Updated: Feb 27
When I shared our travel plans with you guys for this year I had several people ask how we will afford it on our Penny Pinching budget so I thought I would tell you:)
If all goes as planned this year we will be traveling abroad for 9 months. Visiting Baja (where we are now for another 6-7 weeks), Galapagos islands and Ecuador, Morocco, Spain, Portugal, France, Brussels, England, Wales, Scotland, and Iceland.
Here is how we will do it on a budget.
Right now we are in Baja in our RV where we have mostly camped for free. Food, activities and propane are cheaper here than in the US. But gas is about the same. We will be here until mid February.
In March we will use airline points (I will explain more on earning points in a bit) to get to Ecuador and back where we will do two group trips to Galápagos. Because we put together the trips 12 days in Galápagos will either be free or cost me a little depending on if I can fill the boat. (I have openings if you want to join us) Ecuador is fairly affordable and we will use hotel points and cheap local lodging to stay 10 days or so.
Then we will fly home (to a friends in Alabama) for a month. While there we will be volunteering at Travelcon in Memphis so we can attend for free and using free night certificates that I get for being a credit card member to stay four nights for free. (I will also show you how to earn hotel points in a bit)
In May we head to Morocco where we are doing two group trips and will again use miles/points to get there. Once again because we put together the trips we will have 25 days there for free only needing to buy some meals. Morocco is very affordable so this month we will have very little expenses. If you want to join us it’s only $1,895 for a 15 day tour:)
Then in June we will take a ferry or plane to Spain where we will do another group trip of Spain and Portugal. Guess what? You can join us on that trip as well. I am finding flights less than $50 one way so not sure yet which way we will travel. We hope to be in this area a little under a month. We will either use hotel points or stay at Airbnb’s using gift cards I earn from apps (more in this coming).
We will use the train or perhaps fly depending on cost to travel throughout Europe and the UK. There is a train pass I am looking into but some flights are coming in under $100. During this leg of the trip we are traveling without a set plan. Going where we want and staying longer if we like it or moving on if we don’t. July-August will be spent exploring France, Brussels, England and Scotland. Once again we will use hotel points, Airbnb or Hotels.com gift cards I earned from apps I use. We will also stay at hostels.
In late August we will do a group trip in Scotland. (You can join us). Then fly back home for part of September using points.
In October we will be doing 3 group trips in Iceland so our time there is covered by the trips. We do have a 5 day break where guess what I will be using points to stay.
So between group trips, airline and hotel points, gift cards and traveling by bus and train it shouldn’t cost us much more than the budget we have for RVing. Which is $1,400 a month.
We do have a good bit of savings from the sale of our house which will help us pay for this since Wade will not be working in a National Park. Then the plan is to go back to Park work and put more in savings.
Now I know you are asking yourself how do they have so many points and miles if they don’t spend that much every month. We have been accumulating points and miles for years. Even back when we had career jobs and expenses.
They key to earning lots of points is to sign up when there are sign up bonuses. Plus many brands have more than one card you can sign up for. I also get my husband to sign up as well and I earn a small referral bonus from him and he also gets bonus points.
Here are the points/mile earning credit cards we have and the deal they are currently offering to sign up:
Marriott Earn 3 Free Night Awards with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Chase Credit Card and 1 more night every year that you a card member or 1 Free Night Award with the Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card.. Learn More.
Marriott Bonvoy American Express card Earn 75,000 points after spending 3,000 in the first 3 months. Plus $150 in statement credits. Apply for an American Express Card with this link.
TIPS- there are two Marriott cards one with Chase and one with Amex. Sign up for both and have 3 free night certificates and 75,000 points. Also note that if you stay 4 nights using points as a card holder you get the 5th night free. PLUS you get status with the card meaning free upgrades and things like free breakfast and other perks.
Hilton Hotels Amex Card-earn 80,000 points when you spend $1,000 in the first three months of having the card. Apply for an American Express Card with this
TIPS-I love this card as there is never an annual fee. They also offer the 5th night free when using points for 4 nights.
IHG Hotels Chase Card. Earn 125,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months.
TIP-this card is great for international travel as they have lots of locations. Plus you get the 4th night free when using points for the other 3 nights. Plus a free night certificate every year you have the card.
By having cards with several hotels it gives us lots of options.
Delta Amex card-earn 40,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first three months plus $50 in statement credits at US restaurants. Apply for an American Express Card with this link.
United Airlines Chase Card-with this card you can earn points for free flights.
How do we have so many points/miles if we spend so little? There are lots of offers to help you earn more even if you are not traveling. Offers like for the next three months earn 3x points on gas, groceries and eating out. It takes lots of planning to know when to use which card to earn the most points. There are programs with all the airlines to earn miles using their online shopping portal and when dining out.
We also do mystery shopping where we get reimbursed for our expenses but I get the points for charging it. We also offer to pay when out with friends and they pay us back and we get the points. And lastly like many people we have not really flown for travel due to COVID recently so the points have added up.
There are many ways to earn points without having to spend lots of money but it does take effort and planning.
And I must mention we have apps for all of our cards and pay them off every month. If you are paying interest you are not getting free hotels and flights.
Now on to earning gift cards for places like Delta Airlines, Airbnb and Hotels.com. For this I use several apps.
Fetch let’s you earn points for scanning most any receipt. Plus you can earn more by buying certain items. They often have free things:) you can redeem your points for gift cards with Airbnb, Delta Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and Hotels.com plus some cruise lines!!! Hey, this is how I turn my receipts into free gift cards. Try it and get 2,000 pts! https://fetchrewards.onelink.me/vvv3/referraltext?code=RU3XM
Shopkicks let’s you earn points for looking at product ads, walking into stores and scanning products in stores. It also gives points for buying certain products. They have lots of gift card options as well as cash out to PayPal but I focus my efforts on Airbnb and Hotels.com
Want a free gift card? Sign up for Shopkicks with code CARD116079 and get a bonus! 🤝https://get.shopkick.com/96Rn/f08c4d4c
Ibotta let’s you earn points for shopping online and in stores. You get $10 to sign up and use it the first time. They too often have free things:) you can then cash out to PayPal or for travel gift cards. Hey! Thought you'd like to save money with Ibotta! It's a free app that gets you cash back on the stuff you buy everyday. Just use my referral code "wvew" at registration. Sign up at → https://ibotta.onelink.me/iUfE/1005cd3f?friend_code=wvew
So this is how we travel for cheap. Happy to answer any questions!