I love to travel! But I love it even more when my travels are free or drastically cheaper. My friend introduced me to travel hacking and now I’m always on the lookout for the next best hack. As the Covid-19 restrictions are slowly being eased, traveling is going to be huge as we all want to get out of the house or go somewhere for vacation. Whether it’s a road trip, overnight trip, flying, or any other trip, getting the best deal helps. Here are my best travel hacks.
There are a number of travel hacks out there and this article isn’t intended to touch on all of them. The goal of this article is to share with you my personal experiences. Here are some of the travel hacks I’ve done to land a good deal.
For road trips, you’re going to consume gas unless you have an electric car. Gas is getting more and more expensive. What if you can get some money back for every gallon you fill up? Checkout51 is an app where you can get some money back for eligible purchases you make including gas by uploading your receipts. There’s a section to see if gas stations are participating and how much they are willing to give you. The most I’ve seen is $.25 per gallon so if you’re filling up 10 gallons, that’s $2.50 you’re going to get back.
Flying is fun and exciting but it can cost you especially for a family. If you have children under 2 years old they can fly on your lap (lap infant) without having to pay for a seat. You have to keep your child in your lap the entire flight but it allows you not having to buy a separate ticket. Make sure you bring enough to entertain your child for the entire flight.
Getting free flights is one of the best feelings ever. The method I’ll be describing is accumulating airlines points but it requires opening up credit cards which also means you will need to have good credit.
My favorite airline so far is Southwest Airlines. It travels to many US cities and some international locations as well. Why I like Southwest Airlines
- No bag fees for the first 2 bags per passenger
- Offers a companion pass if you meet the qualifications. If you reach companion pass status, you can designate someone as a companion and they fly free. All you have to pay is the taxes. You get two tickets for the price of one.
- You can cancel flights up to the day of the flight. If you redeemed tickets with points, the points go back to your account. If you have non-refundable tickets, you will get a travel credit.
- If your ticket price goes lower after you purchase your ticket, they’ll issue a refund of the difference whether it’s points or cash. You have to keep an eye on ticket prices and contact them if the price of your ticket goes down.
- Southwest doesn’t assign seats so traveling with family is tricky because you want to sit with your family. Southwest offers family boarding.
If you are able to achieve companion pass status, it’s great if you travel often and can bring someone along for free. To qualify, simply fly 100 qualifying one-way flights or earn 125,000 qualifying points in a calendar year, and you’ll earn Companion Pass for the following full calendar year, plus the remainder of the year in which you earned it.
I was able to achieve Companion Pass status by opening up two different Southwest credit cards at the same time during their promotion. After I made qualifying purchases and received the airline points, I had to spend a little more to reach the points goal. 125,000 points might seem a lot but if the two cards have a 50,000 points promotion each, then you will receive 100,000 for both. Plus add the purchase amount you had to spend, let’s say $5,000 each card which would equate to 5,000 points each. That’s 10,000 points which you would have 110,000 points total. Now you need to spend either $15,000 more or fly Southwest to reach the 125,000 or a combination of both.
Spending $6,000, $10,000, or whatever the promotion is may seem expensive especially within a limited timeframe. It can be daunting but if you plan ahead, you can make it work. If you know you’re planning to make a big purchase, consider timing it with opening it up with a credit card. If you experience difficulty spending the required amount, try buying gift cards from your office supply stores like Staples or Office Depot. If you shop at Target often, go buy a gift card for a large amount that you know you’ll spend in the future. Same with other stores such as Costco or Walmart. In order for this to be effective, you should pay off your balance to avoid any interest.
Another airline I like is United Airlines. United Airlines allow stopovers and open jaw flights when you use your points. A stopover is similar to a layover except you stay however long you want at the layover city and when you’re ready to fly to your final destination, it’s considered as one flight. An open jaw flight is departing from a different airport other than your initial arrival airport and it’s still considered a roundtrip flight.
Here’s an example that I was able to book that included a stopover plus an open jaw and this itinerary was considered as one roundtrip flight. My wife and I flew from DC to Rome Italy to Venice points, then flew from Milan back to DC. This was one roundtrip flight using United points.
- DC -> Rome (Rome was a layover to get to Venice. We spent a few days here (stopover) and when it was time to go to Venice, we went to the airport and continued with our flight)
- Rome -> Venice (this was considered as the first half of our itinerary)
- We took a train from Venice to Milan (We had to spend our own money)
- Milan -> DC (We flew not from Venice but from Milan (open jaw) back to DC)
This itinerary was considered one roundtrip flight and it cost us the price in points of one roundtrip flight. We could have just flown to Venice but since United allows stayovers and open jaw flights, this allowed us to experience Rome and Milan also. If your schedule and budget permits, this is an excellent way to experience multiple cities.
Similar to airline points, opening a credit card associated with the hotel brand you intend to stay at helps being able to redeem free nights. I’ve been able to stay at various hotel brands such as Marriott, IHG, Hilton, and others. If you don’t have points, always check hotel prices after you make a reservation. Just like airline prices, hotel prices fluctuate and you can either cancel and rebook or call the hotel for the price difference if the hotel allows it.
There are two places I typically check for rental cars. First is Costco Travel. If you have a Costco membership, you can book travel with them. 9 times out of 10, rental cars are the least expensive from Costco in my experience. Second, I have Chase credit cards so I have Chase points. I will compare prices with Chase Travel and Costco Travel and go with the least expensive. Rental car prices fluctuate also so always keep checking after you reserve. If you reserved a car and it goes down in price, you can cancel and rebook.
There are so many travel hacks and techniques out there. If you’re able to travel for free or at a reduced price, it helps you save financially. These are techniques I’ve been able to use and it helps with travel on a budget. Reminder that some of these hacks do require good credit , adequate income, and time. If you’re unable to pay off your credit cards, then this likely will not benefit you. The goal is to use the travel hacks without financially impacting you. These are my personal best travel hacks from my experience. If you are interested in following my journey, email subscribe to get alerts of latest posts or follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.
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