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How We Escape the RV and Trip for Free

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After we have been full-time RVing, we nonetheless liked taking to the skies and heading on far-off adventures. That included flying to RV overseas in nations like New Zealand and Italy. Now that we’ve acquired two youngsters in tow, we’re nonetheless part-time touring and taking our household everywhere in the world.

We might by no means have afforded a lot journey in our grownup lives if it wasn’t for “journey hacking.”

Journey Hacking

Journey hacking is the place you be a part of rewards applications to earn and redeem factors that prevent cash on holidays. This implies saving on airways, inns, rental automobiles, and many others.

We’re not speaking about cashing in factors to avoid wasting 10% if you ebook by way of a reward program (which is widespread and by no means value it), however the sort of factors that can enable your partner to fly anyplace with you without cost. Heath and I’ve performed this for nearly a decade!

My mother and father have used Southwest’s reward program for years to fly without cost, however it wasn’t till we met our buddy Chris Guillebeau—who visited each nation on the earth through journey hacking—that Heath and I acquired severe about utilizing these strategies ourselves.

I’m going to stipulate just a few of the most effective methods we’ve earned factors and share with you the cool methods we’ve redeemed them. This publish is fairly prolonged so click on on one of many hyperlinks under to skip forward to the components it’s possible you’ll be serious about:

The best way to Fly for Free

The best way to Fly for Free Internationally

The best way to Keep for Free

The best way to Rating Low-cost Flights

Caveat: The quickest, best technique to earn factors for journey hacking is thru bank cards. In case you’re horrible at managing bank cards or have accrued bank card debt, this technique just isn’t for you.

The best way to Fly For Free (Domestically)

I’m an enormous Southwest Airways fan. They’re pleasant and useful, and so they by no means cost you for canceling your flight or altering your reservation. Plus, our luggage fly free, which might actually add up with different airways. After we fly home, they’re our most popular airline.

Southwest has a rewards program referred to as Speedy Rewards the place you’ll be able to redeem factors for flights. You earn factors in just a few other ways: by flying Southwest, by procuring on-line by way of their hyperlinks, or by renting automobiles or reserving inns with their companions. However the best and quickest means is thru their bank cards.

We use three Southwest Speedy Rewards bank cards: the Plus and the Premier, provided by way of Chase, in addition to a enterprise bank card.

Since we signed up for these playing cards throughout bonus durations, right here’s a snapshot of what we earned:

The Plus

  • 50,000 bonus factors after spending a minimal of $1,000 in your first 3 months
  • 3,000 factors on our anniversary yearly
  • 2 factors per greenback spent on Southwest Airways and companions
  • 1 level per greenback spent on all different purchases
  • $69 annual payment

The Premier

  • 50,000 bonus factors after spending a minimal of $2,000 in your first 3 months
  • 6,000 factors on our anniversary yearly
  • 2 factors per greenback spent on Southwest Airways and companions
  • 1 level per greenback spent on all different purchases
  • $99 annual payment

The largest factor with signing up for a journey reward bank card is that you just join throughout a bonus interval or use a referral hyperlink. You may earn round 25,000 factors if you join usually, however in case you look ahead to a bonus interval or join by way of our referral, you’ll be able to earn as much as 80K bonus factors anytime. (Bonus factors differ based mostly on the kind of CC you select/present promotion.)

We signed up for the plus and the premier playing cards on the identical time, which can not make sense on paper. But it surely meant we earned 100,000 factors virtually immediately, setting us for much more rewards.

The Companion Go

Southwest affords one thing each different airline NEEDS. It’s what they name the companion move.

Right here’s the way it works:

Once you earn 125,000 factors in a single calendar 12 months, you might be given “companion standing.”

This implies that you could fly one individual with you anyplace without cost till the top of the subsequent calendar 12 months. That is why you need to apply for each bank cards above in the identical calendar 12 months. You’re virtually assured to hit companion standing! And in case you do that early within the 12 months, you’ll be able to have companion standing for nearly two full years!

When you hit the 125,000 mark, Southwest sends you an electronic mail letting you understand that:

  1. You’re clearly superior and
  2. It is advisable designate who you need to fly with you. You may change this individual as much as 3 instances whereas your companion move is legitimate.

