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The First 4 Steps Towards Your Travel Freedom

The First 4 Steps Towards Your Travel Freedom

  1. Plan

Ask yourself where you want to go and what is holding you back from traveling there. Honeymoon? Bucket list? Mileage Run? Make a list of the top 10 places you want to visit and why. Which sites you want to see? Which airlines/flights/class of service you want to try out? (if any) Which hotels you want to stay at? For e.g. I knew I wanted a hotel with a private pool. So, I mapped out the different hotels that had a private pool and picked my favorite.

  1. Research

 It’s not as hard as you think. For e.g. Once you decide on a destination, visit AwardHacker.com to see how many miles in which program you need to get the flight and route of your choice. Just be advised that some mileage programs charge fuel surcharges for award flights. So a little googling might be necessary. Or checking a hotel’s website to see how many points you need an award stay.

  1. Check Your Credit

I recommend creditkarma.com for an easy and free way to check your credit score. If you score over 750. you’re golden. If not, here are some resources on how to build up your credit.

  1. Choose the Right Credit Card

It’s important to point out that most bloggers make their money by recommending credit cards. So it’s REALLY important to know exactly what you’re getting into. Also, now that you’ve planned and researched your travel desires, you’re in much better shape to make the right decision as well as not be too tempted to jump on every offer you read about. To avoid pointing you in the wrong direction, I won’t be linking any commissionable credit cards to this article.

To help you decide, here are my top miles/points currencies I keep in my travel portfolio 🙂

  • Chase Ultimate Rewards Points with a Chase Sapphire Reserve Card. Why? In addition to its many airline transfer partners, you get a 35% bonus when buying airline tickets with the Pay with Points option. In other words, airline tickets that you buy through the Chase Travel portal (even when paying with points) you will still earn miles and status as if it’s a paid ticket!
  • American Express Membership Rewards Points with a Business Platinum Card. Plenty of airline transfer partners with occasional bonuses as well! Plus, with a Business Platinum Card you get the same 35% bonus when you pay with points on paid travel through the American Express Travel Portal.
  • Citi Thank You Points. Only advantage here is that you get some additional airline transfer partners that are not available with Chase or American Express.
  • British Airways Avios. The Last-Minute Short Haul Award Tickets on American Airlines Can’t Be Beat!
  • Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan. Easy miles to accumulate, no last-minute booking fees, and phenomenal first-class award options with airlines such as Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines and Emirates!
  • Avianca LifeMiles. my favorite Star Alliance Currency. No last-minute booking fees and amazing first-class award opportunities on airlines such as Lufthansa, Swiss Air, Asiana, and Air China.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Points. Formerly SPG Points, you still have decent airline transfer options and the number of hotels bookable with points in the Marriott family is just unbeatable.
  • Hilton Honors. Not my favorite program by a long shot. But there is still incredible value to be had at world class hotels. Two examples: Conrad Maldives and Conrad Koh Samui.

So there you have it! Happy travels 🙂 

Seven Habits of Savvy Travelers

Seven Habits of Savvy Travelers

It’s no secret that in the Travel World there are the Haves and Have Nots. But unlike Money, being Travel savvy is really attainable for almost anyone. So here are seven SIMPLE tips on being a Savvy Traveler. No book, no seminar, just seven simple tips.

  1. Don’t Talk to People! Savvy Travelers are control freaks. Patrick Warburton is brilliant is this National Car Rental Ad. “I don’t have to talk to people if I want to…..And I don’t.”

How to avoid talking to people? Don’t check luggage unless you absolutely have to. Do everything online. Don’t leave anything to chance. Get TSA Precheck and/or Clear! And always….

2. Have A Plan B. 

Only losers wait in line to be rebooked after a flight is canceled or delayed. Savvy travelers are pulling up alternative flights on their phone and calling the airline directly to be rebooked on the flight THEY choose. Doesn’t always work but definitely beats waiting online and being at the mercy of an annoyed, overtired and underpaid gate agent.

Some airlines (Delta for e.g.) even let you change your flight online for free once their is a delay. See the screenshot:

3. Travel Light and Pack Smart 

No you don’t need that sweater that you’ll probably never wear. And you definitely don’t need that flashlight just in case there’s an apocalypse. Pack what you NEED! Not what you might make use of just in case. You can always buy it at your destination.

