Do you gasp suddenly? Your heart beat intensely? Your mind race with the opportunities for your whole family when you hear these two words:
And not just one.
Hundreds of them.
For your entire family.
This week my husband Hector and I went Live together in the private FB group for TalkBox.Mom customers to talk about how we’ve gotten hundreds of free flights (just for the fee and taxes) to go on language trips and other fun adventures, and then we show you how to play the game. What game? Travel hacking. As well as booking affordable car rentals and saving a lot of money on housing for your family.
If you’re ready to leave on a trip within the next 1 – 2 years, and you want to save a lot of money, read on!
So what’s the play?
(4:00) First, you need to play the game by the rules YOU set because, in order to play the game, you need credit cards. I know there are concerns about credit cards, so that’s why you set the rules for yourself.
Why credit cards? You’ll use credit card SIGN UP bonus points to help get you where you want to go. We’re not talking about getting a point for every dollar you spend or getting a point for every mile you fly. We’re talking about racking up hundreds of thousands of points over time through the sign-up bonuses while not getting into debt and not paying excessive fees.
So when you’re playing the game, you need to play the game by the smart rules you set for yourself, so you always pay off your balances and never spend more than what’s in your budget.
If you feel comfortable with that, keep going! If not, we’ll catch you on the next FB Live training. No sweat. We know credit can bring up emotions, so if it does, you can either choose to pass on this Live or you can set a goal to get to the point of being able to do this.
Next, Hector shared his three favorite websites for travel hacking:
Then he talked about how to work within your budget.
To set yourself up for the travel hacking game, you need to know what your monthly spend is that you can put on a credit card. This is not a new monthly spend. This is the money you are already spending.
Think groceries, gas, hair salon, utilities, and insurance. Comb through your monthly budget and look at what you’re currently spending that you can comfortably put on the card (5:15).
Write down that total, but be prepared to decrease it a little bit when you subtract out any annual fees. Annual fees should be expected in the overall cost when you open accounts. In the game, the value of the card is usually worth paying those fees, so be sure to measure that.
Next, find a destination! Where do you want to go? (7:00)
Maybe it is Mexico, Japan, or France.
You need to know where you want to go first because that will influence which card or cards you need to get and how many miles you will need to get there. All the banks and airlines have different perks when you sign-up, so this is the time to be focused.
Then you’ll need to figure out what airlines can get you to where you want to go.
More on how to do that below.
Next, look for sign-up bonuses that help you gather the points you need to get you there. You need to find a currency to get to where you want to go between the banks and airline cards (8:10).
Here are Hector’s recommendations for finding mile currency:
(9:30) Awardhacker.com is a search engine that will help you find the currency for where you want to go! It’s also a great place to learn what’s off-season and peak season for airlines.
For example, it could be 45k miles per person in the off-season with American Airlines. In peak season, it’s closer to 60k miles per person with American Airlines.
Noteworthy mention: All the award programs change their terms, award calendars and schedules, especially in light of COVID-19. Awardhacker.com is a good starting point for figuring out availability and currency for your trip.
It could take you a year or more to save up for the trip with the points/miles!
Finding the Cards
(12:40) So, when you know where you want to go and what currency you want to earn, Hector suggests going back to the 3 websites for travel hacking (listed above) to find the cards that will help take you there.
Game it so you pay minimum fees and get those big bonuses. Be sure to reference your budget so you can pay the minimum spend with your typical budget and without taking yourself into debt. If the card has an annual fee, set a reminder on your calendar at month ten or eleven, to call up the bank and ask them to downgrade to a no-fee version of your card. Most places offer this option.
(21:26) The cards often come with benefits like covering fees with travel credit, exclusive access to lounges, free wifi, in-flight discounts, and more.
Examples of Cards
(25:30) Next, we talked about how Southwest Performance Business and Personal cards are one way my family has played the game.
The first play is to meet the minimum spend to get the bonus points. Both Hector and myself did this.
For spending the minimum we got bonus miles in value to use with Southwest Airlines.
