My hope is that your family will travel more with these 8 Steps to Almost Free Travel: Vacation Planners Guide. Our family loves to travel, and we do it a lot! Friends are always asking me how we manage to go so often. I decided to share my top tips so you can take advantage of them, too.
In the past few years, our family has been to Mexico, Costa Rica, California, Utah, and all over Florida, where we now live. Most of the hotels and almost all of the airfare was paid for with points. In fact, I was in Arkansas last weekend for a conference, and because my husband has stayed with the hotel family I was staying at, I got an upgrade to the presidential suite! Many properties will upgrade you when you get to a certain level. If they don't have a regular upgrade (like from an inside view to a pool view) they will upgrade you to what they do have. In my case, they only had the presidential suite! This is why it's important to try to stay with one brand of hotels as much as you can.
How do we do it? There are a few simple steps that you can take that will start you on your way to traveling (almost) for free.
8 Steps to Almost Free Travel
1. Join the rewards program for the airline you fly most. Southwest Rapid Rewards program is my favorite.
2. Apply for a Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards credit card, or the card for your preferred airline. Google it and see if you can find a promotion. Most offer sign up promotions, and sometimes do double points. Why do I love Southwest Airlines? They are always wonderful to fly with. You get 2 free checked bags. They're funny when they do the announcements. You can earn free drink coupons. (The announcements are even funnier after you use the drink coupons. Just sayin'.) We plan our vacations based on where Southwest flies. I will add here that we flew to Costa Rica with Jet Blue last year and loved them, too. Once you get the card, use it for everything. *Please see the note below. (Update: Air Tran is now part of Southwest which has increased their territory.
3. Apply for a hotel rewards credit card. My favorites right now are Marriott & Hilton. You can use the Southwest points for air, the Marriott or Hilton for the hotel. Many people rule out Marriott & Hilton thinking they are too expensive, but there are many lower priced hotels in the Marriott & Hilton family.
4. Always sign up for the hotel rewards program anytime you book a reservation. It's free, and they add up! Always use it when you register at the hotel.
5. Use your rewards credit cards for everything you can. This means groceries, gas, utilities, even doctors! Here's the key; pay it off each month! If you cannot discipline yourself to do this, stop right here. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Seriously. You can get your family in a lot of trouble by running up credit cards and not paying them off each month.
6.When staying at a hotel, eat at the hotel restaurant at least once. Many let you acquire points for that, too! Be sure to ask!
7. Don't pay for anything with cash at the hotel. If they have a gift shop and you buy something, put it on your room. Get coffee and a bagel in the morning? Put it on your room. Those points add up!
8. Subscribe to the newsletter for the hotels you like best. They frequently have specials where you get double points if you can stay with them during certain times.
I hope this Almost Free Travel Vacation Planners Guide was helpful to you. We are able to travel so much because we do all of the above. If you want to learn more about saving for travel, check out How to Travel More This Year. You might also like 6 Tips for Vacation Packing including FREE printables for all season packing! I'd love to hear about how it's helped you! Please come back and share in the comments below!