My First Travel Hacking Experience Part 1 – Orlando and Miami Florida

When I first started dating my girlfriend, she told me that her dream destination was to go to Harry Potterland. She said she didn’t just want to go to Harry Potterland but to go there with someone special in her life. I remember making a promise to her. That someday, I will take her to Harry Potterland.

This was back in 2013. We were a new couple, both broke and have dreams and aspirations to travel and see the world together. We didn’t know how we were going to do it but we were determined to make it happen.

Fast forward to September of 2014, we had just came back from our trip to Utah and was feeling excited to go travel again. We wanted to go to Harry Potterland in December but we didn’t have the money for it. I just quit my job and started my business so I didn’t exactly have any spare cash lying around. I was hanging out with a friend of mine that I haven’t seen in awhile and he casually said that he just came back from Asia and his flight only costs him $90. I looked at him and said…WTF?! How are you doing this?

I couldn’t contain the excitement brewing inside me as he explained to me how to travel hack. “So yeah, just get the AMEX Gold and AMEX Aeroplan Gold card and you’ll get 50,000 Aeroplan points, enough to get you anywhere in the States for less than $100. Don’t forget the Marriott Hotel Card, too and get 50,000 points towards free accommodation when you travel,” said my friend.

After he left, I quickly went online and signed up for the AMEX Gold and Marriott Hotel card right away. I was so excited, I couldn’t wait to tell my girlfriend about it. After getting the cards, I told Karen about it and she was reluctant to get the card. She didn’t know if it was going to work and she didn’t like the idea of getting credit cards to save money on traveling. “Let’s just save up and go next year,” Karen told me. I refused…I knew we can make it happen and go there in December. I was very determined and did my best to convince Karen to get the AMEX cards.

She eventually signed up for the credit cards…reluctantly at first.

Me and Karen were having some relationship problems at the time and didn’t know if we would still be together in December to go travel to Harry Potter Land.

I’m glad we did because we were able to overcome a rough patch in our relationship and really have that open communication during that tough period of time. Traveling really brings two people together.

Our round trip flight to Florida from Vancouver came to about $140/person during the December peak season. We also got to stay for free at a Marriott Hotel in Miami because of the Marriott Hotel Visa card. We also managed to book a five day cruise to one of my dream destination, Jamaica, for only $270 including tax (I’ll go into detail with that on part 2). We also took the Greyhound and Megabus during our trip. It was definitely one of our more budget friendly trip!

Upon arriving to Orlando, we decided not to book a hotel because we arrived at midnight. We decided to just sleep in the airport until it was daylight and we would head to Harry Potterland by bus. This was unfortunately a bad decision because both our immune system was compromised causing me to get sick a few days later.

When we took the bus to Harry Potterland, we realized that it was really cold outside. We didn’t realize that there is winter in Florida, too and it would be cold! Upon arriving at Harry Potterland, a random Columbian lady was outside the park selling “discounted” tickets to enter. I was already cringing paying for the ticket to the park knowing that it cost $99 USD ($120 CDN) to enter one park and $136 USD ($160ish CDN) to enter both parks. I went up to her and asked her how much the ticket would be and she replied “$50 for each of you.” I said “ok!” Karen then leaned over to me and said, “are we getting scammed?” I look at her and said “I don’t know but we’ll find out.”

We follow the lady to the ticket booth and we got in the park! Wow…talk about luck. I do not recommend this to anyone, this is not really travel hacking, this is just me always having really good luck. The lady was super nice and dropped the price to $40/person and we ended up going in Harry Potterland for only $80.

The park was great, we had tons of fun. Drinking butter beer was more delicious than I anticipated and the Harry Potterland ride in Hogwarts definitely delivered!


Just a word of advice though, the water based rides where you get splashed with water is not a good idea during winter…it’s REALLY COLD. Karen ended up feeling really cold and sick after. We were originally going to take the bus to the greyhound station to save money but I didn’t want her to get sick so I started seeking alternative transportation…

That’s when a random unmarked vehicle parked beside us and a random black guy came out and said if we wanted a ride anywhere and he would give us a discount. I looked at him and said “ok!” Again, don’t do this, I just have really good luck.

Karen leaned over to me and said…”are we getting kidnapped?” I looked at her and said “I don’t know but we’ll find out.”

The guy turned out to be really nice and we had a great conversation while he drove us to the Greyhound station. The drive took 30 minutes and he only charged us $20. Talk about good luck! Turns out the guy owns a barber shop during the day and makes some side cash giving people taxi rides in the evening.

We made friends with a really friendly black girl in the Greyhound station (black people are awesome) while we waited for the bus. The bus ride from Orlando to Miami sucked, it took a long time and someone else took my luggage by accident.

We got stuck in the Miami Greyhound station for awhile as I struggled to find a way to get my luggage back from the person that took it by accident (our luggage was identical). The person who took it by accident was really nice and drove all the way to Miami from Fort Lauderdale to my the luggage exchange.

We finally got out of the Greyhound station and taxi’d to the Marriott Hotel. We had a really good sleep that night after sleeping in the airport the previous day and going through that stressful turn of event. Despite the turn of events, we had no regrets because we were having a blast making our dreams come true thanks to travel hacking.

Free Marriott Hotel Stay
Free Marriott Hotel Stay for me and Karen

To be continued to part 2: Jamaica, Carnival Cruise and the Cayman Islands


1 thought on “My First Travel Hacking Experience Part 1 – Orlando and Miami Florida”

  1. Pingback: The Starter's Guide to Canadian Travel Hacking Part 1: Flights

Leave a Reply