5 Tips for Taking First-Class Vacations that Don’t Break the Bank

Recently, my husband and I put together a trip to Utah and Idaho to see my family and participate in my brother’s wedding. As we began trying to figure out what it would cost, my husband began to get discouraged. The cost seemed insurmountable. That, however, was because he was looking at paying full price for everything. From airfares to hotel rooms to a rental car, it seemed as though we would have to spend a great deal of money.

After everything was arranged, however, he was surprised at the cost. It was less than half what he expected. How did this happen? Mostly through discount codes, promotions, and travel rewards. He was also surprised last spring when my son and I were able to spend a relatively small amount on a trip to San Diego.

cheap travel

I don’t do a lot in terms of coupon clipping or frugal living or even travel hacking, but even my small efforts can lead to significant savings. If you are ready to get serious about having a first-class vacation without breaking the bank, though, the folks at the Million Mile Secrets blog have 5 tips:

1. Set travel goals a year ahead

A big trip requires goals and a strategy to reach them. Not planning properly can leave a traveler with lots of travel points in different accounts that can’t be used to their full potential. A year planning strategy ensures getting the best deals and the best trip.

Not only can you accumulate points, but you can also plan ahead and set aside a little money each month. It spreads out the cost and makes it easier to handle.

2. Sign up for major loyalty programs

Apply for several hotel and airline loyalty programs, but don’t go overboard. There are many programs to choose from, so start with the major ones. You can always sign-up for smaller more specialized ones later on.

There are plenty of programs out there. Consider which is likely to be most compatible with your travel ideas, and start there.

3. Stay organized

Staying organized is the most important thing you can do to make sure you get the most value out of your miles. Pay attention to payment due dates, spending requirements, and account balances to track on top of your household budget. Being organized can help you avoid lost points, late fees, interest, and accumulating debt.

I know people who keep spreadsheets of this information. I keep things simple, though, by focusing my efforts on three different programs so that it’s easy to earn and redeem points.

4. Choose a credit card that will help you achieve your travel goals

For those who are new to this hobby, choose a card that is right for your travel goals. Be specific in your research. For example, if you want to go to Paris, find out which airline has the most flights from the US to Paris for a low amount of miles.

It’s all about choosing a card that fits your lifestyle, and can help you accumulate points quickly, as well as redeem them when you want them.

5. Have an exit and non-exit strategy

Now that you have your cards lined up, you met your minimum spending and earned your sign-up bonus, do not just cancel the card. This can potentially damage your relationship with the bank, and may even lead to being blacklisted. If you have applied for cards with annual fees, you should evaluate whether or not the card is worth paying after eight to ten months.

The good news, though, is that if you are careful about how you travel, there is a good chance that the annual fee is worth the price. Free airline tickets can be worth the annual fee.

What are your best tips for saving on travel?

About the Author

Miranda writes about financial topics for several web sites. Her blog is Planting Money Seeds, and her book, Confessions of a Professional Blogger, is available on Amazon.