Travel Hacking = Travel Planning. These are the Basics

Travel rewards is really an amazing thing. In a previous blog, Our First Travel Hack, I went over how we got our flights to Thailand for $75 each. Basically free travel? YES PLEASE! In order to get and use these rewards in the best way though, takes some planning.  Luckily for me, I am a huge planner with everything in my life. So this part comes pretty easily.

First, you need to research and decide which cards are going to be best to open when you start thinking of your next trip, AND make sure you have enough time to meet your minimum spend AND get your reward points in time for your vacation. We have waited for points to show up after we met our requirements for more than 60 days. So it’s important to keep that in mind.

When we started planning our trip to Thailand, I started looking up flights to see which airlines would be running there and which cards would be best for those airlines almost 8 months ahead of our trip dates. (If I were needing more than the one card for each of us it would have been much earlier.) Ultimately, I chose the easy way out and got a card that had “fixed points,” meaning they weren’t connected to any certain company, they could just be applied back to your travel purchase and “erase” it. (Those cards were our Capital One Venture cards.) It worked out perfectly for that trip, and we will need more fixed points when we start planning future trips we will be taking next fall. Spoiler, Disney World is in our future. YAY. (See that, MEGA planner over here.)

Once that flight was booked, we decided the next best route to start taking is to build up our Ultimate Rewards points through Chase. Chase really has some of the best perks when it comes to travel rewards. I could write an entire blog on Chase cards, but I’ll save all the details for that time. We chose to get the Chase Sapphire Preferred cards. With these cards, once our minimum spends our met, we will get 50,000 reward points. That’s 100,000 points between the two of us in our Ultimate Rewards Portal.  Chaz and I like to run away for one weekend a month, and that 100,000 points is ALOT of hotel stays for our weekend getaways!

Chase cards are a great place to start when getting into your travel rewards, but one thing to remember is their 5:24 rule. Meaning, you can only apply and be accepted for 5 cards within a 24 month period. That’s ANY card. Not just Chase. So right now I am already at two cards, my Venture card + my Preferred card, within my 24 month period. This rule puts another element of planning into the mix.

Second point of planning I wanted to talk about today is for when it is time to actually use your points. I love to be spontaneous and just plan a trip to anywhere and leave the next day, but with travel rewards, it doesn’t always work that way.  A couple weeks ago, Chaz looked at me and said, “We should use our American Airlines points we have saved up.” I looked at him and said, “Sure babe,” thinking he meant in the near future. Well, the next day he came home and said, “Let’s go to D.C. next weekend!” I was ALL about it. My travel bugs were justa revving up inside! But, when it came down to it, all of the reward seats that were going to work for our spontaneous weekend trip were taken. There are only so many seats that airlines set aside, and all the good ones get swiped up lonnnng before the spontaneous people even get a sniff at them. (Side note, if you are spontaneous + are flexible in your dates of spontaneity, it could work. If we could have come home Monday instead of Sunday we probably could have done it. Our outbound flight just would have sucked real, real bad.)

We learned our lesson, and will now be taking that little venture sometime next Spring. We decided instead to take a mini road trip over to Jackson Hole, WY, with our sweet baby in tow. We used some Chase points from our UR portal and got our stay covered in the cutest little cabins. It turned out to be an amazing weekend with our little family. Check back to the Jackson blog for some of our favorites from our weekend.

The takeaway? Do your research as to which cards are the best for your upcoming trips + plan ahead enough that you will be able to meet your spend and get your points + it’s smartest to be at LEAST three months in advance to get the exact dates you want when flying domestic.  If you are fairly flexible, you may be able to make it work within a month or so, but even at that you may not get them. If I were you and you have a destination in mind, start looking at your reward availability 6 months to a year ahead of time. When you find the right flight, book away!

Travel Hacking is probably the best hobby I have ever picked up. Between the trips we get to go on and the planning my OCD brain gets to embark on, I’m in heaven! I currently have a list of the next five cards I am planning on opening in order to get us to some of our destinations we have planned over the next couple of years. The whole process requires you to really think about where you want to go, but if you take the right steps in order to get there, your trip just might cost you next to nothing.

Thanks for being here,

Simply,

The Spackman’s

PS. Always remember that when you are opening these cards and you are trying to meet your minimum spend requirements to get your bonuses, you DO NOT want to go into debt and get into credit card trouble. You are simply putting your monthly bills onto these cards, i.e., groceries, utilities, diapers, etc. If you can’t meet the requirements without getting into debt trouble, travel hacking just might not be for you.

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