Travel is Cheap, But Not Free

from Jeremy

For about six months now we've been working the Travel Miles game. We started because we wanted to reduce the cost of flying to China to pick up our adopted Child. Now we do it because, it turns out, IT'S AWESOME! Since we started we've earned the equivalent of more than $21,000 worth of free airline and hotel travel for approximately $340. Let me tell you, this is the best part-time job I've ever had! How have we earned all of this free stuff? Easy, we learned to work the credit card companies, using their signing bonuses against them. What's even more awesome is, everyone can do this, it's very cheap, and completely legal. Even betteryou can learn to do it free. 

Around June 2015 I heard about a free course offered through Travel Miles 101. I was a bit skeptical at first, but then looked into it, started taking the class, participating in the on-line forum, and learning the lessons. I kept my sense of skepticism about me, tried out what they were teaching, and was blown away when it started working. Month-long course short: you apply for credit cards, spend the necessary amount to earn the sign-up bonus, then move on to the next card. At the same time, you learn how to book your miles, so you can actually use them. 

Since learning about this process, we've earned:  

Company          Points/Miles          Value in $ 

Chase UR          333,167                $6996.51 

Southwest       58,548                 ??? 

Starwood        66,312                  $1632.80 

United             127,050                  $1905.75 

Marriott           62,931                    $4405.17 

Hyatt               6,655                     $119.79 

Hilton              24,4807               $1224.04 

American          165,583                $2814.91 

Delta               104,865                $1258.38 

Wyndham       103,000               $1236 

Total                                              $21,593.35+ 

This chart may not be self-explanatory, but I'll help you figure it out. The left column is the company where we earned the points/miles. The center column is the number of points/miles we've earned. The right column is the value in US Dollars that these points/miles are worth. Each company has a different value system for their rewards, so I use this site to help me figure out the value. The values from the site, though, are not always exact. For example, we're planning a Business Class trip to China in the fall. Total cost for our tickets for the trip will be over $14,000 roundtrip. Yet, total mile values, based on the chart, is only approximately $3,000. Clearly we're getting a good deal. What's even better, out of pocket, this trip is costing us total $290. 

What do I mean by the trip is costing $290 when the sticker price for the seats is over $14,000? I mean we spent approximately $30 on buying visa gift cards to meet the spending limits on the credit cards to earn the rewards points for the trip. We will also be spending around $260 to buy the tickets through American and United. Therefore, a $14,000 roundtrip flight will have pushed only $290 out of our pockets. 

I'm not going to go into all of the details of how you go about earning and spending the miles, since I already gave you the link to the class. What I will do, though, is tell you how we're planning on spending our miles: 

  • As some of you know, we're taking the month of August off to live in Spain. We booked United roundtrip for flights from Washington to Paris for three people for $244.20 and 180,000 miles (which were transferred over from Chase Ultimate Rewards Points). 

  • We are using Chase UR, United Miles, and American Airlines Miles to book our round trip flights to China. Since it's an 18 hour flight, we decided to go business class, particularly on the way home with the newly adopted child. So, 3 people out, 4 back business class, Total Cost: $290 (yeah, I gave it away earlier in my example, I know.) 

  • When in China we'll be staying at multiple hotels in Beijing, Gaungzhau, and Nanning, so we've stocked up on hotel chain points to use throughout our trip. I've looked up hotel availability in these places, and at least one of our chains is available in each spot, so we're set on lodging. 

  • Finally, future planning for the remainder, and to-be earned points/miles: 

  • We're planning a trip to California for the whole family at some point in the next year, but not sure when yet. 

  • We're planning a trip to Chicago for the whole family at some point in the next year, also not sure when. 

  • We're planning a Caribbean/Hawaiian trip some point in the next year, but not quite sure when yet. 

  • Next summer we intend to take at least a month in Thailand, unless we move cities for a new home. In that case, we'll travel to Thailand in 2 years. 

All this is to show you that with minimal money out of your pocket, you too can expand your family's travel budget and radius. We'll be writing a future post on the merits of Spain Vs. New Jersey in a few weeks as we ramp up to Summer. 

Where do you want to go? 

Can you use travel hacking to help get you there? 

Chances are, the answer to that question is a resounding YES! Now, that's COMFY!