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How We Travel For Cheap

Updated: Jun 30, 2022


Update-scan down to the bottom to see how much we spent for one month of lodging.


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 trip we will have 10 days there for free only needing to buy some meals. Morocco is very affordable so this month we will have very little expenses.




Learn more about our group trips!


Then in mid June we will fly to Spain and visit there and Portugal. We hope to be in this area a little under a month. We will either use hotel points, use Hotels.com (cause when you stay 10 nights you get a night free) or stay at Airbnb’s using gift cards I earn from apps (more on 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-September will be spent exploring Albania, Greece, France, and England. 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 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 for free!



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:


HOTELS


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.


Marriott Bonvoy American Express card Earn 75,000 points after spending 3,000 in the first 3 months. Plus $150 in statement credits.



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.


TIP-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.


When I can’t use points for hotels my go to is Hotels.com. They offer lots of mom & pop places plus when you stay 10 nights you get one night free!


AIRLINES


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. Plus free checked bags and two lounge passes each year.


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


UPDATE-


Since our Morocco group trip ended on May 31st we have been paying for our own lodging.


As it is our largest expense while traveling overseas I thought I would share what our total was for the month of June. We used a combination of free hotel nights we earned from large hotel chains and booked stays via hotels.com which you can find here. 👉 https://www.dpbolvw.net/click-100629435-10772148


Our first stop was Agadir, Morocco where we stayed 5 nights for $294 we used hotels.com for this stay.



Our next stop was Marrakech, Morocco where we stayed 5 nights FREE thanks to points we earned via the Marriott credit card which you can learn about here 👉 https://www.referyourchasecard.com/252f/YBKL6PZHSW


We then went to Tangier, Morocco and stayed 7 nights for $336. We booked this hotel via hotels.com


We then flew to Spain and spent 4 nights for FREE at the AC Marriott using free nights. Every year you are a card holder you earn one free night. We had several saved up that had been extended due to COVID.


Next stop was Seville, Spain where we stayed 4 nights at a hotel we found again on hotels.com and cost us $205.85

Then we traveled to Lagos, Portugal where we stayed for three nights at the most expensive hotel so far. Since we have been using hotels.com and stayed 10 nights we had earned a FREE night which we used here making our 3 night stay $380.56



Our last stop for the month of June was to Lisbon, Portugal at the Moxy by Marriott. We stayed here 5 nights for FREE again using free nights we had accumulated from the one free night certificates you get every year as a card holder. Both Wade and I have the regular card as well as I have a business card so we earn 3 free nights each year. This doesn’t even include the points we earn.



So the total for one month of lodging was $1,216.41. When I asked Wade to guess what he had spent he said $3k so I am pretty happy with this!



For comparison this was our house payment back when we had one. But instead of staying a month in Maryville, TN we visited Morocco, Spain and Portugal!!!



Also many of these hotels included free breakfast so that helped:)



I hope this shows you that traveling on a budget is possible. I am happy to answer any questions you may have.

So this is how we travel for cheap. Happy to answer any questions!

Happy Trails,




Melissa


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You are very organized. Do you carry all these cards with you? Do the cards have yearly fees?

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Thanks, Melissa, great tips!

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