I need to interrupt this regularly scheduled blogging program to talk about money. I just saw an article about some girl who travels all over the world on weekend trips, boasting that she only spends about $1000 (or less) per weekend trip including flights. *record scratch*

$1000 for a 2 or 3 day trip?!?! Bih where?

I’m thinking, I wish I would spend $1000 on a weekend, flights or not. And then I’m thinking, wait, people must not know you REALLY CAN travel relatively inexpensively. So let me address this.

Keep in mind, the itinerary I just did spanned 16.5 days from Raleigh, NC to San Francisco, to Sydney, then Cairns, Auckland, back to Sydney, Brisbane and then back to Raleigh by layover in LAX. This should have cost a LOT of money.

Now, by no means am I saying everyone can just up and travel la di da, easy peasy. That’s ridiculous and pretentious. People have stuff to do. Bills they’re trying to pay off. Constraints and whatnot. My situation? I have zero children. Praise God for those of you who do but I’m not ’bout that life. So that’s a big [financial] weight lifted right there. Beyond being child-free, I’ve also opted to work overseas for periods of 6 weeks to three months at a time. So obviously, that’s dern near free travel. And while I do have two mortgages (one is a rental property) and student loans, I have no other major debt, including credit card debt. So those are the financial burdens I don’t have which facilitate my being able to travel, though, I know people who still travel with all those factors. You can do whatever you make possible.

I don’t carry credit card debt but I dern sure have credit cards. Seven, to be exact, which I chose strategically and use to my absolute advantage. Really seven cards is NOTHING in this game. My cards rewards actually greatly subsidize by travel. I am maniacally disciplined with my card use and payoff. I have not paid any credit card interest in seven years (except ONE time that I just knew I was going to get reimbursed for something but then didn’t and then carried a balance along with interest in the amount of TWO DOLLARS AND FIFTY NINE CENTS *big mad*). If you’re ready to jump into this credit card thing, it is not for the flippant of finance. Research a LOT, join finance forums, be honest about your habits. I’ll be happy to share some resources. Just email me or comment.

Accumulating points and rewards is like couponing. You can save a little money all the time but really pays off once you’re good at it. And once you’re good at it, it’s totally worth it. I’m not even highly proficient at the points game yet either! Some of the actual pros on these forums blow my mind. Also hats off to you couponers. I don’t seem to be able to make it work for me and my one-person, don’t have need or space for 30 laundry detergents household.

Anyway, the cost of travel comes up a lot so I just want to show that using points and catching deals really is a thing so here’s what 16.5 days in the bay and down under cost me:

  • FLIGHTS: $956 total. This was my biggest expense and at almost $1000, that sounds like a lot. BUT, here’s the breakdown so you can see that I really didn’t pay much for what I got:
    • $475 for my roundtrip flight from California to Sydney, Australia + insurance. Yes. $475. American dollars. I only bought trip insurance because that price was too good to be true to me, too. I scored that by having absolutely no plans to go to Australia this year and scooping a flight deal when it randomly popped up on my phone. For more on catching flight deals, click here or head to google. Here’s the receipts, literally, for the unbelievers:  Screen Shot 2016-10-31 at 9.04.40 PM.png
    • $444 for intermediate flights from Sydney to Cairns to Auckland and then back to Sydney before heading back to LA. Brisbane was a one day stopover on the way back.
  • OTHER TRANSIT: $199. This was metros, bus fares, ubers, etc.
  • LODGING: $272. Total. Yeah, I know, what in the world. Here’s where staying in hostels and redeeming loyalty points comes in handy. I paid $30/night for my hostels in San Francisco and $60/night for my hostel in Sydney, Sydney Star Backpackers which I did NOT love so don’t stay there. No huge issues and I had my own room but there’s no locker storage, wifi was spotty and “breakfast” was a joke. All my other lodging (4* places and above, by the way) was covered by points I’ve earned from IHG Rewards or my Capital One Venture card.
  • FOOD: $305. Self-explanatory.
  • SHOPPING: $485. Also self-explanatory.
  • ACTIVITIES: $445. Half of this was scuba diving. This is NOT a cheap hobby I’ve picked up here! But it’s totally surreal and I don’t intend to give it up. The rest of this was touring the Hobbit movie set, museums, the Aladdin Broadway show, etc.

Grand total: Just over $2600 for about 17 days of vacation, including all flights, single occupancy. And that’s grand total, food and all. Just the price of the trip alone (lodging and flights), which is what you’re usually paying for when booking a package trip, was $1,228. For almost 17 days in five destinations. I don’t need anyone else to tell me I did great.

WHAT’D I SAVE?

I redeemed the equivalent of $2,100 worth of points, miles and vouchers:

  • Raleigh to San Francisco: paid for with airline miles
  • Los Angeles home to Raleigh: paid for by a flight voucher. I gave up my seat over 4th of July weekend to a pilot who needed it. American Airlines rewarded me with a $500 voucher. Cha-ching.
  • 3 nights in Cairns and 4 nights in Auckland: paid for by IHG Rewards points
  • 3 nights in Sydney: covered by the Capital One purchase eraser

So basically I redeemed over half of what would have been the cost of the trip. Without subsidies, this same trip would have cost me $3,500 for lodging and flights. For a trip that exceeded two weeks and crossed three countries, even that’s pretty good.

This was not a budget trip. But I was still able to do it on a budget.

THE TAKEAWAY:

This post is for informational purposes. If you take away anything from this post, take this: SIGN UP FOR EVERYTHING AND GET YOUR FREE MONEY. If you take a flight, ride a train, put gas in your car, dine out, shop online, there are points for everything. Points add up over time. And don’t just earn points for travel either. Get on top of dining discounts, fuel rewards, discount gift cards, you name it. I personally despiiiiiiiiiiise paying retail for things. If I can google a couple code for it, consider it reduced. I implore my people to join me. Here’s a freebie to get you started, go sign up for ebates!

These companies are literally paying for your loyalty. Don’t give it away for free!

Sincerely,

Austin, part-time World Traveler, full-time Selective Miser

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