This past weekend, we took a short but sweet visit to Niagara Falls. We have wanted to experience the beauty of the falls since way before we actually moved to America. But since we’ve been here, it’s been one of those trips that has always been bumped for something else.
I’m not sure if it’s because it’s relatively close (but far enough to need a plane ride) that it’s been bumped for farther flung destinations or because there’s not actually too much we want to do there. It’s kind of a see the falls and we’re done situation. And do we really want to drop that much money for that kind of scenario?
Recently, we just decided to go for it – we’ll forever regret it when we move back to the UK having not seen the falls. Plus, it’ll be astronomically more expensive to visit from London when we realise how much we regret not going and decide to book a trip.
So, we’ve tried really hard to make this a budget conscious trip, ensuring we see the majesty of the falls at a wallet friendly price. And the ways we’ve saved on our trip to Niagara are applicable across many other short weekend breaks.
Here’s a rundown of the way we saved on our trip….
Airfare Points Redemption
We may live in the same state as Niagara Falls but it’s a 7 hour drive in good traffic. So, for a quick weekend trip, we decided on a flight from NYC to Buffalo, which is a 28 minute drive from the falls.
We used our accumulated JetBlue points for return flights, costing us a total of $22.40 in taxes all in. The flights we’re taking would have cost $400 on the open market.
Loyalty Program for Car Hire
We have an Enterprise membership, allowing us to earn points whenever we rent with them. Whilst we’ve been in America, we usually rent a car when we’re on a trip so we’ve collected these points over a multi year stretch – it’s not that great a loyalty program.
Still, we’ve accumulated enough points to enable us a free car rental! So, that was our transportation to and from the airport/falls sorted.
Staying Outside of the Falls Area for Accommodation
The one thing I didn’t like about the Falls area was the tacky, commercial, man-made aspect. There’s hotels galore, with casinos, shops and paid activities. A whole plethora of ways for companies to vaccuum the money from your wallet whilst you’re stood there enjoying the power and beauty of the Falls.
So whilst there’s hotels aplenty at the falls with sweeping views of the natural wonder, they come with a price tag because of the captive audience. We decided to stay in downtown Buffalo for slightly cheaper options, which is 20 mins from the Falls. We are part of the Hilton Honors program and our Gold Level means we received a free breakfast on Sunday morning – enough to tide us over until we get home early afternoon. Sadly, we didn’t have enough points to get this night completely free but looking on the bright side, we’ll earn points on our stay for future free nights.
Gift Card Redemption for a Free Dinner
We were away just one night but luckily our dinner was free! We received a gift voucher for one of our favourite NYC restaurants at Christmas and as luck would have it, they have a location in Buffalo, so dinner didn’t cost a penny other than tip.
Packed Lunches and Snacks
As we were away for just one full day, I packed us a lunch for Saturday day time and snacks to see us through until dinner. The only thing I needed to buy was a coffee when we landed to combat the tiredness from the early start we had!
And don’t go buying the overpriced water at the airport once you’re through security. Take a water bottle and fill up at a water fountain.
You don’t have to get sucked into paying $$$ for activities on a day out. Free ones are just as fun! Yes, there’s a fancy tour you can take which gets you so close to the falls, you get wet from the waterfall spray. We deliberated it but decided ultimately we weren’t that interested in paying $40 to do this. We had just as much fun walking around the trails surrounding the Falls and admiring them from different vantage points.
All in our trip cost $247.89, which consists of getting to and from the airport, flight tax, coffee at the airport, parking charges, hire car insurance, accommodation, tips for dinner and hotel staff and 2 Hard Rock cafe pin badges (yes, I collect pin badges from every location we go that has a Hard Rock Cafe. I’m at 21 and counting). I think the most annoying expense was paying a dollar to get back into America after we’d crossed into Canada to see the views from the Canadian side!
Trips don’t have to cost that much. If you utilise things such as loyalty programs and credit card bonuses (our JetBlue points came from the JetBlue credit card sign on bonus) you can cut the cost of the biggest trip expenses, making it more affordable.
I know some people want to kick back, relax and treat themselves when they’re away and so might not want to take a packed lunch. But it’s all about priorities. I love a nice lunch out as much as the next person. But this trip wasn’t about fancy food. It was getting to experience the wonder and power of the Falls in person. So a packed lunch was a good and smart way to save $50.
Everyone’s travel style is different and unique to them. We are slowly learning that travel isn’t always about fancy hotels or the most expensive resorts (although I wouldn’t say no to the Four Season in Maui) and our evolving approach is such that we got to enjoy Niagara Falls for a budget friendly price!