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5 ways to maximize your travel budget

As we wait for the Pandemic to come to a close, use this time to make your money work toward your next trip.

I spent most of age 20 running away from anything that felt like home only to find out I wanted to make a home in every city I visited.

While it made for great a Instagram feed, it also became increasingly hard to explain how I was always able to afford living out of a suitcase and a backpack. Partly because I was winging it at first, but then it was because I had so many little things that added up to big savings.

Here's my tips for how to maximize every dollar you spend towards your next flight:


above: a pre-pandemic trip booked totally on Chase Sapphire miles

~ Miles credit card ~

Most of my formulas for saving money were rooted in travel perks. I wasn’t saving much with my summer jobs in college, so I used the money I was spending to my advantage.

TIP: Use card like a debit card. Spend only what you have, but with double the points on dining and travel, you can use your Chase Sapphire card and spend what you have while getting twice as much to your Ultimate Rewards dashboard.

Chase Sapphire has an amazing dashboard that allows you to use points or miles, and similar bonuses for signup and anniversaries are hard to find without a much higher annual fee.

After I pay off my statement balance each month, those dollars go towards points which I can transfer to any of my profiles on other airlines, or I can book travel directly on the Ultimate Rewards dashboard. This is actually how I was able to find some little-known tours in Athens, and it practically free since I had points to cover it!

Alaska Airlines also has a near-unbeatable credit card, which you can read about here. As a college kid from Hawaii, Alaska was definitely my go-to airline for cheap flights.

These pictures were free, thanks Chase and Alaska!

High-Yield Savings Accounts don’t have to be with your current bank

Your bank might not be giving you the best APR for your savings account.

A little hike in your APR percentage might not seem like much, but keep in mind one tip or trick to saving money will not net you all the benefits either. Take advantage of using a handful of sources in conjunction together.

TIP: set up an automatic savings transfer, where you can send a specified amount of cash to your savings account monthly or weekly so you can save without thinking

You don't need to use the same bank as your checking account to open a savings account. In many cases, it might even be easier to open a savings account online where you can monitor your funds at a higher APR.

I recommend Marcus by Goldman Sachs. The dashboard is highly visual, so you can see the growth of your money over time, as well as your assets-to-debt ratio.

Join hotel rewards directly over third-party booking sites

Don't get me wrong, I'm a frequent site visitor to sites like Experian and Booking to find discounted stays on the fly, but here's something many hospitality workers won't tell you: third-party reservations do not hold much weight as a guest.

Hotels and venues will offer these rates for publicity, but priority guests will always be those who book directly with the hotel as members or cardholders.

If you don't stay at hotels enough to justify getting a hotel credit card, you can still sign up as a member for free at many chain locations like Mariott and Hilton. After 5 stays as a member — which already score you room upgrades and certain amenities — you get bumped up to another membership tier with even more perks.

Tip: Traveling to high-tourism locations in the off-season (spring, winter) will yield cheaper deals than summer months. If you plan on heading to the Mediterranean, however, be prepared for most tourism destinations to be closed and slow-moving during off-season times, but you will not be dealing with the same queues or chaos that summer months endure!

If you're staying at enough hotels to justify narrowing your options to one chain in several locations, it's worth getting the credit card. Just remember to use it like a debit card to avoid overspending!

Check out these views we scored using our hotel reward points!

~ Maximize shopping with extensions and apps ~

For those times where your travel card and miles don't cover those little shopping sprees (you just need to get this outfit for Paris, for instance) take advantage of apps that can offer points and gift cards for your everyday shopping.

I use Honey and Drop: two apps that not only automatically show you the lowest price and online discounts available, but also collect points that you can exchange for gift cards. Drop even has some airline credits!

Afterpay is also a great platform for those who want to pay large purchases in increments. This is a tool that I use to charge my orders on my travel cards — that way I can get all the points with no interest fee, just small monthly payments that still total up to all the miles that I can use towards my next trip.

~ Book a trip with friends ~

This goes without saying: group purchases are subject to higher discounts than singles. Besides, what better way to enjoy your next vacation than with loved ones at your side?

During one of my travels in Barcelona, I met a group of British friends who had a lad's tradition of giving a few hundred pounds to one of their members, and that member would then book a trip for the four of them. A surprise trip that only cost a few hundred dollars? Say less.

A group of girl friends and I did the same thing, and we were able to travel through Ibiza, Turkey, Egypt and Greece for less than the price of a spring break trip in Miami.

Airbnb has some great options where you can rent an entire house or mansion for less than $50 per person. Wouldn't you rather relax in a spacious house with friends after a long day of traveling than a tiny hotel room that costs exponentially more? I would!

Even better, if you have a space you could rent out, that's extra income for you to use as you wish . . . but I recommend putting it in your Marcus savings account for whatever trip you're planning next.

Final Trip Tip

Don't go on believing that you have to pinch pennies in order to save. As is shown here, you can make a lot of money by investing into a points or miles system with credit cards and hotel rewards.

If you're really down to have a great time, get your friends involved and share in the spoils of good money management. It's time to make your money work as hard as you do for that next vacation.

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Feb 23, 2022

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