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René recently wrote on the topic of Should You Always Book Shore Excursions Through Your Cruise Line? This got me thinking about how we typically approach booking excursions for both our cruises and land-based vacations.
One strategy that we use frequently is to book independent excursions through Viator. This is particularly rewarding when there are shopping portal promotions and can get even better when, on occasion, we have had the added opportunity to further stack a credit card offer. We often take advantage of these offers months and months before a cruise and typically more than one offer on longer cruises where we are booking numerous, non-cruise line excursions. How does this work?
For this example I’ll show how we booked an excursion for an upcoming non-cruise trip to Bogota, Colombia through Viator to take advantage of current shopping portal deals offered by Delta’s SkyMiles Shopping and American Airlines AAdvantage eShopping among others. It pays to check multiple shopping portals for your preferred airline programs as there is some variation in miles/$ as well as promotions.
The first thing I do is wait for a shopping portal promotion. These limited-time offers typically come every 30-60 days and are tied to holidays, seasons, or in this case, Back-to-School. Now a Back-to-School promotion probably doesn’t get you thinking about booking a cruise excursion, but wait, I’ll explain. Let’s walk through a Delta SkyMiles Shopping portal deal.
Right now Delta has a Back-to-School promotion where you spend $200 and earn 500 bonus SkyMiles or spend $400 and earn 1,000 bonus SkyMiles. Now the marketing is obviously showing Back-to-School items, but the great thing is this applies to any eligible spending at any store linked through the SkyMiles Shopping site.
A quick search shows that Viator is offering a base earning rate of 3 miles/$ before the Back-to-School promotion and has an additional offer of 10% off or 12% off over $200 valid through August 6, 2023. I click through this link and begin my search. For this example I’m booking a Coffee Tour in Hacienda Coloma outside Bogota.
Because the cost of this private tour for two is a bit above $200 it qualifies for the 12% off promotion on the Delta SkyMiles shopping portal so I copy the code and enter it into Viator. I then go through a pretty standard booking process and at the end I confirm the reservation.
The shopping portal widget pops up showing my purchase was tracked and should be eligible for the 3 miles/$.
In my email I then receive a confirmation from Viator as well as links to our tickets. It’s that easy! Now this $242.88 excursion is over the $200 threshold and so qualifies for the 500 bonus SkyMiles in addition to the 3 miles/$ so I earned 1,229 SkyMiles. At our conservative valuation of 1 cent per point (1cpp) this works out to $12.29 which when added to the 12% discount we received by using the coupon code in the portal it takes the total savings to $45.41 or a respectable 16.5% off of the full $276 price. It’s worth noting that excursions on Viator are typically already priced significantly lower than those offered by cruise lines.
We paid with my card_name which offers 2pts/$ on all eligible purchases. Those can then be redeemed at 1cpp against travel purchases like this one (when purchasing travel through Capital One’s travel portal). So I earned an additional 2% back for a total of 18.5% and have the option to use Capital One’s Cover Purchases option at 1cpp to cover this purchase. Or, in our case, wait to transfer points to a Capital One airline partner for future flights to get more value for our points.
if you don’t have included airport transfers for your cruise or vacation, you can generally book them through Viator do accomplish the same thing. I really appreciate not having to worry about getting a taxi or waiting on ride share when arriving in a foreign country and booking this way is generally much less expensive than booking through your hotel or cruise line. We booked our airport transfer for our upcoming Bogota trip as well, though at $13.00 each before the 10% discount the numbers are all much smaller than our coffee excursion. – Michael
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