Breaking the Bank in the Caribbean: A Vacation Budget Breakdown

Today, I have a vacation budget breakdown for you. My Florida / Caribbean Cruise vacation budget breakdown.

I love to travel, but have no travel sponsors. (though I would love travel sponsors!) To stay true to my dollars, I track what I spend while on vacation and report back here. This is what I spent. This was not a frugal trip by any stretch of the imagination, but we certainly were frugal where we could.

Background: The trip was booked as a bit of an impulse. We were nearing the end of paying off my student loans and desperate for a release. Hubs didn’t really care where we went, but he wanted to get something on the books ASAP so he had something to look forward to. On a sad cold weekend in January, we got ahold of our travel agent and had the cruise booked within a week or two.

As is Hubs’ nature, this trip grew beyond its original plan. We were supposed to just take a cruise. Then he extended it on the front end to visit NASA….. and then the back end to visit Universal Studios. This trip has completely lost sight of being cheap. Maybe it was never cheap. Either way, it was full of new experiences.

Trip Details:

Length: November 27 – December 9. 12 nights, 13 days.

Itinerary: Fly to Orlando, Drive to the coast. Spend 2 nights in Cape Canaveral/ Cocoa Beach to see NASA. Get on a cruise in Port Canaveral for a 7-day Eastern Caribbean Cruise with Royal Caribbean. Drive back to Orlando and spend 3 days at Universal Studios before flying home.

Pre-booked! Known Expenses

Flights: 2 people, round-trip, direct: $765 Flying direct wasn’t that big of a splurge, but it did add a little. 

Car Rental: $77 We had the car from Friday to Sunday and let me tell you, I’ve never been so aggressively upsold in my entire life. Would you like to pay $7/day for the privilege of not stopping to pay the tolls? You still have to pay the tolls, but this way you don’t have to stop. UGH! In other news, we ended up with a Kia Soul. I felt like a hamster (gerbil?) the whole time. 

Hotel Pre-Cruise: La Quinta Cape Canaveral (Breakfast included!), 2 nights: $259

NASA: 2 person entry and Behind the Scenes tour: $149  ($75 each) This did not disappoint. I am not a space nerd, and even I needed the whole dale. 

Cruise: 2 people, 7 day Eastern Caribbean, Royal Caribbean, Balcony, Buy 1 Get 1 Half Off: $1878The balcony was nice to get some air, but it may have been more than we needed. This was our first cruise, and we may have gone too big here. 

Cabin Monkey, at your service.

Cabin Monkey, at your service…. It might be a frog. Cabin Frog is also at your service.

Shore Excursions — 2 people, 2 ports

Snorkel Scavenger Hunt: $74 ($37 each)  A complete rip off. It was much more expensive than a snorkel rental and there was no scavenger hunt. 

Swimming with Sea Lions!! : $319 ( $130 each plus the cost of the photos) Amazing and while spendy, it was worth it. This was a highlight of the trip!

Screen Shot 2016-01-24 at 9.22.22 PM

Sea Lion smooches ON MY FACE!

Universal Studios: $772.

  • Cabana Bay Resort, 1 room, 3 nights, 2 queens
  • 2 people, 2 day individual park passes (Harry Potter!!!)

Trip Spending

Gas for the Kia Soul: $7.31. We did a good amount of driving. To the coast in Cocoa Beach, to NASA then back to the coast. Yay for fuel efficient cars!

Uber trips: No discounts applied.

  • Port Canaveral -> Cabana Bay Resort: $80.34  Not too bad. It takes roughly an hour. Our driver was great.
  • Cabana Bay Resort -> Airport: $19.94 The hotel quoted us $50 to get to the airport! Thanks Uber!

Cruise Charges: $69.50 We had a $200 on board credit. Most of that got eaten up by daily gratuity (12.95 per person per day). Our only expenses while on the ship were a total of 7 boozy drinks charged to our account. 2 on the beach, 5 on the ship. 

Souvenirs: $19.99  Hubs bought a bottle of rum. 

Food: $229.67  The biggest variable. All food was included while we were on the ship and our breakfast was covered while at the La Quinta. We brought snacks when we could and tried to be conscious of our food spending. 

Travel Booking Fee: $50 Grumpy gills. We used a travel agent to book the cruise. This was the biggest waste of money. Cruises are easy. She didn’t bring anything to the table for this trip. I won’t use a travel agent again for simple trips like this one. 

Medication: $54 for 3 patches of scopolamine or Transderm Scop. I get incredibly sea sick from even the littlest things. I’m a little sick right now from typing this post in a rocking chair. I only ended up using 2 of the 3 patches, but it was worth every penny. Being on the ship without getting sick was pretty cool and riding all the rides at Universal Studios without wanting to yack was life changing. I give the Transderm Scop patch two enthusiastic thumbs up. 

TOTAL COST: $4,824 

Overall, it was a great trip. Around 50% was new to each of us. We got to do a lot of things that we wouldn’t otherwise do. The only disappointment in the whole trip was the snorkeling.

Ocean feet. :)

Ocean feet 🙂

I am not a beach girl, so I hope we don’t visit a beach location anytime soon, but I had a lot of fun. A little ocean beach time is good for you.

Do you keep track of vacation spending? Do I lose my frugal card for spending $5k in 2 weeks? Are you heading to Orlando anytime soon? I over researched this trip, so ask any questions you may have!

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9 comments

  1. I am feeling some major envy right now for that NASA behind the scenes tour! (I’m such a space nerd.) I think your vacation seems totally fine in terms of expenditures — it was a long trip, and you did a ton of new things. It’s not fun to scrimp all the time, and it seems like you guys struck a good balance. Plus the sea lions!!

    1. Go to NASA, ya space nerd! It’s totally worth it. They also have a slide. I hope you use the slide. It’s a great slide.

      I’m glad I have your approval. It feels like a good amount to spend, but you’re right. We were gone for a while. And when am I going to swim with sea lions again??

      1. Okay, I’m adding the NASA visit to our list, even though we’re not fans of Florida. 🙂 And yeah, swimming with sea lions = priceless.

  2. I keep track of vacation spending, but most of it is ahead of time: hotels, rental cars, etc. The only thing I truly keep an eye on after we start is the cost of food. Or, in Vegas, how much we throw away gambling.

    Glad you had fun. We actually went to Orlando for our honeymoon. (My husband has skin conditions, so romantic beach getaway when you can’t go in the ocean kind of suck.) We loved Universal Studios/Islands of Adventure best out of all the parks we visited. I’m still a little disappointed in myself that I didn’t work up the courage to get the Hulk coaster.

    1. The Hulk coaster is closed! When we wet there they had the shoot and that was it. All the track had been removed! So I didn’t get to ride it either!😉
      Bummer about your husband’s skin condition. That makes it tough. But we all have limitations. I have issues with heat, so we have to go places during the off season. It helps the budget, but if it’s not a big destination like Universal, we run into a lot of places being closed.

  3. Ha, I’m always slack about tracking holiday spending! I actually did a good job with our Japan trip last year but then of course the phone died, taking with it half the info I had been dutifully recording and was planning to blog about. So, boo.

  4. I have to ask… How was the La Quinta?? I’m honeymoon planning and was just looking at it the other day… I found you via the single dollar and was browsing and came across your trip post 🙂

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