I’ve meant to write this piece for a while, I just haven’t gotten around to it. One reason is that I have a hard time putting out posts that don’t directly help people “travel for free”, but it is about time for this one.
I follow almost every travel blogger on the web, from large to small (like me). Over the last few years I’ve noticed different bloggers giving input about different “travel styles”, well here is my take.
“You’re only going for three days?”
If I had a nickel, nevermind, but I can’t count how many times I’ve had people say this to me. The first thing I want to put out, and this is my opinion, is that there are two types of trips. Vacation and Travel.
Travel, to me, is a trip where you are deliberately going to experience culture, art, architecture, language, and/or cuisine. Travel is not “relaxing” and it definitely isn’t for recharging. If I am traveling, I am going to cram in as many experiences, tastes, smells and sights as possible.
Vacation, to me, is a time to forget agendas, leave the cell phone behind, and lose track of time. If I am going to take a vacation, I will need at least 3-4 days minimum to truly unwind.
“But the flight is so long for a weekend trip”
Alyssa and I work Monday through Friday so weekend trips are a common affair. It is not unusual for us to hop from the West Coast to the East Coast for a night or two.
I love flying, flying is not a chore, flying is part of my “trip”. Some people dread airports and airplanes, not this guy. I absolutely love visiting new airports and I love getting to fly on new aircraft. Sometimes I will even take an unnecessary layover if it means checking out a new airport lounge or visiting a new terminal. Crazy, right?
“I know, but it’s free”
Here are a few dynamics that “cash travelers” may not fully grasp, and understandably so. We (Alyssa and I) travel for pennies on the dollar. Over 90% of our flights cost next-to-nothing, like $10 per person – nothing. I often respond to folks and ask them if they would take more frequent – short trips if airfare was next-to-free. Some still say no, and that is okay. There are many people who don’t enjoy sitting in a narrow seat in a metal tube, fortunately I am not one of them.
Points are a terrible long-term investment. Yep, sitting on your points is one of the worst things you can do. They are guaranteed to become less valuable over time.
Airlines are constantly looking to kill “sweet spots” and make their currencies harder to redeem. Knowing this sad reality, why wouldn’t you earn and burn?
“Get me out of here”
If I am at home for more than a few weekends in a row, I start to itch. Once we started traveling heavily in ’14/’15, we got bit by the travel-bug. If given the option of taking a large 2 week trip once a year or taking 12 weekend trips a year, I’d choose the weekend trips in a heartbeat. I feel like I am missing out on so many things if I am not traveling often, I don’t know how else to describe it.
Again, I totally see how this would likely change if I was paying cash for every flight, fortunately I pay almost nothing for my flights or hotels. Also, it should be disclosed that we don’t have any children and live only 35 miles from Phoenix Sky Harbor airport, one of the busiest airports in the country. This makes quick trips easy for us.
If you had to pay cash for a short-haul round-trip flight every month, you’d be looking at $2,000 a year easily. I fully understand how a cash-traveler might be better off using that $2,000 towards a single BIG trip once a year.
“You don’t get to experience anything if you’re only there for 48 hours”
The term ‘stopover’ is one used frequently by travel nerds, though it may sound foreign to others. A stopover is a generally classified as a 24+ hour stop along the way to your destination. It could be a long layover and some may call it a stopover. Whatever you call it, we utilize them ALL the time.
Three of our last four trips to Europe had a stopover in New York City. It worked out better for flight availability to book it that way, plus who can complain about spending a day or two in New York City?
This is what I tell folks who believe 24 hours in a huge city is pointless. To me, 24 hours in NYC is better than 0 hours in NYC. Again, I love taking off and landing, I love riding the subway, I love getting a new boarding pass and seat assignments, and of course I love spending the day in NYC. That may sound like a lot of work to you, and if so, you may not want to stop in NYC for just a day or two.
“Yes, but we can go back whenever we want”
This is another tough one for some ‘non-frequent flyers’ to understand, and rightfully so. Many travelers take their “once in a lifetime” trips to Paris, London, or even Tokyo. If you are paying cash for your travels and you have to save-up for a bit, I totally understand why you’d want to stay at your destination as long as possible. You may not know when you will be able to return, so make the absolute best of it. I certainly can’t argue that logic, it just doesn’t apply to our specific circumstance.
I don’t blame anyone for being perplexed at us going to Europe for just 4 nights. Let me try to make sense of it, if that is possible (hehe).
We have enough points to fly back to any city whenever we’d like, so leaving after being there just a few days doesn’t make me feel like I am missing out on anything. I like leaving a city with some meat on the bone, it makes me want to go back and still leaves some unknowns. And remember, I love to fly in case you’ve missed that part, boarding a 787 or A330 is one of my trip highlights.
The fact is, points NEED to get spent, they are literally collecting dust if you aren’t traveling, so we put ours to good use.
We both work M-F jobs, we love every aspect of traveling, and can do so for next-to-free. Being that we haven’t been on the job for 40 years (or alive) with 8 weeks of earned vacation, we have to make do with what we can. So we chop things up into shorter more frequent trips.
“I want in”
You can get in on the action, and the action is fun. Imagine being able to travel for Pesos on the Euro, you’d likely want to start traveling more often.
Here are the three main ways to start earning big points for free travel;
- Credit card sign-up bonuses
- Reselling goods on eBay or Amazon
- Reselling gift cards
If you can start with one of these earning methods, that will get you on your way to free trips. If you can begin to incorporate all three, you won’t be able to spend all your points. (and you might begin to look for excuses to travel like we do)
The Southwest Companion Pass is an amazing perk that allows someone to fly free with you on any Southwest flight. Reselling on eBay or reselling gift cards allows you to spend and earn credit card points while re-selling those goods/gift cards for a small profit.
Remember, there is no right or wrong way to travel. If you are expanding your horizons and enjoying yourself and your companions, that is all that matters. Whether you travel to unwind or see the world, keep earning and keep burning!