We’re asked fairly frequently how it is that we’re able to travel so much. And there are several factors. But first, let me say this: unless you are looking for inexpensive ways to travel, this post (and especially the parts about credit cards) will likely be rather boring. So feel free to skim this post or just skip it entirely. I don’t blame you. 😉 But for those of you who have been asking about this, here are a few of the factors that play in to how we travel so much:
First of all, we both have jobs that are really great as far as taking time off goes. Christopher had four weeks of vacation this year and since I work for myself I was kind enough to allow myself the time off. 😉 And the family that I nanny for a few hours a week has plenty of family and friends in town to help out when I’m gone. We recognize that this isn’t normal for most people to be able to take off so much time so we are very grateful. We also take lots of weekend trips that only require 1 vacation day (a Friday or Monday) for a fun 3 day trip.
No debt other than our house:
Second, we paid off all of our student loans a few years ago. So other than our house (which we’re working on), we have no debt. We’ve always paid cash for our vehicles and we’ve never had credit card debt. It took a lot of hard work and sacrifices for a few years, but we are so glad we paid it all off because we now have more freedom with our income. We can give more when we hear of someone in need, save more, and yes… even spend more.
Prioritizing how we spend money:
Which leads us directly into the third thing: even though we have more money available to spend, it doesn’t mean that we spend it on everything that catches our eye. Some people spend their money on designer clothes or nice cars or going out to see a movie every weekend. And there is nothing wrong with spending money on those things. We would just rather spend our money on travel so we prioritize our finances a little differently.
Using Credit Cards (domestically):
And finally, a big way we’ve been able to travel has been by utilizing credit cards. When we travel in the States we use our Companion Pass through Southwest (so for each plane ticket we purchase or redeem with points, we get one for free). Remember in 2015 when we flew to Las Vegas/Grand Canyon, the Dominican Republic, New York City, and Orlando/Bahamas? Those flights were all free. Well, free with an asterisk. Because you still have to pay taxes and fees on the flights. So each flight cost us about $12 for both of us to fly. Each time we wanted to travel we would redeem miles to pay for Christopher’s ticket and then I flew free as his companion. For this next year I have the credit card in my name so I’ll redeem miles to buy a ticket for me and then Christopher will fly as my companion.
We also have a Hyatt credit card which gave us 2 free nights when we signed up. We also had a ton of points built up on a Chase credit card from previous years that Hyatt allowed us to transfer to our Hyatt account. So that gave us free stays all over the States last year.
Using Credit Cards (internationally):
For this year’s trip to Europe we used American Airlines MileSaver points because their flight award chart showed that it was 30,000 points for a ticket from the US to anywhere in the EU. So 30,000 each way is 60,000 for each round trip ticket. Meaning that for both of us we would need 120,000 points in total to get two round trip tickets to Europe.
So in order to get our 120,000 points we signed up for two credit cards that each gave 60,000 points as an introductory offer after $2,000 in spending within 3 months. Right now the cards listed at that link don’t show that offer, but as with most credit card offers, they come and go with their offerings. Just keep your eye out and there will once again be an offer for 60k points when you sign up. We got the Citi Platinum Select Mastercard as well as another one that isn’t offered anymore (boo!). If you are only needing one round trip ticket then you can just get that one credit card. But if you need two tickets then both people will need to sign up separately for the card to build up the points. Or if that’s too much of a hassle or one of you isn’t approved then you can always at least get one ticket for free and only have to pay for the other one. Still a big savings over purchasing two tickets outright!
Keep in mind that you will still have to pay fees and taxes. For us this amounted to $200/person. So not cheap, but $400 for two round trip tickets to Europe – definitely worth it! So if you start planning your trip about a year in advance, you will have plenty of time to watch the credit cards until they offer the deals you are looking for and then you can apply and begin spending on them immediately (we put all spending on them for that time: mortgage, bills, food, etc). Doing this in advance also gives you better flight options and seats since you aren’t booking last minute.
Important notes about using Credit Cards:
We are very careful to avoid credit card debt. Yes, we do have credit cards and yes we do put all of our spending on it for x-number of months until we hit the minimum spend needed to get the rewards we want. However, we always pay them off in full every single month. And we always call to cancel them before the 1 year mark (when they charge you the service fee). Usually the person we talk to offers us another year free because they don’t want us to close our account with them, but sometimes we have to go ahead and cancel the card. Canceling cards isn’t bad, but it’s not the best thing ever for your credit score so you do have to be mindful of that when signing up for a bunch of different reward cards.
Hopefully all of this makes sense. If I didn’t explain something well, please let me know! I’m happy to fill in the gaps. 🙂
For those of you who have used Credit Cards to travel before: did I leave anything out? Or any other tips for me?
For those of you who have never used Credit Cards to travel: does this sound just super convoluted and crazy? When Christopher first proposed it to me a few years ago I thought it was crazy, but I’ve definitely come around!