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How to Travel to Aruba for Sixty Dollars

28 Jan

$62.50 actually, per person.

My girlfriend and I paid a total of $125.00 for two round-trip economy class tickets to Aruba from Chicago with a connection through Miami.

$125 to Aruba?

Seriously?

Yep, and that’s just for the unavoidable taxes and fees associated with the full price fare of over $1,700 for two round-trip tickets, which we didn’t pay.

How?

We paid for the flight with our American Airlines AAdvantage miles.

52,500 miles each.

35,000 miles for an Economy AAnytime Award from Chicago to Aruba and 17,500 for an Economy MileSAAver Award from Aruba back to Chicago.

We actually overpaid.

We should have paid 35,000 miles each, but the Economy MileSAAver Award wasn’t available for the leg from Chicago to Aruba.

We must have built up our miles through our previous travels, right?

Nope.  Most of the trips we have taken in the past have been all-inclusive packages where the flights are included in the deal.

We must have built up our miles by traveling for business, right?

Nope.  Neither one of us travels for business in our current jobs.

So where did we get so many miles?

Travel hacking.

What is travel hacking?

The art and science of traveling for little to no money.

Let’s take a step back into the past.

I turned 28 last February (2011) and suddenly felt time passing me by.

I blogged about How I Want to Travel and made a commitment to myself to learn how to make affordable travel possible (for the rest of my life).

Through my research, I learned about the sport of travel hacking.

By the end of 2011, almost a year later, my girlfriend and I accumulated over 350,000 miles and points.

None of which was earned through any travel or money spent outside of our normal expenditures.

We earned it all through a variety of travel hacking tactics including credit card bonuses, social media promotions, email sign-up bonus offers, free insurance quotes and more.

75,000 points here, 1,000 points there, 50,000 points here and so forth.

To fund our trip to Aruba, we used 105,000 miles (52,500 each) from our haul of 150,000 miles we earned as a bonus for hitting the earning requirement for two 75,000 mile Citi AAdvantage cards, one Visa and one American Express.

The earning requirement for each card was to spend $1,500 in 6 months.

With our normal expenditures (groceries, cell phone bill, utilities, etc), reaching the earning requirement was easy.

It was even easier reaching the earning requirement for the 50,000 bonus mile Chase Continental Onepass Plus card.

Make one purchase and the 50,000 bonus miles were in the bank.

In another promotion, we earned 1,500 Delta SkyMiles for getting an auto insurance quote from Liberty Mutual.

We’re still rookies in the travel hacking game, but it has been a blast planning our trips so far.

In May, we’re flying to Cancun, Mexico for a wedding.

We paid for that flight with our miles as well, which would have cost us over $1,200!

We’re leaving this week and still can’t believe we are traveling to Aruba for $62.50 each.

As far as accommodations, which are much cheaper and easier to attain, we lucked out with 9 days at the La Cabana Beach & Racquet Club for $499.

They even threw in a 5 day cruise for us to use sometime in the next 18 months, just for attending a 45 minute timeshare sales session.

I hope Captain Schettino is still in jail next New Year’s Eve.

Joking, joking…

I Want to Travel

17 Feb

Photo: (WanderingtheWorld)

I’ve always wanted to travel around the world.  I’m grateful for all the typical tourist destinations I’ve already visited: most of the big cities in the U.S., parts of Canada, beaches of Mexico, Dominican Republic, Bahamas, Barcelona and even the suburbs of Chicago.

While great places to visit, I wouldn’t exactly call them life-changing or worldly experiences.  Outside of a one week college spring break trip to Spain to visit my girlfriend, who was studying abroad, I’ve never been to Europe.  I haven’t even been to Poland, my family’s home country.  I feel even more shame after a Polish hair stylist told me not to admit that I am of Polish heritage if I ever do visit as “they’ll look down upon you that you aren’t fluent in the language because that’s what we do.”  Nor have I visited any country in Asia, Africa, Australia or South America.

I’ve always thought about traveling, but this year it has really been on my mind.  I’m writing this post on my 28th birthday and I feel ashamed that I haven’t made any effort to travel since graduating from college 6 years ago.  I now feel a time crunch as my girlfriend and I start planning our future together which includes little Fockers in the next couple of years.  We can always travel with kids in the future, but it will be that much harder to start if we don’t even go exploring now.

I also envy our friends, who have collectively traveled, lived or worked in Singapore, Hong Kong, Amsterdam, Germany, Lebanon and other countries in the Middle East.  My former boss alone has backpacked throughout South America including Brazil, Columbia, Chile and Peru.  He’s kite-surfed in the Dominican Republic, taken a break to go skiing in Park City, Utah and flown back for more kite-surfing in the Dominican.  Did I mention he even threw in Puerto Rico for good measure?  That’s all in one year!

No, I’m not having a quarter or mid-life crisis where I am going to quit my job, sell my possessions and rent our home to travel the world.  That’s not realistic.  What I’m talking about is being more strategic with how, when and where we are going to travel.  That includes planning in advance, leveraging smarter options (or hacks) for travel, saving money and continuing down the path towards online cloud-based entrepreneurship enabling me to work from anywhere in the world I can find an Internet connection.

So today, on my 28th birthday, I am committing to travel more often.  I actually made this decision about a month ago, but spent the last few weeks researching how to make it happen.  During this time, I’ve been introduced to the world of travel hacking and am absolutely hooked on the possibilities.  I’ll explain more about this in future blog posts, so stay tuned!

In the meantime, my first step in my commitment to travel is another typical tourist vacation.  I’m going to Riviera Maya, Mexico next month to get some sun! :-)