Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Family Vacation: Five Ways to Travel Less this Summer

It is no secret, we are a family that loves to travel. Whether it be an overnighter locally or heading down South, I am famous for planning our next trip. My all-time favorite travel is FREE or DISCOUNTED travel. Find me someone that doesn’t love to travel for FREE…I will tell you how we do it!

When I say FREE, I have really indirectly accumulated membership reward points on my everyday purchases such as groceries and gas. Hey, we all have to eat – I am happy to let my weekly grocery shopping pay for my hotel rooms!

And I truly use various membership reward programs to my full advantage. Especially the ones that have a zero dollar membership fee. There are MANY reward programs out there. Here are some of my favorite FREE reward programs; Save On Foods, Aeroplan and Air Miles. Each have their own set of perks in my opinion, and can be redeemed for air travel, hotels, car rentals, cruises, and even theme park tickets – yes, think Disney. These reward programs also offer you the chance to collect points at various participating partners, which makes the points add up even faster.

Get yourself signed up and make sure if you have two cards, your partner also has one, leaving no points behind. The amount of programs out there are endless. MY TIP: My strategy is to maximize my point accumulation with just a handful of reward programs, gaining FREE travel faster. Trust me, it works!

My sheer obsession with collecting points has led me to the world of spreadsheets.  I am a list maker and I organize these all on an old fashioned spreadsheet with my login links and passwords (I password protect my document for security). I set myself a reminder each month to update the points balance, and I also make some comments as to what I am saving for, and how close I am to achieving that reward.  I also make sure I know where I can accumulate said points. What gas stations to fill up at, stores to shop at. There are also a number of apps out there that can be used to track your points, although I have not tried many, I simply prefer one list where I can see everything easily. I am a bit vintage you could say, I am a pen and paper kind of girl. MY TIP: I also make sure to keep proof of my stay, my boarding passes for airline travel, or any other documents as proof of the transaction. This is to ensure if any points are missed to be credited to your account, you can easily follow up and get the credit.

Firstly, we use a visa which offers us points on our everyday purchases, which can be “cashed” in for accommodations, air, land and sea travel, car rentals. I had stumbled across a fantastic resource when choosing a credit card It highlights the annual fee and the benefits of the reward program.

We have a few cards, but the main one my husband and I use, is our TD Visa Infinite First Class card. This card works for us, as we love the option to be able to book accommodations, car rental, air travel, and it covers everything, including the taxes. I really appreciate the option to work my magic and secure a fantastic deal on a hotel, complete my stay, and simply call up and I can redeem the entire stay, and they credit me back onto my account. So easy.  We use this to its full potential. We put everything on our card and pay it off, points, points, POINTS!  I pay all our monthly bills to gain even more points. We also use Expedia, and book through the TD for Expedia site, where you earn 3x the points. BONUS! I also love this type of card as there are no blackout dates, your travel, and your way.

I sign up for them all. I personally am partial to the Hilton chain of hotels, based on sheer personal preference, but regardless of the chain, I ensure I have a membership rewards card so I don’t lose out on any points out there. For example, Hilton Honors allows you to choose to collect their Hilton Honors points, or Aeroplan, or split. It is a fantastic program.

Plan ahead – make sure to leave yourself ample time if you are redeeming points for ANY travel vouchers or theme park tickets from any membership programs. Some can take upward of 10 weeks to process. Do not leave yourself disappointed. MY TIP: Make sure to always read the fine print, such as date expiration. Do your research on the card that is right for you, earn points responsibly and start making that milk and bread get you closer to some FREE travel rewards!  Happy collecting!

Christi Manson is a full time professional, blogger and married Mom to a spunky five-year old daughter. Christi lives in the suburbs of Vancouver with her family, and spends time day dreaming and planning the next getaway adventure! Christi is a Family Travel Expert blogging about her adventures on 

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