The Baltimore Budget

One more post to wrap up last month’s adventure in Baltimore!  You know I always like to give you all the numbers, so I’ve detailed all of the spending (cash and points) below.

If you’d like to see more on Baltimore, scroll down, or check the links here and here.  (And my first overnight train ride here.)

federal-hill-view-1

Budget

This is where it gets fun.  Traveling along the US’s eastern seaboard can get expensive, but I had no idea 3 days in a random city could have a price tag of over $1,000!

 

Don’t worry, that’s before travel hacking.  Remember when I mentioned that this was one of those “I’m bored, let’s go somewhere” trips?  Well, it’s also one of those “I wouldn’t have ever done this if I had to pay for everything” trips.  We saved $700 or over 65% of the cost by using points and miles!

Redeeming Points and Miles

I used Amtrak points to book the train ride down to Baltimore Penn Station.  I redeemed 23,460 Amtrak Guest Rewards for the three of us.  Since I currently hold the Amtrak Guest Rewards MasterCard from Bank of America, I received 5% back in points, so those tickets only really cost me 22,287 Guest Rewards.  Still, this wasn’t an amazing redemption of the points, at just under 1.4 cents per point (the total cash price was $306).

ihg-safe1

An old, repurposed vault door in the hotel.

Next up, hotel.  We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express Baltimore – Downtown.  It was actually kind of a neat hotel, converted from an old bank building, and offered a decent free breakfast and shuttle service within a mile of the hotel to get around the city a bit easier.  I redeemed 40,000 IHG points, courtesy of the Priceless Surprises promotion last year, for a room that would have booked at around $274.46 for Saturday and Sunday night.  That price gives us a redemption value of about 0.68 cents per point.  I know that sounds awful, but IHG points are typically valued between 6 and 8 cpp, so I actually got a decent value out of those points!

Finally, the flights.  We flew home on Southwest, Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport home to Boston Logan.  Southwest virtually dominates BWI, and since we have the Companion Pass, it was an obvious choice.  I booked my flight and my son’s flight with Rapid Rewards.  1,791 Rapid Rewards and a $5.6o fee for each $41 flight, for a value of 2 cents per point!  Definitely one of my better Rapid Rewards redemptions.  I’ve noticed cheap Southwest flights typically offer a great value on your Rapid Rewards, and this was no exception.  Once I had those flights taken care of, I booked my girlfriend’s Companion Pass flight for only $5.60 in fees.  The Rapid Rewards/Companion Pass combo saved us $106.20 on the flights!

But wait, it gets better!  I booked those flights with my American Express Platinum card to take advantage of the 5x points, as well as the AmEx airline credit.  See this recent post for some more details.  The airline credit covered the fees, so the flights were actually zero dollars!

total-spending-with-points

This is how the spending broke down.  As you can see, IHG points and Amtrak points took off a huge chunk of the expenses.  Then, we put most of the actual spend on her Chase Sapphire Reserve.  Great for bonus dining points!

Paying Cash

Here’s how our actual out of pocket expenses worked out:

  • Activities:  $11  Super easy, only paid for one “activity” while we were there, the Emerson Clock Tower tour.  Plus, I bought it on Groupon to save a bit extra!  Everything else we did was free – The Baltimore Museum of Art, the Walters Art Museum, Fort McHenry, and walking, walking is always free!
  • Food:  $323.91  This is embarrassing.  I don’t think I’ve ever spent this much money on food in three days in my life!  Breakfast the first day at Paper Moon was about $65 with tax and tip, and then Sunday and Monday we took advantage of the Holiday Inn’s free breakfast.  Dinner at Chiapparelli’s was $90 (oooh fancy).  On Sunday we stopped by the Pratt St Ale House for lunch with our friends, to the tune of $56 all in, and the last day we got lunch at Fell’s Point Tavern after exploring Fort McHenry for another $60.  The rest were smaller line items, like ice cream after dinner.
  • Souvenirs:  $5  Two souvenir coins the little guy picked out at Fort McHenry, easy stuff.
  • Transportation:  $29.20  Two Ubers and the light rail down to BWI airport.  The Uber rides cam in at $8.95 for Charles Village into Downtown, and $15.15 from Fells Point back to the hotel on Sunday night.  Three tickets on the light rail was $5.10.  Of course, the majority of our transportation was covered by Rapid Rewards and Amtrak Guest Rewards points.
spending-by-category-without-points

Activities at $11 (2.98%), Food at a massive $323.91 (87.75%), Souvenirs at $5 (1.35%), and Transportation at $29.20 (7.91%).

The one redeeming quality for the food budget?  We put all of the spend on my girlfriend’s new Chase Sapphire Reserve.  Triple points on dining, and it counts toward her minimum spend, so I don’t feel too bad about living high on the hog for the weekend.

So that’s it!  $370.  Three people.  Three days.  Ends up being about $41/person/day after all the travel hacking.  Not awful, but it kind of pales in comparison to doing the international trips for less per day.  When you travel quickly, you end up spending a lot more for a shorter trip, especially if you’re paying cash.  While in Mexico, we stopped by grocery stores for some supplies, because we knew we would use them throughout the trip.  When you’re only visiting for 3 days though, how much can you really load up on at the supermarket?

spending-by-area

And when you have a lot of time on your hands, you break it down by spending per area!

All in, we had a great time, and got to explore somewhere new!  With all our Southwest flights routing through BWI lately, it was only a matter of time before the city piqued my interest and drew me in.  We’ve got a few long weekend city tours planned this year.  If everything works out, we’ll be hopping on some short Southwest flights to Austin and Nashville later in the year, I’m trying to get the most out of those vacation days!

To fatter wallets and fuller passports!

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