Travel Hacks

Just like with personal financing, you’re going to make mistakes in the beginning of becoming a world class traveler. We’re human; it’s inevitable that we will screw up. You’re going to overspend for a flight or rental car. Forget to pack something crucial that ruins part of your trip (First aid kit in Maui :/). Become overwhelmed with the logistics of your trip. Hopefully the tips below will prevent you from making the same mistakes I have made, save you some money, and have a better travel experience overall 🙂 I know this is going to be information overload. Read the article a couple of times and let it marinade. Then try to implement a few tips the next time you travel and see if it’s beneficial. If it is, slowly keep adding these tips until you find the perfect balance of saving money and stress with minimal effort and time spent.

 

Lodging

Save money on lodging by using the following:

  • Airbnb – Probably the cheapest option in this list. I’ve used Airbnb in LA & Atlanta with only minor complaints (Room temperature mainly, No AC in the one in LA, couldn’t adjust the temperature in the one I stayed at in Atlanta in December). There are going to be trade offs depending on how cheap the price is. Just make sure to review the amenities before booking. Ask the Airbnb owner too for discounts, especially if you booked a lengthy stay.
  • Hotel Tonight – If you’re taking a spontaneous last minute trip or are ok with waiting to the night before to book a hotel (Usually I’m not this ballsy), this is a great app to score some major deals.
  • Priceline – Express Deals (Formerly known as Name Your Price). I’ve used this for Chicago and NYC. Pick which star hotel you want in a specific location, saving you 20-30%. There is a catch though (There always is). You don’t find out the name of the hotel until after you book it. So far I’m 2/2 with no complaints.
  • VRBO – If you’re going to the beach, look into VRBO. Used them in Maui and got a room for $200/night. Great deal compared to $250-300 per night hotels were charging.
  • Booking.com – Haven’t used this yet but most likely will for my Europe trip in the fall. Supposedly a great sight to use for international trips, specifically Europe. Stay tuned for feedback later this year.
  • Redweek.com – If you’re vacationing for at least a week, you may want to consider renting a timeshare from this timeshare community.

 

Flights

There are PLENTY of ways to save money on flights. A lot require little effort. Some require more time and effort than others (Actual travel hacking). With that said, I wouldn’t spend hours trying to save $20 on a flight. If you see a great deal, don’t be afraid to pull the trigger. Yes, you might be able to save a few more bucks if you wait a day. But the price could also go up if you wait. Most travel experts say, “The best day to book is usually today.” The ultimate goal for me is to put minimal effort into booking a flight while saving money as well.

