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Why even bother with travel rewards? My friends ask me a version of this question all the time. People think it’s too much work, requires too much organization, too time consuming, etc. etc. For me, the simple answer to this question is: Because I love to travel!
Why I care about rewards
I like to stay at nice hotels and let’s face it, if you're going to spend 10 to 14 hours on an airplane, it’s a lot more enjoyable to sit up front in business or first class. I can honestly say that if it weren’t for travel rewards I simply would not have gone on one of the best trips of my life. Spending 15 hours in coach en route to Australia does not sound appealing at all.
Over the course of the last couple of years my interest in travel rewards has grown. That sense of wanderlust hit me bad! I want to see the world and I also have family abroad that I’d like to visit on a regular basis. Wouldn’t it be nice to do all of these things while not spending a lot of money?
I like to hunt for deals and I use shopping portals for all my online shopping. I am constantly trying to figure out how to optimize my spending on everyday things to maximize the travel rewards. This need to optimize your life is actually a perfect personality trait for anyone who takes travel rewards seriously.
I’ve flown business class to see my family abroad a couple of times over the last five years or so, but my first big win was flying to Australia in first class and staying at one of the most amazing hotels with a view of Sydney Opera House. My husband and I then flew for free, between Sydney and Bangkok in business class. We stayed at an amazing hotel in Bangkok and, finally, I flew in business class back home. After this trip I was hooked! I immediately started researching ways to travel like this all the time.
If you want to learn about travel rewards, think why YOU want to do it, what are your goals? It doesn’t have to be first class travel all the time or at all. Maybe your family is scattered all over the country, maybe you want to go on as many trips as possible, maybe you want to show your kids the world while spending very little money. Maybe your why is aspirational trips and luxury travel you could never afford otherwise.
Being good at travel rewards requires organization. You need to keep track of cards, their expiration dates, and always be on the lookout for deals. And yes, you will have to do some work, nothing is completely free but the value in travel rewards is enormous.
My rewards strategy
Anyone pursuing travel rewards needs to have a strategy. It’s like chess, you always have a strategy. You should never go in blind and just start opening random credit cards. For example, if you don’t fly Southwest or don’t do a lot of domestic travel in general, don’t get swept up in the excitement of obtaining a companion pass.
Do you want to take your family to Disney? Or travel in first class to Europe? Or are you planning a destination wedding? All of these will require you to develop different strategies so think first about your travel goals.
My goals with travel rewards all involve big international trips. As I mentioned already, I absolutely hate being stuck in coach on a long haul flight. So, I focus all my energy on obtaining rewards that would help me get to my destination in comfort. I have my big trip of 2018 planned already. My next goals are to collect enough miles to go see my family abroad. And I want to fly business class. I also want my husband and I to go to Japan in first class in 2019. I already have an airline in mind and what points/miles I’ll need to get us there in comfort.
Think of credit cards as your friends. They're not your enemies (if handled responsibly). Treat credit cards with respect they deserve, but don’t fear them. When you change your way of thinking, a whole world of new possibilities opens up.
Tell me about the trips you want to plan and what you would like to learn and let’s see how we can get you there for pennies on the dollar!