As some of you may know, next year our family is going to set off on a global excursion in search of the world's greatest place to raise a family. We've never done anything like this before, but from what we have read the cost of such an adventure can range from $25,000 to $225,000 dollars.
We do not have $225,000 dollars.
We barely have $25,000 dollars.
So . . . .
How on earth are we going to be able to circumnavigate the globe on such a measly budget?
I have no idea! I'm hoping to find a suitcase full of cash on our next family hike, but that's probably not going to happen.
Until it does, we will have to rely on some of our old travel tricks. So, here we go.
THE GREAT FAMILY ESCAPE'S NOT-SO-SECRET BUDGET TRIP AROUND THE WORLD TRAVEL TRICK #1: HOW TO EARN LOTS OF FREE HOTEL STAYS
Over the past few months Heidi and I have accumulated over 50 Free Nights at nearly any major hotel brand. We plan on using these hotel stays as we travel between destinations during the PRETTY SMART VILLAGES PROJECT. This is a major budget stretcher. Here's how it works.
FREE HOTEL STAYS STEP 1: Check your Credit.
Go to Credit Karma and register. This service is totally free and will not affect your credit rating at all. Once you register you will be able to see your credit rating. You are looking for a credit score of 700 or better. If you're really far below 700, then this probably isn't the game for you. Follow the advice at Credit Karma and try to get your score up.
If you're close to 700 or better, you're in business.
FREE HOTEL STAYS STEP 2: Use your good credit and get some rewards.
There is a big misunderstanding when it comes to credit cards. Credit cards do not ruin your credit score, they actually help it. It is misusing your credit cards that will hurt you. For us credit cards are not a source for money, but a source for rewards. And so we call them REWARD CARDS.
In the past year I have signed up for 5 different reward cards and my credit score went up 6 points. I will probably cancel most of these at the end of the year and give back 6 points on my credit score, but who cares. The rewards are way worth it.
A while back I found a link for a reward card offer from American Express. The Frugal Travel Guy, who for my money is THE AUTHORITY on credit card rewards, had posted a link on his site that offered 75,000 AAdvantage Miles when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months. Both Heidi and I applied for the cards and started off right away with 150,000 AAdvantage miles.
How much is 150,000 advantage miles worth?
Well, a midweek hotel in Miami, Florida in April will start at 5,000 points. More luxurious hotels will start at 15,000 points a night.
So, if you're on the cheap:
150, 000 American Airlines Miles will get you about 30 Free hotel stays in Miami or similar cities.
More luxurious options will start at about 20,000 AAdvantage miles, so you are looking at:
150,000 AAdvantage Miles will get you about 6 Free Nights of 4-Star Accommodations.
To date, we have racked up about 450,000 points/miles for our trip around the world, and we have only been doing this for about 6 months. We have not incurred any late fees, nor have we paid any annual fees.
FREE HOTEL STAYS STEP 3: Tracking your reward cards and miles.
This is crucial. If you miss a payment or miss the fine print, you will lose. Of course, there is no reason to lose. Be careful and you will win BIG! Here are some great tools and ideas you can use to help you manage your reward cards and credit.
- Credit Karma is the best, use it to monitor your credit.
- I use MILE BLASTER to manage my rewards. It was only $1 when I got it and came with a handy iPhone app. Easy. Upload all your accounts in seconds.
- When you get your credit cards, set them all to autopay. I know some people get scared of this, but monitoring your spending habits really has nothing to do with credit cards. By setting up your reward cards to autopay you will never incur late fees or fines. And you will only ever have to worry about one account: Your Checking Account.
- Set up a worksheet that includes all the following info for each reward card:
- The date the card was issued.
- Minimum Purchases and Time Frame required to earn Sign up Bonus.
- Annual Fee due date and amount.
- Rewards Number.
- Login and Password for Rewards Access.
FREE HOTEL STAYS STEP 4: Learn from the Experts.
I am on my way to becoming an expert on free hotel stays and mileage rewards, but I still have a ways to go. These guys below are pros. They usually use their miles for flights, but with a family of 4 it pays a bit better to stay on the ground and cash in on the free hotels. Nonetheless, pay them a visit.
Ric Garrido: Loyalty Traveler - Big on Hotel Deals and Free Stays
Chris Guillebeau: Travel Hacking Guru
Tyler Tervoreen: Instant Adventure - Great Guide on Managing and Benefiting from Rewards Cards
Web Flyer: The best place to find amazing reward offers and mileage bonuses.
That's pretty much all it takes. 4 easy steps. And here is a good card to start off with today:
The Hilton Honors AMEX: 62,500 points for signup. Check it Out.
Free Hotel Stays are available and can really help make your travel dreams a reality. Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions on how to earn free hotel stays and take advantage of these ridiculous rewards. I will always reply.
Thanks for stopping by The Great Family Escape. We are really trying to get our family to a place where we can break free of the daily routine and live the life we we want. Please check out Our Projects and feel free to join us on our adventures.
And PLEASE Take our Survey and Tell Us Where We Should Travel On Our Quest To Find The World’s Greatest Place To Raise A Family.
All the Best in your Adventures!
Thanks to Marcoacosta for the great pic! Someday Dubai!