  • Very first thing I do when researching a trip is to switch to “Private Browsing.” If you use Google Chrome open up an “Incognito Window”. When you visit airline and travel sites, those sneaky bastards can record your visits by installing cookies on your browser, which can cause the prices you saw earlier to rise the next time you visit their site.
  • Next step is to look at Google Flights. Select your destination and time frame and it’ll show you all of the major airlines and their flights on your arrival and departure dates. You can even book a flight directly from their site. Super helpful because you can also scroll through the months and it’ll show you average prices for every day, which allows you to spot the cheapest days to fly to/from your destination. I also recently discovered other flight search engines, Momondo and TravelPirates.  Similar to Google Flights but they also search the small booking sites that Google Flights doesn’t, as well as saving you the trouble and finding the cheapest flights for you by mixing and matching airlines and layovers.
  • Be flexible. By using Google Flights, Momondo, and TravelPirates, you can see which days are cheaper than others. Typically Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays are the cheapest days to fly, with Mondays and Fridays being the most expensive. Early morning and late night flights also tend to be cheaper.
  • Booking your flights about 2 months in advance will usually save you the most money. Also booking flights early in the week could save you some money because this is usually when sales occur.
  • If you have a good idea of when you’ll be traveling and it’s not for a couple of months, use the Hopper It predicts and monitors flight prices and tells you when to book, sending you alerts when it spots the cheapest prices. As of writing this article, I currently have Hopper monitoring flights from New Orleans to Detroit and New Orleans to London. I’ll keep you posted on how much this app saves me.
  • Book two one way flights. Sometimes you can find cheaper fares by mixing and matching airlines as opposed to being restricted to using one airline for a round trip flight.
  • Sometimes it’s cheaper to search for indirect routes (Try Skyscanner). Layovers typically are cheaper than non-stop flights. It’s important to keep in mind that if you’re mixing and matching airlines to allow yourself enough time in between flights. Usually 2-3 hours should be enough in case something goes wrong and your first flight gets delayed.
  • Use Skiplagged.com for hidden-city flights, flights that have multiple legs where the traveler exits prior to the final destination. Skiplagged shows you flights that have your destination as a layover city to save you money. This only works for a one way flight because if you fail to show up for your connecting flight the airline will cancel any succeeding flights. And obviously you can’t check bags going this route. It’s a risky play that pisses off airlines but could save you significant money. I don’t advise doing this often but if it’s an emergency or you really need to save money it’s an option.
  • Seriously consider flying with budget carriers like Spirit Airlines. If you don’t mind sacrificing a little leg room, a snack and beverage, a phalange or two (Only Friends fans will get this) and using a backpack for luggage, then this could result in your biggest savings. I’ve flown from New Orleans to Houston round trip for $100 and New Orleans to Las Vegas for less than $200! The only downside with Spirit is their luggage restrictions (If you can’t get by with a backpack you’ll have to pay extra) and their limited amount of flights per day.
  • Fly Southwest Airlines if you can. I am a huge fan of this Airline. For the last 3 years they have had a 72 hour sales event twice a year (June and October) that offers round trip flights for $49, $79, $99 and $129. They also do Black Friday deals as well. Follow them on Twitter (@SouthwestAir) to catch the sale as soon as it starts. If you become a Click ‘N Save subscriber you’ll receive weekly emails for special deals. You’ll have to book directly on their website though because Southwest doesn’t allow third-party websites to show their prices. Check out Skyscanner’s Southwest deals page that they keep updated regularly.
  • Sign up for flight deal websites like Scott’s Cheap Flights. Nomadic Matt & How to Money both rave about this website. Free membership includes email alerts about cheap flights that depart from your favorite airport. Supposedly can save up to 90% on international flights. Premium membership for $49 per year includes special premium only deals, as well as alerts on “Mistake Fares.” I recently discovered a Mistake Fare for the first time and had no idea it was a mistake until my friend told me. It was a flight from New Orleans to Maui that was $450 round trip, HALF WHAT I SPENT LAST YEAR. I then read this article on Scott’s Cheap Flights explaining that airlines sometimes make mistakes listing flights much cheaper than they should be. Can be for a number of reasons but those mistake prices don’t usually last more than a few hours until the airline discovers the mistake. Sure enough when I checked the price the next day it was $200 more expensive.
  • Don’t waste money checking bags. Unless you’re hitting up breweries on your vacay and want a bag to fill up with just beer (Shout out to my buddy Steve!) Some airlines will charge fees to do so. Plus it’s a pain in the ass to lug around bags. Invest in a good carry-on suitcase or if you want the best and money’s no option, buy the carry-on travel bag that raised over $3 million on Kickstarter.
  • Tired of waiting in long ass security lines at the airport? Sign up for TSA PreCheck. For only a 5year/$85 membership you can enjoy not having to take off your shoes, jacket, and belt when you go thru security. No more taking out your laptop and 3-1-1 liquids either. And the best part of the membership…no longer have to get to the airport hours before departure. 200 airports have expedited TSA PreCheck lines, where 92% of TSA PreCheck member as of this year have waited in line less than 5 mins! For only $15 more you can get Global Entry, which is the international version of TSA PreCheck. You receive all of TSA PreCheck benefits plus when you return from international trips you can skip the traditional customs and declaration lines and head straight to the automatic kiosks. Some credit cards will even include a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry membership as one of their perks.
  • You legally have 24 hours after you’ve purchased a flight to cancel so check the next day if you can get a better deal.

