3 Easy Ways to Travel for FREE!
Updated: Apr 2
Wanna travel for FREE? Who wouldn't right?
People often ask me how I'm able to travel so much with my 3 children, especially internationally, as a single mom. It's not because I'm sponsored by travel companies (I am not), or because I'm an author (I traveled for free long before that), it's because I've been doing these 3 simple things for the past 10 years.
This is how I’ve manifested MANY free trips for myself and my kids over the years. And BTW...All of this applies whether you travel rarely or are a true frequent traveler, implement these tips TODAY and you'll start vacationing for free before you know it!
1. FREE FLIGHTS:
The golden rule when it comes to flying is: NEVER GET ON A PLANE WITHOUT COLLECTING MILES WITH THAT AIRLINE!!! NEVER!
MOST MILES DON'T EXPIRE. Most airlines don’t have expiration dates on their miles and if they do, you can usually just call them to ask for an extension. I did this just the other day with my preferred airline Alaska, and they extended all three of my kid's accounts for 2 years, and they don't have a limit on the number of extensions. There is NO EXCUSE not to be collecting miles with the airline, every single time you fly. This is true even if you’re getting miles through a credit card, why wouldn’t you want miles from both the airline and card!? Common sense people!
BE LOYAL IT PAYS. Pick an airline that services your airport for most flights and be loyal to it (and its partners). Don’t try to save the $50 by going with a cheaper ticket on a different airline.
BOOK ON A PARTNER AIRLINE. All the major airlines have many domestic and international partner airlines, know which ones your airline partners with and ONLY book flights with your preferred airline or one of these partners. Your upgrade perks might not apply on partner flights but at least you'll be getting miles, every time you fly.
GET THE FAMILY THEIR OWN ACCOUNTS. Make sure that every member of your family has their own mileage plan number and is collecting miles on EVERY flight. Kids as young as 2 can have a mileage plan account. You don’t have to be a frequent flyer for this to pay off quickly. I’ve earned several free trips for my entire family this way. You can always consolidate their miles into your account for free flights too.
GET CREDIT FOR PAST FLIGHTS. Most airlines will let you register past flights if they were taken in the last year, so go through your records and submit those reservation numbers to get credit for past flights. Those are free miles just sitting there!
IT DOESN'T TAKE A LOT OF MILES TO GET FREE FLIGHTS. Alaska Air offers free flights starting at just 12,000 miles, that essentially 2 cross-country trips earns you a free flight (remember those can be over the course of several years too). You can also use your miles to discount the cost of a purchased ticket as much as 50%. When you're an Alaska MVP you earn 1.5 miles for every mile flown, so those add up quickly.
MILAGE PLANS ARE FREE. They are free to join, take just a few minutes and every airline offers them on their website, there’s no excuse! Plus if your past flights were on several airlines you can sign up for plans with each airline to capture those miles. I do this with United, though they are not my preferred, sometimes I have to fly them or one of their partners so I keep an account with them too, so I'm never flying without collecting.
GET THE AIRLINES CREDIT CARD. When you sign up, most airlines will give you a free companion fair just for signing up, plus they give bonus miles for everything you put on the card and even bigger bonuses when you buy flights with them. So you could be earning 3x the miles for each flight.
BETTER CUSTOMER SERVICES. When you are loyal to the airline they treat you WAY BETTER than a "regular customer." And the higher your tier status the more VIP treatment you get from all airline staff. They are much more likely to give you perks, know your name, give flight credits, waive fees and more, once they see you are a loyal member. Also, Alaska provides a privet 800 customer service number for MVP's where a real person answers on the 2nd ring and takes care of everything for you!
FREE FIRST-CLASS UPGRADES! Did I mention the FREE FIRST-CLASS?! Because I've been a loyal flyer for several years I've earned dozens of FREE first-class upgrades on Alaska. I have actually never paid for a first-class flight and these days I pretty much only fly first-class (I also negotiate this into all my speaking deals). If you fly 24,000 a year with Alaska you'll be an MVP (check this with your airline as their stuff does change year to year) and that will automatically put you on the upgrade list for all flights the following year. Now you might not always get it, but you will get a cabin upgrade and free drinks even if you're not in first class! BONUS: When you reach their Gold status you get 4 FREE first-class upgrades to give to family or friends to be used over that year (I earned this a few years back, check their site to see if it's still the same level).
FREE BAGGAGE! As a member, many airlines waive the bag fee for checked luggage, which can save you $100 on a round trip flight.
2. FREE HOTELS:
SIGN UP FOR REWARDS. Most hotel chains offer rewards programs, including all the major chains, such as Hilton, Marriott, and Westin.
GET DOUBLE REWARDS. I book hotels through Expedia so I can accumulate Expedia travel points (which gives me a $ discount on bookings on their site), then I use my hotel reward number at check-in, to collect points with the hotel chain. Some chains will also take your frequent flyer (mileage) number and give you airline points too! Also, Expedia has great customer service and has taken care of me since I started booking with them in 1999, so it gives me peace of mind even when traveling internationally. *Note: do check with the hotel directly before booking to ensure that you don't have to book on their site to get rewards points, I have run into that once before.
GET CREDIT FOR PAST STAYS. Same as with flights, you can submit past reservations from the last year to get credit on your account (I’ve done this with Hilton, Westin, and Marriott) for past stays.
BETTER SERVICE. As with airlines, you’ll notice the service will be WAY BETTER and you’ll be treated like a VIP as a rewards member. I've had hotels leave handwritten notes and fruit baskets in my room and even champ (and not it's not because I'm a public person).
3. FREE CAR RENTAL:
IT PAYS TO BE LOYAL! I personally love Enterprise, they always hook me up with free car upgrades, or wave my gas, or other perks because I’ve been a loyal member for so long. I’ve earned countless free rental days and often get upgraded to luxury cars at little or no upgrade charge.
SAVING A FEW BUCKS ISN'T WORTH IT. I've tried renting from many other car rental companies because they may have been $10 cheaper, but the hassle is not worth it. Not only do you not earn points when you do that, but you'll also not get the customer service you are used to or the perks and you'll always kick yourself, at least I have.
So... this is what I do. I save all these accumulated points from flights, hotel, and car rental until I have enough to take a trip with my kids. This means that part or all of our domestic vacations are FREE! I've taken my kids to Washington DC, Los Angeles, and New York City twice this way. That's a family of four, traveling for next to nothing!
Just as an example I took my son to Universal Studios a few years back and both our flights were free, including both our FIRST CLASS UPGRADES, our red sports car rental was free as was our 2 nights stay at the Westin. I basically only paid for park tickets and food on that trip!
Remember you don't have to travel a lot for this to work, save up those points, call to extend so they don't expire. If you travel for work, make sure ALL THAT TRAVEL COLLECTS POINTS on all the above.
It adds up people! All this is within your power to control, so start receiving what’s yours!
*PS. I am NOT paid or sponsored by any of the companies mentioned in this post and was not paid to write this. Everything mentioned above is available to the general public and was not given to me as any part of "special treatment." These are my personal best-practices and travel hacks.
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