I get it, budget travel is hard. You get an itch; you want to go…get out, travel, but you can’t. Maybe you can’t get the time off OR maybe you can’t afford to travel. I may not be able to help get the time off work but I can help you use the “system” to assist in affording that vacation.
Below are 4 ways to give you a “leg up” on budget travel.
Budget Travelers Join Airline and Hotel Loyalty Programs
Earning miles is a major way we budget travelers stretch our dollars. To earn miles or points, you will need to join several loyalty programs. Join a few major airlines and hotel chains. Think about where you want to travel to and what kinds of accommodations you enjoy. Join the programs that will point you to those goals. Remember to keep your loyalty member numbers, usernames, and passwords organized in a way that allows you to access them from anywhere.
Budget Travelers Take Advantage of Great Credit Card Offers
Banks and Credit Unions offer a variety of credit card options. I have a credit card that racks up miles with every purchase. I pay everything on this card including gas, groceries, lot rent, electric, food, NetFlix, the gym, insurance, the vet, entertainment, car repairs, gift cards, and Christmas presents. At the end of the day, I transfer money from my bank to pay off the balance so I don’t have to pay the interest. I needed to pay for all of those things anyway; I might as well get miles or points for them.
Make sure if you find a credit card that requires a minimum spending requirement within so many months it’s not more than you would usually spend. Add up your expenses and how much of that you can put on your card. If the spending requirement is much more than that, pass it by. On the other hand, you’d be surprised at how fast the expenses you can charge add up!
On a side note, cashback cards are rarely worth it. Advertisers try to convince you the points for a flight can be used whenever you want to with no blackout days. However, a flight using airline miles might cost you 60,000 miles whereas that same flight will cost you 100,000 in cashback points.
Budget Travelers Work “the System”
When you first start it can be hard to rack up any loyalty points at a hotel. There are two ways to work the system.
If you travel for work, try to stay at the same hotel chain every time to earn points. But just to cover your bases, it’s a good idea to belong to a couple of loyalty programs. For example, a town might have a Hilton but not a Marriott. Having both loyalty cards ensures you don’t waste an opportunity to earn something.
Secondly, If you don’t travel or often travel, pick a chain with a bar and restaurant you can frequent. You might not have enough in your budget yet to spend a week at the Four Seasons in Bora Bora, but you can earn points by frequenting the Four Seasons in your area while you plan your dream vacation. If you are looking for a place to meet a friend for lunch, meet in your hotel chain’s restaurant or meet at the bar after work for drinks. If you get a massage once in a while, use the spa at your hotel chain. Often all the purchase points you earn will help you acquire deeply discounted rates at your favorite hotel chain. Depending on the program, earning points can apply to take-out when you order directly from the hotel restaurant.
Budget Travelers Check Out Shopping Portals
Many airlines and hotels have shopping portals for their loyalty members. Use your member number to log in to their shopping portal. I’ve found hundreds of the same merchants I already use: Macy’s, Petco, Walmart, Starbucks, and Cabellas. Each merchant offers an earn rate. I might earn 3x the points for a Cabella purchase through the portal then I would by walking into the store.
It’s possible to start planning that well deserved vacation, even if you can’t quite afford it yet. Do your homework and make airline and hotel loyalty programs work for you. Check out credit cards that help you collect airline miles. Before you know it, you’ll be laying on the beach in Bora Bora.
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