 

Rental Cars

  • Turo (Airbnb for cars) – Full disclosure, I haven’t tried this yet. But from what I’ve read it’s legit. You can rent a car from owners, which offers more models to choose from than rental car companies. You can either meet the owner to pick up the car or have it delivered to you. I just looked up renting a car in LA and the cheapest is $21 per day! There are a couple of drawbacks though. Some cars have a mileage limit for your rental. If you go over this limit you would pay a certain fee per mile. And your personal auto insurance and credit cards that offer rental insurance may not cover you renting a car from Turo. You’ll need to ask or pay for insurance through Turo.
  • Skyscanner – A great site similar to Momondo and Google Flights that also offers car rentals. In addition to the major car rental companies, Skyscanner searches and compares prices from hundreds of car rental companies, trying to find you the cheapest price possible.
  • Expedia / Kayak – In the past I have used these 2 sites to book my rental cars. Then I keep checking to see if prices lowered up until 24 hours before my reservation, which they usually do. If they do, cancel your reservation and rebook with the lower price. If not, you wasted a couple of mins. No biggie.
  • Autoslash – One of my favorite travel tools right now. You can request a rental car quote from Autoslash and they’ll find the best deal for you based upon the discounts you are eligible for. Or you can tell them your rental car confirmation number and they’ll track your rental and notify you when a cheaper price is found.
  • Decline the supplemental collision damage coverage offered by rental car companies if your primary auto insurance covers rentals, or if you pay for the rental car with a credit card that offers primary rental car coverage. You don’t have to file a claim with your personal insurance if you get into an accident in your rental and have primary rental car coverage thru your credit card. Some credit cards only offer secondary rental car coverage, which only applies if your personal car insurance won’t cover the entire bill.
  • Are you a Costco member? You can book a rental car through them, which uses 4 major rental car companies: Alamo, Avis, Budget, and Enterprise. Booking through Costco can get you a free additional driver at certain locations, saving you ~$10 per day.

 