We’d pay for Heath’s flight in factors (we had loads!) and mine was practically free. We now have to pay $5.60 per leg, which is the US authorities tax for home flights. (The price could also be extra in case you take a global flight, for instance to Mexico, when there are extra charges and taxes concerned.)

To save cash on home flights, Southwest is the most effective place to start out. I can’t advocate it sufficient.

There’s just one small con: They don’t fly all over the place, like an American or United. They fly to most main airports and expanded to extra of Mexico and the Caribbean, however you’re positively taking a look at a trip on this hemisphere.

The best way to Fly For Free Internationally

We’ve been dreaming of RVing overseas since we hit all 50 states. That is why we signed up for Delta SkyMiles American Categorical card.

Skymiles is similar kind of program as Southwest’s Speedy Rewards. You earn miles by flying Delta, reserving inns and leases by way of companions, procuring by way of their portal, and making use of for his or her bank card.

Disclaimer: After I say we earn miles, this doesn’t imply literal miles. Delta “factors” are referred to as “miles.” After we flew from Anchorage to Austin, which is 4,000 literal miles, we earned roughly 1,000 Skymiles. In case you’re flying 3,000 miles from LA to NYC, your flight doesn’t value 3,000 miles, extra like 30,000. Miles is only a fancy-sounding phrase for factors.

Listed here are the main points from once we signed up:

      • 60,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 within the first three months
      • A $50 assertion credit score in case you make a Delta buy in your first three months
      • 2 miles per greenback spent on Delta
      • 1 mile per greenback on all the pieces else you spend
      • Luggage fly free (saving you $50 a flight)
      • Precedence boarding
      • No annual payment for the primary 12 months, then $95

Delta adjustments their bonus mile choices typically and from what I’ve seen, they provide as much as 70,000 miles max, often throughout a bonus interval or by way of a referral hyperlink like ours. It’s fairly laborious to catch them on a very good promotion, however completely value it.

The 60,000 miles we earned is the bottom value of a round-trip flight to Europe from America. Their regular bonus of 30,000 miles is a one-way flight to Europe. Both means, you’re taking a look at saving lots of or properly over a thousand {dollars}.

Up to now 12 months, we earned practically 200K factors, overlaying round-trip flights to New Zealand and Italy. All we have now to pay is our authorities taxes, that are typically a few hundred {dollars} per individual relying on the nation you fly to.

We’ve flown Delta just a few instances domestically since becoming a member of Skymiles as properly and actually get pleasure from it. Generally they’ve a cart of snacks on the gate ready for you, plus, we get to board early. To not point out simply having the cardboard means we by no means need to pay for our luggage. I’m a fan. Additionally they have a companion move on the Platinum card, however it’s for one flight a 12 months, not each flight like Southwest. We’ve truly by no means used our Delta companion move now that I consider it…we have to take benefit!

The gluten-free breakfast possibility on our in a single day Delta flight to Sydney.


The largest con with Delta is that it’s an American Categorical card, which many small companies don’t settle for. After we journey overseas, we’ve observed that it’s actually greatest to deliver a Visa or Mastercard as a result of you should use it all over the place.

You may study extra about Delta’s SkyMiles program and their Amex card right here.

These are our two large hacks to fly without cost.

However there’s nonetheless one different hefty expense throughout journey: lodging.

The best way to Keep For Free

free hotel in paris
Our free lodge in Paris

I like inns. There’s one thing about falling right into a lodge mattress that’s extremely enjoyable.

Heath and I are members of just about each lodge reward program. That’s as a result of becoming a member of these lodge reward applications is free (becoming a member of most airline reward applications can also be free!). We now have accounts with Alternative Motels, IHG, Marriott, and Hilton.

However we’ve solely had the bank cards for IHG, Marriott, and Hilton.

I discover lodge teams notably complicated since a bunch can have a dozen totally different manufacturers of inns beneath their umbrella. For instance, nobody is aware of what IHG means. It’s Intercontinental Lodge Group. They cowl Vacation Inn, Kimpton, Crowne, Staybridge, Candlewood, and so forth.

