In 2014 most people may not know I walked away from a level 2 Management position from a company I’d been with for 7 years. I started saving in 2013 to make my move. After I quit my job I had to ensure I was able to survive off the money I saved for at least a year. I quit for a variety of reasons that would require several other posts 🙂 I cut back drastically on a lot of things. I budgeted everything on a spreadsheet for at least a year but forgot to include travel. 🙁 Since I always have loved travel I sought out ways to travel “cheap” during my time off. In addition to cutting back on eating out, shopping and a few bills; here’s how I’ve been able to travel on little to no income.
Points, Points and Points
Most people shake their head at credit cards for points. Quick ways I’ve earned points.
- Paying for big purchases on airline credit cards that I can pay back asap.
- Booking travel for friends I’ve traveled with (this bit me in the butt so I do less frequently). Reserving the hotels, cars and purchasing the flights means I get the points. I consider it a small payment since I usually end up planning the trip. :/
- Sending money via PayPal and credit card which counts as a purchase and I have the family member transfer it back to me and I pay it back asap. I do this only if I need to reach a spending amount for new credit cards as there is a 3% fee.
- Linking all travel loyalty programs to each other. Example Hilton allows you to earn Delta miles and Hilton points just by listing your Delta Skymiles Number on account. SPG allows every dollar you spend on Uber to count as points by linking accounts. You can earn Southwest Rapid Reward points with Dollar Rentals and Delta Skymiles with Hertz Rentals. You can also earn points just by dining at certain restaurants!
In my overall points hustle 🙂 I am able to take a free Delta trip once a year and only due to Southwest credit cards have I frequently traveled the majority of domestic trips for $11.20 redemption fee. I estimate I will probably still get 1 or more trips after bonus wears off because their redemptions are more obtainable than Delta.
Here’s a brief snapshot of how points allowed me to book 14 flights averaging under $250. The Thailand flight is my biggest regret. Flights to Thailand now are much better and I purchased too far in advance.
My next goal is to “finesse” a free hotel stay with points. I’ll keep you posted. Worried about credit cards and accumulating debt during travel? Check out these posts.
Last Minute Travel
During my off time and living 5 minutes from the airport has allowed me the flexibility to book same day travel. The beauty of Southwest’s cancellation policy is that if a lot of people cancel the low fares become available again. I can usually find cheap fares the day of or a few days leading to, depending on destination. The majority of my travel during my Adult Gap Year was last minute.
I’ve used this rarely and it almost gave me a heart attack when I used this to fly to DC and then to Thailand. If you use them get there early and have a backup plan. Most importantly don’t wait to the second to last flight like me.
I don’t book anything without first searching for a discount code. I’ve used Hilton Honors and Marriott discount codes as well as used Expedia and Orbitz points to discount travel. I once booked a room in Vegas for $19 off Orbitz “orbucks.” Always start with what discounts your company or associations may offer for leisure travel. Sometimes you can even call hotels and ask what discounts are available to employees of your company or check intranet for benefits. Check out the post I have on discount codes to use. I update it frequently!
I try to catch a deal by traveling off season or by looking at the cheapest flights via calendar. When I look at Delta, Emirates or Southwest I search by flexible dates and calendar and look for the cheapest and let that determine when I will visit. I also do a quick check on weather and events going on before booking. If it’s Southwest I will book it with plans to cancel for free if necessary.
I’ve used Groupon, Orbitz and Expedia as a package. I don’t use them often due to free flights and sometimes I can price them cheaper on my own. Most packages are skimpy on the hotel and the flight makes up the bulk of the costs.
Social Media Contests
Another rarity but good way to earn free travel. Read my previous article on how I’ve won a $500 travel voucher via Twitter. I participated in travel twitter chats and contests to accumulate.
These are just a few ways I was able to travel on little to no income during my time off. Sign up below to receive more tips and promotional codes via email to help you travel cheap and well at the same time 🙂
Comment below with some of your travel hacks or questions!