Traveling Internationally

  • Because I’m traveling internationally for the first time later this year, I was reading about international travel on Reddit. As I was going down the wormhole I came across a post about someone traveling to another country and not being allowed through customs because he had less than 6 months of validity left on his passport. He was turned away even though his passport wasn’t expired! I started to worry because I’m traveling in October and my passport expires next March, which would be less than 6 months of validity. I have time to renew (takes 6-8 weeks) but I was amazed that if it wasn’t for me reading this random post this could have happened to me. Maybe it’s just me but I feel like this isn’t common knowledge that even though your passport isn’t expired you could still be rejected from entering another country. Also, some airlines will prevent you from boarding if you have less than 6 months of validity left. To prevent this nightmare scenario from happening to you, check the status of your passport. If it expires in 9 months or less, you should renew your passport now.
  • To renew my passport I had to take an updated picture so I went to Walgreens. Cost me $15 for two prints. Then read on Reddit about someone downloading the Passport Booth app, took a passport photo of his wife using the app on his phone, saved the photo and uploaded on Walgreen’s website, ordered a 4×6 print and paid only 23 cents. Man Reddit is awesome. Also, #LessonLearned.
  • Shit happens, like losing your passport or getting it stolen. If this happens, you’ll need to visit your local embassy for a temporary, emergency passport. In order to get this, you’ll need to have a photo ID, passport sized photo (bring along the extra 4×6 print), and proof of US citizenship (make a copy of your passport ID page and save it on your phone and print a copy out). So take pics of driver’s license and any travel passes you may have. Email copies to yourself as well.
  • Contact your bank or credit card company to let them know you’re going overseas so they don’t interpret a foreign transaction as fraud and lock your accounts. Also ask them what number to call from overseas if your card gets lost or stolen. The toll-free number on the back of your card is usually the number to call when you’re in your home country. Store this number in your phone and write it down and keep in a secure place.
  • Download the GlobeConvert app to convert currencies, distance, weight, speed, etc.
  • If you’re traveling alone and your mom is a worrier like mine, download the Polarsteps app to allow friends & family to see where you are and ease her worries. The app automatically tracks your route with minimal battery consumption. Your friends and family don’t need an account to follow along. Just share your trip link with them and they can check in on you using the Polarsteps website.
  • Use WhatsApp to text or call your loved ones for free. It’s a free service that uses your phone’s internet connection rather than your cell plan’s minutes or texts.
  • Download the free app Duolingo to learn words and basic phrases in whatever country you’re visiting’s language. I’m currently learning French using the app and it’s amazing how much I’ve learned by just using it for 10-20 mins per day. I believe learning some of the language will make my interactions and trip easier.
  • Download Google Translate for the words and phrases you didn’t learn with Duolingo.
  • Download offline maps using Google Maps, to navigate around cities and see bus/metro lines so you’re not roaming or burning through your data.
  • If you’re traveling in Europe and don’t want to rely on having to find WiFi, get a prepaid Europe SIM card with built in data to avoid absurd roaming charges when you communicate with loved ones back home via internet messaging/calling apps like Whatsapp, Skype, Facebook Messenger, and iMessage (To avoid accidentally sending a text message when iMessage isn’t available and being charged for data roaming, go to Settings, then Messages, and turn off the “Send as SMS” option ). These prepaid European SIM cards come with minutes and texts but you can only use them when texting or calling European numbers. Unfortunately it doesn’t apply to calling or texting back home.
  • Recharge your electronic devices overseas using a universal power adapter
  • If you’re traveling across Europe consider train > flying. Because of their high speed rails, traveling by train doesn’t take nearly as long as it would in the States (London to Paris is only 2 hrs!). You also don’t have to deal with the extra time required at airports. Plus you’ll arrive in a city’s downtown as opposed to most airports that are far from the city.
  • Rome2rio.com, Seat61.com, Omio.com, and Eurostar.com are the only websites you need to use to research and book your transportation throughout Europe. Think of Rome2rio as Google Flights. It’s a booking engine that’ll show you how to get to anywhere by plane, train, or bus. Seat61 tells you EVERYTHING you need to know about traveling throughout Europe by train. Literally EVERYTHING. Omio (Formerly GoEuro.com) is a booking site for trains, buses, and flights. Or if you want to book directly with the Eurostar train itself, head over to their website.
  • If you’re traveling to Europe consider going during the off-season of October-April to save money.
  • Research flights using Momondo to see if it’s cheaper to fly out of another city than a direct flight from your home airport. It’s ~$200-300 cheaper to fly round trip from New Orleans – Boston – London than a nonstop flight from New Orleans to London.
  • Use a no foreign transaction fee credit card. Most credit cards charge a 3% fee on purchases made overseas. That can seriously add up if you use your credit card for everything like I do. Capital One doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees on any of their credit cards so if you don’t have any Capital One credit cards and you travel internationally often, you should consider it. And try to use your credit card as much as you can. Credit card companies typically get the best exchange rates, saving you unnecessary fees.
  • If a merchant overseas asks you if you want to perform a dynamic currency conversion (DCC), decline it. This service converts the foreign price to your local currency, letting you know how much your bill is. But there’s always a catch. This isn’t a free service, and can charge as much as 7% of the purchase price. So decline. You can use a free conversion app to figure it out yourself. And if your bill is converted to your currency without your permission, ask the merchant to void the transaction.
  • Some foreign merchants may not accept credit cards, especially if you’re traveling off of the beaten path. So it’s a good idea to have some of the local currency on hand. Never ever exchange money at airports. They offer the worst conversion rates. Instead, look for an ATM within your debit card’s network. If you have a Visa or Mastercard debit card, you can use it at ATMs in over 100 countries. The PLUS network is associated with Visa, so your Visa debit card will work with ATMs in the PLUS network. The Cirrus and Maestro networks are associated with Mastercard, so your Mastercard debit card will work with ATMs in the Cirrus and Maestro networks. The back of your ATM card typically shows the logos of the networks your card belongs to. Check the Cirrus/Maestro and PLUS locators to find your international ATMs.
  • Tipping in Europe is not customary but if you choose to do so, the typical 15-20% tipped in the States is overboard.

