Recently I have been getting questions about travel hacking so I thought I would give an example of flights I booked. I am headed to SE Asia in the fall and booked a tickets from the US to Bangkok-United, then Bangkok back to London-American Airlines (where I will be living). The total of these flights were $81.80. Yes, you read that right!!!
Again, the total is $81.80 but here is the proof:
So how do I do it. First, it starts with opening credit cards and being responsible. Credit card companies offer flight/hotel bonuses.
Their branded credit card through Chase gives you 40,000 miles when you spend $2k in 3 months. So you spend that amount, PAY IT OFF IMMEDIATELY (this is the responsible part) and have a one way ticket to just about anywhere United flies. Do this with multiple cards, including branded hotel cards, and you now have a very cheap vacation anywhere in the world.
To keep track of all my cards and spending I use a website called mint my Intuit: https://www.mint.com/ There I can log into 1 portal and see all my accounts.
There is a whole society of people out there that do “travel hacking” so if you are interested, I suggest you google it. Here are a few of my favorite sites to get you started:
Here is a site that shows you good flight deals:
So, you want to travel but not sure where to start and think you can’t afford it. Think again. I highly suggest you research “travel hacking”. What this blog contains is a jump start on inexpensive travel.
WAIT… WHAT IS TRAVEL HACKING? ? ?
Travel hackers are the people looking for every possible way to earn as much FREE travel possible- legally. The base of all of that is earning reward points to exchange for FREE travel. This post should get you started and you should earn a free international flight (or more) with 15 minutes of work.
Step One: Sign up for the new Chase Sapphire Reserve However, there are some things you might want to know first
- Spend: $4,000 on the credit card in 3 months time.
- Your reward: 100,000 points that can be transferred to a number of different airline & hotel partners. Meaning that you can guarantee yourself at least one international flight and one domestic flight. Let me just say I have been doing this for ears and I have NEVER seen a bonus this good.
- Annual Fee: $450 . HOWEVER, you get $300 statement credit towards travel. Meaning, book a hotel room and then apply the credit to that purchase. If you are spending at least $300 in travel already, this means the fee is more like $150. It also gives you $100 application fee for TSA and Global Pre check. If you use this, that means it is only a $50 annual fee. CRAZY good.
- Access to 900+ airport lounges.
- No foreign transaction fees
- Travel insurance on a number of different things such as luggage, trip delay, rental cars etc….
Step Two: If that $450 annual fee scares you, opt for the original card Chase Sapphire
- Same Spend: $4,000 in 3 months only you get half the points bringing the total to 50,000 points.
- Annual Fee: $95 annual but waived the first year
- No Foreign transaction fees
- Travel insurance
- Ohh and the card is SUPER thick so you will impress everyone.
Step Three: Book your reward! Assuming you got one of the 2 cards above you spend the required amount, pay it off like a responsible adult, and you get your bonus in just 3 months time. From there you pick what you want to transfer the miles to from the partners below depending on what you want to do. Fly? Hotel stay? I suggest instead of transferring all of the points, you see how many you will need and just transfer those.
Step Four: Contact me. Should you have any questions or need help, I am here to help for free of course. I could go on and on about travel hacking and ways I have found to save money. It is a big part of my world and how Matt and I afford to do what we do. I would love nothing more than to share that with the world.
Signing up for multiple credit cards, spending and transferring points you can rack up hundreds of thousands of miles and save big time money on flights, hotels, and pretty much anything travel. This gets complicated due to all of the choices. Not to mention keeping track of all the rules, minimum spend requirements, balance due dates and more. I have tips for all of that as well that I will save for another time. This post is meant to get you started on the basics and hopefully it will earn you your first free flight or hotel stay to get you started.
Safe travels my friend.
One of the things I discovered through my travels that applies to the general public is saving money on cell phones and those monthly cell phone plans.
Just like high school relationships, cell phones and their plans are “complicated” and for good reason. Not anymore. At least not if you read on. Phone companies make it difficult to tell a good plan from a bad one.
So here is what I assume (if you are like me)
- You want a decent phone. Doesn’t mean the newest necessarily but a model or two in the past is acceptable.
- Data is the most important
However, if you are like me (in the past) you are currently in a 2 year contract with the new phone. By the end of the 2 year contract you have paid $2200 (assuming you are paying around $90 TOTAL a month). But hey, at least you have an outdated phone you can sell. Right? What if I told you that you could pay $1220 for the same 24 month period?
While I was back in the US this summer. I went to AT&T and wanted a prepaid plan since I was only going to be there for 2 months. Guess what? I signed up for the highest prepaid plan they had which was $55 and I didn’t even come close to using all of my data but I also connect to wifi when possible. The activation fee was $10 and only a one time fee. So after the first month I stepped down to the mid plan and changing didn’t cost me a dime. In fact I SAVED money. I had all of the same cell service as any contracted customer and unlimited text and talk.
Best Part: You never have to worry about “surprise” charges again.
Just to give you an idea when using AT&T:
24 months x $40 =$960 (3GB of data)
24 months x $55=$1320 (6GB of data)
What about family plans, you ask?
Don’t worry. There are plans for that as well. In my quick search you can find a family plan for 4 for around $100 a month.
Yeah… But….I NEED A PHONE
Right. So I did a quick search on Amazon. You can get an unlocked Samsung S6 (one version old) for $250. Sure you have to pay for it now but why don’t we do the math.
$250 cell phone + $960 for 2 years + $10 activation = $1220
This is all very fast with very little research done. I do know that Cricket, a less known cell phone provider is owned by AT&T and therefore uses the same network. Hence my quote for the family plan. So for $45 monthly you can get 5GB of data. Ultimately, do your research but this should get you started……
Moral of the Story: Get OUT of your high school relationship. Buy your phone upfront, pay less month to month and you too can easily SAVE $500 a year and afford that flight to Italy to come visit!
I wrote yesterday about stopovers and hotel points and that was a hit, so today I wanted to share how I save money on rental cars.
Matt and I are headed to South Africa in May. So last night I was searching for a SUV to rent for the month (29 days). When I was doing my search, like I always do, I played with the dates. Did you know a 32 day rental can be cheaper than a 29 day rental by almost $400????
Proof is seen below. All I did was change the date to PAST when we need the car and the rate dropped significantly. Avis doesn’t care if we drop the car back early. So the key here is to make sure your pickup date/time is correct and always play around with the drop off date/time. Even changing it by a few hours has saved me money in the past.
Another tip that I use often for the USA is checking out Costco Travel. About 50% of the time, their rates are the lowest I can find anywhere else.
Example is seen below for my rental car when I come back for school residency (Doctoral Program) in November.
Savings = $54 which is the cost of a Costco membership!
Also, Costco travel gives you a FREE second driver which can be a HUGE savings if 2 people are needing to drive the car over a weeks time.
My last tip is to make sure you search the web for discount codes. For example, if you are a AAA member, they have codes for many of the car rental places. I always start off using the main sites to see what my starting point should be for a rental car. The example above is I know I don’t want to spend more than $88. Just do a quick google search for codes and you will find them.
So I head to Avis directly, type in a discount code and BOOM $77, baby! Score!!!!!!!
With a little bit of time and effort, you can see that you can save some big money when renting a car.
Anyone else have any tips for saving when renting a car???
Matty and I get asked all the time how we afford all the vacations. So I thought I would share with ya’ll ways I go about finding/booking our breaks. I am going to explain by using our most recent trip I booked which includes:
6 countries, 3 weeks , 2 people = $2,000!!!
Our Itinerary looks like-
Sharm El Sheikh & Cairo, Egypt
Casablanca & Marrakesh, Morocco
When we moved overseas, knowing we had a bunch of time off to travel, I was determined to figure out ways to travel inexpensively. I came across what is called “Travel Hacking”. If you don’t already know what this is, google it. It could change your life and the way you travel. The meat and potatoes of travel hacking is using bonuses of credit cards for flights and hotels. So we do this. Matty and I have dozen of cards. For those of you that are concerned about hurting your credit score, it is a myth. Our scores have gone up. Hack away.
So we got started by getting 2 Hilton credit cards and scoring 190,000 points. Using category 1 or 2 hotels, this is good for 23 to 47 nights depending how how you use them. So knowing we had points to use, I googled and found- list of Hilton 1 and 2
Seeing that there is a bunch in Egypt, I decided to look for flights from Venice to Egypt which came out to $380 for 2 people. Here is where it gets fun. The flights have a layover in Istanbul. Instead of taking the 2 hour layover, we opted to take a 15 hour layover so we can get out of the airport and see what Istanbul has to offer. The flight is the same price. Some airlines allow multiple day stopovers for the same price.
Knowing we could get to Egypt for a decent price and stay in these hotels we knew we couldn’t pass it up. So we opted for 5 days each in 2 of the hotels. When you book using Hilton points, if you use points on 4 nights, you get the 5th night free. So why not make the most of the points right? One is a Golf Resort in Cairo, the other is a Beach/ Dive resort on the Red Sea.
When looking for flights back to Venice, we found that there was a layover in Morocco. However, we wanted to stay for more than a few hours. It was cheaper to get the flight through to Venice, layover in Morocco, which is $500 for 2 people. A flight too Morocco would have been $700. So we booked the flights all the way back home but we are opting not to take the 2nd flight and stay in Morocco. This means packing light and only having a carry on. There is a website that specializes in this called Skiplagged.
Next was finding a flight from Morocco to Venice. Guess what? Layover is Lisbon so why not? We look if we can do a free stopover, NO LUCK. However, it is $100 more per person to do a 4 day stopover. Sign us up. So… the flight back is direct.
We opt to go back, get our car and drive 4 hours to the Christmas market aka Advent in Zagreb which actually goes till January 8th. It was voted the Best Christmas market in Europe 2016. We will stop in Slovenia on our way back to Italy. I absolutely LOVE Christmas Markets!!!
Usually we don’t spend much on flights due to our bonuses on credit cards. However, this trip was planned around free hotel nights (paying $500 for nights we can’t get free) so the flights cost us more than usual ($750 per person). However, $2000 for a 3 week vacation is pretty good, I think.
I said I would post some pics of our apartment so here they are. I introduced Matt to second hand stores so most things we got used. Total we furnished the apartment for a grand total of $1095 I will post individual prices under the photos for anyone interested in how much something in particular costs.
Bedroom: Dresser $30 Paint $50 Bed $370 Shelf $5 Mirror $6 Curtains $3 Total $464 Kitchen: Fridge $160 Large Hutch $150 Table 2 chairs $80 Small Hutch $16 Total $406 Living Room: Couch $100 Chair $65 Coffee Table $20 Entertainment Stand $20 Side table $20 Total $225 Curtains & Printer FREE
This week we went to Disneyland. Disneyland now is offering discounts to local residents of Southern California.
Tips for visiting Disneyland
1. Go in January. I am guessing it was after the holiday when everyone had a break that it was back to work and school that the lines didn’t exist. The longest line we waited in was 10 minutes for even the top rides.
2. Pack a bag. They allow you to bring bags with snacks and drinks. Take advantage of this. We still at lunch there but after walking around you get thirsty and hungry easy. Come prepared. The rides are accommodating to this also. No glass or alcohol.
3. If you are an adult without kids, plan to spend more time at California Adventure. It is geared more towards adults and they serve alcoholic beverages.
4. Download the app to see wait times and use the FastPass. Note you can only have one FastPass. The trick is, once the time on your Fast Pass comes due, get another one BEFORE you go on your ride. This will cut down on your time between rides. Better yet, go in January, you won’t need a FastPass at all.
5. Get there before it opens so that when it does open you are one of the first to get in. The lines got longer the further into the day it got.
6. Favorite rides: Indiana Jones, Star Tours, Tower of Terror, Space Mountain, Flying over California
7. Adults CAN order from the kid menu.
8. Cast members will take photos with your camera, free of charge.
9. Go to the Aladdin show in California Adventure. It is 45 minutes which is not only a great rest from walking and standing but a GREAT show.
10. Plan to be exhausted from all the excitement of the days. We used the afternoon to eat lunch and throw a few back.
The zoo is always fun times. We visited the Los Angeles Zoo with Matt over the weekend. I found a great deal when I went to the Santa Ana Zoo a few weeks ago (pics coming soon). I bought a annual pass for $60 (for 2 people). The best part is you get free tickets and discounts to 170 zoos nation wide. 15 in Cali alone. Click here for all the zoos included in the pass. I thought it was a great deal!!! Many more zoos to come. I didn’t have my actual camera (not sure why) but I took a few photos with my phone.
Since I live in Cali now, I got a snowboard so that I can spend time up on the mountain. I LOVE it and think it fits my personality.
The exciting part is that we booked a trip for the end of December. We will be driving from Cali to Salt Lake, Jackson Hole, and Aspen over the course of 12 days to spend time on the mountains.
I found this sweet deal called the Mountain Collective. It gives you lift tickets to 6 of the best ski resorts for only 1 price and I wanted to share. For our road trip we are only doing 3 of them but since I live in Cali, I am going to do Mammath and Squaw Valley at another time since they are in driving distance for a weekend trip. Pretty sweet deal!!!
$379 Each 2013-14 passholder will receive:
- 12 days total at The Collective destinations:
- 2 days at AltaSnowbird
- 2 days at Aspen/Snowmass
- 2 days at Jackson Hole
- 2 days at Mammoth
- 2 days at Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows
- 2 days at Whistler Blackcomb
- Plus 50% off all additional days at The Collective destinations
- No blackout dates
- Up to 25% off lodging at The Collective destinations