I recently went on a week long trip to Panama with a friend. My friend isn’t really in the points and miles world, so while we did pay for a few hotel nights with points and miles, mostly we were making use of good deals and paying in cash. This is a pretty realistic example of taking a nice vacation on the cheap, without needing to apply for a bunch of credit cards!
The Flight Deal had posted an inexpensive fare out of Chicago to Panama, which was just the catalyst we needed to plan a trip. Since the fare was out of Chicago, we spent some time there (even though we live in Michigan!) and we also had an overnight layover in Miami. Sometimes that’s how it goes. Luckily, my friend and I both enjoy the process of travel. Which is sometimes key to being able to take advantage of these inexpensive tickets. I didn’t see the overnight in Miami as a delay in starting the trip! It was part of the trip! (And it could have been the end of the trip when I almost broke my ankle by slamming it in the hotel shuttle van door… ouch!)
Overall, I think we did pretty well keeping our costs low, and that includes going out to a couple nice dinners, like The Purple Pig in Chicago – one of my favorites! We were also able to visit the amazingly beautiful, secluded San Blas Islands. Just for reference, all inclusive of food, water, transport, and room, the San Blas package came to about $345.
Here are the total expenses for a week in Panama.
|9 Days/9 Nights|
|Hotel||$635.63||15,000 IHG Points + 7,500 Hyatt Points|
|Transport||$516.25||3,000 Ultimate Rewards -> Amtrak|
|Total||$2449.52||15,000 IHG + 7,500 Hyatt + 3,000 Amtrak|
|Per person per day||$136.08|
How was the Amtrak trip (I assume to Chicago to get started)?
I’ve taken Amtrak’s Wolverine service several times and it’s been pleasant every time. Spacious seats with power outlets and (somewhat) functional WiFi. Sometimes the Wolverine gets delayed by an hour or two, so you absorb a bit of risk if you use it to make connections to flights. In every case, it was a solid alternative to either driving or taking Megabus.
I usually try to plan to take the train the day before or the morning of for an evening flight. It’s easy for me to have buffer time in Chicago because I have quite a few friends who live there that I like catching up with from time to time!
Pretty straight forward, as usual. It’s only a 4 hour train ride, so I take it to Chicago often because it’s so easy to get work done on the train and so easy to get to O’hare from the train station.
Taking the train to Chicago works well on so many levels. Some people I know drive part way and park at minimal cost closer to the city(ex. New Buffalo). Always create buffer time in case of a delay.
Another plus is that parking is usually free at the Amtrak station!
Chicago – Ann Arbor on Megabus can not be beat! The highest I every paid for RT was $25.50 booking at least 2 to 3 weeks out. Stops at Union Station too 🙂
I do Megabus sometimes too! If I can get the ticket for less than $16.50 one-way it is always a done deal, but at $25.50 per one-way I usually will redeem 1,500 UR for the train. I am going to Chicago next week and I was able to snag a $1.50 Megabus trip for that!
I thought the Amtrak redemption is only for the night train arriving in Chicago near midnight right? But not for the day train…correct?