Also choose your luggage wisely. Good wheels means getting around carpeted airports a little easier.

THIS IS MY ALL TIME FAVORITE CARRYON BAG. Worth Every Cent!

4. Get Comfortable 

Traveling is tiring. Sitting is Economy Class is uncomfortable. Running through Airports isn’t fun.

So what does a Savvy Traveler do?

5. Be Entertained

It gets boring on planes. Especially if you’re delayed on the tarmac. Bring your own entertainment. Netflix and Amazon Prime Video let you Download movies and TV shows. You may also want to look into this Microsoft Surface which is built to fit into the seat back on an airplane.

6. Chill in a Lounge 

Airline Lounges are not just for the rich and privileged. It’s actually quite easy to get lounge access if you play your cards right. (Pun Intended.) The American Express Business Platinum will get you access to all Delta Sky Clubs + the American Express Centurion Lounge.  The sing up benefits of $200 airline credit, $100 Global Entry Fee, and the 75,000 Points will easily justify the $450 fee.

7. Status Does Matter

Earning Status with an Airline Program and/or a Hotel program needs to be a priority. I’ll have to write a separate post about earning status. But in a nutshell look for Status Challenges where you only need to earn a fraction of the amount of points in a 90 day period to earn said airline’s status. Here’s a great guide by The Points Guy.

Also once you’ve earned stats with one program you can usually match it to completing program.

 

3 Reasons Why You Should Fly Around the World in under 80 Hours

3 Reasons Why You Should Fly Around the World in under 80 Hours

Here's Why:

There’s nothing quite as exhilarating as doing your part in making the world a smaller place. 77 hours is all it took me. Mind you I was exhausted and smelly at the end of it. But there’s something unreal about going to the other side of the world and coming back within a matter of days.

 

Here’s why you should do it too.

 

  1. Most people don’t do it. It’s crazy, it’s spontaneous and some will say pointless. But circling the world like it’s a play globe reminds you that anything is possible.
  2. You’ll fall in love. With traveling. With exploring the unknown. You’ll start looking for any and every opportunity to break your boring routine.
  3. No Reason at All. Flying for no reason will show you how not everything you do has to have a definitive end. Do something for journey and you’ll enjoy it so much more.

So there you have it! If you need another reason then we really can’t be friends :p

Choosing the Right Credit Card(s)

Choosing the Right Credit Card(s)

When it comes to use outside the U.S., not all credit cards are created equal. Many credit cards carry a surcharge that is levied when cardholders make purchases while traveling abroad. Known as foreign transaction fees, these charges can quickly accumulate for cardholders who travel often, even to the point of canceling out any rewards earned through spending.

However, foreign transaction fees are generally becoming less prevalent on today’s credit cards. Regardless of the type of card you are looking for, you can usually find one that meets your needs and also does not charge foreign transaction fees. These cards can help make foreign travel safer, less expensive and more convenient with their associated card perks and benefits.

My Favorite Credit Cards for Travel

U.S. News selected the best cards with no foreign transaction fee across a wide variety of credit card types.

Source: US News & World Report

The 10 Commandments of the Miles & Points Game

The 10 Commandments of the Miles & Points Game

So I’ve flown on 25+ business class flights on five star airlines, stayed at 3 different private villa hotels and have accumulated over 2 million airline miles and hotel points. All in the last 4 years alone! Oh and I make less than $40,000 a year… And no I’m not in debt.

I think it’s safe to say that I’ve figured out how to use the credit card points the system to my benefit.

Can anyone do this? Yes. But it’s not for everyone. For real.

So you know when you buy something that has a mail in rebate to convince you that you’re actually paying less? Only about 15% of people actually go through the hassle to send in the paperwork. And even those who do, 99% forget all about it after they put in the mail. So now the company can claim they never got it and the chance of you following up are about 0-1%.

You get the gist. Credit card companies, airlines and hotels are exactly the same way. They entice you with loads of points, miles and dream vacation. But secretly they expect you not to maximize their value.

