Lacey and I just did the math and realized that we redeemed nearly $22k of free travel in 12 months. To be exact, it was $21,833.42 from February ’16 – January ’17. Holy shit! We traveled to some amazing places (20 different cities) and stayed in some incredible hotels along the way. The majority of our travel expenses were either highly discounted or completely free thanks to credit card rewards points. I can’t stress enough how easily all of you can do the same thing!
Our 12 month travel recap includes the destinations listed below. Click the links to get more details on what we experienced in the past 12 months and how we did it for next to nothing!
- Feb – San Diego, CA
- Apr – Houston, TX (Final Four)
- May – NYC, Florence, Rome, Malta, Chicago
- July – Huntington Beach, CA (Vans US Open)
- August – Denver, CO
- September – San Francisco/San Jose, CA (Beyoncé Concert for Lacey’s B-Day)
- October – Scottsdale, AZ (medical trip)
- January – Orlando, Aruba, Curacao, Miami
While there were a number of rewards programs we used to get all of this awesome stuff, there are a few programs that gave us the most in return. Keep in mind that we don’t get paid to promote any of these programs. These are our genuine opinions based strictly on our personal experiences.
- Southwest Airlines Companion Pass – Lacey and I have redeemed over $5,000 worth of free flights from this reward so far. This reward lets you AND your companion fly for free for up to 2 years. Lacey and I still have all of 2017 left to use this perk and we’re going to do our best to make sure we continue earning this reward for as long as possible. Check out how to earn the SW Companion Pass here.
- The Hyatt “2 Free Nights” card – link here. After meeting the spending requirements, you’ll earn 2 free nights at ANY Hyatt property. Lacey and I both earned this reward and used our 4 free nights at the Grand Hyatt in Aruba for an $800 per night ocean view suite. This card also gives you 1 anniversary night per year. Lacey and I just used our anniversary nights to book a stay on Manhattan Beach – Los Angeles.
- The Wyndham card – What a nice surprise this card has been! You don’t hear much about this card on the mainstream travel blogs. You’ll earn 45k points after hitting the spending requirement. You can book ANY of their hotels for a flat rate of 15k points. So out of the gate, you get 3 free nights anywhere. We used this to book an ocean front suite on South Beach in Miami. It was one of the best hotel experiences we’ve had so far. More details in this post.
- The Hilton Honors program. I love Hilton! They have multiple cards you can sign up for making it easy to stack points quickly. Their customer service reps treat you like royalty when you call to book your room(s). I’ll never forget how cool it felt to have someone say “Alright Mr. Thompson, let’s see if I can get you into our most luxurious property during your stay.” There aren’t many occasions in life when I feel like a big shot, but the Hilton reps make me feel like that every time I talk to them.
We are so lucky to have experienced everything we did during the last 12 months. We are very grateful that there are ways for people on a budget to get to see the world. When there’s a will, there’s a way! We hope to continue this pace throughout 2017 as well. So far we’re booked through June 2017 with vacations to Los Angeles (Manhattan Beach), Maui, New York City, and Sayulita Mexico.
Let us know if you have any questions once you start planning your next vacay!
Edits and pics from our travels last year:
Houston (Final Four):
New York City:
Huntington Beach, CA:
South Beach – Miami, FL: