This is a guest post from Geoff Whitmore of NoobTraveler.comI work hard for my money.
But between paying the bills and hopefully putting some away for the future, there often isn’t much left over for the extras, like traveling.
Getting away and seeing the world happens to be one of my passions, but up until a couple of years ago, my vacations were more like stay-cations.
Even though I live in a great city, we all know stay-cations are no VA-cations. So, what changed two years ago?
Well, one day I asked my friend who was always going on trips overseas what his secret was. I didn’t think he was rich, but I assumed he had a rich aunt or something. His reply was something that has literally changed my life. Truth was, he didn’t pay for his flights…he used free airline miles!
Initially, I wasn’t satisfied with this answer and thought it was too good to be true. But (thankfully, in this case) my obsessive tendencies took over and I began to research traveling with miles and points.
I was shocked with what I found. Could it be this easy and affordable to go on vacations? I thought there must be some downside. But I kept at it, and it turns out it IS possible, and it’s a beautiful thing.
Within just a few months, I was on my way overseas with my flight covered. And that was just the beginning. Rewards travel has got me hooked! Combining budget strategies with rewards travel has allowed me to pursue one of my greatest passions–seeing the world.
So if you’re ready to go on a trip of a lifetime, or maybe even just visit some family you haven’t seen in a while, here are some practical tips I’ve learned along the way that can help you get there.
Start Earning Miles and Points with Rewards Cards
The quickest way to start earning miles is by signing up for a rewards credit card. The banks backing rewards cards today are giving away huge sign-up bonuses for applying for their cards. We are talking about bonuses large enough to redeem four roundtrip tickets overseas. That’s some instant value!
I have been able to earn over 1,000,000 miles and points mostly from the initial sign-up bonuses tied to the credit cards. These points have allowed me the freedom to travel the world, and to do so in style. I wouldn’t have been able to afford the $2,000 economy tickets, and especially the $8,000 first class TransAtlantic tickets to fly overseas.
There are many great deals out there right now to take advantage of, and plenty of options for you to pick the card(s) that meet your travel goals.
Note: Signing up for rewards card is only for people who have good credit and are responsible enough to pay off their credit card balances in full every month. If you don’t pay your balances in full, the interest you will pay will off-set the perks of the card. If you are in debt, then signing up for more credit cards isn’t for you.
Maximizing Your Hard Earned $$$
As I stated earlier, “I work hard for the money,” so I want to manage it well. I want to streeeetch my dollar as far as it can go. This is why my personal motto is: Every dollar spent that doesn’t earn a mile/point is a missed opportunity. Use your card(s) for your everyday purchases, and even your bills, to maximize your dollar.
There are also many spend bonus categories within rewards credit cards that can earn you between 2-5 reward points per $1 spent. I love the fact that I can earn extra miles and points for buying gas, groceries, and paying my bills. I used to only get the particular service I was paying for, but now I get travel perks at the same time!
Sign Up For Rewards Programs
If you fly or stay in a hotel and don’t have or use a rewards membership number, you’re missing out! It’s free to sign up for airline and hotel rewards programs, and you can usually do so easily on their website. Once signed up, all you do is fill in your membership number during the booking process to receive miles/points, and often times other benefits.
Travel During Non-Peak Season
I know this isn’t possible for some, but traveling during non-peak season has saved me and my wife thousands of dollars. It takes a little organization and planning ahead, but the savings are well worth it.
We try to travel a week before schools are out, in late April or early May, or in late August or early September when school starts back again. The difference in prices and reward rates a week before or after a non-peak season can often be double! Ouch. That’s why unless absolutely unavoidable, I always recommend non-peak travel.
Playing with Promotions
Companies are always running promotions or having sales to increase business. The same goes when it comes to miles and points. For example, I received 25,000 American Airlines miles for signing up for DirecTv. Yep, that’s insane.
Considering the value, I pretty much got my first year FREE, and it’s a service I wanted anyway. Who else has the NFL network? No one. This is just one example of many great bonuses out there for services that we are already using.
Priceline is a great site to get a hotel at a very competitive rate. You all have probably seen the commercials of William Shatner acting a fool. The site lets you bid for hotels after picking your chosen location and star rating.
Great, right? But how do you know the magic number to bid? Don’t worry, there is a great website called betterbidding.com. It gives you the latest bids so you won’t overbid for a hotel. Now that’s legit money saving!
Follow Travel Industries on Twitter
Twitter has blown up and has changed the way many companies interact with their customers. If you aren’t yet a tweeter, it may serve you to succumb to the pressure. Reason being, businesses will often tweet out special deals, offers, and promotions to their followers.
It’s instant communication and allows the consumer to keep their finger on the pulse of whatever their hobbies may be (in my case, traveling the world on a budget I can afford).
So there you have it. These 7 tips have enabled me and my wife to travel more than we ever thought possible on an average income. There’s really nothing special about us; we’re just normal people who have done the research and applied specific strategies to meet our travel goals.
If you apply these tips, you too will be traveling more often, cheaper, and in style – in no time.
Geoff Whitmore is lead traveler/writer at NoobTraveler.com, a blog dedicated to educating its readers on reward travel, travel tips, and cost-saving travel techniques. The blog particularly focuses on new travelers (or as they like to call them, “Noobs”), and it teaches its readers how to save BIG. All the while, the site maintains a humorous writing style that is both fun and informative. Geoff also curates the best rewards travel deals in his daily blog posts and articles. Get started with his guide for noobs.