Guess who just scored a set of FREE flights for next year’s vacation?
That’s right – me! And I’m very excited about it.
This year, after spending almost $2,000 on just the flights alone for our annual family vacation, I became extremely determined to find a way to do better when we book our trip to Orlando next year. And I wanted to do this without sacrificing the quality of our travels.
You know … do more with less! Just like we did already this year with our mortgage refinance, Sprint cell phone bill, and even our property taxes.
That’s when I found a pretty incredible resource: A free ecourse and website that is all about “travel hacking” – different strategies you can use to get some deeply discounted or even free travel.
I’ll admit: In the past I had always heard about travel hackers, but didn’t really put a lot of stock into it. But now that I’ve actually received my first set of free plane tickets, I’ve been converted. I’m a believer!
And I want more!
Here’s the story of exactly how I got these free flights and how you can do the same.
How I Learned a Ton About Travel Hacking – For Free!
The story of how this all started begins with one of my most favorite podcasts: The Mad Fientist Podcast. A new episode had downloaded to my phone, and it was from a website I had never heard of called Travel Miles 101. (You can go to the episode here.)
In the past, I had always thought that travel hacking was just people saving up their credit card points to redeem them for free flights and such. But after listening to the podcast, it was clear to me that the effort could be a whole more lucrative than that!
At the end of the podcast, there was an invitation to go to the Travel Miles 101 website and sign up for a free ecourse where the site’s owners Brad and Alexi would teach you practically everything you needed to know about the art of travel hacking.
The Travel Miles 101 Free ECourse
I’ve got to say – from one blogger to another, that is one hell of a way to capture emails. Nicely done gentlemen!
The ecourse was awesome! Every day you received a new email with a link to a new lesson. The process was self-paced, so you were able to go back and revisit previous lessons if you missed the day before.
Each lesson targeted a sub-target that was very specific to travel hacking. It started off with a nice introduction followed by several lessons about certain credit card bonuses, airline miles, hotel programs, transfers, strategies, and a whole lot more.
If you’d like to check it out for yourself, there are two signup buttons right on the homepage.
What sort of things did I get from the ecourse?
- I found out there are a ton of credit cards (a lot more than I knew existed) that had some pretty lucrative sign-up bonus offers; quite a few with $500 or more!
- I learned that part of this process is that you have to be willing to be flexible. By scooping up flights or hotels when they are deeply discounted, you’ll get the best rates possible.
- To my surprise, I also learned that my Delta flight miles are no particularly the best for travel hacking. Apparently, United has one of the better programs for miles redemption. Who knew?
The more I took in, the more I wanted to test out one of these strategies for myself.
But which one?
How I Booked Free Flights for Next Year
Out of all the possible travel hacking routes I could have taken, I decided my first victim would be the Chase Sapphire Preferred Rewards credit card.
There were a lot of reasons I decided to go with this one:
- We were already members of the Chase Ultimate Rewards points program. We’ve had the Chase Freedom card for years and had accumulated roughly 35,000 points since last Christmas. When you have more than one Chase card, you can combine your points.
- The introductory offer is incredible! You get 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points just for signing up and spending $4,000 within 3 months (that’s pretty easy to do in our house since we put nearly all of our regular purchases on credit cards to max out the points). If you redeemed them for straight cash, that would be $500.
- By adding my wife to the account, we got an additional 5,000 points. Plus spending $4,000 to meet the introductory requirement also meant another 4,000 points.
- By getting the Sapphire Preferred card (or any premium Chase card), when you shop for your flights through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards website, your points are worth 25% more in value! So for example, those 50,000 introductory points are worth $625 in travel.
When all was said and done, our Ultimate Rewards account spiked to roughly 96,000 points!
And so it was time to find some flights!
Booking My Flights
Usually before I book any flights ever, I like to get a rough idea of what the retail cost of the flights will be. The way I do this is to go to Delta’s website and start playing around with the flight dates to see which combo will give me the best price. I found a set of dates that worked well with our schedule, and the sticker cost was right around $350 per person.
I then went into my Chase Ultimate Rewards portal and did the same search. Out of all the flights available, that same Delta flight I was looking at actually came up as the cheapest flight. And I’m not sure why, the price was only $250 per person.
