Just a couple years ago, I had no clue that it was possible to travel nearly free.
Sound like you? You’re not alone. Who knew that traveling free was not only possible, but EASY?! Not me!
I have lots of conversations with others in my daily life about travel, and when I tell them that my family flies nearly free everywhere, they give me a curious look ;-). Like… no way… You must fly a lot for business and have lots of miles saved up… I DO have lots of miles saved up, but I pretty much did not do ANYTHING to earn them.
It’s a re-education and one eye-opening conversation after the next.
That got me to thinking… what do I wish everyone knew about saving money on travel and traveling almost free?
5 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Saving Money on Travel
1. It’s EASY!
First off, it’s extremely easy to do. You can easily be tricked into thinking that traveling free involves lots of complicated algorithms, constant checking for award availability, detailed planning about which flights to book when and on and on it goes.
Some miles and points blogs take this approach, but they are doing stuff like flying first-class to China all alone. That’s not my gig :).
I simply try to get my family to as many places as possible, largely in the U.S., in as few steps as possible.
I’ve found that it’s really not much more complicated than cutting coupons and planning how to use them in combination with sales is.
Our “coupons” are pretty much miles/points along with the Southwest Companion Pass (which lets one person fly nearly free) paired with fare sales!
2. Credit Cards Can Be GOOD
To engage in the hobby of traveling free, you have to take a new view of credit cards. Yes, they can be bad if you use them irresponsibly, but they can also be good.
If used properly, they can earn you a return on the money you are ALREADY SPENDING in the form of FREE TRAVEL. You just have to be responsible, using them only for expenses for which you have money in the bank, and paying them off every few days to every month at a minimum.
3. Your Credit Score Does Not Suffer
Everyone’s knee-jerk reaction when you tell them the way to travel free is largely through earning the bonus points on travel credit cards is, “Oh, but I don’t want to mess with my credit.” Count my husband in on that one.
But I have studied many people who do this, and again, when done responsibly, none report a significant or long-term impact on their credit. In fact, opening new cards means you have been extended MORE credit, which is a positive factor for credit reports. Many people who do this have credit scores into the 800s.
The credit pull for the card approvals is a slightly negative factor, but usually only by a few points and it usually rebounds quickly. Here is more about how to improve your credit score and maintain your credit.
4. Miles and Points Aren’t Just for Flights
While I definitely use miles and points to get our family free flights, like a trip to Dublin entirely on points and trips around the U.S. on Southwest Airlines, you can also use miles and points for EXPERIENCES.
I certainly had no idea about that when I first learned how to travel free.
Programs like Marriott Moments (formerly SPG Moments), Southwest All-Access Events and IHG Rewards let you take loyalty points and redeem them for activities like attending a Chicago Cubs game in a luxury suite, tickets to a Broadway show, a taping of the Rachael Ray Show, concerts, NBA games and more.
5. You Can Earn Miles and Points Without Ever Setting Foot on a Plane
It was mind-boggling to me that you can earn tons of loyalty miles and point without ever flying or spending a night at a hotel. While you can easily earn boatloads of points by simply signing up for a handful of credit cards and meeting the minimum spend, you can also easily earn points just by starting your online shopping at your favorite airline or hotel’s shopping portal or even by simply eating at certain restaurants.
Even deals like subscribing to the Wall Street Journal for $12 for 3 months to earn 700 Southwest points or buying a 12-month magazine subscription for $6.99 for 650 Southwest points are out there and again don’t require you to ever set foot on a Southwest plane!
I hope this helps to show you how easy it is to travel free. For me, it all starts with the Southwest Companion Pass, which makes paying for flights — even for a family of four — a thing of the past.
What did you wish you knew about traveling cheaply or nearly free that you know now? What do you wish others knew about the art of traveling nearly free?
Here are even more expert tips on how to save money for travel!