 

Packing

A few of the essential items I’ve used on my trips…

  1. Backup debit and credit cards
  2. Extra phone chargers
  3. First Aid Kit
  4. Refillable plastic bottles for body wash/shampoo
  5. Umbrella
  6. International power plug adapter
  7. Prepaid Europe SIM card
  8. Travel Cable Organizer
  9. Packing Cubes
  10. Hanging Travel Toiletry Bag Organizer
  11. RFID Blocking Minimalist Wallet
  12. Hanging Laundry Bag
  13. Filtering water bottle
  14. Jabra Elite 65t wireless earbuds
  15. Portable phone charger

 

Best Travel Credit Cards

If you’re new to the travel credit card game, prepare to have your mind blown. There are quite a few credit cards that provide thousands of sign-up points (If you spend a certain amount of money on the credit card within the first certain number of months you receive sign-up points which can be redeemed for free flights). In addition to these sign-up points, these credit cards also offer points based upon purchases with the card. Some will also have additional perks like access to airport lounges, rental car insurance, purchase protection, extended warranties on purchases, and credit towards Global Entry or TSA Precheck membership. Download the Sift app to view all of your credit cards’ available benefits. Most of these cards do have annual fees but the perks significantly outweigh them. You can always cancel after the first year. I’ll talk more about that in the Travel Hacking section below. I’ll also talk about how to meet the minimum purchases to receive the sign-up points.

 

Nerdwallet and Value Penguin do a great job of comparing credit cards. Or if you want me to save you the trouble, these are some of the most recommended credit cards:

 

  1. Chase Sapphire Reserve – 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening ($750 toward airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards); $300 annual travel credit; $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck; Airport lounge access; $450 annual fee.
  2. Chase Sapphire Preferred – 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening ($750 toward airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards); Primary rental car coverage; Trip delay and cancellation insurance; Purchase protection; $95 annual fee (Can only have one Sapphire card at a time). Chase also has Chase Ultimate Rewards, an online shopping portal (discussed more in detail below) that offers bonus offers that work in conjunction with this card’s bonus categories to give you some serious points.
  3. Capital One Venture – 50,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening ($500 in travel); $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck; Secondary rental car coverage; Lost luggage reimbursement and travel accident insurance; $95 annual fee
  4. Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority – 40,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening; 7500 rapid rewards on every anniversary; 4 upgraded boardings per year; $75 in Southwest travel credit each year; 20% credit towards in-flight purchases; $149 annual fee
  5. Alaska Airlines Visa Signature- 40,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening (Worth $330 toward airfare) and Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare for $121; annual Companion Fare benefit on your anniversary – you can bring a companion with you on the same flight in coach for $121 when you book through Alaska Airlines; Free checked bags; 50% off day passes at the Alaska Lounge; 20% all Alaska Airlines in-flight purchases; earn miles based off distance flown rather than fare cost (Rare); $75 annual fee
  6. Chase Ink Business Preferred – 80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening ($1000 toward airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards); Trip cancellation insurance; Primary rental car coverage; Purchase and extended warranty protection; $95 annual fee. (You don’t have to own a registered business to apply for a business credit card. If you do freelance work or are a sole proprietor you can enter your social security number as your tax ID number )
  7. Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business – 80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening ($1000 toward airfare); Use these 80,000 points towards getting the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass; 9,000 bonus points on your anniversary every year (equivalent to $120 in airfare); Four upgraded boardings per year; $8 daily credit for in-flight WiFi; $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck; $199 annual fee

 

Travel Hacking

Nomadic Matt does a great job explaining the art of “travel hacking” in one of his posts. It’s very long so to save you some time I’m going to do my best of summarizing it…

Travel hacking is collecting credit card points and airline miles and redeeming them for free travel. Usually to collect an insane amount of points that can be redeemed for free travel, you have to spend a lot of money. So the goal of travel hacking is to hack the system and spend as little money as possible while obtaining a shitload of points. There are plenty of travel hackers out there that boast about earning millions of miles every year. They also spend an insane amount of time doing this. So if you want to be that person, great. Go for it. But you can also travel hack using minimal effort and time and just earn the points that you need.

