One of the complaints that I frequently hear doubters fling at the frugal set is this:
Dude, you live a life of deprivation! I just can’t live without my <insert one or more: 5,000 square foot home, $70,000 sedan, the newest iThing, season tickets to the Local Area Team, vacations on Fiji>
I’ve never considered myself deprived:
- Our cars are older (one is from 2003 [gasp!]), but they are just a means to get from Point A to Point B.
- Our home is about 1800 square feet, but I’ve lived in a McMansion and a fancy lakefront home. I’m happier in my modest house because my neighbors are better.
However, I draw the line at travel.
I’m not very good at sitting still. I love to get out and see the world. I’ve been to 39 states along with Belize, Canada, Grand Cayman, France, Mexico and Spain. That is barely scratching the surface, but I have lots of time left, so it’s all good.
Reconciling travel with frugality
Flights to Hawaii for free? No way!
I did my research though and it all checked out. The wife and I signed up for the cards and six months later, we were the proud owners of 200,000 points. We traded 140,000 of them (35,000 for each round trip ticket) for four tickets to Hawaii. It was glorious:
The whole trip set us back about $1,500* (yes, I’m obsessed with that number). And, we still had 60,000 points left which we traded for three tickets to Florida at a later date.
My go-to guy for travel hacking
I first came across Brad Barrett from RichmondSavers way back in 2013. I had some travel questions and contacted him. His answers were thorough and accurate. It was immediately clear that he knew what he was talking about. A while later, I met Brad in person at a conference and was thrilled to find that he is a genuinely nice guy. We chatted often that weekend and then again in subsequent years. Brad went on to start another site, Travel Miles 101 with Dr. Alexi Zemsky (an electrophysiologist!).
If you like to see new places, travel hacking is an essential tool to have in the toolbox. Frugality/Financial Independence should be about doing more of what you love, not less. If you love to get out and explore like I do, travel hacking will help you accomplish your globe-trotting goals without draining the bank account.
If you haven’t met Brad yet, consider this your introduction**. I’m introducing you to him today because he can help you travel on the cheap***. If you’re a Disney nut, he can help you get to see The Mouse for almost nothing. Brad, take it from here!
Tell me what travel hacking is and your basic guidelines for the strategy.
The aim of travel hacking is this: To earn large signup bonuses on very specific credit cards, and then combine a few of those credit card bonuses for free (or nearly free) travel throughout the world.
Many banks offer premium travel cards with signup bonuses such as this: “Earn 50,000 miles when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months. $95 annual fee waived the first year.
This strategy is only good for those who are smart with their credit cards and pay them off on time and in full every month; for those people, they are using their regular purchases to hit these spending requirements and paying them off every month so they are paying $0 of interest. In most cases the annual fee is even waived the first year, so you are literally paying $0 of expense.
Depending on the type of points/miles you earn, you can hope to get $500-$1,000+ of value out of each bonus, so you can see how valuable this can be when you open a few cards over time and rack up multiple of these bonuses.
With the right planning and flexibility, you can put together a nearly free trip to essentially anywhere in the world!
I’ve known you for quite a while, in internet years anyway and love what you do over at Richmond Savers. For readers unfamiliar, please describe what your mission is over there and how you help people.
I love counting you and Mrs. 1500 among my friends and have definitely enjoyed getting to know you two over the past few years!
Richmond Savers started out as a personal finance blog (we live in Richmond, VA and we enjoy saving money, so “Richmond Savers”) but it actually changed over fairly quickly to focus on travel hacking. I wound up putting together a family trip to Disney World just using rewards points (saving $4,000+ in the process!) and blogged about it; we wound up getting mentioned in The New York Times, NBC, CBS, Huffington Post, etc. for this trip and that changed the trajectory of the site.
