Imagine this: Your phone rings. You answer. A voice says you’ve won a free vacation. To where? Any place in the world you want to go!
It sounds pretty unlikely, doesn’t it? Luckily, you don’t have to rely on a mysterious caller to provide your dream vacation.
Serious globetrotters, the people always posting new travel photos on Facebook and Instagram, aren’t any wealthier than you and I; they just know the secret travel tricks airlines and hotels would rather you didn’t.
So get your packing checklist ready. With these tips, you’ll be jumping on a plane in no no time.
Utilize a rewards credit card.
At least once a year, I travel internationally. How do I fly for free (or almost free) every time? Using a credit card that earns points.
I personally love the Chase Sapphire credit card for several reasons. Pros:
It has major reward points.
Every regular purchase, like groceries or a cup of coffee, made with the Chase Sapphire card earns points. As they add up, I can use these points to purchase flights and hotel bookings.
It encourages travel with 2x rewards.
Earn double points on anything travel related. When you go run with the bulls in Spain, the flight you book to get there offers double points, which’ll go to paying for your next trip.
There are no foreign transaction fees.
Each time you utilize your credit card in a foreign country, there is a standard surcharge. However, the Chase Sapphire has no added fee. When you’re off trying sushi in Japan or savoring crepes in France, you’re pay exactly what the locals pay – no extra charge.
Con: There’s only one catch. This card is free the first year. Each year after, it has $99 annual fee.
Though I pay $99 a year, the card saved me $120 in foreign transaction fees this year alone, so I essentially kept an extra $20.
If you don’t travel enough to make the second and following years worth it, simply get it for the first year and cancel it before the card is up for renewal.
Pros: There’s no annual fee and you still earn great points towards travel.
Con: There’s a charge for each credit card transaction in foreign countries.
Pros: You get 2 miles for every dollar spent on all purchases. Plus, when you first sign up, spend $3000 in the first 3 months and automatically get $400 handed to you.
Cons: This one is free for the first year; After, it’s $59 a year. However, it is cheaper than the Chase Sapphire’s $99 fee.
Don’t pay for a hotel, house sit.
Hotels, especially in popular vacation spots and metropolitan cities, can be incredibly expensive. You can find great deals on home sharing sites like Airbnb. However, did you know you can stay for even less?
I spent several months in Germany, enjoying heavenly bread rolls and sampling local brews, without paying for accommodation. How?
TrustedHouseSitters.com is a site that pairs pet-loving travelers with homeowners in need of house and pet sitters. Here’s how it works:
1. Homeowners create a listing for their home. Where they live, the type of pet they have and services they’d ask of a sitter.
2. After building up your own profile, submit inquiries to the homes you’re interested in sitting for.
3. Homeowners review secure submissions and respond to ideal sitter.
That’s it. Once you both give the thumbs up, you can book your plane ticket (utilizing your rewards card, of course).
The catch: There is a small fee to use the website. You can enroll by the month or by the year, including an annual plan that costs $7.99 a month. This may lower your enthusiasm, but I’d look at it this way:
$7.99 x 12 = $95.88 a year (for a whole year of Trusted House Sitter)
If you were to go to Munich, Germany for one week, you may pay $120 per night for a hotel.
$120 x 7 nights = $840 (for just one week at a hotel)
If you went to Germany for a month, even six, it’d cost you $744.12 less than one week in a big-city hotel.
Get a cultural experience through Work Away.
Another great option for accommodation is Work Away. This is a website that brings together people from all over the world. Here’s how it works:
1. Hosts who need assistance running businesses, often farms or Bed & Breakfasts, post needed help on the website.
2. When you see a posting that interests you, based on where you want to travel and your skills and interests, send the host a message.
3. In return for helping for a few hours a day (give or take), you get to stay (and often eat!) for free.
This is a great option for those don’t seek to merely travel, but to:
- Meet locals
- Fully immerse yourself in a new culture
- Learn new skills, from farming to teaching
Just remember, travel is possible for everyone, no matter the size of your bank account. Between options such as Work Away and Trusted HouseSitters, I know I’ve had some of the best trips of my life.