Part II — Senior Traveling for Free
We recently shared some of my friend Joe’s secrets on senior traveling for free, including how to accumulate travel points and where to find the best hotel and airline deals. This time, Joe shares his number one tip and his best “what not to do” experience.
Joe’s #1 Tip
Prepare a game plan for where you want to travel. Pick a continent or region and then let the best available “deal” narrow it down to a country or particular city. Once a location is selected, research what airlines typically fly into that region. The next step is to apply for credit cards that offer points/miles toward that airline.
Planning ahead is absolutely critical. If you don’t plan first and just apply for random credit cards, you end up with a bunch of points on different airlines. You won’t earn enough points to book free or “almost free” tickets on any one airline.
What Not to Do
One of my favorite phrases is “The expert in anything was once a beginner.” As it turns out, even Joe made some travel mistakes early on.
“My first mistake was probably my biggest,” Joe says. “I found a great deal on a hotel for one night in Kuala Lumpur. We were only going to be at the hotel for about eight hours. I thought we’d get a good night’s sleep after a long day of travel. The plan was to be up early in the morning and leave for our final destination.
“I booked the nonrefundable deal only to find out I miscalculated the date of the reservation because we lost an entire day due to international travel. Since it was nonrefundable, we were out the money. The hotel was unwilling to change the date by only one day. Lessons learned? Be patient, take a breath, double-check dates and international travel times — then book hotel stays and airline flights.
“Going forward, I rarely book nonrefundable rooms and flights.”
Joe’s Favorite Travel Deal
Joe and his wife have been on a lot of amazing adventures around the world. But his best travel deal was their recent trip to Dubai and Abu Dhabi for 12 days.
“We flew Emirates Airlines business class going to the Middle East using our Alaska Airline miles. On the way home, we used Etihad Airlines business class using our American Airline miles. One night at the hotel in Dubai was paid for with our Citibank Prestige credit card which offered the fourth night free. The hotel in Abu Dhabi was paid for using Hyatt points.
“The trip would have cost $36,000 out of pocket but our total cost was approximately $1,500. That included the other three nights in Dubai. It also covered a few meals out, some excursions, Uber and metro rides, and a few souvenirs. We also took advantage of free breakfasts and complimentary cocktails and appetizers at the Hyatt. The ‘miles and points’ game has allowed us to see the world and travel in luxury at a fraction of what it would normally cost.”
How to Become a Travel Guru as a Senior Traveling for Free
Exactly how did Joe become the crafty traveler he is today? Did he have prior industry experience? The answer is no.
“I used to open up credit cards and checking and savings accounts for their promotional offers of ‘get $100 for this or that credit card’ or ‘open a checking and savings account and we’ll give you a $300 bonus.’
“One day I was in the market for a new credit card and was browsing on Google when I discovered ‘free or almost free’ travel articles. After following a couple of bloggers, I saw they really were traveling the world for almost free. I couldn’t get enough. I read the comment sections of the bloggers to see other bloggers commenting on the article which led me to their websites.
The internet is packed with an endless amount of information on how to travel for free. My wife and I love this game. It’s the best hobby we’ve ever found.”
Joe won’t really qualify as a senior traveling for free for a few years yet, but his tips are invaluable for anyone wanting to play the travel game. If you missed Part I of “How to Travel For Free (Or Nearly Free),” you can find it here.