Build one house, get two trips to Mexico free

Back in the old days, we used to have to earn our frequent flier miles the hard way – one at a time.  We didn’t have 75,000 AAdvantage mile bonus credit cards, or 50,000 mile Chase Sapphire cards…. or if we did have them, I didn’t know about them, or was too credit-cautious (or uneducated) to take advantage of them.

My wife and I built our own house a few years ago.  Most of the major costs couldn’t be put on a credit card, but I was sure to charge everything I could.  I even bought Lowe’s giftcards on eBay with my credit card so I could get the double whammy of buying the cards at a 10% discount and still get the miles on the purchases.

By the time we had our house completed, I had racked up a little more than 80,000 miles on NWA, which has since merged with Delta.  Having been largely absent as I had worked long hours on the house, and with the onset of a nasty Idaho winter, we were anxious for a getaway.

We wanted a trip that would meet our combined demands – I wanted adventure, Nicole wanted relaxation.  I wanted historical significance, Nicole wanted 90+ degree weather. Our wanderlust carried us to the Yucatan by way of Cancun (CUN). We had no interest in the resort scene in the city, despite the lure of the clean white beaches.  So, the second we got into town,  we grabbed a rental car and headed inland to Chichen Itza.  We spent a few days touring the Mayan ruins there, at Ek Balam, and riding bikes through the jungle to discover the ruins at Coba – all of which where phenomenal, don’t-miss experiences I could rave about for days.

We spent a candlelit night at a bungalow on the beach in Tulum, possibly our second favorite beach behind Costa Rica’s Playa Ventanas.  Our next stop in Playa Del Carmen reintroduced us to the wonderful delicacy that is the “taco al pastor.” If there’s one thing that’s abundantly clear in this world, it’s that God wanted pineapple and pork to be together.

We snorkeled the wonders of Akumal Bay, finding the legendary “ball of fish” encircling a snaggle-toothed barracuda, turtles, stingrays, and a myriad of characters from Finding Nemo.  A 15 year-old Guatemalan with teeth like the aforementioned barracuda guided us on an eerie but amazing dive in the crystal clear waters of a stalactite encrusted underwater cavern.

And then, seven days into the vacation, Nicole finally got what she wanted.

I have a proprietary method for low-balling people with extraordinarily amazing vacation homes for rent.  I suppose the owners probably hate me, and they’ll really detest that I’m willing to share my secrets with you.  For the final three nights of our escapade, I secured Casa South Breeze in the idyllic beachside town of Puerto Morelos – a haven for those of us who crave what’s “off the beaten path.”  For four days we occupied the mansion… alternating between the pool, the beach and the hammocks.  By day I devoured the words of Dan Brown, and by night I devoured the General’s Chicken at Hola Asia – a veritable oasis of culinary deliciousness.

It’s no wonder that we were seized by an unquenchable thirst for radically reduced-price travel… our first taste of free-quent flier travel and we were wanderlusters.

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4 Responses to Build one house, get two trips to Mexico free

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  2. Gens says:

    Hi Brad,

    Love your blog! My twin brother and I follow you guys regularly. We both served in South America and love to get back from time time. Two years ago we went to Tikal. Awesome! Anyway, I was just wondering what your proprietary method for low-balling people with extraordinarily amazing vacation homes for rent is? Any advice would be great! Thanks so much!

    ~ Gens

    • bradleyjai says:

      I am so glad you asked. This is the kind of perfect comment that sparks a future post, so be on the lookout for it.

      In the meantime, here it is in short. The principle we’re working with is a variation on the law of diminishing marginal utility: What a rental home owner values their property at steadily decreases until the unoccupied day arrives.

      Knowing that, you do three things. 1) You ensure that no matter what, you’ll have a place to stay (book a refundable hotel or verify occupancy levels – unless you’re going to the Olmypics, you’ll be fine). 2) You narrow down your target properties to a list of 3-5… all great places which would work for you and your group. Then, 3) you wait.

      Two days before you leave, contact the owners of the target properties – tell them you’re planning on staying at ABC and you’ll be paying $XYZ a night. You’d love to stay at their place, but at this point, that’s all you can swing… if they can do it at that rate, you’d be thrilled to do it.

      Some Vacation Rental owners are uppity, and you may as well have just slapped them in the face… oh well. They’re in this to make money, and you’re in this to save money. Some will weigh your offer. Others will make the rational choice and figure that something is better than nothing (and it is). As long as you’re paying enough to cover their costs, you’re helping them offset expenses when it may otherwise sit empty.

      It’s the McDonald’s concept… they’re losing money on hamburgers to sell you some high-margin fries and soda. Vacation rental owners will make money on some stays, and break even on others. It all helps.

      Hopefully that helps. I’ll fine-tune the articulation of the concept and put it out in post form.

      Thanks to you and your brother both for wanderlusting with us!

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