SAVING/RAISING POINTS AND AIRMILES FOR FREE AND CHEAP TRAVEL
If you hadn’t heard from us or friends, we actually booked our RTW (round the world) airline tickets using AIRMILES (180,000 miles EACH!) that we raised in only 6 months from opening certain credit cards with huge point bonuses, and strategizing which cards to use for certain things. These tickets will get us 6 stops around the world and we basically only paid for taxes on the flights (a savings of $3,000 to $7,000 each!) We also have been accruing more miles and points with other spending strategies that will also get us some free hotel nights on our trip as well. Basically… if you want free travel for yourself, your friends, and/or your family, you can do it if you are willing to take the time and effort (and smart skills) to make it happen!
*The Points Guy: MY FAVORITE BLOG that I follow religiously. If you want to learn strategies and information for getting LOTS of travel for free by saving/raising points for flights and hotels, sign up for emails from The Points Guy!
Frugal Travel Guy: Another blog that I subscribe to. My favorite part of this blog is that they post a good daily list of current hotel, car, and airline promotions to earn extra points or miles.
The Frequent Miler: Another blog that I subscribe to . . . not as good as the first two and a bit “amateur-ish” compared to the others, but it still has some good information and strategies for earning points.
One Mile At A Time: I don’t follow this blog, but it has been recommended by other travel bloggers.
View From The Wing: Another blog I dont follow, but has been recommended by other travel bloggers.
Credit Sesame: If you start getting REALLY into the “credit card airmiles game” and begin applying for numerous new credit cards, it’s important you monitor your credit score to make sure it’s still staying around the same 5 points or so. Credit Sesame will allow you to check and monitor your FICO score for free!
Annual Credit Report.com: To further the prior statement/sentence, you also should get your credit report once a year (and you are ENTITLED to get it for FREE once per year) as well, and you can get a report from all three credit reporting agencies on this website.
AIRLINE LOYALTY PROGRAMS
Make sure ANY time you step foot on a plane, you have signed up for that airline’s loyalty program and have associated that flight with your program number. Not only can you end up getting free flights for your frequent traveling, but you also can earn elite statuses on airlines, which gets you benefits like free upgrades and more.
Also be aware that if you fly ANY foreign airline, you can usually put down the associated US airline program number to claim miles (for example, if you are flying Iberia airlines in Spain, you can claim those miles under your American Airlines number.)
Air Canada Aeroplan
United Airlines (includes the former Continental program)
HOTEL LOYALTY PROGRAMS
Again, just like Airline loyalty programs, make sure that ANY time you plan to stay at a hotel, you have signed up for that hotel’s loyalty program and have associated your hotel stay with your program number.
HOSTELS & CHEAP SLEEPING OPTIONS
Couch Surfing: Stay for free or cheap with locals in their own home as you travel. Think of it like a host family for a foreign exchange student…. except this is for adults. The website connects travelers and locals who meet offline to share cultures, hospitality and adventures – whether on the road or in their hometowns. Gain an amazing experience learning more about their culture, and hopefully gain a friend along the way as well! What makes this site great is that once a person has stayed with a local, they can review the person on the site so you can see what types of good and bad things have been experienced with that host.
Servas International: Similar to couchsurfing.com. Through Servas, travellers have opportunities to meet hosts, their families and friends, and join in their everyday life. Where convenient, hosts may offer two nights (or more) accommodation and invite travellers to share a meal.
Hostelling International: Website for searching for hostels around the world.
Hostel Bookers: Website for searching for hostels around the world.
Hostel World: Website for searching for hostels around the world.
AIRLINE AND HOTEL BOOKING RESOURCES
Kayak: I use this site mainly to compare flights
Yapta: Good site to use to track SPECIFIC flights on certain days, airlines, and times. The site will email you the minute the flight price drops, and will also give you a history summary of the price of that flight every day for the past month.
WhichBudget: By simply plugging in your starting point and destination airports, you are given a listing of all the budget airlines that fly this route – many of which are not indexed with the larger search engines.
