“How do you afford to travel so much?!”: a question I am asked more often than I’m asked what I’m doing with my life (that’s for another conversation :)). Instead of a potentially
sassy sarcastic comment, I thought I’d respond with some tips for how to save money when planning to travel, whether you’re planning a weekend vacation or a big international trip. There are tons of travel hacks out there, but here are just a few I’ve used recently:
1. Take advantage of travel credit cards:
Credit cards can offer amazing benefits, especially when it comes to traveling. Many credit card companies offer promotions if you open up a new account, which have unbeatable perks. After plenty of research on the best travel credit cards, I recently opened a Chase Sapphire Preferred card to get 50,000 bonus points to use for my upcoming trip to Southeast Asia. These bonus points were worth $600 and paid for my flight to Thailand in full, with still plenty to spare! (Finding cheap flights is an entirely different topic :)) Disclaimer: there are spending minimums to get these bonus points, and if you’re worried about not spending enough within the allotted time, there are also ways of hacking that (I’m happy to share if you ask me). If you’re interested in applying for the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card or want to know more about it, let me know and I can send you a referral email! There are plenty of other travel credit cards out there, so just make sure to do your research before deciding and be smart about paying off your balance to avoid accruing interest.
2. Book through Chase Ultimate Rewards:
If you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred card, you have access to Chase Ultimate Rewards, which is a convenient way to book flights, hotels, cars, and activities at a 20% discount. You can also redeem your Chase points directly through Ultimate Rewards, making your points go even further! For example, if a hotel is $100/night on another website, you can book that same room through Ultimate Rewards for $80 or 8,000 points/night either with your card or with points. This is how I booked my flight to Thailand and how I will book hotels and hostels while I’m in SE Asia- super easy and saves you even more money! Many people who already have Chase accounts don’t know about this feature or how it works, so I wanted to be sure to include it.
3. Don’t pay foreign transaction fees or ATM fees:
Many travel credit cards do not charge you foreign transaction fees, but paying countless ATM fees while traveling abroad is inevitable… or is it? I wish I knew this hack before traveling through Europe the past two summers! This one is a little more complicated, but stick with me. Charles Schwab Bank not only allows you to use any ATM in the world for free, but they also reimburse you for fees charged at any ATM. The way you can take advantage of this awesome program is by applying for a high-yield investor account through Schwab, which comes automatically with a checking account. There are no service fees, minimums, or restrictions on the checking account (you do not have to actually use the investor account if you don’t want to). Once you set up the account, you can order a debit card, and voila! You can use that card at any ATM in the WORLD and get reimbursed for every ATM fee. I’ve already tested it and can’t wait to use it in Asia! Bonus: the checking account also serves as a great virtual “piggy bank” to put away money for future travels.
Here is a link with some FAQs about this type of account.
4. Subscribe to email newsletters:
This may sound like an email clog, but it is totally worth it! You can even set up an email specifically for these types of newsletters to make sure your important messages don’t get lost. There are a ton out there, but I recommend subscribing to newsletters for major airlines, websites like TravelPirates, Expedia, SkyScanner, SecretFlying, and The Points Guy. I recently got a GREAT deal on my flight to Austin on a JetBlue flash sale (saved me over $150 from original fare), which I found out about through their email newsletter. I also recently saw an error fare for roundtrip flights from LAX/SFO to New Zealand on Qantas for $220! No joke! These flash sales/error fares don’t last long, so it’s important to be the first to know about them.
5. Be loyal to a few major airlines:
If you travel often, always try to fly on the same few airlines. Through traveling for work for the past two years, I was able to land lots of free flights through Southwest Airlines because of the points I earned. In my opinion, Southwest has the best rewards program without needing a credit card, so I try to stick with them. If you’re really loyal to one airline, think about getting their credit card to earn even more bonus miles/points. I personally do not have one because I can transfer points on my Chase Sapphire Preferred card directly to Southwest points at a 1:1 ratio, but I have heard positive reviews for several airline credit cards. I also fly frequently with American Airlines, and am planning on using those points to book my flight home from Asia. Step one: set up a frequent flyer account with all major airlines and write down your FF number to use when booking flights!
6. Use your spare time to earn free frequent flyer miles:
This one is newer for me, but I have recently started using E-rewards.com to fill out marketing/research surveys to earn extra Southwest points. Here’s how it works:
- Set up an account
- Receive emails when new surveys are available
- Fill out surveys to earn money in your E-rewards account
- Redeem E-rewards money for Southwest points
Surveys vary widely by topic, but can include questions about your eating/drinking habits, opinions about restaurants or cars, etc. Some are short, some are longer, some pay a dollar, some pay more- it all depends. What I like about it is it gives me something to do if I ever have a free couple of minutes, and I can choose when and how often I fill out surveys. If you want to set up an account to earn Southwest points, you can use this
7. Apply for TSA Pre-Check:
This one doesn’t save you money while traveling, but it certainly saves you time! I highly recommend applying for TSA Pre-Check for domestic travel and Global Entry for frequent international travel. Pre-Check allows you to cut the security line and walk right through without removing your shoes, laptop, or liquids. I cannot tell you how many times this has saved me from missing a flight!
Click on this link for more information about TSA Pre-Check.
Click on this link for more information about Global Entry.
Though it requires an in-person interview and a fee of $80, TSA Pre-Check is well worth the investment (shout out to my previous job for paying for mine!) and membership lasts five years.
Now you just have to pick a spot- the globe is yours! I know there are plenty of other travel hacks out there, and these were just a few. If you think of any I missed, feel free to comment or message me and let me know :). Happy travels!