Mainly, regardless of the place you’re going, there’s most likely an IHG lodge. Then there’s Hilton, which owns Doubletree, Embassy, Homewood, Hampton and extra. Marriott is at the very least fairly good at tagging on “by Marriott” on the finish of all of their inns, however IHG and Alternative by no means make it clear which inns they personal.

(And people are in no way the one lodge chains on the market, simply a few of the greater ones.)

We’re in all of the applications and have three lodge bank cards: IHG and Marriott, each provided by Chase, and Hilton, by American Categorical. We’ve gotten a number of free lodge nights with every card. Marriott used to provide annual free nights however stopped just a few years in the past. Hilton factors landed us three free last-minute nights in London in June, however that used up all our sign-up bonus factors. With IHG, I’ve most likely gotten 20 free nights. I’ve had it the longest, however on the whole their factors go longer than another lodge model.

Of the three, IHG is my favourite.

Right here’s what we acquired once we signed up for the IHG Rewards Membership Credit score Card:

      • 70,000 bonus factors if you spend $2,000 in your first three months
      • 1 free anniversary night time annually
      • Earn 5 factors per greenback spent on IHG inns
      • Earn 2 factors per greenback spent at fuel stations, grocery shops, & eating places
      • Automated platinum elite standing
      • $0 payment for the primary 12 months, then $49

These bonuses have modified loads since we signed up, particularly your elite standing and the annual payment. In case you use our referral hyperlink, you’ll be able to rise up 140,000 bonus factors (and see their present promotion interval advantages as these change typically).

This 12 months (2022) IHG has performed a large overhaul of its advantages, so I’m questioning if the cardboard will nonetheless be value it sooner or later. However in case you get the 140,000 bonus factors at sign-up, that’s practically two weeks of free lodge nights, which is the very best bonus I’ve ever seen on a lodge card.

Proper now, the free anniversary night time annually is why I’ve had this card for nearly a decade. The annual bank card payment is means decrease than the price of a lodge night time! They’re phasing out that profit, although.

Motels run anyplace from 10K factors to 40K factors an evening (in my expertise), so in case you select proper, your factors can final some time. You will get simply eight free nights between the bonus factors and the free night time you’re given only for hitting the minimal spend on the cardboard. That’s your total week-long trip paid for.

Right here’s the hidden better part: By incomes 75,000 factors, which you’ll simply do after hitting the minimal spend, you earn elite standing. We hit the “Spite Elite standing” once we first signed up.

Spire Elite standing has gotten us upgrades at each lodge go to. Not simply “Right here’s a complimentary bottle of water” (which sure, they do provide you with), however I’m speaking concerning the candy upgrades. Virtually each time we keep at an IHG lodge, we’ve been upgraded to suites and even had entry to govt lounges with free snacks. We don’t ebook or pay for suites. We pay for the most cost effective room they’ve, however with our standing, they offer us an automated improve to their nicest room, plus different perks like free breakfast, free drinks from the bar, early check-in, late check-out, and many others.

Like once we acquired to Paris in June and so they gave us a card without cost wine. It’s the primary time a lodge has ever given me a wine tasting to assist me select my crimson:

The appropriate is the “full-bodied” wine and the left is the “light-bodied, fruit-forward” wine. That may be essentially the most French factor I’ve ever stated 😂 🍷


Primarily, if you wish to stroll right into a lodge and really feel like a queen, this card is ideal for you.

Now, all inns and airways provides you with higher remedy for being a member of their reward program (you don’t even need to be a bank card holder), however IHG has given us the most important bang for our buck. Marriott enables you to skip the check-in line in case you’re a reward member and Starwood enables you to examine in early. Each reward program has perks. However nobody has been nearly as good to us as IHG, so I’ll brag on them essentially the most.

