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Staying at the Ritz Carlton on a Ritz Cracker Budget

Part of my summer travel funds were diverted to help my sister get to a friend's May wedding. While she was away, I babysat my 2-year old nephew, and after three days with him I felt like I had been run over by a bulldozer. I was exhausted (much respect for all you mothers out there!) and now needing a vacation more than ever. With my funds partially depleted, I didn't think that I would be able to do much. Fast forward to me lounging on the beach at the Ritz Carlton San Juan, enjoying a mojito as the ocean breeze caressed my back. How did I get here?

1. I found a great deal on airfare through Southwest for a direct flight the weekend after Memorial Day. Many airlines start offering or increasing direct flights to the Caribbean right around Memorial Day, which can save a lot of travel time. But between Memorial Day and mid-June, most kids are still in school, so families haven't started their summer travel yet. It's a great time to look for airfare deals.

2. The Ritz Carlton may be on the luxury end of hotel chains, but what you spend on an amazing bed, bath, and service (why, yes, I will have a complimentary guava mimosa at check-in, thank you very much) can be balanced out by heading off the premises for sundries. At the drugstore at the end of the block, I bought sodas, water, snacks, and wine. We all know how those little things can add up at any hotel.

3. Get restaurant recommendations from the bell-hop and pool boys. I had two terrific meals thanks to recommendations I got just from making small talk, both of which were considerably less expensive than the hotel restaurants.

4. Decide if the resort fee is worth it. I don't play golf or tennis, so I've often decided not to stay at places that include resort fees for these features. It's money down the drain for me. But at the Ritz Carlton San Juan, the resort fee goes towards beach service. Since I was planning to unwind with two days at the beach, having someone set up my chair, umbrella, and towels, and bring me drinks and food was money well spent.

While I tend to prefer more active vacations, I arrived in San Juan fairly exhausted, so needed a weekend on the beach to let the ocean and palm trees rejuvenate me, and enjoy a little pampering. You know those magazines that say "Celebrities – They're Just Like Us!"? Well, sometimes we can be just like them.

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I run a business full-time, but travel is my passion and travel blogging keeps me connected to this passion. My love of travel came from my father, a road trip wanderer who was an expert on finding every historical marker on highways and side roads.My sister and I are polar opposites, but took a trip to Ireland together when we were 20 and 23, and had so much fun that The Travel Adventures of the Amott Sisters was born.With the ups and downs of life, I strive to find as much joy in the local as in the exotic. Our latest adventure is the addition of my baby nephew to our travel team. But add on a car seat, and the journey continues.

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