Living a frugal lifestyle doesn’t have to be without its perks. One of my favourite things to do is travel. I know that for the budget wise often the most realistic travel plans involve escaping the kids and pets for a bath, but there are ways to go a little further.
Most of my travel has been through the use of points. I’ve used Aeroplan, Air Miles, Save On More points and points from my bank. I’ve used them for everything from free B.C. ferries trips to a return flight to London that ended up costing me $50. A one way flight from Vancouver to Victoria would have cost me more. I’ve also used air miles for hotel stays and car rentals.
This has been a great way to travel but the question I always get is how to accumulate the points? For Air Miles I watch my local Safeway flyer for bonus points and use their pharmacy for 7 x the points. Thankfully I am in lousy health so those rack up quickly! I watch for the mail outs that include high miles bonuses. The temptation is to buy items that you don’t need because of their high points value. You end up spending much more than you would have if you had just bought a ticket or you end up with enough toilet paper and paper towels to build a replica of the Great Wall of China.
Air Miles also offers the option of reducing your required points by using a sponsor’s credit card. Having the World Mastercard discounts 25% off of the required number of miles. Traveling in low season further reduces the number.
While this helps to build the numbers gradually the quickest way to travel is through the bonus offers from credit cards. They will offer thousands of points if you sign up for their cards. The concern is what this will do to your credit rating.
One of the best sites for finding these deals and answering this question is the Credit Card Fly, http://www.creditcardfly.com. It explains the concept and process of credit card churning.
Another site, “The Broke and Beautiful Life” by Stephanie O’Connell has an article on the same subject. FYI she has a great book out also called “The Broke and Beautiful” life. It mixes useful advice with with humour and warmth. It is the sort of financial info. that wears adorable shoes rather than a pinstrip suit. She’s one of us.
The caution is that you need to be very organized to use this system without racking up unnecessary card charges. Most of these cards have yearly fees with the first year waived. That is great if you remember to cancel the card before the year is finished. I personally have only applied for cards a few times and made sure I wrote in my calendar the date I needed to cancel. You also need to give yourself enough time before you plan to travel. This doesn’t work if you want to travel on short notice. Some of the deals require you to spend a certain amount within a 1-3 month time period in order to get the deal. This works well if you were planning on getting the house painted or replacing some appliances etc.
Living a frugal lifestyle doesn’t have to mean doing without. It is about choosing and planning and finding creative ways to achieve your goals. In the meantime I’m heading for a bubble bath with one of my favourite traveling books “The Ex-Pat Harem”. Time to dream.