How we upgrade the way we travel

Sharon and I love to travel. That’s no secret if you know us. For me, travel has been a part of my life for, well, my whole life. My parents took me places all the time. Now, we weren’t going all over the world. In fact, we hardly ever flew for any vacations until I was in high school. That meant it was usually a road trip for a week or two in the summer

We didn’t travel fancy. We often rented a pop-top Starcraft camper and stayed in KOA campgrounds to save money on meals and lodging. I still loved every minute of it. Eventually we ditched the camper and stayed at hotels. We booked our rooms using an Entertainment book so we’d get 50% off and this allowed us to stay at some pretty cool hotels which would usually be out of our price range.  I guess this is where I got the drive to always travel better than I was paying for.

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Epcot Center 1994

I honed these skills while I was in college and continued after I graduated. Back then, I was totally into Walt Disney World and would travel from New Jersey to Florida  2-3 times a year for short trips. That became every 2-3 months and then it eventually turned into every 1-2 months. My record was 8 trips, which happened the year before I finally moved to Florida. To save money on the trips, I would search and search for the lowest airfares using Easy Saabre, which was a home copy of the American Airlines booking system software. I’d also search for hotels on my computer, finding the lowest prices I could. I had the advantage of being able to read reviews and look at pictures of hotels ahead of time. With all of this traveling, I was also collecting airline miles. I eventually had enough to pay for a free trip. I saved them up for a flight across country, my first trip to California.

Jump forward to today. Sharon and I are in a much better financial position to travel. We are still not fancy travelers at heart; a room to us is just a place to stay. We like it to be clean, with a comfortable bed, a good shower and the ability to adjust the room temperature. Give us that and we are happy.

So then why do we end up staying at places like the Waldorf=Astoria in New York, the Park Hyatt in Washington D.C. and the Goldener Hirsch (a 70 room hotel that was built in 1407) in Saltzburg, Austria? Why do we go into airport lounges before our flights and fly in business class? I guess the answer is because we can. Now, I’d never pay full price for any of these things and we definitely do not. I get these higher class things but still end up paying what I’d usually pay for a more reasonable form of travel. So how do we do this? I keep an eye out for specials. We usually travel off season so occasionally I’ll find a good deal. Other times I’m not paying any cash at all for the flights or rooms, but paying with my points or miles. Now, this doesn’t mean we are traveling for free. I mean, nothing is truly free. I worked to earn those points and I have to be smart where to spend them so I get the most value.

Most of the points I earned with travel credit cards either through sign up bonuses or everyday spending. This is a great way for us to get points, partially because we don’t have any credit card debt. If you are paying interest on your credit cards, then that may not be such a great option for you – you would pay more in fees than the worth of the points you would be earning.  However, there are still other ways you can build up your point balances to travel better or travel more.

In future posts, I will go over the ways to earn points as well as what are some the best (and worst) ways to spend them. These are different for everyone depending on what their travel goals are. Take advantage of the tips that you can but remember, Your Mileage May Vary.

 

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