Mr. Frugalwoods and I are epic proponents of off-peak travel. Anytime other people are not flying, that’s when you’ll find the Frugalwoods at an airport. One of our best tricks is to travel cheap by being Thanksgiving weirdos, and a close second is celebrating Christmas in January.
My parents, siblings, siblings-in-law, nieces, and nephew all live out in southern California, which is a hefty trek from ol’ Boston. In an effort a few years ago to discern the cheapest possible month to fly across country, Mr. FW and I brainstormed a list we like to call “times when no one else flies.” The winner? January. Yep, poor, dejected, post-Christmas, post-new year’s eve, post-holiday goodies, back-in-the-saddle, back-to-the-gym January. Everyone just flew all over creation in November and December–ain’t nobody going anywhere in January!
We started this tradition two years ago and I’m grateful to my family for their flexibility on when we celebrate Christmas. I feel fortunate that they’re a frugal bunch who completely understands our desire to not pay top dollar to come visit. What’s important is spending time together, not the exact date on the calendar or the amount of money spent.
Another factor motivating our off-peak jaunts are the lack of crowds. I’m sure you’re shocked to hear that two people who want to live on a homestead in the woods hate crowds, but, we really do. Like woah. Flying in January though? Might as well be on a private plane (ok not really seeing as we’re sitting middle and aisle seats in coach, but close enough, right?!).
Another pro for non-traditional travel times is the fact that we rely on our network of dog friends to watch Frugal Hound when we’re away. We’ve never paid to board her and, while I’m sure one of our buddies would take her over Christmas, it’s certainly more convenient for them to watch her for a random week in January.
Can you believe I’ve written six paragraphs (punctuated by two completely unrelated, yet seasonal, photos) without even mentioning the cost of these allegedly stupendous plane tickets?! I’m just building up to the big reveal! I really enjoy doing this in real life too, which can drive Mr. FW crazy. I just felt like you’d want the whole backstory first, right?!
If you follow me on Twitter (@FrugalWoods), you already know the price because I was so excited that I scooped myself and tweeted it out on Wednesday night. OK, ok, I won’t make you read anymore before telling you!
For our roundtrip, direct flights from Boston to San Diego in January, we spent:
$216/person ($432.40 total for the two of us)
vs. the cost of flights the week of December 20th:
$563/person ($1,126 total for the two of us)
Our savings: $693.60
BAM. We’re saving a whopping $693.60 just to travel a mere few weeks later! It’s the same trip to see the same people and will be filled with the same love. Except now, it’s frugal love! Oh I’m on a roll now…
I know that many of you savvy frugal folks cleverly redeem airline points for your flights, but, Mr. FW and I concentrate our rewards points onto just two credit cards: American Express Starwood Preferred Guest and Amazon.com Cash Rewards.
We just plain don’t have enough spending to support rewards spread across more cards. We’re able to maximize our points on each of these cards by using them exclusively. And, redeeming Starwood points for flights yields a worse redemption value than using them for hotels.
If you want to see data more impressive than our “times when no one else flies” methodology, check out this nifty graph courtesy of Google Flights:
Yep, that lowest dark blue point in our airfare. Ok, I think I’ve bored you long enough with how enthusiastic I am about this cheap flight. Let’s move on to the Grumble for a complete change of pace…
One of the members of the Frugalwoods household has been having trouble with, ahem, eating slowly enough. I’ll give you one guess as to which one of us it is:
Dearest Frugal Hound has developed a habit of scarfing her food–and by scarfing, I mean practically inhaling. And so, we bought* her this Portion Pacer Ball, which promises in a very serious font to “help stop gulping” (affiliate link).
*Actually it was free since we redeemed Amazon.com cash-back points for it.
The idea is that the hound has to nudge the ball around in order to reach her food, which slows down her eating. Fast eating can cause choking or bloat in dogs, both of which can be fatal. We selected this particular food ball because a greyhound we babysat had one and it worked well for him. Thus, we knew this brand and type of ball would work for our needle-nosed beast.
If you’ve stopped laughing by now, you can rest assured that Frugal Hound acclimated to her new food technique after a mildly rocky first meal during which she: 1) pounced on her food, 2) pawed her bowl like a cat, 3) grabbed a bite and ran away (this being repeated several times), and finally 4) just didn’t finish eating.
I’m proud to report that after 3 meals, our dog appears to have gotten the hang of eating again. I know I’ve shared before that Frugal Hound isn’t the brightest bulb, but I never thought we’d be re-teaching her how to eat… it’s tragic, really. But look at this sweet face trying to figure out why there’s a ball in her bowl: