[Note: While this article is focused Aruba, there's a lot of universal tips that can be used on many vacations.]
Recently, I spent a week in heavenly bliss in Aruba. If pressed I'd say it's my favorite place on earth. There's perfect weather, perfect dining, and relatively affordable luxury accommodations (more on those later). Lastly, since a few airlines fly directly from Boston for relatively cheap prices, there's always a lot of Red Sox fans making it what my wife likes to call, "South South Boston."
If Aruba sounds like it's out of your price range, read on. You may find that you can fit it in your vacation budget after all. Here are just a few ways that we saved (or could save) money in Aruba:
- Hotels: My wife bought a timeshare with the Marriott three years ago. It was $19,000 and can be used to sleep either 8 people for one week or 4 people for two weeks. Before this trip, I considered the timeshare as an AT BEST a break-even venture. I would have recommended it to anyone. However, the same week now sells for $30,000 meaning that if my wife wanted to sell, she could make money (even though timeshare resales tend to depreciate). I'd say that $30,000 and maintenance fees are too expensive for the average person now.
Tip: Go on RedWeek.com a good 9 months ahead of time and rent someone's timeshare for a week. You can get a great place in the Marriott that will sleep four for $150 a day.
- Gambling: There are a lot of casinos in Aruba. Many of the magazines there have match play coupons. This means that if you $5 of your own money with the coupon and win, you get $10 ($5 from your bet, $5 from the coupon).
- Transportation: I was surprised how reasonable transportation is Aruba. We rented a car for $40 a day. Since, most things are close to the aforementioned timeshare, we only rented for one day to do a trek to the Natural Pool (see picture) and to get to dinner at Flying Fishbone. The other two times we travelled into town we took the bus.
Tip: The bus, Arubus is your best friend in Aruba. It's $2.30 round trip per person and goes around in a big loop taking you to most places you'd ever want to go. It hits every stop every 15 minutes, so you are never waiting long. It's airconditioned and though it's not well cushioned, it's a tremendous value.
- Food: Aruba has some of the best dining I've ever experienced. However, it can get pricey quick. These tips may help you:
Tip #1: If you have a timeshare rental like I mentioned in hotel section, you'll have at least a small fridge and a microwave and other things necessary to cook your own breakfast and lunches. You may even have a small stove and some cookware as we did. Take the Arubus to Ling and Sons and stock up for the week. We spent around $60 for breakfasts, lunches, and snacks. We didn't do any major cooking (it's vacation after all), but cold cuts and bread is not exactly work - even if you are as Lazy as I am. I saw a lot of people spend $5.50 on a two liter of Diet Coke in the hotel's shop, but it was only $1.25 at the store in town.
Tip #2: You can sign up for timeshare talk and receive $100 in free money. It took 90 minutes of our time, but it was well worth it for us. They will try to give you a hard sell on buying a timeshare, so you really have to stick to your guns and not buy into their myriad of sales techniques (they use all of them). This $100 was in the form of a gift certificate, but it can be used at many of the restaurants on the island. We had a great dinner at El Gaucho that came to exactly $101.68 (I wasn't keeping track, but it worked out so well.)
- Drinks: Drinks are bars and by the pool can get expensive, up to $8 a drink. This should come as no surprise as it's the same way anywhere you go.
Tip: when you are at the store picking up your food for the week, grab a bottle of the local rum - I recommend Rum Palmeria. While you are there pick up some mixers. It helps to have a backpack to get it back on the bus.
Once we added up all the savings, we were able to maximize our dollar for a great vacation.
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