I like to eat out as much as possible. Not that I'm a bad, cook, but because I am a lazy cook. When I had a family at home, I cooked everything from scratch - even raised my own chickens and beef and had a huge garden. But those days are long gone. When it's just the two of us, why bother? I'd much rather search out the delicious creations of master chefs. Sometimes my biggest decision of the day can be Italian or BBQ?
It's even better if I can enjoy a meal and get airline miles at the same time. One of the things about airline programs is that they don't really expect people to take advantage of their plans, but they look good and the marketing team gets kudos. My theory is, if I am going to eat anyway, why not get points for it...and that means at the grocery stores, at hotels, and yes, at the restaurant.
Here are a list of Airlines and the bonus points that you can get when you dine at restaurants on their list. The key to this, is not to sign up for them all at once because they want you to dine within 30 days. So sign up for one. Go out to eat. Sign up for another. Go out to eat....and so on.
Do your due diligence and investigate the details of each plan, when your points expire and when you can update them.
I don't know about you, but I like the word FREE. Free hotel stays. Free airline tickets. Free breakfast. So when I'm booking my travels, I look for ways to use that word, if not on this vacation, at least on the next.
A powerful new tool in my financial planning toolkit, is a website called Rocket Miles.
Rocket Miles is a great tool, because it allows you to rack up air miles on most of the major airlines by booking your hotel through them. Usually when that happens, the hotel rates rise. But in this case, I have found many far below the listed rates on booking.com.
How many miles can you get for a one night stay? It depends on the price of the hotel, but 1000 miles per night is the lowest and I saw some for 5,000 per night and more.
How does it work?
You just select your city and dates that you need lodging, just like any other booking site, select your hotel (the miles are listed right there - it's not hidden in any way). Then you select which loyalty program you want your miles credited to - and book your hotel. Your mileage points are added within 4 week of your stay.
At that rate, it is possible to earn a FREE (my favorite word) flight in a week or two worth of stays.
Rocket Miles can also be a great way to top off those last few miles that you need to collect. Check them out HERE.
Now, "use your holiday gift card" may sound like a common statement, but there is a reason I'm telling you this. The National Retail Federation released a study that show that only two thirds of gift cards purchased per year, are redeemed. When you consider that an estimated $26.3 billion will be spent on gift cards this year, but $8 billion or more will never be used!
Of course there are different types of gift cards. Those sold by major credit card companies, like Visa, Mastercard and American Express. Retail chains like Best Buy, Home Depot, Apple and CVS all have gift cards. Even restaurants like Chili's and Applebees have gift cards. Starbucks even has a Limited Edition Stainless Steel $450 Card!
As travelers, we often send and receive gift cards. It is an easy and less costly way to gift and you can pick them up at the grocery store. Personally, I appreciate receiving a gift card. Since a traveler's requirements are somewhat unique, a gift card can allow me to purchase the perfect replacement jacket or bag. versus making do with a gift that is too heavy or impractical.
If you get a gift card, the key is to use it as soon as possible. Some cards have expiration dates. If you have no intention of using the card. You may not need a Home Depot card, for example. Don't just let your card go to waste.
There are several online gift card exchange websites that allow you to sell or exchange your unwanted cards.
Gift Card Rescue
Gift Card Granny
Make sure you compare the percentage charged per transaction to get the best deal from these sites.
If you don't know if your card is still valid, or how much credit is left on it, you can
CHECK THE BALANCE HERE
Now for my best super Financial Travel Tip #2 gift card secret: Sometimes American Express will give you an extra $25 to $75 on a $400 gift card. You buy the $400 card and the extra card is sent to you in the mail in a few weeks. Also, if you use your American Express Credit Card to buy the American Express Gift Card, you may get thousands of air miles for FREE.
Saving up for a big trip can seem overwhelming, but as with any large project if we just chunk it down into manageable pieces, the prospect of saving can be less stressful, and yes, even fun. Here are 3 Easy Ways to Save For Your Travel that you can use individually or combined that will help you get to that larger financial goal in bunny quick time.
1. KEEP THE CHANGE. Put your spending money in $20 bills. Every time you pay for something with a $20, put the remainder aside for your trip. For example, you are going to work where over the course of the day you will buy a latte, a burger and fries and go out to a movie. You buy a $6.99 burger and fries. Pay with a twenty dollar bill and put $13.01 in your travel fund. You buy a $3.00 latte' pay with a twenty and $17 goes in the travel fund. The movie, with your sweetheart, plus popcorn is $18.50 so $1.50 goes in the travel fund. You have quickly and painlessly saved $17.51 to your travel fund. You can also do with with larger or smaller bills as your budget allows.
2. MOVIE NIGHT SPECIAL. How much does it cost you to go to the movies? $10? $20? more? If you often go to the movies or rent DVD's here is a fun way to save for your vacation. Put a jar on or near the TV. Every time you watch a movie at home, put the money you would use if you saw it at the movie house in the jar. If you are a movie junkie, like me, your trip fund will fill up in no time at all!
3. BUY STARB UCKS COFFEE MOCHA LATTE'. I know, I'm addicted too. Yet there is no reason to pay such a high price! Here are the recipes to make your own at home - and they only cost about 32 cents each. Every time you make a cup, be sure to "buy it" by putting the money in a can on the counter.
Starbucks Coffee Recipe Clones
The key to making any of these savings plans work, is to do it consistently and not cheat. I know it may be tempting to make that Carmel Pumpkin Frappaccino when you don't have the cash. You can justify it by saying, "Oh, I'll just pay it tomorrow when I have my check." But don't be fooled. Starbucks wouldn't sell you one on credit...and you shouldn't sell yourself short either. Just post a photo of your intended location above the coffee pot and meditate on how wonderful it is going to be when you get there. The coffee craving will pass, or you will be rummaging around in your couch cushions for loose change. Have a spectacular trip. Thanks for reading!