RTW TRIP LINKS
Budget Your Trip: A great site to find out costs and budgets to stay and visit in cities around the world. A great tool for budgeting a RTW trip.
sta Travel: RTW flights and trip planning
AirTreks.com: Around the world & multi-stop international airfare experts
BootsnAll: RTW ticket trip planner….Create your own custom Multi-Stop International trip
http://jackandjilltravel.com/how-much-does-a-rtw-trip-cost-revisited/ Sample costs of other traveler’s RTW trips (to use as an example of what people have spent and budgeted)
Go Backing: Round the world travel guide. Lots of resources for round the world trips.
INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL & HEALTH INSURANCE
If you ever plan a trip internationally, it is SO IMPORTANT that you purchase an International health and/or travel insurance plan. Most common US health travel insurance policies cover nothing or very little once you leave US soil. By the way, just to clarify, international health insurance covers emergency medical situations, doctors visits, medications, and more…. but international travel insurance covers things like trip cancellation, travel delay (getting stuck in an airport), missed connections, and baggage delay (airline loses your luggage for hours or days.)
Finding insurance that was right for our RTW trip was REALLY HARD…. of course we wanted all the important coverages that most international health policies have: Medical evacuation, accidental death, terrorism coverage, emergency reunion, lost luggage, etc…. but what made it hardest for our RTW trip was our three main requirements:
1. Coverage for 10-12 months (most policies out there don’t cover longer than 3 months or 6 months)
2. Includes “adventurous sports” coverage (most policies exclude these, or you pay more for coverage for these)
3. Covers up to $1M in medical expenses. Hopefully we’ll never need this, but it was suggested to us to get this much coverage in case anything extreme happens to one of us.
In the end, we found what we needed, and hopefully my crazy 20+ hours of research on travel health plans can help you out….. read more below.
InsureMyTrip: AWESOME WEBSITE for comparing multiple travel insurance policies, and separated out by package plans, medical plans, accident plans, and more. Even if you don’t purchase a plan from this site, it’s a GREAT way to compare other plans, side by side, for every coverage item listed on the policies.
Squaremouth: Another site for searching multiple travel insurance policies. I didn’t find ANY policies that cover you for a longer period of time, though.
Seven Corners: I purchased a health & travel policy with Seven Corners for my 2008 Spain trip, and this is also what we are using for our RTW trip as well. Coverage from 5 days to 3 years. The prices and benefits are pretty great, and I’ve had an excellent experience with them in the past with reimbursements (got sick A LOT in Spain and made quite a few claims… got reimbursed pretty easily and fast from them.) Longer policies for 3+ and 6+ months are mostly health coverage and don’t include too many travel, though…. but that is typical of most companies.
Patriot Travel, by IMG: We almost purchased a plan from Patriot for our RTW trip, as they have great health coverage with everything we needed PLUS some travel insurance benefits, HOWEVER, they kept mentioning that “for any hospital admission, in-patient or out-patient surgery, or procedures must be pre-certified” . . . and the whole “pre certification” clause didn’t sit with me too well. Somehow, the thought of being in India or somewhere in a hospital and having to worry about calling the stupid insurance company to get “pre certified” in order to be covered sounded EXTREMELY inconvenient and worrisome. Also, their “TRIP Lite” that you can add to your policy gives you some travel insurance benefits… but the benefits are SO poor compared to other policies, it’s not really worth the money.
Travel Guard: I have used Travel Guard quite a bit in the past for some of my shorter trips, as they have really great coverage… however, they can be a bit pricey. Worth looking into for your next SHORTER trip.
HCC Medical Insurance Services: Haven’t used them before, but they have some pretty good plans, including longer trips.
HTH Travel Insurance: Haven’t used them, but they popped up on a lot of searches I did online. Seems like you might have to use ONLY their medical providers, though, which could be very difficult to find doctors and hospitals in foreign countries if you’re in a rush.