Wait, did you just say free Heather? Well, pretty much free or pretty cheap (but still nice). So, if you know me – I’m one of those crazy planners that plans my entire life like a year out. I just have to get the okay from my husband but my calendar is pretty much confirmed before the year even starts. I like to know where I’m going from speaking engagements to family trips.
We travel a lot outside of that for ministry purposes only. So, we may fly somewhere and be there for 12-24 hours so I don’t consider that “vacation” – as it’s for ministry purposes and pretty exciting but exhausting!
So, I like to make sure that our family trips are as nice, comfortable and affordable! Well, let’s get started!
1. I like to book my trips wayyyy in advance. I will purchase the flights about 320 days before my trip. I’ve also heard that 54 days before hand is good as well – I wouldn’t chance it for our family trip as we have to buy about 4 tickets. In buying 320 days out it – it assured that I got to choose my seats on the plane AND the flight prices ONLY went up from that point (for our recent trip to Hawaii). For trips that aren’t as far, I’m sure you’re fine in booking the 54 day rule. One of the beauties in flying a lot for ministry is that we get a TON of points with a selected airline. We can use those miles to upgrade our seats and even pay for our flights. I didn’t pay for my flight on the last girls trip that I took – I simply used my miles. Typically, you need 25,000 miles for one round trip ticket in the United States. And, I caught the airline at a good time so I was able to get a first class ticket round trip for 25,000 miles. You may say – “Heather, I don’t fly a lot – how can I get points?” Well, that brings me to my next point:
2. I know there’s a ton of financial guru’s that say credit cards are the devil, etc and I agree with the scripture that says not to owe no many anything but to love them. Well, I found a credit card that doesn’t put me in debt because it forces me to pay off the balance in full every month! For my Pinky Promise Store I am required to purchase a ton of stuff wholesale. So, where does it go? Right onto my credit card. I use American Express and I LOVE it. I also put our life insurance bill on there, home insurance, car insurance and any other bill and then at the end of the month – I pay it off! So, I’m getting points that I can use for travel, gift cards, cash, hotels, flights, etc! I want my money to work for me in every way possible and I’m very disciplined when it comes to paying stuff off! On one of our family trips, I paid $0.00 for an 5 star hotel for an entire week! Isn’t that amazing?! I simply used my points and I saved up the points for the entire year! Now, if you can’t get an American Express cards- there’s other cards with cash back and I encourage you to get one and use it so you can get some benefits. Again, if you’re anti- credit cards or you don’t feel like you will be disciplined in paying it off– don’t get it. I don’t play when it comes to my credit and paying off bills. Use wisdom in everything that you do! Do your research! There’s other cards that use points for miles as well. I also use their travel agents to get great deals as well.
3. In booking your flights, make sure that if you’re staying for a week or so, that you’re not rushed. Why? Because most times, flights are overbooked by the airlines and they will offer flight vouchers to anyone who will take the next flight. If it requires an overnight stay, airlines will give you a hotel and a food voucher. When we were traveling to Hawaii this past month, they were giving out $1,000 flight vouchers to anywhere in the world, good for one year! Amazing, right? ALSO, on our return flight, we were delayed due to mechanical issues on the plane. We then missed our connecting flight home and it was theeeee longest travel day with two kids. So, I called the airline the next morning after we returned and they gave each of us a $200 flight voucher for their inconvenience. So, I in turn used the flight voucher of $400 to pay for the trip me & my hubby are taking this year alone AND baby free. AND because I have an american express card, they give me a $200 flight credit to my select airline. So, we pretty much got our flights for next to NOTHING! Isn’t that amazing? So, we are flying FREE in March to our trip alone! Note that if the delay is due to weather, the airline won’t compensate that, but it doesn’t hurt to call if it is due to mechanical problems!
4. I’ve always heard that it’s best to book your flights on Tuesday early morning if you need a flight and you’ve missed both the 320 and the 54 day rule. I remember that I needed to go to St. Thomas for a wedding last minute and I snagged a flight there for $554 a few days before it left at like 3AM on a Tuesday morning. I checked later that day and the flight went up to $1010!
5. Saving, saving, SAVINGS! I recommend PLANNING and saving ahead. I literally save and prepare for each of our trips. Every month, I set money aside to go into an account that I don’t have a card for – this way, I won’t be tempted to touch the money. I put all extra money aside into this account. (Note that I encourage you to first have an emergency fund set up with at least $1000 or 3 months of bills if you can before you start a vacation fund). So, how do I save?
