It’s cold here in Nashville, and the short, gray days have me a bit glum, and I’m not going to lie: I’m ready to get away from the sun setting at 3pm and plan my next tropical escape. Luckily, I’m a hacker and have figured out how traveling with points allows me to go far—and often—in the gloomy seasons.
It’s been a long time since we returned from the Bahamas, and if I had to pack up and go tomorrow, I’d be inclined to go straight back down there for a long weekend (or OK, maybe a month).
I often get asked the key to our ability to travel so much and, job aside, there’s really one major driving force behind all of our for-fun jetsetting: traveling with points, specifically traveling with credit card points. Lots and lots of glorious credit card points. For both personal and work expenses, we put everything on our card so as to build up rewards we can cash in to use on flights, rental cars and even hotels. (A note to my CPA and CFP, don’t worry: We’re also really good at paying them off!)
It’s true, ever since I’ve been old enough to be approved for a card, I’ve researched the heck out of the best one with great benefits for travelers like me. I used to have airline-specific cards, but is it just me, or do those seem to get stricter by the year? After never being able to actually cash in the points I’d accrued with the airlines specifically, I finally ditched those limiting programs and set my sights on credit cards with more flexibility, cards like Venture.
And yes, I always match my wardrobe to our rental house porch—don’t you? 😉
This year was filled with more travel than ever, which means even for us, it was a lot. While some of it was for work, the majority seemed to be for weddings—both the ceremonies and receptions themselves, as well as showers like my sister’s Charleston bridal luncheon. The thing about weddings it that people often plan them at peak travel times, be it Memorial Day weekend, New Year’s Eve or the height of vacation time in the middle of summer. This can make traveling for cheap a challenge—unless you know what you’re doing.
Our recent jaunt to the Bahamas was also for a wedding in Abaco. Since we were already paying to get down there, we figured we might as well make a vacation of it and extended our trip to a full week. I did not hate this development, not one bit.
Instead of paying $516 apiece on round-trip flights from Nashville, we used points to book our flights. Ditto for the tickets we booked to Washington state next week—instead of spending our hard-earned cash on plane tickets (and double the usual rate at that, as we’re traveling during Christmas week), we’re flying for free and will be able to save our luxury fund to use on dining and drinking around one of our favorite West Coast cities.
If you watch a lot of good, old-fashioned TV like I do—the kind with plenty of good, old-fashioned commercials—I’m sure you’ve seen Capital One’s ads with Jennifer Garner spouting off the benefits of her Venture Card. Well, first of all, I’d buy anything Jen—we’re on a nickname basis—is selling and, second, the rumors are true: There are no blackout dates, not even for holiday travel. I can’t tell you how many programs I’ve been a part of in the past that never seemed to actually have reward seats open—it can be frustrating, and like I said before, flexibility with the airlines is only going to continue to get worse, too.
We’ve used points for everything this year: a rental car in Charlottesville, flights to Orlando and Charleston, rooms in Denver and Seattle. It’s simply the only way we’re able to travel as far and often as we do. And yet another bonus with this particular card: You get two miles for every dollar you spend on all purchases, not just travel expenses. I’m sorry, but who doesn’t want to earn even more points you can cash in for a peaceful, off-the-grid setting like this one?
Soooo…Bahamas for Christmas? Anyone?
What are your best hacker tips for traveling with points?
This post was last updated in November 2019.
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