I realized there were lots of people like me out there who would love to learn more about maximizing credit card rewards, but just didn’t have the time to research it, so I started a completely free “travel rewards coaching service” where I worked 1-on-1 with people to help them get started. It has been amazing to help so many people over the course of the last 2.5 years, and I can’t believe that my life has taken me from being a CPA sitting in an office doing tax returns to someone who helps families travel the world for nearly free with credit card rewards points.
I quickly realized I couldn’t help everyone 1:1, so I started offering a free 15-day email course with my friend Alexi from Miles Dividend MD over at TravelMiles101.com. This is the easiest way to get started with travel hacking, so I encourage everyone to sign up for the free course:
Richmond Savers is now focused entirely on helping people get to Disney World for free, and we recently launched the Keys to the Magic Kingdom Challenge where we’re helping 500 families each save over $4,000 for a total group savings of over $2,000,000.
You and I have discussed travel. Tell me about some of your favorite vacations and destinations.
Travel has always been a passion of mine, and my three most memorable trips were:
Our honeymoon in Maui and Kauai, Hawaii. Hawaii is a magical place, and my wife Laura and I enjoyed every minute of this trip. We especially enjoyed The Road to Hana and riding a bicycle down Mt. Haleakala (a 10,000 ft. volcano!).
Studying abroad for 2 months in Hamamatsu, Japan. I got to live with a wonderful host family in Japan while taking intensive Japanese language courses all day. It was incredible to experience the culture as a resident instead of just as a typical tourist.
A four week backpacking trip across Europe with my brother just after I graduated college. We had a blast on this trip and it was really cool to spend that much time with my brother while seeing the sights of Europe. If we could do it again we’d have stayed twice as long and not tried to see as many cities, but we definitely had fun while utterly exhausting ourselves!
One universal truth about children is that they love Disney. My own children are no exception and I’m sure yours aren’t either. As fun as Disney World is, that mouse is hyper-efficient at removing money from the old wallet. Disney is not a frugal endeavor. Please tell me what you’re doing with your Magic Kingdom Challenge to help rectify this.
Children love Disney and Disney is incredibly expensive. Universal truths indeed. When we started researching our trip we realized it was going to be easily $4,000+ for airfare, on-site hotel rooms and park tickets. And the frugal part of me just recoiled in horror at that thought! I did a lot of research and figured out how to travel hack Disney for our own family and now I’m trying to ‘pay it forward’ and help other families across the country.
I would love to help everyone, but my time is limited and what I’ve realized over the past few years is that a lot of people just simply don’t take action, even on things that can change theirs lives for the better.
So I added an “application” aspect to this Challenge Group to make sure that the families are a good fit financially for travel hacking and that they are serious enough to follow through on the plan.
From there I will help them every step of the way, which starts with a step-by-step guide and many explanatory videos walking them through every aspect of this plan.
I also provide a personalized plan for each family depending on their local airports, the number of people in their family, etc. and we have a private Facebook group just for members of this Challenge so we can all discuss and ask questions in real-time.
I try to make it as simple as possible to make this a reality!
Thanks Brad for teaching us all a little bit more about travel hacking!
Brad is the real deal. I would never steer anyone toward a product or service that I didn’t completely believe in. Whenever I have a question about travel, Brad pops into my mind immediately. Most recently, I asked him for advice on airfare for a trip to Ecuador that I’m taking later this year.
Go out and see the world. It’s too amazing and beautiful not to.
- Condo (100 yards from the beach): $840 ($120/night for 7 nights)
- American Airlines service fee: $192
- Rental car: ~$250
- Food (which we mostly made for ourselves in the condo) and random expenses: $200
**I received no compensation for this post. Brad provides a valuable service, so I’m happy to help him out.
***”What’s in this for Brad?” you might ask. Travel hacking requires responsible credit card use. To get free airfare or hotel stays, you may have to sign up for a new card. If you do this through Brad’s site, he may earn a commission without any drawback to you. Everyone wins.
Join the 10s who have signed up already!
Subscribing will improve your life in incredible ways*.
*Only if your life is pretty bad to begin with.