- I LOVE EBATES!! You literally get paid for shopping online. So, before I buy things online that I need for around the house, the kids, etc- I first go to Ebates and then I type in the store that I’m planning to shop at. I can see coupons and a percentage that I will get back from shopping through Ebates. THEN, I find the store, click their link and it will take me to the actual online store. The cool thing is, I’ve gotten back over $1,000 of free money over the years for simply shopping online! Then, they send me a check and I will put that money in the vacation fund. You see, instead of going to Target to shop – I shop online through ebates, select pick up from the store and I get my points and I didn’t get caught by the Target demon. haha! So, that money is saved in our vacation fund to be used towards food, a car rental, hotel fees, etc.
- IBOTTA! This is another site that I use that allows you to make money off of things like your groceries! So, I clicked on the link, signed up, downloaded the app and then I would go to the grocery store. After shopping, I would go home and then “unlock” rebates based on what I purchased. So, you can go on there and unlock things like “pasta” for $2.00. You scan the item + verify your receipt by taking a snap shot of it & then bam – the money is in your account that can be transferred to PayPal! Isn’t that cool? So, I take that money as well and transfer it to our vacation fund. So, this is another way to make some extra money to save, give, or do whatever that the Lord leads you to do!
- EBAY! So, every now and then, I will clean out my closet and sell most of it on Ebay. As the Lord leads me to give, save or whatever else, I will put a portion of that in my vacation fund as well. So, again, I’m not “seeing” my hard worked-for money go into the vacation fund. I haven’t used Ebay in a couple years, but it was a great source back before our ministry started! I recall the Lord telling me to sell some of my shoes for a mission trip. Hey, we got money in our closets! Work with what you have!
- So, save away as much as you can in a high yield savings account so you can see some interest grow on what you’ve earned!
8. AirBNB– Forget the super fancy hotels and the crazy prices! You can stay at AirB & B for super cheap AND at times, it’s cleaner than a hotel! It’s pretty much staying in someones home, apartment or whatever else. The cool thing about it is that you can meet the owner & he/she can share the best restaurants, mom & pop shops and whatever else in the area. You can check out the reviews for the home prior to staying there AND if something doesn’t work out, AirBNB will refund you and put you in a hotel while finding a new place if it isn’t lining up with the photos.
9. Activities: I’ve learned that the hotel (if you stay there) up charges for activities. Go online and book tickets, excursions, etc and you will find that they’re SO much cheaper.
10. When do you travel? If you are traveling during Christmas, the prices are going to be super high! You may say, “well, I don’t get this or that off.” You have to plan your travel days ahead! We also travel a couple weeks before Christmas to get things MUCH cheaper than traveling around Christmas. Granted, you may be the only one at work around Christmas – but at least you can relax & not deal with the rush.
11. Pack LIGHT! I like to pack 2 weeks before a trip to make sure that I can properly label all of my outfits and that I will actually wear them on the trip. Making an itinerary will help you to see what you will be doing and be sure to check the weather ahead of time!
12. Uber! I downloaded the Uber App and I use it when we need to get around versus trying to figure out local train/bus systems while out of town.
13. If you aren’t feeling the AirBNB option, check out: http://www.jetsetter.com! You can get great deals on hotels for super cheap! I have heard of hostels – but personally, I wouldn’t recommend something if I wouldn’t stay there! Just my 2 cents! 🙂
14. Download the “Hotel Tonight” App. If you are going somewhere last minute, after 12 noon EST, they post deals for that night and you’re able to snag super cheap hotel rooms that are nice!
15. Keep cash on you! I don’t know about you, but my credit cards have been shut down while traveling because I was out of town. The problem is, they shut it down when you’re internationally traveling at times so you have to call your bank ahead of time and let them know you’re traveling. But, it’s good to have a couple hundred dollars in cash on you just in case something happens so you aren’t stuck anywhere!
BONUS: Sign up for all airline miles, Starwood points, hertz points and any other “point” program/etc. Companies are more willing to give you upgrades if they feel like you’re invested too! PLUS, you can use those points to pay for your flights!
Places to book your flights & other quick tips:
1. www.Skyscanner.com compares millions of flights to find you the cheapest deal, fast. They also compare and find the cheapest hotels and car rental for your next trip.
2. I LOVE www.kayak.com to get an idea of what prices will be like in general. They also have hotel packages, etc!
3. Did you know that www.groupon.com has travel packages? You can also snag activities and restaurants from groupon!
So, these are my top tips for traveling’ the world! And some of us just need to plan, road trip & just go! Most times we want everything to be perfect and that’s not always the reality. When my husband and I first got married we didn’t have much but we would road trip, stay at hotels, share meals & laugh. We needed to get out of our bed & stay the night somewhere else together to keep things fun and fresh. The same o’le routine got old to us! So, we just started small and then the Lord opened doors for us to travel more by plane vs. driving.
God loves you like crazy,
Love you all so much!
|In Dubai with my hubby in 2011!|