Getting married is one of the best memories I have, and like many newlyweds, my honeymoon was like the icing on the cake that makes the memory that much sweeter. If that wasn’t enough to make me happy, much of my honeymoon travel was free. That’s right — free.
Through the use of travel hacking, I jetted off from my wedding in sunny Santa Barbara, Calif., to my honeymoon in Vancouver, British Columbia on completely free flights. If you want to learn how to save on your honeymoon (or any other trip) like I did, follow along to find out how it works.
Click to read more about how a family of four used rewards for an all-inclusive spring break.
What Is Travel Hacking?
For those new to the concept, travel hacking is a term for cleverly using travel rewards programs to fly around the world and stay in hotels for a fraction of the listed price. Some highlights since I discovered the lucrative world of miles and points include free and heavily discounted trips to London (twice), Paris (twice), Amsterdam, Spain, Portugal and destinations dotting the United States. This time last year, I took my whole family to New York, and our parking at Los Angeles International Airport cost more than our flights, which came out to $22 for two adults and a lap child.
Reaching this exciting point didn’t happen on its own. It required years to get to my current level of expertise, but you can get a basic understanding of how it all works in just one sitting.
Free Flights and Hotels Take Planning
I had a limited window for my honeymoon, as a week after my wedding, two close friends were getting married in my old hometown of Denver. I wanted to get out of the country, but we didn’t really have time to go overseas. That led us to Vancouver for a quick, five-day honeymoon.
Normally our trip would have cost over $1,000 for our flight itinerary. We traveled via four different airports in a little more than a week. However, by booking ahead with miles and points on United, the airline we took for the adventure, the cost was free. Truly, if you plan far enough out, your costs are a fraction of the list price, and sometimes just a few dollars in taxes and fees.
The best value I ever squeezed out of miles and points was a trip to Israel with my then-girlfriend, now-wife, for a cousin’s wedding. We paid about $72.50 each way per person from Denver to Tel Aviv. It’s hard to beat crossing the ocean for $150 round trip.
New Credit Cards Are Part of the Formula
It took me a while to dive into miles and points because one of the keys to making it all work is credit cards. I grew up very debt averse, seeing first hand that credit cards can lead to big financial problems. But I also learned that when you pay off your cards in full each month, you don’t ever owe a penny of interest. I’ve been using credit cards since I was in college, and have never paid any interest and always, with no exceptions, pay off my balance in full before the due date.
If you can’t hold yourself to that standard, travel hacking with credit cards isn’t for you. You would end up paying more in interest than you save on flights. But if you can commit to fully paying them off every month, you can move forward with travel hacking via new cards with few worries.
Most of the best travel rewards credit cards offer a fat sign-up bonus that alone is enough for a domestic round-trip flight or two, if not a free trip to Europe. Combining those bonuses with the miles and points you earn from spending, it is easy to see how quickly those miles and points can add up. The last credit card I signed up for had a 100,000-point bonus, enough for two round-trips to Europe if booked right.
Start Small and Build Up to Bigger Trips
As long as you stay organized and pay off your balances in full each month, travel hacking with cards can boost your credit score and has little risk. In addition to my savings on travel, my credit score has gone up about 100 points since I started. If you start small with one trip, you might have a whole free honeymoon in your future.
Wherever you go, just remember that you don’t have to pay full price. That’s what travel hacking is all about.
Click through to read more about ways to actually make money while traveling.