Then even better, we each got the Southwest Companion Pass for FREE, meaning one child can fly for free per adult (30:00). Yes, we each chose a child to be our designated companion, so two of them end up being completely free to fly with us aside from the minimal taxes. This leverages our money to allow us to fly even more!
(35:30) Hector is THEE amazing spreadsheet guy and wanted to show you a real example of how you can make this for play for your family. And I wanted Jessi to be surprised because I saw she has five kids and wondered if this would work for her
Jessi is one of our amazing Hotshots who is learning Hebrew with her family. They are a family of 7 and live in New York. They would also love to go to Isreal but thought that it would take them 5 years to save up for the family trip.
Hector busted out his spreadsheet and played the game for them. He found a way to make their dream trip possible in 13.6 months! Jessi and her family would fly from JFK to Tel Aviv on all the miles they needed and would only be left to pay the taxes for the flight, which for 7 people came to a total of $379.47!
Hector priced out what it would cost if Jessi bought tickets outright for her family to fly. That amounted to $4,945.
By playing Hector’s game through meeting the minimum spends and using points Jessi and her husband accumulated, Jessi’s family would be saving $2,778.53 after taking out the card sign up fees!
Hector’s spreadsheet is exclusively available for the Hotshot group so you can see in-depth how this works so you can start planning your trip out too!
How to Stay at a Hotel with Credit Card Points
(55:25) Hector’s favorite program is the World of Hyatt Loyalty Program. You can use the points you’ve been gathering and apply them to the hotel stays for free! We have cashed in points for domestic trips and even to cover our 4-night stay in Paris for two separate rooms in a luxury suite that would have cost us $8,000 out of pocket. We were happy and so were my in-laws who we gifted this trip too, including flights and hotels on points.
Where to stay?
(1:02:18) Both Homeaway.com or Airbnb are Hector’s top recommended travel sources for finding accommodations for families. Homeaway.com even offers a small additional fee for insurance coverage, which is super helpful if you have kids that… are kids. There are extended-stay options through hotels and for these, Hector recommends the Hyatt House, Residence Inn, and Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott.
If you desire more space for your family definitely go with house rentals!
As for finding a place to stay, Hector said to find properties with reviews and read through them and reach out to the host for additional questions and concerns based on the reviews you read. We’ve had hosts test internet strength and respond to bad reviews to see if issues were resolved.
It Never Hurts To Ask
(1:08:30) If you find somewhere you want to go, message them and ask if you can get a discount on your stay if you are staying longer than a couple of days. Often places have a weekly rate or monthly rate that is at a discount, but if your stay is even longer it never hurts to ask if they can discount it anymore. Sometimes they counter, but it still saves you money! And what’s the worst that could happen? They tell you, “No.” Now you know.
How to Save Money on Car Rentals
(1:14:50) The best website Hector has found for car rentals is autoslash.com. They take any discount information you may have like a Costco or Sam’s card and input it into their search engine to find you a deal on a car rental linked with other ongoing promotions.
Another amazing feature with this site is that you can track rentals for price drops. They will alert you if a lower deal comes up, so you can cancel your previous reservation and rebook with the lower-priced option. We have had rentals drop in price multiple times before our trip saving us money.
Lastly, the easy tools (1:39:16) Hectors suggests you have to help you plan your dream trip is having your spreadsheet and setting calendar reminders. You want your calendar to alert you with notes with numbers of who you need to call, what your calling about, and the last 4 digits of your card.
Head on over to the group page now to listen to the Q&A section where Hector and I answer your questions about:
- in-country transportation (1:21:30),
- packing for trips (1:30:33)
- keeping your travel hacking organized (1:27:17).
- Should you close a card out? (18:40)
- how Hector and I host our home on Airbnb (1:19:33).
If you want to understand these things more, go watch the training and begin to dream big with your family.
You now have the gaming changing tools to help you get closer to taking a language trip of your own and save a ton of money doing it.
Our best tip to be successful in this is to create a common goal as a family, so you know what you’re working towards. Then, if you have a spouse or a partner, be sure to set your roles: someone has to be the organizer of all this, and someone has to bring all the FUN 😉 or make the trip educational.
When you get the game down, I can’t wait to see the places it takes you!