The first step in travel hacking is to apply for credit cards. Look for cards with little to no annual fees that also offer plenty of sign-up miles. See my post above about the best travel credit cards. The average airline mile in the US in 2019 is worth 1.3 cents. So if a credit card is offering 60,000 miles when you sign up, that’s equivalent to roughly $780 in free airfare.  However, there is a minimum spending requirement for the credit card before you can earn those bonus miles. Usually it’s ~ $1,000-4,000 within the first 2-3 months. Since the purpose of travel hacking is to not spend extra money, there are ways to get around these minimum spending requirements…

  1. If you’re about to be a first time home owner like me, wait to apply for new credit cards until after closing and then buy all of your furniture, appliances, etc. on your new credit cards. Doing this should easily meet the minimum spending requirements. Hell, you could probably meet the minimum spending requirements of two new credit cards.
  2. Put as many of your bills on your credit card as you can (car payments, memberships, subscriptions, gas, car insurance, etc.)
  3. Buy gift cards that you know you will use in the future to the stores you regularly shop at, such as grocery stores and gas. Yes you’re spending more money upfront, but not more money overall.
  4. Ask friends if you can put those basketball tickets, dinner, flight, or computer purchase on your credit card and they can reimburse you with cash or Venmo.
  5. If you’re close to getting those bonus miles but need a little help, pay your rent, mortgage, student loans, and utilities with Plastiq. It’s a service that charges a 2.5% fee and lets you pay practically any bill with a credit card. Let’s say you need to spend $2000 to receive 50,000 bonus miles. You use Plastiq to pay for your mortgage, car payment, and utilities, which total $2,000. Plastiq pays these bills and charges your credit card $2,050 ($50 in fees). The value of those 50,000 miles is $650. $650 in free airfare > $50 in fees, all day erryday. As long as the rewards outweigh the fees, Plastiq is a good idea to ensure you get your bonus miles.
  6. Pay your US federal tax bill on a credit card. For the 2018 tax season, processing fees range from 1.87% to 1.99% of your tax bill or a minimum fee of $2.50 to $2.69, whichever is higher. If you don’t pay your taxes during the year and instead choose to pay them in one lump sum, you can time that tax payment with a credit card sign-up so you can get the bonus miles. Only do this if the value of the bonus miles is greater than the processing fee.
  7. Pay for your car insurance in one lump sum versus paying monthly. Some insurance providers even offer a discount for paying up front.

Now you can’t just sign up for a credit card, collect the bonus miles, cancel, and sign up again. Most credit card companies have a waiting period of 18-24 months before you are eligible for that specific credit card’s sign-up bonus miles again. Nor should you sign up for as many credit cards as you can. Some companies, like Chase, use the 5/24 rule, in which people who have applied for 5+ cards with any issuing bank in a 24 month span cannot apply for a new credit card through Chase (doesn’t count the majority of business cards since these usually do not show up on your personal credit report). And if you apply for a lot of cards you’re less likely to be approved. But as long as you space out applying for cards and sign up for no more than 2-3 credit cards per year you should be fine (This practice is called credit card churning). And there are plenty of credit cards that have sign-up bonuses that you can cycle though on a multiyear basis. If you need help deciding which credit cards to apply for first and in which order to prevent being declined, check out this flowchart. You should also familiarize yourself with all of the banks’ credit card rules for approvals and sign-up bonuses. Fair warning though, your homeowners’ insurance rate might be impacted by churning because your insurance regularly soft pulls your credit and if they see a lot of new credit lines they might increase your rate. And only cancel credit cards that have annual fees that outweigh its benefits. Otherwise just hang onto the card and increase your credit to debt ratio, or if possible, downgrade your card. If you’re a nerd like me and love creating spreadsheets you can create one to track your credit cards, such as the annual fee renewal dates, point balances, perks, and what each card is used for. You can download the template I created here.

