Each Wednesday I receive TravelZoo’s “Top 20” List via email. This is a list of the very best deals TravelZoo has uncovered from the thousands of available vacation packages, hotel and airline deals around the world. The Top 20 usually offers solid deals, but during the ’08-’09 recession, some of them are outright crazy.
Deals like roundtrip airfare and a 5 night stay in a four star hotel in Dublin for $699 a person…
This has gotten Mrs. Hacks and Yours Truly thinking about a trip to Europe sometime next year. We’ve generally focused on Ireland and Italy because, well, I’m Irish and she’s Italian. (We are really imaginative!)
In any event, last week’s missive from TravelZoo included a package deal from Sceptre Tours that we found intriguing: round trip air from NYC to Naples, 6 nights in a 3 star hotel in Sorrento (on the gorgeous Amalfi coast), and a rental car, for $799 per person. Depart from Boston, add $20 per person. Chicago? Add $100 per person. Travel between January and March. Same trip in the spring, and the cost of course goes up.
I priced it from Chicago, going in mid May, and the total including taxes was right around $2700. So I began checking reviews of the particular hotel included in the package, weather in May-June timeframe, reviews for Sorrento restaurants, and so forth. In other words, I was slowly working myself into a frenzy, and my wife was getting equally excited.
We’d decided by Saturday night that we were going to go, and mentioned it to friends over dinner that evening.
Then, against all odds, I had a particularly lucid moment Sunday morning over coffee. “I wonder if British Airways flies to Naples or Rome,” I mused.
Regular readers will recall that British Airways and Chase are offering a crazy Visa Signature Card sign-on bonus which nets you 100,000 miles for doing not much more than having a pulse. Knowing that I in fact possess a discernible pulse, I immediately logged onto the BA site and discovered that rewards flights to London and other “Zone 1” cities require 50,000 miles. Naples however, is in Zone 2, and that requires 60,000 miles per ticket.
So… I applied for a BA Chase Visa Signature card and will get 100,000 miles with BA. The other 20,000 miles? I know a Mint that will sell me $1 commemorative U.S. coins at face value. All I need to do is buy $15,000 worth of coins, spend $5K on “stuff”, and I’ll have the 120,000 miles for two free round trip tickets from Chicago to Naples.
And so we’re off. My goal is to try to hack a trip to Italy, spending as little as possible by utilizing as many legal techniques/tricks as possible.
One caveat, and frankly a potential flaw in this plan: we have no interest in staying in a hovel. Wherever we stay it must be:
- Convenient to town
- Reasonably quiet
The ability to accommodate parking a rental car is also a plus. After looking at dozens and dozens of reviews of Sorrento hotels, this is clearly going to be one of the toughest aspects of the trip. I’ve mostly used reviews from Venere, VirtualTourist, and TripAdvisor, and to say that even the nicest properties have mixed reviews would be putting it mildly. We may opt for renting an apartment right in Sorrento.
So the adventure begins; I’ll update you all periodically. If you’ve had any experiences or have any tips that you think could help the cause, please comment!
- 3 items which proved indispensable on our trip to Italy
- The Naples – Sorrento local train: a Circumvesuviana review
- A few images from our trip to Italy…
- Catch last minute travel deals with Travelzoo
- The secret to great vacations: the peak-end rule
- raveable: fast, easy, one-stop source for hotel reviews