Although the notion of travelling for free does seem sketchy, it is completely possible. All it takes is knowledge and forethought. Whether you travel once or ten times per year, there are ways to be strategic about your travel spending.
If you are serious about reaping the benefits of travel, there are 3 main ways to start accumulating points, miles and dollars toward travel.
1) Get a Travel Credit Card Getting a travel credit card was one of the best decisions my husband and I ever made. Rather than get a credit card with points toward a GM vehicle or cash back, every time we spend money on our card our travel points go up. Our Travel Rewards Card has no black-out periods, an online booking portal and if you book your travel via expedia or the like, you can apply your points/cash to your purchase.
Strategy: Rather than using a combo of cash, debit and credit for your purchases, if you and/or your significant other can responsibly use your [joint] credit card, the points will accumulate much faster. Another way to collect points quickly is to make business purchases or charity donations on your card. Both regular and one-time payments add up, so if you are disciplined, using a credit card for the majority of your purchases can get you one step closer...to Paris!
If you don't already have a travel credit card, inquire through your financial institution. Many of the popular travel credit cards offer similar benefits.
2) Join an Airline Loyalty Program As mentioned in Friday's post, making a point of choosing one Airline loyalty program can be advantageous. Since most airlines are part of larger syndicates, you can reap the benefits of multiple carriers through programs like One World or Star Alliance. Try to find flights with one of the carriers within your preferred airline's alliance to amass points every time you fly. This will allow you fly to the Seychelles sooner than you thought.
Little-known Fact: You can redeem more than just flights with airlines miles. Many airlines have a host or travel and non travel-related products to which you can apply your points.
3) Join a Hotel Loyalty Program Choosing to be an Intercontinental Ambassador or Starwood Preferred Guest has its benefits, and this too can put you on the path to free getaways. When planning your trips, seek your hotel group's properties, in other words, if the price is right, try to give your them first right of refusal. Often joining programs such as these will give you the inside track on new property openings and discounted prices, so it pays to be loyal and in-the-know.
Read your program's fine-print: Some hotel loyalty programs offer more than just free stays. Between complimentary dinners at their restaurants, additional points towards a partner airline's miles and in some cases, free use of golf clubs, it is important to familiarize yourself with your program's opportunities so you can effectively reap the rewards.