Travel can be expensive. It's easy to spend anywhere from $10,000 or more for an overseas trip for two. When you add up the costs of your flights, hotels, tours, excursions, and meals, you've got a pretty good size chunk of change to put aside.
As much as you may love travel, it can sometimes be hard to justify when you've got other expenses (both expected and unexpected) popping up all the time—like a teen in need of braces, a new roof or other home improvements, or a new car.
As I mentioned in How to Travel Sustainably, Americans take fewer vacations than any other developed country in the world, either because employers don't offer enough time off or we simply can't afford it.
If you're anything like me, you're always looking for creative ways to problem solve, and travel is way too essential (for many reasons, which I mention in How to Travel Sustainably) to give up. Especially now, after several months of being grounded by COVID, you may be chomping at the bit to spread your wings and get back out into the world.
So how do we make travel accessible? There are two things I suggest when someone registers for one of my trips:
First, it can be difficult for some to come up with those funds all at once. And it can be challenging to sock that money away every month and watch your savings account grow without feeling tempted to bail on your travel plans to redirect those funds elsewhere.
To help with this, International Yoga Travel provides a travel payment plan that makes it easy to prepay for a trip over time. I'm a big fan of NOT going into debt to travel. Travel is much more rewarding when you embark on your adventure knowing it's paid for in full. Returning home to a mountain of debt is no way to end a life-expanding journey.
My other suggestion is perhaps my favorite travel hack of all because it's easy, it works every time, and it never fails to result in free flights for my partner and me to go anywhere in the world.
I'm talking about travel reward credit cards.
There are several out there, but I've found it helps to focus on one or two, making it easier to wrack up those points faster. After years of booking free flights to everywhere from Greece to Vietnam (we pay for almost all of our flights using credit card travel rewards points) and a lot of research, I'm going to tell you which ones I believe are the best, and why.
This is where it all started for me, and the only thing I regret is that I didn't do it sooner.
Right now, Chase Sapphire Preferred is making the best offer ever with an introductory bonus of anywhere from 100,000 points after you spend $4,000 in three months from the date you open your account. That may seem like a lot of money to spend, but we use our Chase Sapphire Preferred for everything except our mortgage. Our cell phones, internet, Netflix, gasoline, groceries, car repairs, dental work, insurance, dining out…everything.
It's surprisingly easy to spend $4,000 in 3 months when you're using it to pay for all of your monthly living expenses.
Plus, Chase offers 2X points (that's 2 points for every dollar spent) on dining out and travel; 1 point for every dollar on everything else).
Let's put this in perspective. When you earn 100,000 points just using your card for the expenses you already pay for every month anyway, that equates to $1,250 in travel money. And that money is actually worth $1,250 when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards. In other words, $1 is worth $1. There's no catch.
There are many other travel reward credit cards, like American Express and Capital One, to name a couple. Still, in my experience, Chase Sapphire Preferred is undeniably the best travel reward credit card for beginners out there.
Another benefit of the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is that, unlike Marriott points (which earn you Marriott hotel nights), or Southwest points (useable for Southwest products and services), you can use your Chase Ultimate Rewards for flights, hotels, cruises, and more. I've found that the prices in the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal are comparable, if not even better sometimes, than what I'd pay if I booked direct (rather than through Chase Ultimate Rewards).
Plus, when you pay for travel using your Chase Sapphire Preferred card, you get the added bonuses of trip cancellation/interruption insurance, auto rental collision, damage waiver, lost luggage, and more. This may result in the added savings of money not needed to spend on expensive travel insurance.
Another perk is free and reduced delivery fees on Dashpash and Doordash (plus, you receive 2x points for every dollar spent!).
The fine print. You'll need a credit score of at least 670 to quality, and there is an annual fee of $95. But when you earn $1,250 in travel money plus all those other perks I mentioned, it's worth it. At least, it has been for us.
Again, there are other travel reward credit cards. Still, after years of research and experience, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is my preferred travel reward credit card for beginners and novices alike.
A Chase Ink business credit card is a great companion to the Chase Sapphire Preferred, and the points earned between the two cards are combinable.
Here you'll also earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $15,000 in the first three months, which may make sense if you have big upcoming purchases and business investments. You'll also earn 3X the points (that's three points for every dollar spent) on travel, shipping, internet, cable, phone services, and some advertising (up to $150,000 each anniversary year), plus 1 point for every $1 spent anywhere else.
If used when traveling, there are zero foreign transaction fees. You'll also enjoy purchase protection, and extended warranties on those items purchased with your Chase Ink Preferred business credit card, as well as trip cancelation/interruption, trip delay, baggage delay, cell phone protection, and more.
The annual fee of $95 is low enough that even freelancers can afford to take advantage of the benefits this travel reward credit card has to offer.
A word of caution, though. There's only one risk I see here: spending more than you can pay off every month. The interest rates on these cards are high, so carrying over a balance is not advisable. But if you wield your travel rewards credit cards responsibly, you'll only benefit from how quickly those points add up.
With the travel rewards points you can earn from both the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Chase Ink Business cards, you can make it easier to enjoy free or upgraded flights. And you can do it just by accumulating points on the money you're already spending every month. By doing so, you'll free up generous amounts of travel spending money to start ticking off those once-in-a-lifetime, bucket-list travel journeys.
If your experience is anything like mine, your only regret will be not doing this sooner. And once you enjoy the benefits of one or both of these cards (like I do), you'll want to share them with your friends and family. Not only will they start to enjoy free travel opportunities just by spending money they already spend every month anyway, but you'll also benefit from anywhere between 15-20,000 points per successful referral. It's the ultimate win-win.
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