Disclosure: Some posts contain referral links (much love if you use them!). Opinions expressed here are the author's alone and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by any entities.
This past weekend, Sarah and I headed down to the beach for a relaxing weekend full of sand, sun, and friends. It has been a while since we have been to the beach – and it feels like it’s been even longer since we had a chill vacation trip; usually, we are all about the exploring and adventuring. This trip came at the perfect time for us, though, because our life has felt like a whirlwind ever since we got back from our Aus / NZ trip – buying a house and starting reno jobs adds a whole extra dimension to our definition of “free time”. Kinda what I imagine having a kid will be like, though usually, our house doesn’t wake us up in the middle of the night, except for the random I-think-someone-is-in-our-house kind of wake up that happens occasionally.
On our way down to the beach, we had a solid 4.5 hours of drive time that was full of podcasts and discussions about what our next year looked like. Sarah and I have lots of plans for our house, and that is going to keep us incredibly busy, but we want to make sure we have space for travel as well. We have a good number of trips in the pipeline – Canada, Maryland, and D.C. – but all of those have some connection to either family or work. And don’t get me wrong, we looove those trips and are incredibly thankful that we are able to visit family so much, but we are kind of itching to have another adventure trip in the works.
As we headed down I-65, we were both throwing around ideas of places we would like to visit at some point, things like the South of France, all-inclusive Caribbean, Italy, Germany at Christmas and Nordic countries. Obviously, we have a bucket list – and a problem is that when places are so awesome… they kinda stay on the bucket list. Looking at you, Germany at Christmas #allthefeels.
Anyways, I wanted to take this chance to give some insight into what our trip planning looks like and how we use credit cards literally from the get-go. We have a lot going on right now, and buying a house did not lower our monthly expenses by any means, so planning and executing well is an important part satisfying our wanderlust.
Identifying a time and eventually a place
The first thing that we do is narrow down our list of potential locations. At this point, I think we are most interested in heading back to Europe for a week. I’m not sure where yet, but based on our schedule, I imagine it won’t be until later in this year or earlier next year. This is important, because the further out the trip is, the more I can maximize the credit card and miles savings.
Identifying potential cards and miles
The next step I take is looking at what our plans are, so let’s say we are going to Germany for a week and we will need to get there and stay while we are there. I’m going to look at the points that I currently have, look up some test routes and see the best value for points on airfare. Also, if there are any gaps in what I need, I can apply for a card for myself or Sarah to offset that. For stays, I have hotel points, but I will also look at a card that lets me redeem miles against purchases to cover our Airbnb stays.
Working on the minimum spends
This is one of the more mundane steps but plays a pretty key role in our trip. I’ll get a card or two that have minimum spend requirements, and for the next couple months I will funnel all of our spending onto those cards in order to meet the minimum spends and get the sign-up bonuses credit towards our account. Timing these sign-ups is key, especially if I know I have a big payment coming up, like car insurance.
While I’m handling all of the credit card stuff, Sarah is working on narrowing down where we will go and creating a rough itinerary so we will be all set to book flights and accommodations once the points flow in. Depending on timing, this can be a pretty last minute thing, so it’s important to us to have anything we will use points or miles for nailed down so we can go ahead and snap those up.
All of this planning and background work will eventually pay off as we head out on our adventures. Spontaneity is so important, and we try to preserve some room for the random in our itinerary, but when it comes to actual flights and accommodations it also comes at a cost. This is why planning ahead and intentional miles and points activity is so important – heck, just check out our post on how we spent 3 weeks in Aus / NZ for under $1k if you are skeptical!
The Simple Summary
Our travel planning might not work for everyone, but for the budget conscious traveler, planning ahead makes your wallet happy, especially when miles and points come into play. Travel is something that can be so affordable, especially when you are intentional about planning. The trip you plan for next year will be here before you know it, so get to laying the groundwork, and let us know below what is on your bucket list!