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So one of the parts that I definitely enjoy about writing a travel blog is helping other people to travel. Just a few weeks ago I wrote about trying to help a family of 3 to Australia, and there are a couple of other posts that I’ve written about different readers
(SEE ALSO: The 3 best options down the coast)
(SEE ALSO: Did we get a family of 5 to Berlin for free?)
but even besides the ones that I’ve written about, I would say that I fairly regularly will get emails from people asking for help in “travel hacking”, to one degree or another. I enjoy helping people, especially families figure out how to save money on traveling. I definitely feel that a little bit of miles and points “savvy” can make the difference for some families in being able to afford even the traditional summer “family vacation”
If you’ve got miles and points questions, or questions about anything travel-related, feel free to send me an email at dan at pointswithacrew dot com, and I’ll do my best to help wherever I can.
You’ll get what you put into it
Now, having said that, it’s definitely true that you’ll get out of it what you’re willing to put into it. There is no “magic bullet” – those quickly get publicized and shot down. Probably the best known example was the deal with the US Mint and golden $1 coins. You could buy dollar coins from the US Mint with free shipping, and then immediately take them into the bank and deposit them to pay off your credit card. I’ve talked to people who cycled through MILLIONS of dollars of dollar coins back when this was deal was available.
Most recently was the Target Red Card where you could load $5000 / month directly from a credit card onto the Target Red Card and then use the funds to either mail yourself a check or even directly pay off your credit card bill. That lasted for several months, but is now no more.
Help respond to this reader question
The other day, I got an email from a reader who said simply:
how do you travel for cheap?
Yup – that was the entirety of the email.
I don’t mean to denigrate the emailer, because I don’t really know anything about their situation. But that’s actually part of the problem – it’s hard to help without knowing a bit more about you, where you live, where you want to go, family situation, etc.
Generally I suggest to begin with the end in mind, and my Beginner’s Guide is also a good start if you’re new to travel hacking.
So give me your best one line answers to the question
So now I’d like to turn this over to you guys – what’s your best one line answer to the question “How do you travel for cheap?”
Best answer will win a prize.
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Flexibility & persistence
Go visit a relative.
Read, read and read some more. Then do, do and do some more.
We are a family of four, and we travel cheap by using credit card (and checking account, recently) bonuses and putting every dollar we can on miles earning credit cards, which we pay in full each month. I read the boarding area blogs (and love this one!) to try to learn more about how to make my points and miles take us more places. I have found that airfare is usually the biggest component of our trip, and that if we can do that for free, I’m ok with spending dollars on a hotel or condo (though when we can book a condo on points, like we did at the Hyatt Winward Point in Key West, I’m thrilled!).
All good advice (and thanks for the kind words about this blog!), but you didn’t quite make it into “one line” 😛
Sadly, I can’t claim to be providing any insight other than that already (inadvertently?) offered in this blog post: “you’ll get out of it what you’re willing to put into it.” I spend at least 4 hours/day searching for ways to save on travel and still feel like I am only moderately successful — but I’m OK with being moderately successful. Case in point: I’m planning a trip to Europe for my wife and I and 2 friends we met on a Viking River Cruise. It wasn’t hard to figure out it was cheaper to train between cities rather than fly. But my initial thought (and maybe that of others) was to go to a well known source for booking rail passes as well as point-to-point tickets. Well, it turns out the same seat on the same train is more expensive than going to the website for the national line of the country where the trip originates. It took me a few hours to figure this out but it ended up saving me about 20%on fares. Same thing with car rentals. Same thing on airfare. Same thing on meals (it takes time to stack up savings between the Dining Rewards Network programs, OpenTable, Restaurant.com, Groupon, etc., etc., but the savings can be substantial. The yearning for a silver bullet is understandable but the Lone Ranger is a mythical character.
having an OCD with checking every travel site, like this one, daily…ok, multiple times daily…and then, just ~one~ more click of “refresh” ~~JUST IN CASE~~ something was just updated.
In a minivan.
Visit pointswithacrew.com and spend time to read.
Awwww – thanks!!! 🙂
By being relentlessly strategic in how you spend of everything else
Let someone else pay for it.
Research and detailed planning
Make friends around the globe and go and stay with them for free (or a few meals and drinks!). It definitely helped me out when I was a poverty stricken student but now I prefer space!
We give older children and teens cash to pay for their own food. They can use any money left over for what ever they want. It is amazing how they will decide to drink water instead of soda, have a small burger rather than the largest burger meal, etc.
Planning and preparation, well in advance.
I travel for cheap by being alert and curious AND reading everything!
Cooler filled with food in the car.
I stay alert for travel offers, open and close credit cards to get bonuses, miles and points so every dollar I spend generates an award.
Get a job as a flight attendant.
Explore new options from blogs and don’t be afraid to open/close credits cards for bonus miles, cash backs, all the while building a support system of friends/family willing to reciprocate help by spending on your cards to accrue points !
Read blogs like Points With a Crew to learn both how to accumulate points (Starpoints and Chase Points are my favorite) and how to use those points to stay “for cheap” or, better yet, for free!
How do you blow glass?
Paying for Hotels and airline tickets with miles and skipping the expensive entry fees to places and instead finding our own free or cheap adventures.
Watch LOTS of Travel Shows, then close your eyes and imagine you are there, as that is just as much effort as asking how to travel for cheap!
Enjoy the small things while traveling – walking around, people watching, and relaxing in beautiful parks.
Travel with you & your family’s love ,after you have ranked up hotel,airfare and travel award points by credit card spending and signons .
Research, research, research……location, location, location…..and timing, timing, timing !!
1. Aways have free airfare as the base of the trip, which can mean breaking into groups for travel to obtain award seats. Ex Grandpa and one grandchild are going via Delta from DC to Austin TX. Grandma and one grandchild are going Southwest via Atlanta to Austin. Departure and arrival times the same – so we have our own version of the Great American Race.
2. If I can’t get hotels with points, I prefer to rent apt., condo, or home (meals in and free laundry). Hotels have not figured out the room configuration for families which makes them a more expensive option.
3. Don’t travel during peak travel times (which is harder with current school policies).
4. Carryout food – breakfast brought in, picnic lunches, food stands. You avoid the restaurant overhead and kids can be more relaxed. But I try to support local restaurants, no fast food chains.
5. Always travel light–one carry-on suitcase and a backpack. No baggage fees and allows for last minute airline changes. You can always find a launder mat.
Just do it ! Make it happen ! Like anything the more you do, the easier it gets, based on the more you learn.
6. Carry snacks and water bottle as kids are always hungry and thirsty.