Summary of the overall trip to Texas and New Mexico, with travel tips and money saving advice.
The major money saver of this trip was the flight; normally Singapore Airlines charge £400 to £700 on this route, the price paid (just £90 return) was unheard of and I think it was an error fare / pricing anomaly. I booked through an online agent and got cashback via Top Cashback on the flights too! The flights were direct from Manchester and travel time was between 9 and 10 hours. One checked in 23Kg case was included, I paid for an extra case of camera and lighting equipment.
I could have saved a little on the car rental had I booked a 4×4 from the outset, upgrading at the desk is never a wise move and you’re a captured customer once there.
I learnt a valuable lesson about NEVER pre-paying for a tank of fuel to return it empty, the car rental companies will fleece you and karma driving it back on fumes can be stressful!
When I first bought my house in USA, I also bought an American Tomtom as backup for when I have no phone signal. At the time it cost around $99 (currently £75.57). I don’t always use it, preferring Google Maps on my phone but it’s a ‘get out of jail’ card if no mobile coverage. The car rental company offered to hire me a Satnav for $17 (currently £13) per day. This is ludicrous, a weeks holiday could pay for your own! Just stop at the nearest ‘Best Buy’ when you arrive in the USA.
The hotels I chose to stay in weren’t the cheapest available but they certainly weren’t the most expensive either. I used some rewards nights to bring the prices down in Waco and Roswell and booked all but 2 hotels online through hotels.com to gain 4.2% cashback with Top Cashback. In addition hotels.com run a very generous rewards scheme. This gives you a credit equal to 10% credit every 10 bookings you make; that’s how I got Waco (£7.22/night) and Roswell (£13.91/night) so cheap. This trip has earned me £19.56 credit against a future booking. I therefore haven’t taken this into account for this trip.
Datil and Corona had to be booked direct over the phone, these locations were a little too remote and hotels.com didn’t list anything there.
FOOD & DRINK
I tend not to include food and drink in my costs; the reason being that I’d be spending that money even if I was at home. I booked hotels with unlimited breakfasts and I skipped lunch most days.
In the evening I ate out sometimes; American food prices are similar to the UK, but the portions are much bigger; or I bought a microwave meal at Walmart and had a wild night in my hotel room. I’ve yet to see an American hotel room that doesn’t include a fridge and microwave as a bare minimum; I’ve stayed in some hotels that even have full kitchens!
COMMUNICATIONS / INTERNET
Having the internet is invaluable these days when travelling; from route navigation to restaurant reviews we turn to our connected devices at every opportunity and take them for granted.
On this trip I used a LOT of data and chatted a lot on the phone too while on long journeys. The totals used were:
- 520 minutes – Voice Calls To The UK
- 110 messages – SMS Text Messages To The UK
- 2.5Gb – Mobile Data
I’ve been with Three for over 4 years, their roaming package plays a big part in this decision. The above usage cost me zero, nada, zilch. I have an unlimited package in the UK and this carries for 80 countries.
Contrast this with the other UK networks; at their current rates this is what it would have cost me:
- £65 – Vodafone (£5 per day)
- £118.80 – EE (£10.80 per day)
- £2,595 – O2 (£2/min voice / 50p/text / 60p/Mb Data)
This was my first trip with a Revolut card. I do have a US bank account and cards too, but I find it much easier to budget in pound sterling.
I ordered the Revolut card using the app, it costs £10 postage but they credit your account with a fiver, so effectively it only costs £5.
It arrived very quickly in an innovative sliding pack; I did feel that instructions were a little lacking as I still didn’t know exactly how to use it but I took a punt and topped it up before heading off. The card I used was saved in the app, thus making future top ups very simple.
Every time I made a purchase a message flashed up on my phone telling me the equivalent in GBP that was just spent. Sometimes this was even quicker than the authorisation in the store I was in! The exchange rate used was the live mid price and there was no commission. I’d now consider Revolut to be an invaluable travel tool for all future trips.