Case in point: Did you ever get a catalog of electronics from an airline excitingly telling you how you can “use” your miles for a brand new tablet? For like 120,000 miles you can buy a tablet that’s worth $175. Meanwhile those same miles can buy you an experience of a lifetime that usually costs close to $10,000.

So here are my 10 Commandments of the Mileage Game.
(If you can’t follow these, than this game is NOT for you.)

 

  1. Know the value of points you accumulate and how to get the most of them. Say you blow 50,000 United miles on a domestic first class standard award, this game is not for you. My brother actually did that a couple years ago and it still hurts me to think about it.
  2. Ignore all advertisements for credit card sign up bonuses with taglines like “miles you can use” or “that’s more than enough miles for a free roundtrip ticket” etc. (Yes, I’m talking to you Capital One!)
  3. Pay all your credit card bills in full EVERY month. The moment you start paying interest or late fees due to negligence or overspending, you cut up all your credit cards immediately. This rule is non negotiable!!
  4. Know what’s in your wallet. Every credit card has different benefits and bonuses, know when to use them and for what.
  5. DO NOT let miles or points expire. AwardWallet.com is a great tool to help you with that. Also before you cancel a card, be sure you aren’t going to lose the miles or points that card has earned you.
  6. Do not pay any credit card annual fee without getting some sort of incentive from the Credit Card issuer or if the benefits outweigh the annual fee. (You should still call for an incentive though.)
  7. Actively look for ways to get the most out of your miles and points. Promos, loopholes, and even mistakes. Also be sure to be on the lookout of devaluations from the airlines and make your plans before they go into effect.
  8. Do not jump on every offer or opportunity. Only zero in the offers that help you plan that dream vacation or give you the miles you need.
  9. The simple way is not always the best way! Like using 30,000 British Airways to fly British Airways Across the Atlantic is a terrible idea (once you notice the $500+ fuel surcharges)
  10. Don’t give away miles and free tickets to people who don’t value miles and points. They will disappoint you. (Yes it happened to me.)

Geeking Destination: Koh Samui, Thailand

Geeking Destination: Koh Samui, Thailand

Let’s restart our Geeking Destination! Each week, we’ll be sharing an awesome, under-rated, vacation destination!

This week: Conrad Koh Samui

This hotel is the perfect escape for those who like swimming in private! That’s right, each room (well, Villa really) has it’s own Private Pool! And not a small little plunge pool, we’re talking a whopping10-meter infinity-edge pool! Besides, the villa itself, deck, daybed, hot tub are all stunning.

The best part of this hotel? You can stay here from Free! As low as 80,000 Hilton Honor Points Per Night! Plus if you stay for five nights. the 5th night is Free! This Credit Card Can Earn You 85,000 Points! Plus you’ll get Instant Hilton Gold Status (Think upgrades dude!)

Room tip: Every room has its own Private Pool! Get one of the lower rooms to be closer to the beach.

How to get there: Airport code USM about a 50 minute taxi ride to hotel. Thai Airways (United and Star Alliance Partner) has two daily flights from Bangkok as does Bangkok Airways (Japan Airlines & Air France Partner) as well as non-stops from Hong Kong & Kuala Lumpur. Singapore Airlines has two daily (morning) flights from Singapore as well. The Koh Samui Airport is hands down the cutest airport you’ll ever fly to. I’m itching to go back just to see it again 🙂

From the USA, consider Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong (Alaska Airlines Partner.) Business Class on Cathay Pacific will run you 50K Miles each way or in First Class for 70,000 Alaska Airlines Miles.

Singapore Airlines (Transfer Partner from Chase or American Express) is my favorite option from JFK, Houston or San Fransisco.

How to book: Support us by using our Cheap0Air Link. Or you can sign up for the super awesome Amex Business Platinum (We’ll earn 15k points if you sign up) and use your points to book the hotel using American Express Travel.

What to do?
Honestly most of the famous Thai activities are better, cheaper and more authentic in Chaing Mai. Koh Samui is all about beautiful beaches, private pools and other worldly views.  

Recommended amount of time to stay in Koh Samui? 3-5 days.

Have questions? Need assistance? We’d love to hear your comments and help you reach this awesome destination.