Author Topic: Travel hacker -- badass or dumbass?  (Read 8692 times)

smedleyb

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Travel hacker -- badass or dumbass?
« on: May 27, 2012, 04:03:16 PM »
Remember MMM's article on getting paid to use a credit card a few months back?  Well, 10 months ago I began a quest to get as many credit cards as possible -- not to get money back, but rather to accrue as many airline miles and hotel points to go on some amazing, possibly unmustachian vacations.  Well, after an insane journey which involved numerous tactics to supplement my 10 credit cards, I managed to accumulate over 1 million miles (my wife got some cards too, and my mom gave me some points.  Thanks mom!).

The end result?  I just spent half my points on the following two vacations for me, my wife, and two children (we live in the rural northeast, BTW):

Nov 7 - 13 -- Barbados.  Cost breakdown:

Airline tickets for 4, $2,650 retail, paid $200.  On flight, if I make 3 small separate purchases I get $300 in CC credit.  Total cost, $-100.
4 Star Resort hotel in Barbados, 5 nights , $1500 retail, paid $500.
Overnight lodging the night before Barbados flight, $200 retail, paid 0.

Total cost for hotels and flights, retail $4350, paid $600.

My guess for food, taxis, and some beverages for the trip is around $1500 for 6 nights.  Granted 2k for a single vacation is more than MMM spent on all of his.  And if Barbados wasn't enough:

February 18 - 28,  Honolulu, Hawaii.  Breakdown:

Tickets for 4, $4200 retail, my cost -- $40.
Amazing 5 star hotel for 8 nights, $4200 retail, my cost -- $1400.

Total cost, $8400 retail, paid $1440.

Out of pocket costs:  3 day car rental, taxis -- $400.  Food, entertainment, etc -- $2000.

There it is.   Two amazing vacations for around $6,000.  Which raises the original question:  am I a badass for spending so little, or a dumbass for spending so much?     

 

Dicey

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Re: Travel hacker -- badass or dumbass?
« Reply #1 on: May 27, 2012, 04:14:00 PM »
Badass in my book!

onehappypanda

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Re: Travel hacker -- badass or dumbass?
« Reply #2 on: May 27, 2012, 05:11:03 PM »
Badass if you were planning to travel anyway. Sure you could've gone on a cheaper trip, if you chose something with less amenities. But it sounds like you got a good price for the trip you chose.

I'll give you an extra badass point if you post some of the cards you used and which ones you thought paid off the most.

smedleyb

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Re: Travel hacker -- badass or dumbass?
« Reply #3 on: May 27, 2012, 05:40:53 PM »
Badass if you were planning to travel anyway. Sure you could've gone on a cheaper trip, if you chose something with less amenities. But it sounds like you got a good price for the trip you chose.

I'll give you an extra badass point if you post some of the cards you used and which ones you thought paid off the most.

The best cards hands down are offered by Chase. 

e.g, I got the Chase Sapphire card last year; spent 3K in 3 months, got 50K bonus (40k bonus now).  Deposited 2K chase  points into my United Explorer account (free and instantaneous transfer); that move opened a hidden banner add for the Chase United card on the United website, 55k bonus and $50 statement credit for using the card once.  Same time as that, opened Fidelity brokerage account, deposited 100K into account, received 50K bonus (have since pulled out everything after points posted in order to open account for wife to get bonus).

53K sapphire
55K United Card
50K Fidelity account
2K additional Chase point transfer= 160k points for 4 United tickets for a quick hop to Newark, then direct to Honolulu.

I'm using 64K Starwood points (AMEX Starwood card) for they hotel stay in Hawaii, 100K American Airline points (Citi AA Advantage cards) for flight to Barbados, 43K Citi Thank You points for Jet Blue flight into JFK for Barbados, and 125K Hilton points (both Amex and Citi cards) for Barbados hotel.

Still have 500K points -- including 250K Chase points (which are like travel gold), not to mention that I am in the process of replenishing about 250K points over the next 4 months so I can do it again next year!

arebelspy

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Re: Travel hacker -- badass or dumbass?
« Reply #4 on: May 27, 2012, 05:53:44 PM »
Badass if you were planning to travel anyway.