NOW … since I had the Sapphire Preferred account, our points were worth 25% more. That made each flight only cost roughly 20,000 points each.
At that rate, I simply couldn’t resist. Why wait a month when that flight will probably be all gone and only more expensive other flights will be left. I snatched up the 20,000 point flight option in seconds!
So to recap, I bought roughly $1,400 worth of flights for $800 in Chase rewards points that cost me nothing.
Just like that, we got our plane tickets for virtually nothing. All we did was strategically get a whole bunch of Chase points in a very short amount of time and then strike while the iron was hot. I’m pretty sure if it was 3 months from now, those same flights cost a whole lot more.
So What’s Next?
Success! I set out to get free flights for next year’s vacation, and I did just that.
So what will be our next travel hacker scheme?
Well, we’ve still got the rental car and hotel to think about for this trip. In addition, while in Orlando, we plan to hit the Universal Studios theme park. So if there is any way to score some free tickets, I’ll be very interested in exploring that further.
In the meantime, I’m likely going to go back to Travel Miles 101 ecourse and re-read the lessons. I just noticed they added a whole lesson specifically on the Chase Ultimate Rewards program – perfect timing!
Just like a good book, I always find that when I go back over material with so much detail packed inside, there’s always something to be learned.
After all, there’s always family vacation 2018 and on to start scheming for!
UPDATE: Read the next post in this series where we explore our options for getting a free hotel-stay too!
(Disclaimer: Neither Travel Miles 101 or Mad Fientist asked me to write this. This is my honest account of how I was able to save over $1,000 on flights for next year, and I’m simply very grateful to have learned how to do this. This is what PF blogging is all about – people helping other people do more with less!)
Readers – Do you have a travel hacking strategy? If so, what tips and tricks do you recommend for getting the most out of your points and miles?
Featured image courtesy of Flickr | Master Octa
DC @ Young Adult Money says
Yep we’ve been travel hacking for 3+ years and it’s been great. Definitely have benefited from it and it’s been worth the time imo.
I can totally see why people get SO into this. The more I’m looking into it, the more potential I see. I’m going after free hotels next!!
Congrats! Enjoy your Orlando trip!
Thanks! The kids are already excited.
JP at TheMoneyHabit.Org says
Does anyone have a sense for hours spent vs reward? I’m just starting to think about this. The Chase Sapphire Preferred is the card I am also thinking about starting with.
Hours? Don’t let my wordy analysis fool you. I sometimes over-do-it with my posts. In truth, I’ve probably only spent a few lunch hours reading travel hacking blogs (mostly for fun) and then one extra one crunch the numbers and get all the information I needed. After getting 4 flights for free, I’d say its great ROI!
Ive done a bit of travel hacking in the last 3 years, and I usually spend more just to get points. It works but for me if it doesn’t have a bonus point feature and a has a high spending amount, I will not sign up. If you have to spend 4K to get back 250 bucks for example is not worth it for me. I don’t think I spend 4K in 3 months for the essential things, like groceries, gas, and random bills.
My target reward is a net income of over $500. Surprisingly, there are a lot of options that can make that happen.
This is great. Thanks for spelling out the detail, very helpful. Trying to understand the value of points. So if you got $1400 in flights ($350 x 4 on Delta’s website) for 80,000 points, that’s a value of 1.75 cents per point? Using the $250/ticket cost, or $1000 total, it comes to 1.25 cents per point, which is the value you get (got?) on the UR portal? When does it make sense to just buy the tix and not use points?
Will you keep the Chase Sapphire Preferred card going forward which will have a $95 annual fee (waived the first year)?
Will I get an email when you respond? Thanks!
There are lots of ways different travel hackers value their points. I like to use [Retail Price] / [Qty of points], which you’ve already shown as being 1.75 cents/point. Generally ~2 cents/point is considered “good”.
Anytime the points are worth more than simply exchanging the points for straight cash, that would be better than just buying the tickets. For example, Chase would have given me $800 for those 80k points. So getting $1400 in purchases for flights we wanted to take anyways was a much better deal.
No I will not likely keep the card open.