and take in the sights.  We had visited previously when we arrived via Amtrak, but our visit was for only half a day.

The costs of this trip could have easily been an additional $400 – $500, but Lisa’s transportation was covered so all I needed was to buy my own roundtrip fare, which we flew on Delta and on Southwest.  Once again, we used coupons from the Entertainment book and a Groupon to save money.  Our biggest savings was in our hotel, staying three nights at the St. Paul Hyatt Place for only 5,000 points per night.  Rates here average around $149 per night, so we saved over $450 just by using our Hyatt points.

Breakfast all three days was complimentary at the hotel, so that was another easy savings of $20 per day, plus it was nice to just serve ourselves and get the day start straight away without having to wait.

We didn’t rent a car as the public transportation network is outstanding, especially since our hotel was right next to the St. Paul Union Station, the starting and ending point for a number of buses that we used to get around.  We could have also used Uber or Lyft, of which there is plenty, but the buses suited us just fine.

With all costs considered, we were slightly above our target rate of $100 per person, per day, but overall this was a very successful and budget-friendly trip.

Category breakdown:

$110.89 Food
$429.69 Transportation – flights, buses, shuttle
$96.00 Attractions
$5.15 Misc
$641.73 Total

Anatomy of Vacation Costs: Weekend in Seattle via train

Here is a full breakdown of our expenses for our most recent trip:

Days:  3 (Friday – Saturday)

Total spent:  $167.20

Per day breakdown:  $55.73

Per person / per day breakdown:  $27.87

$86.00 Amtrak RT for two
$2.25 Amtrak coffee
$14.95 Wing Luke Asian Museum
$10.00 Tri Met MAX tickets ($2.50 each)
$54.00 Dinner out at Janbo Cafe

Category Breakdown:

$56.25 Food
$96.00 Transportation – flights, buses, shuttle
$14.95 Attractions
$167.20 Total

This was a cheap weekend trip for us, primarily because of our free accommodations on Friday and Saturday night with our friends.  They also fed us breakfast and dinner both nights, so it was only fair to pick up the lunch tab at the Janbo Cafe.  We did save over $100 using coupons:

$14.95 Buy one, get one free admission to the Wing Luke Asian Museum.  We used our Entertainment book discount.

$86 – our Amtrak Cascades ticket was $86 for a round trip for one person.  Using our Buy one, get one free voucher from our Barclays Amtrak Mastercard, Lisa was able to travel with me for free so instead of paying $172 for our trains, it only costed us half of that, $86, and thus bringing our per person roundtrip fare to only $42.

Final Thoughts:

I love taking the train and it is so easy and convenient for a weekend trip north to Seattle.  The trains, especially the Cascades, are modern, comfortable and a very relaxed way to spend four hours traveling.  Despite our long return home and spending three and a half hours on a bus, we realize that weather is a factor and our delay comes with the territory of riding the train.  Having the Amtrak Mastercard costs $75 per year, so having the buy one, get one free coupon is kinda a wash, but it does encourage us to consider the train as a travel option.  We still have another ten months to evaluate the overall perks for this card, but for now our weekend trip was definitely a success on a limited budget!

Anatomy of Vacation Costs: Weekend in Phoenix

Here is a full breakdown of our expenses for our most recent trip:

Days:  3 (Saturday – Monday)

Total spent:  $552.32

Per day breakdown:  $184.11

Per person / per day breakdown:  $92.06


$259.92 SW Roundtrip flights for two
$0.00 Holiday Inn Express PDX, 1 night with points
$0.00 Hyatt Place Phoenix, 2 nights with points
$8.00 Bus day passes for 2
$8.00 Bus day passes for 3
$2.00 Shuttle driver tip
$1.00 Entertainment Book digital membership
$2.50 Rolling Dough donut
$9.00 Rossen House tour (with Entertainment coupon)
$80.00 Half Marathon – Groupon price
$23.00 Pizzerio Bianco
$21.12 Ruby Tuesday (with BOGO free coupon)
$22.00 Desert Botanical Garden (with Entertainment BOGO free coupon)
$34.32 Gertrude’s restaurant
$7.00 Glass of wine at hotel
$2.25 Prune Face donut
$19.00 The Grill on Mill dinner
$18.00 Heard Museum
$25.23 Ruby Tuesday
$10.00 MAX tickets roundtrip for two


Category Breakdown:

$134.00 Food
$288.00 Transportation – flights, buses, shuttle
$130.00 Attractions & marathon


We saved at least $200 on our Hyatt hotels by using points, $100 at the Holiday Inn Express, and almost $50 by using buy one / get one free coupons from the Entertainment digital coupon book, which we bought for a $.99 30-day trial a few days before.  We looked at renting a car, but they were really astronomical so it worked out to just get the public transportation day passes and using the hotel shuttle.  We also had Lyft and Uber at our disposal, but ended up not really needing to use it.  The marathon was normally $120, but I found a last-minute Groupon deal that brought the cost down to $80.  As far as food, the hotel provided us a hearty breakfast on Saturday, Sunday and Monday that filled us up for most of the day.  I actually didn’t even eat breakfast on Sunday as I wanted to run on an empty stomach.  Our airline tickets were pretty reasonable at $130 each round trip, or just $65 each way.

Final Thoughts:

We had a great trip and our hotel was really  ideal for the location and amenities for only 5,000 Hyatt points a night.  We hit up the major attractions, but for future weekend visits we’ll try to make it out to the Arts District in Scottsdale and we’ll try to visit the Music Instrument Museum.  If we were to stay longer, we’d rent a car and check out points south and north up to Sedona and the Grand Canyon — Phoenix is really ideal just for a few days and we feel like we’ve seen most of it in our short three day weekend.