This is the key point. 

First: Would you have done it without the cards?  (I.e. would you still have taken two vacations without the card?) If so they maybe saved you money.
Second: Would you have spent as much (3k per trip) without the cards?  Or would you have done a cheaper trip?  If so, they maybe saved you money.

For me, 6k is way more than I'd spend on vacations in a year.  So even if it was "worth" 10k and only cost me 5k, it'd be me spending more money than I would otherwise.

Like going to a clothes store that is having a sale and buying clothes I wouldn't have otherwise.  I can't claim to have "saved" money, despite it paying retail.

So for me, it wouldn't be worth it, and would be the opposite of badass.  If you would have vacationed anyways and spent 10k, then maybe getting away with only spending 5k is worth it and may be badass for you.  Only you can answer if it's badass for you or not.  (Just like biking two miles may be badass for a beginner, while someone more advanced might not consider that badass for themselves at all.)
We are two former teachers who accumulated a bunch of real estate, retired at 29, and now travel the world full time with two kids.
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HeidiO

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Re: Travel hacker -- badass or dumbass?
« Reply #5 on: May 28, 2012, 04:43:21 PM »
I'll vote for badass.  I'm gonna assume you had planned $6000 is how much you wanted to spend on vacations this year.  Considering that, I think you did a great job of getting value for your money. 

smedleyb

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Re: Travel hacker -- badass or dumbass?
« Reply #6 on: May 30, 2012, 08:29:39 AM »
Split opinion so far!

I guess I've always attached a high priority to travelling with my family.  Living in the Northeast and being entirely swamped with work March-Oct.  gives me only a short window through which to travel.  Throw in our family bias toward sun and beaches and getting to somewhere "relaxing" was becoming an economic feat for a family of 4 (3 and 7 year old).  When you got a week - 10 days to burn driving +25 hours to Florida makes little sense for our situation.   Trust me, my family would be fine driving to spend a week on the Jersey Shore too, but the Atlantic is a tad cold in January!

I know travel is a crutch for many converting Mustachians.  What about you folks?  How much value to you attach to travel, how much are you willing to spend, and is there a meaningful difference between money spent vacationing vs. money spent spiffing up your home, buying new clothes, cars, etc?  I tell myself there is a huge difference between"experiences" and "things," but is this just a cover for excessive vacation consumption?  I mean, I'm, saving money too.  Should there be a ratio between how much you save, and how much you spend on travel? 


skyrefuge

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Re: Travel hacker -- badass or dumbass?
« Reply #7 on: May 30, 2012, 09:34:14 AM »
I tell myself there is a huge difference between"experiences" and "things," but is this just a cover for excessive vacation consumption?

Maybe.  :-)  I certainly agree with what you're telling yourself, that "experiences" are more valuable than "things", but for me, I wouldn't feel like I earned a whole lot of "experience points" from a resort beach vacation.  Certainly more than if I instead spent that money on clothes I don't need, but a more DIY, see-the-world-approach to vacationing could raise your experience-per-dollar ratio, as such vacations can have more adventures AND lower costs.  But I recognize that everyone has different tastes in vacationing (I'm pretty far on the DIY side), and that's compounded if you have a family with kids that all have their own tastes.

auri

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Re: Travel hacker -- badass or dumbass?
« Reply #8 on: May 31, 2012, 12:58:57 AM »
I would say 'dumbass", as I am sort of in the same situation. My annual spend is quite respectable, I think, at around $20-25K, but I spend another >$10K  a year on my holidays (for two). Not so much with these credit card sign ups as we don't really have them here in Australia, but via other travel hacking techniques.

smedleyb

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Re: Travel hacker -- badass or dumbass?
« Reply #9 on: May 31, 2012, 10:17:24 PM »
I would say 'dumbass", as I am sort of in the same situation. My annual spend is quite respectable, I think, at around $20-25K, but I spend another >$10K  a year on my holidays (for two). Not so much with these credit card sign ups as we don't really have them here in Australia, but via other travel hacking techniques.

You're at the threshold of some of the greatest vacation spots on the planet.  What sort of trips do you take? 

