Travel Hacking Atlantis
There are several different ideas for travel hacking Atlantis in the Bahamas. One of the most written about tricks is getting rooms at the Comfort Inn and Suites since those guests get full Atlantis privileges (not to mention free breakfast at your hotel). Another trick is to go on a cruise that offers a day excursion to Atlantis. While those are perfectly acceptable, I’m not a big fan of cruising, and for some reason I wanted to stay “on property” at Atlantis. So here’s how we saved over $8000 on our trip:
1) Flights: Our family was excited to take our first Southwest Airlines International flights this trip. Since Hubby travels with Southwest for work, we have the companion pass and a lot of points. Since there is only one flight a day into Nassau, we had to book them as soon as the Southwest schedule opened up. The taxes are a little higher for international flights, so we ended up spending $500 total. Considering the high priced flights during Christmas vacation ($700+/person roundtrip), I was really happy with that. Total savings on flights: $3000.
2) Hotel: Since staying “on property” at Atlantis was a priority, it took a little more finesse to cut down on those costs. Because we are a family of 5, we have to have 2 rooms. Atlantis fire codes…apparently. Since Atlantis is a Marriott property, we used 220,000 Marriott points to stay at The Cove at Atlantis for 2 nights. While that is a lot of points, Hubby’s work travel meant that we had a lot of Marriott points to burn. Not to mention the fact that those rooms were retailing for about $1000/night per room. Reward availability is not great, especially during school holidays. It took quite a few phone calls to find those rooms. They were the only rooms available any time during our intended stay, so I worked our trip around it. That left us with 4 more nights at Atlantis to pay for. Therefore, we shifted to one of the less expensive hotels on Atlantis property, The Coral Towers, for the rest of our stay. I used a credit card benefit of the Citi Prestige card that got us the 4th night free at The Coral Towers. I was only required to book the rooms through the Citi Prestige concierge and they reimbursed me for that 4th night. So while we only saved about $500 on our 4 night stay, it was better than nothing. Total savings on hotel rooms: $4500
3) Food: I’ve already posted about the food at Atlantis. The first way to cut down on food costs is by arranging for your airport transfer to stop at a local grocery store. We arranged our transfers with Cheryl’s Bahamas Taxi and Tours and they did not disappoint. Among other things, we purchased a case of water, fruit, and some snack foods. There was even a liquor store stop as well. Every time we went to the beach or pool, my bag had snacks and water so we weren’t needlessly spending during the day. While the grocery stop helped, it was still a little high priced since everything has to be imported to the island. The breakfast buffet for $25/person just wasn’t something I could justify. Since we flew Southwest, we could each have 2 checked bags. So, I packed one hard suitcase full of breakfast cereal, granola bars, and spoons. We had breakfast in our room or on our balcony each morning in our pajamas. I also liked that I didn’t have to wake everyone so that we could go have breakfast together somewhere. That’s what I call a relaxed vacation! Total food savings estimated to be about $750.
4) Credit Card/ Phone Fees: These small fees are often overlooked. Do not use a credit card in the Bahamas (or any foreign country) that charges a foreign transaction fee. Just take the ones that charge fees out of your wallet and leave them at home. Always pay in the foreign currency, in this case, the Bahamian dollar. The exchange rate from your credit card company will be much better than the gift shop or hotel in country. Don’t forget to sign up for the international calling plan for the country you are visiting. We’ve had this done before we left and cancelled the service as soon as we got home. Without it, that call or text will cost way more than you thought. We made good use out of the hotel wifi. Some of my travel blogger friends swear by T-mobile with free international roaming, so you might want to check that out.
So there it is. How I saved money at Atlantis without being on a cruise or staying off property. A lot of people will try to tell you that travel hacking with points, miles and cash back can allow you to travel for free. I never had any illusions that our trip to Atlantis would be free or completely inexpensive. I still felt like we spent some serious cash. But I do know that we wouldn’t have stayed in the more expensive rooms, and we might have shortened our stay without these travel hacks. I want to save money as much as the next guy, but I’m more comfortable in the middle, somewhere between camping and the Ritz Carlton. Most of my posts about saving money can be found under the loyalty button on my home page.
I learned a lot about our family traveling style on this vacation. Truthfully, 6 days on and island was just too much without a major excursion or something. Oh well, lesson learned…onward and upward!