Travel isn’t free.
But there are ways to improve both the quality and the quantity of your travel once you know a few tricks.
I’d argue that anyone can significantly upgrade their travel experiences through strategic use of airline miles, hotel points, and credit card rewards.
I’ve been able to travel amazing places, in a style I would never have thought possible, and it’s almost entirely due to maximizing the value of airline miles.
Let’s break this down into a more concrete example (and I’m going to use round numbers here just to make the math easier).
Imagine there are two couples with relatively similar financial situations. Both are planning to travel to Europe for two weeks in summer, and have budgeted $5000 for the total trip.
The first couple are savvy consumers, so they know to shop around when looking for airfare. They research flights, decide they’re okay with making an extra connection to save money, and eventually settle on economy tickets between Chicago and Paris that come to $1500 each, once the taxes are included.
This leaves $2000 for the other expenses on their trip; train tickets to the South of France, maybe a studio apartment overlooking the Cote d’Azur in Nice; and a few meals out. They stretch the rest of their budget by preparing meals in their kitchenette, and taking picnics to the beach.
They have a fantastic vacation.
The second couple has been collecting airline miles and credit card points using the tips and strategies I’ll lay out in this guide. They shop around for tickets using miles (maybe even using an award booking service to maximize the value of their points), and are able to redeem miles for business class tickets to Europe. Their out-of-pocket for the various taxes and fees comes to a total of $250.
This leaves $4750 to spend on their vacation, so they have many more options. Maybe they rent a villa near Cannes, or, if they’ve been saving hotel points as well, book a room at a luxury resort in the French Riviera.
I booked the Hyatt Regency Nice last summer on points, which was a tremendous value
Alternatively, maybe they decide to economize as well, and save $2500 for a future trip.
They also have a fantastic vacation.
The real difference here is in the possibilities that are created by leveraging airline miles.
Some people want to spend less on travel.
Others want to upgrade to business class (or even first class).
Some people want to take more trips each year, or be able to visit places around the globe that are otherwise out of reach.
With the right miles and mindset, anything is possible.
But wait! I don’t have a job that requires me to travel thousands of miles a year, or spend hundreds of nights in hotels!
The reality of the airline industry at present is that frequent flyer programs are insanely profitable – even separate from their airlines. This means those programs have created very lucrative partnerships with banks and credit cards — the best hotel credit cards can give you free nights every year, even if you only stay a handful of nights.
So you can truly earn more miles and points from your everyday spending than you can from flying.
This won’t always be the case, but it makes sense to maximize these rewards in the meantime!
In this guide we’ll go through the basics of earning miles and points, and give you all the information you need to upgrade your travel, and cover the best airline credit cards to help you fly in international premium cabins for pennies on the dollar.