And yes, we are dumbasses.  You're absolutely right.  Frittering away thousands a year on trips is the surest way to defer FI for a decade if not more.  But then again, I still find travel to be the most virtuous vice in the mustachian universe.

catalana

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Re: Travel hacker -- badass or dumbass?
« Reply #10 on: June 01, 2012, 02:45:20 AM »
I know travel is a crutch for many converting Mustachians.  What about you folks?  How much value to you attach to travel, how much are you willing to spend, and is there a meaningful difference between money spent vacationing vs. money spent spiffing up your home, buying new clothes, cars, etc?  I tell myself there is a huge difference between"experiences" and "things," but is this just a cover for excessive vacation consumption?  I mean, I'm, saving money too.  Should there be a ratio between how much you save, and how much you spend on travel?
I don't think there is much to choose between "experiences" and "things" but even in my own family I see that people have entirely different views on them.  My dad LOVES to travel, and does not consider it a waste of money, while at the same time berating my brother for buying "stuff".  Both are financially independent, and get pleasure out of what they spend their money on.  Who is to say that my dad's experiences are somehow more worthwhile than my brother's stuff?

Me and my fiance don't attribute much value to travel, for us holidays are about an opportunity to chill out, spend time together and be active outdoors or visit family.  That doesn't require travelling many miles around the globe.  I have to be honest though, that we have travelled a lot for work in the last couple of years, which totally changes your view on what holidays are about.

We did go long distance last year (UK to California) and spent about $3k dollars for a week all-in.  That felt WAY too much compared to our previous breaks, and we probably won't spend that kind of amount again, except for our honeymoon.  Typically we spend at most $1k total for transport and a week's accommodation, and always go self-catering so food spend isn't much different to home.  Often it is much less because we go camping, or stay with family or in family owned holiday accommodation.

I understand your need for some sun (hey, I am in the Northern UK after all) but that is a rather high spend just to get a tan.  Is there nothing you can do to get some time out and enjoy your local summertime?  Your kids are at an age where they would LOVE camping - they don't need 4-5 star hotels and restaurant food.

jbhernandez

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Re: Travel hacker -- badass or dumbass?
« Reply #11 on: June 01, 2012, 12:49:31 PM »
Badass in my book.

The reality is that specialized knowledge he has, can easily be converted into a small passive income stream.

 

Dicey

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Re: Travel hacker -- badass or dumbass?
« Reply #12 on: June 03, 2012, 12:54:14 AM »
I love this forum. Even though I gave you a "Badass" right out the gate, after mulling it over, I think you have potential to turn your well-deserved BA into a Super Badass. I get the feeling that you worked all the angles on airfare, hotel and car, and so now are okay with blowing a wad of dough on everything else. It just doesn't seem to jive with what you've achieved thus far. Can you examine your planned spending to find any more ways to make those remaining dollars work harder for you? Could you spend only 5K instead of 6K and still have a magnificent time? On one hand, you don't want to spoil the fun of the trip, but on the other, that's still a big wad to blow on vacations. I might consider seeing if there was anywhere else to dial these numbers down before heading out. Think everything through as much as possible before you leave. Once you head out on the road, you can relax knowing you're going to get maximum bang for your bucks no matter what happens on the actual trip. Kind of a set-it-and-forget-it for vacations. Who knows, maybe you can save enough to pay for a third vacation or at least a long weekend. Please keep us posted.

smedleyb

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Re: Travel hacker -- badass or dumbass?
« Reply #13 on: June 03, 2012, 06:47:30 AM »
I love this forum. Even though I gave you a "Badass" right out the gate, after mulling it over, I think you have potential to turn your well-deserved BA into a Super Badass. I get the feeling that you worked all the angles on airfare, hotel and car, and so now are okay with blowing a wad of dough on everything else. It just doesn't seem to jive with what you've achieved thus far. Can you examine your planned spending to find any more ways to make those remaining dollars work harder for you? Could you spend only 5K instead of 6K and still have a magnificent time? On one hand, you don't want to spoil the fun of the trip, but on the other, that's still a big wad to blow on vacations. I might consider seeing if there was anywhere else to dial these numbers down before heading out. Think everything through as much as possible before you leave. Once you head out on the road, you can relax knowing you're going to get maximum bang for your bucks no matter what happens on the actual trip. Kind of a set-it-and-forget-it for vacations. Who knows, maybe you can save enough to pay for a third vacation or at least a long weekend. Please keep us posted.