Retaining Monitor of Reward Packages

Again in 2013, I began a observe on my cellphone that appears like this:

Alternative Lodge




Alyssa #


Heath #:


Hilton Honors HH

And so forth and so forth. It’s a really lengthy observe all these years later! It shops my Skymiles/Speedy Rewards/Lodge quantity and my username for every account so I can simply reference them. Any time I ebook a flight on Delta, like I actually did this morning, I can simply open the observe and duplicate Heath’s Skymiles quantity and even Ellie’s quantity! Sure, even Ellie has her personal account. (Not her personal bank cards, to be clear, however her personal Skymiles account so she will be able to earn factors for each flight. When she turns 18, she will be able to go on a free epic journey of her personal.)

Our (Present) Favourite Credit score Card for Flight and Lodge Factors

Having a whole lot of flight and lodge playing cards can negatively have an effect on your credit score (particularly in case you’re signing up for lots in a single calendar 12 months or in case you’re not paying off your bank cards each month like it’s best to).

Which is when it’s good to contemplate a card that will get you factors for each!

Our present fave is the Chase Sapphire Most popular card.

(You might even see from this publish that a whole lot of the CCs we use are Chase bank cards. I like their app the most effective for managing banking, notably once we’re overseas.)

On the time we signed up, the cardboard sign-up bonus gave you 100,000—actually the very best it had ever been. On the time of writing, it’s at 60,000, which remains to be good, however that promo was severely spectacular. Signing up for any card throughout an enormous promo makes an enormous distinction!

The Chase Sapphire Most popular will earn you factors that you could switch to a number of airways and lodge teams. Presently, you’ll be able to switch factors with no payment to:

Airline Journey Companions

  • Aer Lingus, AerClub
  • Air Canada Aeroplan
  • British Airways Government Membership
  • Emirates Skywards®
  • Flying Blue AIR FRANCE KLM
  • Iberia Plus
  • JetBlue TrueBlue
  • Singapore Airways KrisFlyer
  • Southwest Airways Speedy Rewards®
  • United MileagePlus®
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Membership

Lodge Journey Companions

  • IHG® Rewards Membership
  • Marriott Bonvoy®
  • World of Hyatt®

I just lately transferred factors to our Southwest Airways Speedy Rewards account after I was 10,000 factors shy of reserving flights for our household of 4 to go to Mexico. The method was very simple and it took round 5 minutes for me to refresh my Southwest account and see that the factors had been deposited.

I like the pliability of this card since it will probably accomplice with so many corporations. If I would like a lodge night time and I’m shy just a few factors, I can simply cowl the distinction by transferring factors—making this an incredible card to have along side my different journey playing cards.

Mistake Fares and Low-cost Flight Offers

I like free flights, however there’s a time for shelling out for a flight.

We love the Faredrop app to search out ultra-cheap flights from the US to nations everywhere in the world. Faredrop, created by our pals Kara and Nate, is an app that sends you flight offers on to your cellphone or electronic mail. You may set your “residence airport” AKA the place you wish to fly out of and which area of the world you’re most serious about touring to. You then’ll get updates instantly as their software program finds offers.

Some offers are mistake fares. Errors fares are unintentional worth errors made by airways. Different offers could also be promotions airways are operating, short-term gross sales, or simply sudden low costs. Offers often solely final a few days (if that lengthy) so that you need to hold watch in your notifications to see if there are offers on the locations you’re wanting to go to.

For our first worldwide journey with our daughter when she was 4 months outdated, we discovered a Faredrop deal to Italy.

Flights to Venice have been beneath $500—usually $1,150!

We rapidly booked two round-trip tickets to spend a month in Italy. Flights have been beneath $1,000 for us each, and we paid a nominal payment for an infant-in-arms ticket.

At any time when we’re on the lookout for flight offers however don’t have factors, Faredrop is our go-to useful resource for saving cash.

Heath and I are fairly frugal individuals who like to journey. In case you’re fiscally accountable sufficient to repay your bank cards and never accrue debt, I can not advocate journey hacking sufficient. Heath and I hardly ever pay for flights or inns, and that could be a nice feeling.

As a result of we journey as typically as we do, all the annual charges on all of those bank cards are value it.

Do you make the most of journey advantages from bank cards? What’s your favourite? I’m at all times on the lookout for one other whole lot!

Be aware: We’re on no account related to the above corporations or banks, we simply actually like flying without cost and wished to share the love!



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