Fact or myth? Possessing a lot of credit cards will hurt your credit. Wait for it…….this is actually a myth.  Temporarily you’ll lose a few credit points. But in the long run it’ll help your credit score. Your credit score is made up of the following:

Payment history – 35%

Total debt owed – 30%

Length of credit history – 15%

Type of credit used – 10%

New credit – 10%

Taking on new credit influences the smallest weighted category and only 10% of your total score. And by spacing out your credit card applications you’ll allow the temporary dip your credit score takes to go away.

If you want to kick it up a notch you can do the following:

  • Register for dining rewards from the 7 major airlines that participate. It can be as simple as registering and then dining out as usual. If you dined at a restaurant that participates in the program you’ll receive an email notifying you that you just earned extra miles. If you want to dig deeper and score as many miles as you can you can plan your dining out based upon the restaurants that participate in the program.
  • Shopping via online shopping portals. Airlines and hotels have preferred merchants. These companies partner with airlines and hotels and are featured in their online shopping portals, where customers can purchase products, earning themselves additional points. Where you could typically earn 1-2 points through a credit card’s reward program, shopping on their online portal can sometimes double or triple your points. The cost of some products might be higher on these online portals so it’s best to do price comparisons to make sure you’re getting the best deal. But if the price on the online portal is the same cost, then why not score some extra points?
  • Use Cash Back Monitor If you have multiple credit cards and want to see which one offers the most miles/points at a particular retailer.

 

Itineraries

Google Maps was a godsend for my NYC trip. I’m more OCD than usual when I go on trips. I need to have an itinerary so I always have a plan and know where I’m going next. Especially in a huge city like NYC. Using Google Maps I created my own custom map of NYC in which Google placed pins at all of the places I wanted to visit. I then color coded the pins by location and from there I created each day’s itinerary by location (Google Maps – Your Places – Maps – Create Map). I then shared the map with my family so they could always access it and recently shared it with a friend who was visiting NYC for the first time. It’s just a great tool to use when traveling. Check out my Itineraries Page to see all of the custom maps I created for my previous trips, as well as ones for New Orleans.

Tips

  1. Buy index funds that pay dividends and use the dividends for vacations. Just remember you have to pay taxes on dividends so set aside some money before you blow it all on a trip. Use interest from a high yield savings account to help pay for travel expenses as well (You have to pay taxes on any interest you accrue).
  2. If you forget your charger’s wall adapter you can plug your USB cable into the USB port on the hotel’s TV to charge your phone.
  3. If your lost or need a recommendation for a good, cheap restaurant, pop into a hostel and ask the staff. It’s a good chance they’re a local so they’ll know what they’re talking about. Plus they deal with frugal travelers on the reg.
  4. Put on your charm and ask for an upgrade when checking into a hotel. The worst they can say is no.
  5. Splurge on your meals at lunch. Expensive restaurants tend to have lunch specials that feature the same food they serve for dinner but at a cheaper price.
  6. Book your tours and excursions online weeks in advance. The closer you wait to book the greater the chance of it selling out. I waited until the week of my trip to book my Statue of Liberty tour and the Crown access was sold out L You’ll also more likely save more booking online versus paying in person.
  7. If you HAVE to check your luggage, take a picture of it in case it gets lost which will help identify it more easily.
  8. Carry emergency cash. If you’re like me, shit will happen.
  9. This is one I’m recently learning and trying to implement. Don’t schedule too many things where you’re rushing to move onto the next place. It’s cool to have an itinerary but you don’t have to do everything on it in one day. Space it out and let your day unfold naturally.