Whew!  I thought you were gonna yank the "badass" at first, but now I see I'm being challenged to do even better!

Along those lines Diane, I just got my "Oahu Revealed" tour/guide book for $15 which lays out all the places to visit/eat in Honolulu and other parts of Oahu.  I'm in the process of finding affordable but tasty eating haunts, which includes some breakfast buffets where i might be able to -- ahem -- take a few pieces of fruit/yogurt/bread "to go" to tide us over till dinner.  The goal over the next several months is to indeed scour the net for information for ways to take that 6K and knock it down to 5K without feeling like I'm skimping out on anything. 

In addition to finding ways to keep the food bill in check, I planned on renting a car the entire time in Oahu but am considering just renting for part of my stay, which should chip another $200-300 off my total bill.  We'll bring a wine opener/coffee and make it a point to pick up some wine/beer and a little food at the grocery store in both Oahu and Barbados.

And thanks for the kudos.  I really did work hard to pull off these trips and want to experience both vacations to their fullest which includes dining on some good food (my weakness!) and not resorting to eating Mickey D's every day to save a few bucks (although I'm not opposed to the occasional egg mcmuffin to jump start the day vs. $25 per person for the nice breakfast buffet).

I'll keep you posted for sure. 

TwoPupsOnACouch

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Re: Travel hacker -- badass or dumbass?
« Reply #14 on: June 03, 2012, 08:29:11 AM »
Badass.  But I would also challenge you to keep down your out of pocket expense.  I understand your need for good food, my husband and I think new eating experiences are part of the vacation as well.   Mickey-D's is also out of the question as we have specific dietary needs.  He has childhood diabetes and I've been a strict vegetarian since childhood.  Ugh, it hurts to write that because it makes us sound so prissy.  Ouch.
That said, our out of pocket expenses are a fraction of your number, even if take into consideration the per person cost as you are 4 people and we are 2. 
So I think maybe some creativity is in order.  Something we both enjoy is visiting the local grocery for breakfast/lunch.  In a new place you never know what ethnic delites you'll find.  Some of our more memorable food finds have been in grocery stores, as the food is intended for local tastes, not tourists.  Eating this way means we can go someplace nice for dinner and have more time to explore during the day as we are not wasting huge chunks of time in a restaurant.
Or try the street vendors food, which if you choose wisely can be cheap, healthy, and exotic.
And do taxis really have to be a major expense?   What about taking the bus or hotel shuttle?
Anyway, you don't have to use any of these ideas, my point is that I think there is plenty of room to save on out of pocket expense without sacrificing quality as long as you put your creativity to work.

Dicey

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Re: Travel hacker -- badass or dumbass?
« Reply #15 on: June 03, 2012, 10:34:25 AM »
Hey Smedley - No time for a long post now, just a few quick thoughts. There are a ton of free things to do in Oahu. Costco sells gas, so they're a great resource. Although I'm not a Wallyworld fan, I did grab some sunscreen and a few small items at their giant Ala Moana location. I spent twelve days there four years ago. Spent a total of $450 oop. I also got an additional $400 airline credit, but of course, I had to buy more airfare to "save" the $400. Our strategy was simple. We got up, put on our swimsuits, threw on a cover-up, ate a simple breakfast, packed a cooler for lunch, piled into the car in search of adventure. Our goal every day was to swim at least once and to do something about which we could state "Well, that didn't suck". Incredibly successful trip, but having a car every day was a key part of it. Of course, we spent very little time in Waikiki, which is fairly compact and thus walkable if you're not carrying a ton of gear. We also decided to do just a couple of nice dinners out, which made them more memorable. I live near San Francisco, so I have plenty of access to fine cuisine at home. I don't look for it much when I'm on vacation and the prices in HI are sky-high. Funny, a lot of the headliner restaurants in HI also have locations in Vegas, which is a very popular vacation/reunion/any-kind-of-celebration destination for Islanders. When are you leaving?