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Do you ever wish you could travel more but aren’t sure how you could ever afford to take that dream trip? Have you read or heard about others using airline, hotel, and credit card miles and points to book flights and hotel nights but were confused or overwhelmed about where to start?
This was me several years back. My travel list was growing long and it was getting harder to keep my wanderlust in check. I discovered the hobby of travel hacking, earning and using miles and points for award travel, and it has been life-changing. I’m talking dream trips from Patagonia to Paris to eating Pad Thai in Bangkok.
As with any new hobby, though, you need the right start. A strong foundation is THE key to success. Imagine skiing the steepest slope your first time on skis. Or ending up in an advanced Spanish course without knowing how to say Hola. Would you feel confused and overwhelmed? I would. The experience might even be a total turn-off for future attempts!
It’s the same for learning how to effectively earn and use miles and points to reach your dream destination. The foundation is everything. In this post, you’ll find 5 things you need to organize before travel hacking + a FREE CHALLENGE to help you break it down and manage each step. (Scroll down for details on how to join!)
1. Imagine your travel goal.
It’s likely if you’re dreaming of traveling there are plenty of places and experiences on your travel bucket list. Stirring up your inner wanderlust is accomplished with just a scroll through your Instagram or Pinterest feeds. So, where do you want to go? Imagine that place with you there. Picture yourself soaking up the sun, zip-lining through the jungle, tackling that climb, or touring those ancient ruins.
Once you focus on specific dream destinations, momentarily pull yourself from the clouds to make a few practical decisions. Choose the time of year or season you want to go. Think about who will travel with you, if anyone.
Using miles and points to redeem for award flights and hotel nights takes planning and effort. You need to know how many miles and points you’ll need for the trip you want to take. Of course, with more people or family travel, you’ll need more miles and points than if you were traveling solo or as a couple. But don’t let that dissuade you! Plenty of people travel hack for themselves and a family quite successfully. 🙂
Lastly, know your travel style. Are you ok flying in economy class? In what type of accommodations will you and your travel companions be comfortable? The more premium your award seat and lodging, the more miles and points you’ll need.
2. Get in the travel habit.
If you’ve put off travel because like many you think you can’t afford to do it or have too many responsibilities, you’ll need to get (back) into the “travel habit,” so to speak. Let’s be honest. Earning and using miles and points for travel is a hobby that takes time. Why bother if you’re not going to make travel a priority? Besides, airlines and hotels make changes that could devalue your miles and points at any time. Better to earn them and use them, rather than have them collect dust in your account.
Is there a museum or hike you’ve been meaning to cross off your list? Plan a day trip or a weekend getaway near you. Buy a travel guidebook for the place(s) you plan to visit. Start tabbing pages with the things you’d like to see and do. Update your luggage. Get Rosetta Stone or Babbel to learn common phrases in the native language for your destination. Once you set this force in motion, it’ll be hard to go back or talk yourself out of your travel dreams.
3. Get your finances in check.
Do you know where your money goes each month? What do your bills and everyday spending add up to? Organize your monthly budget before you start with miles and points. How much money do you earn each month? Understand how that money is being used. What are your fixed expenses? What are your variable expenses? Do you save or have anything leftover at the end of the month? You might need to make adjustments and spend less or more on something once you see your budget overview.
It’s important to pay any credit card debt down/off first. You’ll improve your credit score and have better miles and points earning opportunities later on. Not to mention, you’ll avoid unnecessary uncertainty moving forward with a better sense of your overall monthly financial picture.
4. Know your credit score.
The quickest and most lucrative way to earn miles and points is by applying for travel rewards credit cards with large sign-up bonuses. In order to take advantage of the best offers when you’re ready, you’ll need a credit score of at least 700 and a willingness to monitor your credit score with a service, like Credit Karma. Check your credit report for any inaccuracies. If something doesn’t look right, work on getting it removed.
There are a lot of factors that go into calculating a credit score and a lot of myths about credit cards, in general. As you begin to travel hack, be open to debunking what you may believe about credit scores and credit cards. I have plenty of credit cards and my credit score is above 800.
5. Make the commitment to learn but don’t be intimidated.
People wanting to learn more about miles and points often feel frustrated because it seems so “overwhelming.” Let me tell you, years (and years!) ago when I was getting married, I “discovered” my husband-to-be had quite a stash of Amex points. I remember thinking to myself I wonder if these will be useful for booking our honeymoon flights or hotels! I started from zero and so can you. Yes, there are miles and points genius’s out there. You don’t have to be one of them to be successful.
Simply put, make the commitment to follow a few miles and points blogs (cough cough). Sign up for a challenge (Wink, wink..Keep reading for details!) or an online course. Go at your own pace and, as with any new hobby, learn bit by bit over time. You didn’t stop biking, cooking, skiing, or gardening because others were better or more knowledgeable than you. So, don’t be intimidated or overwhelmed by travel hacking. Stick with it. Ask questions to learn more. Say YES to realizing the travel goals you thought were out of reach!
Join the FREE 10-Day Get Organized for Travel Hacking Challenge!
- You’ll get 1 email a day for 10 days with step-by-step information, free resources, and a completely doable 30 minutes or less action to get you organized and on the path to reaching your travel goals with miles and points.
- You’ll get invited to join my closed travel hacking Facebook Group where you can take part in beginner miles and points discussions and get your questions answered in a super supportive community. No impatient, high and mighty travel hackers to make you feel silly for asking such a basic question!
- By the end of the Challenge, you’ll be organized and ready to take your first steps into the world of airline, hotel, and credit card miles and points.
The 10-Day Challenge is right for you if…
- You want to travel more but don’t know how to afford it.
- You’ve been saving for so long you forgot where you put your travel coin jar. 😉
- You have thought about getting started with miles and points but the whole process seemed too confusing or overwhelming.
- You live in the United States. (While the steps in the Challenge are good for anyone with a desire to travel and a monthly budget, many of the eventual, down-the-road travel hacking methods and offers are U.S.-based.)
Sign up for the 10-Day Challenge now!
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