This is the fourth post in a series. You can read the first three here:
My goal: to show how easy it is to travel for free using points and miles. You don’t need lots of spare time, disposable income, or credit cards. I’m going to “bust” those myths by planning a 4-night family getaway to Aruba for free using points and miles, in an hour or less (10 minutes/day for 6 days), using only 1 credit card sign-up bonus per adult (I’m using a fictional family of four in my example), and no additional spending.
Where we left off yesterday, we had determined that if each adult in our fictional family switched the one credit card in their wallet to a different points/miles earning card, they would be able to earn hundreds of thousands of points towards their getaway within the course of a year, simply by putting all of their everyday spend on this one card. We also signed up for Award Wallet, which is a free service that allows you to track your points and miles using one central online page. Lastly, we signed up for the Club Carlson and British Airways loyalty programs and added them into our Award Wallet account.
Points and miles collecting definitely works best when you are organized. Once you set a precise travel goal for yourself, it’s easy to take steps towards that goal because you know exactly what it will take to get there. Of course, in the world of points and miles, you need to stay flexible and expect a few curveballs along the way, but careful planning will typically yield the desired results. In our fictional example, we figured out that United and American Airlines flew to Aruba from our chosen city of Cincinnati, then we settled on the Radisson Aruba for our hotel. This focused our points-earning on the most efficient way to rack up airline and hotel points we could actually use on our trip.
So far, we’ve spent a total of 30 minutes on this project. Today we are going to spend 10 minutes focusing on how to turbocharge our points-earning strategy by signing up for promotions. In our fictional example, both of the adults in the household work full-time outside of the home, and they each go on a business trip an average of once per quarter.
Business trips are a HUGE way to maximize your points and miles!
If you travel for business and carefully consider the airlines you fly, the hotels you stay in, and the cars you drive, you have the opportunity to rake in thousands of extra points and miles per year. One of the best ways to do this is to become aware of the various promotions that are available.
I’m going to set the timer for 10 minutes, then I will show you how to seek, find, and apply the best promotions.
The first thing you should do is to browse through the hotel options that are available in the city you’ll be visiting. I’m going to randomly choose Dallas, Texas for my example. I typed “Downtown Dallas Hotels” into my browser. In order to take advantage of hotel promos, you need to stay at a hotel chain. Browsing through the hotels that came up on my search, I see:
- Hyatt Regency Dallas
- Dallas Marriott City Center
- Sheraton Dallas
In turn, these hotels are part of the Hyatt, Marriott, and Starwood chains. Of course, you need to determine whether a given hotel meets your needs in terms of location, price, and amenities, but all things being equal, it is smart to compare hotel promos when deciding where to stay. Let’s take a look at Hyatt promos first.
I just typed “Hyatt Promotions 2013” into my browser to see what came up. Hmm. Nothing. Okay, that’s a little weird. I’ll go over to the Hyatt site to confirm. Nope. They’re not advertising any promotions either. As I mentioned earlier, it’s important to stay flexible and expect a few curveballs when you’re working with points and miles. We’re not going to spend more time on this. On to the next!
Typing in “Marriott Promotions 2013” brought up a good clue. Looks like there is a “Stay Twice, Earn A Free Night” promo going on. Perfect. Let’s go to the Marriott site to check it out.
I clicked to learn more:
This is exactly the kind of promotion that is perfect for the business traveler. Two minutes spent signing up for this and you could earn a free night to use later for a family getaway! Since I haven’t already signed up for the Marriott loyalty program as part of my MythBusting experiment, I’m going to do that now so I can factor in the time it would take.
I’m also going to add Marriott to my AwardWallet account so I can stay organized.
Checking my timer. I’ve got 6 minutes and 11 seconds left.
Looks like they’ve got a “Power Up” promo going on. It doesn’t look that exciting or that lucrative, but I’m going to register for it anyway because you never know. I’m also going to take a moment to register for the Starwood Preferred Guest program and add it to my AwardWallet account.
Because I am a fan of Club Carlson, I am going to see what they’re up to this quarter:
Oh, Club Carlson, how I love you. Triple points is huge and fabulous. Since we’re already signed up for a Club Carlson account, registering for this promo takes 7 seconds (I know, because I timed it). You can read more about this promo here, or you can just trust me when I say it’s a good one. We’ll come back to this promotion when we’re wrapping up our Aruba trip planning in a couple of days, because it will definitely come in handy.
All right. Time check. 4 minutes and 23 seconds remaining. Plenty of time for our next item.
Hertz is another great loyalty program if you are traveling on business. I find their prices to be on the high side, but you can really rack up the points with their promos. Let’s see what they’ve got cooking. Hurray, triple points! I’m going to sign up for both the program and the promo. And then I’m going to put Hertz into my Award Wallet account.
That took much longer than I wanted it to, and now I am out of time. No problem: I’ve still got 20 minutes remaining over the next couple of days to finish planning this getaway. Plenty of time to do what we need to do.
Here’s what we accomplished today:
- We found three great promotions from Marriott, Club Carlson and Hertz. We’re very excited about these and will definitely use them to our advantage over the next several months.
- We also found a somewhat lackluster promotion from SPG and registered for that as well – just in case.
- We signed up for the Marriott, SPG, and Hertz loyalty programs and added these into our Award Wallet account.
Remember, much of the “work” of points and miles collecting is simply staying organized. Once you set up your systems, you will start earning points almost magically…it becomes second nature, and you don’t have to think too hard or do too much.
Tomorrow, we will cover how to choose an airline when you’re flying for business, along with some good tips and tricks. The day after that, we’ll tie everything together so our fictional family can fly off into the sunset on their fabulous family vacation to Aruba!
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