Beyond Savvy – How to Travel for Free (Or Nearly Free)
Part I – Senior Traveling for Free
Do you know someone who always seems to get the hotel suite overlooking the ocean without paying extra for it? Or the person who flies first-class with no upcharge?
Meet my friend Joe. He’s one of the funniest, friendliest guys you’ll ever meet. But when it comes to travel points, deals and discounts, he’s a shark. Hotels and airlines don’t stand a chance.
Most frequent travelers have hotel and airline credit cards that earn points toward free or nearly free nights and flights. But Joe has taken it to a whole new level.
Last year, he and his wife traveled to Singapore, Thailand, Colombia and Italy and other destinations around the world. So far this year they’ve been to Dubai and Abu Dhabi with Belize on deck in a few weeks – all for a tiny fraction of what it would cost most people.
Credit Cards and Reward Points
How do credit cards and reward points factor into getting the best deals? Banks offer credit cards that provide airline miles, points or cash back. Travelers review the airline or hotel’s awards charts and point systems for a trip they want to take by cashing in their miles or points. Economy seats can usually be booked at a moment’s notice but business class and first-class seats require advance planning – typically six months to one year.
According to Joe, the “deal” is found by reviewing the awards charts and finding a particular airline’s “sweet spot” or region of the world where they’re offering a flight for the least amount of points. If you’re thinking this takes a lot of time, you’re right. Joe’s advice is to let travel bloggers and other experts dissect all the awards charts and then glean what you can from their blogs or Twitter posts. The “game” changes daily so you need to act quickly.
Some of Joe’s favorite travel bloggers include:
- The Points Guy
- Miles to Memories
- Doctor of Credit
- Frequent Miler
- Danny the Deal Guru
- One Mile at a Time
If you’re on Twitter, follow the bloggers to learn about travel deals as soon as they’re posted. A lot of deals are gone within hours if not minutes and Twitter is great at breaking travel news.
When to Open a New Credit Card to Earn Points
Many people don’t like to have a lot of credit cards. When does it make sense to open a new credit card to earn points?
“Absolutely apply for a new card when you know you have large expenditures coming up like appliances or furniture,” Joe says. “That way, you can meet the bank’s minimum spend requirement to earn points which is usually $2,000-$5,000 over a three-month span.”
Joe opens a maximum of five cards in a 24-month period to follow Chase Bank’s 5/24 rule – no more than five cards from all banks in a 24-month period (excluding business cards). Other banks have different requirements.
Even though it’s the most stringent, Joe likes Chase because it typically offers the best travel credit card deals. He always keeps a slot open in case Chase offers a new credit card with a great offer.
One important caveat: it only makes sense to get new credit cards if you’re able to pay off the ENTIRE balance each month so you don’t incur interest charges. Joe sets up auto pay to make sure each balance is paid off on time.
Airlines and Hotel Offers
Airlines are pretty similar to one another when it comes to reward points. The best way to select an airline is to decide which one fits your personal travel plan and allows you to take advantage of the “sweet spot” deals posted on their awards charts.
For hotels, one of Joe’s favorites is Hyatt.
“You can stay in some of their best properties for 15,000-30,000 points compared to equivalent rooms at Marriott for 30,000-100,000 points,” he says.
Senior Traveling for Free – Part II
Want to become a senior traveling for free? Read on for more insider tips, including how to book free or “almost free” airline tickets as well as his first – and probably worst – travel mistake.