Sound advice. I did sign up for a travel card when I went to the Netherlands in 2018, put all my expenses on that & it did help recoup. Been so long since I took a vacation I actually forgot about that till you mentioned it, so thank you!
The trick to pull off “value” vacation is to use USDs strength over other currencies but it works on relatively longer vacations. If you have a week, look for a cheap ticket to overseas and spend fraction of what you would spend in states side. Think of Hawaii vs SE Asia or Europe vs. Turkey for example.
Offered as an example, I just posted this in another thread re: a summer trip I just booked.
You could pick up 140,000 AA miles per person if each of you open a Citi and a Barclays AA card and hit the required spending to earn the sign-up bonuses on all four cards. (check the bonus terms to make sure you can still double dip with the offers you chose).
Booked our 10yr Anniversary trip for this July…mostly a redemption story. Travel planned for week-long trip to Carmel-by-the-Sea/Big Sur.
RT flights for 2 from BNA to SJC on Southwest…82,000 total Rapid Rewards points. Biz select booking. ($ saved - $1,115)
Budget rental for a 7 day jeep wrangler…$600. (paid cash direct to Budget instead of points through UR portal to guarantee a jeep for fun drop-top touring).
3 Nights @ Vagabonds House in Carmel…$1,350 cash
4 Nights @ Alila Ventana Big Sur…280k WOH Points (70k/night for premium suite). Place is a long time bucket list destination, and is all-inclusive. ($ saved - $13,291.65)
A week without the kids to remember US…Priceless.
We prefer to use our points redemptions for blow-out stays/trips that we’d never spend the $ on…Hyatt’s portfolio of all-inclusives and Unbound Collection offer some pretty amazing and unique properties which we love to visit and our spend points on.
Last February (2021) my wife and I spent 100k Chase Ultimate Rewards points (transferred 1:1 to Hyatt) to stay for 5 days, 4 nights at the Hyatt Zilara Cap Cana all inclusive in the Dominican Republic. Also used AA points for our flights from BNA…so we spent $0 on getting and staying in paradise for a work week.
Yeah, the fees are pretty insane on Airbnb. I found a place in Lake Tahoe for a family gathering we’re having this summer. The price in the listing was around $1,500 for the stay, but then when you go to check out, here comes the fee stampede and the $1,500 reservation turned into $2,400 like that!
I check both Booking.com and Airbnb. They have a lot of common listings. Once you like a few properties, check on both and one may come out a lot cheaper in some cases, a bit cheaper in most cases and at par on the rest.
At least that’s what I have been doing for past many years. Stateside, I don’t see much difference between the two but in Europe I almost always shave off some cost by picking one or the other.
I keep cycling thru credit cards when big bonus point offers come about, based on 5/24 eligibility. I collect enough points between my wife and I and put them to good use for buying flights. I prefer non-branded Chase cards because they don’t come with airline restrictions but I get co-branded cards as well when offer is good. Southwest, United, AA etc.
I have made 3 Europe trips with 0 flight cost and some partially paid with CC points. Family of 4.
Also, if you travel enough, there are some cards with high annual fees but provide really good value. My favorite are lounge access, primary rental car insurance, travel expense credits, Global Entry/TSA fee reimbursement. All of them have helped save money and make long itineraries bearable.
I have Alaska Air branded BoA card. Fee is $75 a year, but you get 1 “companion ticket” discount a year (basically, buy 1 ticket, get the 2nd ticket for $121). You also get the 1st checked bag for free for the first 6 passengers on a reservation if paid for with the Alaska Air card (checked bags are $60 per passenger round trip, so the savings can add up quick). Basically, you fly once and use the companion offer, you’ve more than made up the $75 fee.
Only downside is you need to fly Alaska, but the only real downside for flying Alaska is route availability. Otherwise, Alaska is one of the better airlines to fly on IMO.
In my honest opinion cruising is a great deal. We have reached the Platinum level with NCL and we get 2 free specialty restaurants (Steakhouse and French) and we get perks like free laundry, free internet minutes etc and cruises w/ NCL usually (if booked properly) include all alcohol (under $15/drink) with no daily limit. Includes a free specialty dinner and includes all entertainment and all food.
We just got off the NCL Bliss around 3 weeks ago and we paid $1600 for 2 people in a Club Suite Balcony for a 7 day Mexican Riveria (Cabo, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta) from Los Angeles (San Pedro). We flew from Cleveland Ohio to LAX for like 150$ in fees for 2 people because we redeemed our bonus miles for our AA credit card. Didn’t have to pay bag fees. We always fly in, the day before the cruise so no day-of-disruptions makes us miss the cruise. Our hotel that night was free through Hotels.com using the book 9 nights get the 10th free.
I think we spent less than $1900 dollars overall for the 7 day cruise including a Jeep Excursion, Tequila Tasting, Mazatlan City Tour and Whale Watching Tour. I feel for the price of $1900 dollars for 2 people in a balcony with all alcohol included is not bad! Cruising is my family’s jam. Been on 15+ probably?
Sign up for credit cards and collect as many points as you can. One thing that worked for us is that I sign up for same credit card for both myself and my wife. This way we have plenty of points to get a free air fare anywhere in the world.
Hotel points are easy to earn via credit card so apply a lot of them, between myself and my wife, we did earn enough points to have an almost free vacation in Europe. Your vacation plans should be flexible as award tickets are not easily available and many times you have to plan accordingly, but if you are flexible with dates then it is easy to get “free” air travel and hotels.
For domestic travel, i will highly recommend southwest companion pass and you can get that by applying credit cards.
NCL on the cruise lets you buy essentially “coupons” at 1/2 price so you pay 125$ for a $250 coupon! You can buy up to $1000 worth of “coupons” and you would only pay $500 and these “coupons” last 4 years for any sailing with no black-out dates. We were looking at an Easter week 5 day cruise and it was around $249 with our coupons added so $749 “total” but we would only actually pay $500 for 2 people on a 5 day cruise including all food and drinks!