Some UK banks (I’ve found HSBC and Barclays to be the greediest) will charge you a fee around 3% for ‘non sterling transactions’ and often subject to a minimum of between £1.50 and £3 depending on the bank. In addition they’ll give you poor exchange rates. I’d estimate that using Revolut saved me around 7% on everything I spent.
There was only one occasion it failed, I contacted support and they explained that the shop’s card machine location didn’t match the GPS in my phone, so it was flagged as fraud; clever stuff. I switched the added security feature off, made my payment and then put it back on and all was good.
I arrived in the USA with just $50 cash (currently £38.18). I used this for tips (the culture in the USA is 12% – 20%, and it’s really frowned upon if you don’t leave a tip) and returned with change. In the USA everywhere accepts cards, and unlike the UK there aren’t many places that impose a minimum transaction. Therefore, I paid everything on the Revolut card.
I’d never travel outside the UK without travel insurance. The cost of getting Medi-vac back home can run to tens of thousands. I hear sob stories of people having accidents who say they couldn’t afford travel insurance; my reply is simple, if you can’t afford travel insurance don’t leave the UK.
However, never ever buy a trip policy; always buy an annual policy as this is often the same price as a single trip quote. For this reason I never include it in a trip’s budget as it lasts for multiple trips over the year.
Our current policy is for a couple, covers unlimited trips worldwide (including USA of course, which is a little extra cost) and winter sports and cost just £70 with American Express. This was a special price for cardholders, but I wouldn’t expect to pay more than £100 for a similar policy.
If you buy online, cash back with Top Cashback will earn you between 15 – 30% of the price paid back.
There are usually attractions or venues you want to visit when you are on holiday. Doing research in advance will help save money. Sign up for the GroupOn type websites for the cities you are going, you’ll get great deals for attractions and restaurants.
This trip was a bit off the beaten track, the only offer I could find was for the International UFO Museum in Roswell. Entry was $5/person or on GroupOn you could buy entry for 2 people for $6, as I was by myself I didn’t make any savings but it’s often a great trick to save money while away.
I managed to visit all the locations planned, plus a couple of extras:
- Branch Davidian Massacre Site, Waco, Texas
- Original Dr Pepper Bottling Plant, Waco, Texas
- Giant Road Runner Statue, Fort Stockton, Texas
- Van Horn, Texas
- Trump’s Wall, El Paso, Texas
- White Sands Missile Base, New Mexico
- White Sands National Park, New Mexico
- Truth Or Consequences, New Mexico
- Spaceport America, New Mexico
- Elephant Butte National Park, New Mexico
- Datil, New Mexico
- Very Large Array, New Mexico
- Pie Town Ghost Town, New Mexico
- Breaking Bad Filming Locations, Albuquerque
- Old Town, Albuquerque
- Route 66 Musical Highway, Albuquerque
- Corona Alien Themed Hotel, New Mexico
- 1947 UFO Crash Site
- Roswell, New Mexico
- Big Bend National Park, Texas
- Terlingua Ghost Town, Texas
- Marfa Lights, Texas
- Alpine, Texas
- Junction, Texas
I travelled alone on this trip so the costs are inflated:
£1,006.35 – £23.30 (cashback) = £983.05 / £89.36 per day
I’d always normally take a holiday with Louise but due to her new business and the time of year she was unable to come with me.
Had this trip been two people sharing the cost per person would have been just £594.02 / £54 per day.
TOTAL ROAD MILES: 2,933 miles
TOTAL AIR MILES: 9,423 miles
USA STATES VISITED: 2
TOTAL PHOTOS TAKEN: 2,515
MAXIMUM TEMPERATURE: 30°C (Van Horn, Texas)
MINIMUM TEMPERATURE: 7°C (Datil, New Mexico)
HIGHEST ELEVATION: 7,400ft (Datil, New Mexico)
£90 Manchester > Houston (Return)
£115 Extra 23Kg Case (2 Checked Bags Total)
£170.78 11 days hire – Mid sized car
£75.58 11 days hire – Upgrade to 4×4
£187.53 Total spend on petrol
£1,006.35 Total Spent
-£23.30 Total Cashback
TOTAL (1 Person): £983.05
TOTAL (2 People): £594.02