Traveling first-class to the Maldives or lounging in a bungalow in Bora Bora may seem out of reach for a budget conscious casual traveler, but it's not. Travel experts Daraius Dubash and Emily Jablon, founders of Million Mile Secrets, are experts in utilizing airline, hotel and credit card rewards. They've offered the following five tips of the "travel rewards" trade that can earn you "Big Travel with Small Money:"
1. Set your travel goals in advance...or be flexible to travel at the last minute!
A big trip requires goals and a strategy to reach them. Not planning properly can leave a traveler with lots of travel points in different accounts that can't be used to their full potential. Planning ahead ensures getting the best deals and the best trip. Or you can wait until the last minute and travel to destinations where the airlines have unsold seats on flights.
2. Sign-up for major loyalty programs
Apply for several hotel and airline loyalty programs, but don't go overboard. There are many programs to choose from, so start with the major ones. You can always sign-up for smaller, more specialized ones later on.
3. Choose a credit card that will help you achieve your travel goals
For those who are new to this hobby, Dubash and Jablon recommend choosing a card that is right for your travel goals. Be specific in your research. For example: if you want to go to Paris, find out which airline has the most flights there from the US for a low amount of miles. Banks offer sign-up bonuses of 50,000+ miles, which will get you to a lot of places!
4. Stay organized
Staying organized is the most important thing you can do to make sure you get the most value out of your miles. Pay attention to payment due dates, spending requirements, and account balances to track on top of your household budget. Being organized can help you avoid lost points, late fees, interest, and accumulating debt.
5. Decide which credit card to keep when the fee is due
Now that you have your cards lined up, you met your minimum spending and earned your sign-up bonus, do not just cancel the card. This can potentially damage your relationship with the bank, and may even lead to being blacklisted. If you have applied for cards with annual fees, you should evaluate whether or not the card is worth paying after eight to ten months.
About Million Mile Secrets
Prior to starting Million Mile Secrets in 2011, Daraius Dubash and Emily Jablon thought that travel was something they could only do when they retire. But they were able to fly first-class to honeymoon in Paris, where they spent seven nights in a five-star hotel. The sticker price for this trip of a lifetime: $32,000; the actual price for the Million Mile Secrets couple: $2,000. To date they have visited over 30 countries on six continents, and have flown International First Class for virtually no money.
Daraius and Emily created the Million Mile Secrets blog as a way to help other time-starved consumers learn how to earn and use credit card points, airline miles, and hotel points to travel around the world for a fraction of the sticker price. They follow the constantly changing deals, strategies, and requirements of travel rewards so that their readers don't have to. Covering only the best offers and most relevant news, their easy-to-follow analysis has earned them the trust of their loyal audience. They are frequently invited to speak as experts at travel conferences.
Daraius and Emily believe that everyone can use airline and hotel loyalty points to travel for free, whether you're traveling to visit grandma in Florida or taking the family to Disney.
Be sure to visit www.millionmilesecrets.com for more travel tips.