Nov 13, 2018

Maximize Your Travel

My family has been fortunate to travel to so many places.  I imagine some people think we are wealthy or have a secret source of money.  Not true.  Like much in life if one wants to travel one needs to make choices. Jim, our youngest son, used to say things like, “All my friends have snowmobiles” and “I am the only one who hasn’t been to Darian Lake.” My response was usually something that annoyed him like, “Oh, well, you have been down the Nile in a felucca.”

From the very beginning we tried to take advantage of every travel opportunity.  We always volunteered to be bumped.  It happened more frequently years ago than it does now.  I was penalized if I missed the first day back to school after a vacation so sometimes I flew home alone while John and Jim stayed behind to get the reward for being bumped. 

If you have a credit card it should be rewarding you.  For years we
had one with United Airlines but I recently cancelled it.  Airlines’ rewards have changed so that the rewards are hard to accumulate and use.  We have, over the years, booked many flights for free using our points. In fact, our winter trip to Asia will be with the points we have with United.  Our new credit card is Sapphire which allows us to use the points for money, flights, and they can even be transferred.  We are using the points for our next trip. That makes two trips with free air travel. Credit cards offer bonuses for signing up and no service charge for a year.  Some people get a credit card to use the bonuses then discontinue it at the end of the year before the yearly fee is due. Never charge more than what you know you can pay at the end of the month so you don’t accumulate interest charges. For international travel it is best to have both a Visa and Master Card.  Credit Union and Discovery cards are not accepted out of the country.  Your card should not charge foreign transaction fees. 

Our second card is with InterContinental (think Holiday Inn).  We chose it because they have the most hotels worldwide.  We often use points and dollars to get a reasonable room rate. We find it is best to book directly with the hotel and always sign up for their loyalty programs. We have never found a better deal on any of the sites offering special hotel prices regardless of what they say.  Booking a B&B or a condo is also a great way to save money.  And, if you do your own cooking you will act like a local when shopping. This is the best option if you have children, however, Holiday Inn often has “children stay and eat free.” We haven’t done this but you can swap accommodations with people and even couch surf.  

If we are going to book a tour we do it with a local group.  Many

places offer free or almost free walking tours. Try We have used several times.  Meeting the locals is a big plus.  Volunteering to teach, work on a farm, or some other community service is another great way to get in touch with locals. 

Go off season or where it is the least expensive. It is sometimes less expensive to fly to Shanghai than it is to fly to California. I check and then decide.  It doesn’t matter where you go as long as you go.