How This Family Travels the World for Next to Nothing

Learn how travel rewards transformed this family's world.

For many families, the thought of traveling the world is simply a pipe dream — but for the Johnsons, travel has become a way of life thanks to mom Holly’s ingenuity and savvy travel hacks.

Keep reading to see how this family is able to travel the world for next to nothing.

Getting to the Points

Holly Johnson, creator and founder of Club Thrifty, is a wife and mother of two girls who decided to stop daydreaming about travel and actually put herself in the position to globe trot on a budget. Johnson discovered that by gaming the system of credit card rewards points, she could send a family of four across continents for just fractions of the face value price.

“Last summer we went to Italy, Switzerland and Germany and it was almost entirely paid with cash back, travel credit and hotel points,” she said. “It was a trip that would have cost $20,000. Including everything, we paid around $3,500.”

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Juggling the Cards

Johnson’s travel points hack requires a lot of juggling — both between the cards she uses and knowing which rewards are offered when. That organization takes a lot of time and energy to master, but the payoff is worth the effort.

“I have a spreadsheet where I keep track of each card, when we signed up, when we end the signup bonus and also who signed up for it,” she explained. “We pay our health insurance with credit cards every month, homeowner’s insurance, car insurance. We also pay all our gas, groceries, miscellaneous expenses, all our travel — all that can add up.”

The Johnson family currently has 12 cards they juggle between.

Credit Isn’t for Everyone

“If you’re in debt, you definitely shouldn’t pursue credit card rewards,” says Johnson. “If you’re someone who doesn’t spend very much at all, you don’t want to be buying things you weren’t going to buy anyway just to earn a signup bonus.”

Johnson also cautioned travel hopefuls to take into account the full scope of travel expenses.

“A lot of people use credit card rewards and then convince themselves that they’re getting free travel,” she added. “Even if you get your hotel and flight covered, you’re still paying for airport food or transportation from the airport, tips, and taxes.”

The Bottom Line

Johnson cautioned people to be realistic about the promise of credit card rewards, addressing both the good and the bad that come with.

“If you treat your credit with care, pay all your bills on time, don’t carry a balance, your credit score will be fine,” she said. “[Credit card rewards] helped us stretch our travel budget further, stay longer and splurge for things we wouldn’t want to pay for ourselves.”

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