As you may have heard, Iberia Airlines recently offered a promotion where they were awarding 9,000 bonus points for every ticket purchased up to 90,000 points. These points were awarded regardless of the amount spent on the flight or if the flight is taken. This included $35 domestic trips that didn't need to be flown. In other words, one could conceivably spend ~$300 and get 90,000 points.
However, the points need to be redeemed by Dec 1.
This deal was too insane for me not to take advantage of it. However, my grand plan of getting the entire family yet another set of round trip tickets to Europe did not go as planned.
Jeff's points didn't go through due to a glitch and I didn't get a chance to purchase the full amount to max out my account because of the time difference (I forgot that Spain was +6 hours and by the time I came back to finish what I started, the promo had ended).
Long story short, I spent about $330 and ended up with a total of 63,500 points.
With the deadline to use them looming, I had to figure out how to make this random amount of points work for us. Luckily, we already had a trip to Spain booked but not planned out. The only things in motion were our one-way tickets from Seville to Madrid (bought during the promotion because they were cheap and we would actually use them).
I set to work using the 63K points to subsidize the rest of our trip. And boy, did that $330 go far though I fully acknowledge that I probably did not optimize the points.
But my redemption plan was as follows:
1) Tickets for 3 + infant from Barcelona to Seville = 15,000 points + $105
Because I'm Game of Thrones obsessed, I wanted to make sure we included this destination. Hello Dorne!!! But getting there from Barcelona was expensive or time intensive. We could either train for 5 hours+ and spend $360 or spend 1 hour flying and spend $105. Seemed like a good use of points.
I actually was not sure what I was going to do with the rest of the points. Knowing we needed housing, I googled "spend iberia avois on hotels" and sure enough, Iberia has a portal similar to the Chase and Capital One portals! Wow! I had no idea because I could not find it on their horrible website.
So the remainder of the points were spent covering housing.
2) A central hotel in Seville for 4 nights = ~30,000 points + $105
3) Hotel in Madrid near airport for last night = ~18,000 points + $5 (because I was short about 100 points).
This seemed like a great way to use the rest of the points so we would not have spend a lot out of pocket. And so our trip to Spain is now planned out and was heavily subsidized by airline and credit card points (here is a link for our go-to Chase Sapphire Reserve).
We will be in Spain for about 2 weeks and $1413 covered all major expenses of the trip.
- 3 round trip tickets to Spain (non-stop in to Barcelona and out from Madrid to/from JFK)
- 3 tickets from Barcelona to Seville
- 3 tickets from Seville to Madrid
- Housing in Seville
- Housing in Madrid
- Barcelona housing is covered via home exchange (free)
Our tickets to Spain were mostly paid for by the Capital One Venture promotion of 50,000 points after $3K spent. They are still offering this deal. Jeff actually got a direct mail promotion of 70,000 points after $5K spent. We did that too and those points will subsidize our next trip.
I spent a lot of time booking things that should be easy but were not - like buying tickets for my family (Uuuug beneficiary and companion booking??). Side rant - you can't actually add a "beneficiary" at the time of checking out. You need to do it separately. I wish I could tell you where on Iberia's website to do that but I just googled it and Google led me to the right page. Then you add the person and have to go through booking the tickets again.
All in all, the Iberia interface was HORRIBLE and I NEVER want to use them again but hey, all that pain was worth it. And now we are super pumped about the trip.
We take 2-3 international trips each year and people often wonder how we afford it. Our biggest savings come from airfare because we usually fly (coach) for free.
Through amazing credit card deals. While this strategy is not for everyone, it has worked amazingly well for us.
In the past few years, my husband and I signed up for the American Airlines Platinum Select card when the bonus was 50K miles each. And the American Airlines Executive card when was the bonus was 50K miles each. And the Chase Sapphire Reserve when the bonus was 100K thank you points and the Chase Sapphire preferred when the bonus was 50K thank you points. We also then use the cards to maximize the miles/points offered. For instance, the Reserve gives you 3X points on each dollar spent dining so all our meals/take out go on that card.
It is important to note that the cards usually require you to spend $3-4K within the first 3 months of opening, so I recommend staggering them and/or opening them right before you have to pay a large sum for something. In our case, our son's childcare could be paid via credit card so we opened one right before the amount was due hitting that card's minimum right away.
You also have to pay the balance in full each month. If you don't, you don't get the bonus points/miles.
While some of the cards have hefty annual fees, we find that they are often offset by the travel credits (like the Chase Sapphire Reserve - read about me signing up here). If the fees aren't offset or we find the card is not worth it after we earn our miles, we close the account. You don't lose your miles and I recommend trying to transfer the credit line to another card under the same bank (you can do it with the Sapphire cards, for instance).
Most importantly, we found that signing up and/or closing 1-2 cards every year or every other year does not significantly impact our credit scores.
With all that in mind, if you do it correctly, you can rack up some serious points and a LOT of free travel. Between 2014 and 2016, we earned over 210K+ miles on American Airlines and 275K+ thank you points. We flew to Europe 3X in 2016 and 1X in 2017 (and it is only April). We still have well over 250K thank you points so we are set for at least another year or two.
When spending our rewards, we found we could stretch our miles by flying off season. For example, we spent 50-60K miles each on round trip tickets to Italy (flying in) and Switzerland (flying out) in December/January. Or our trip to Vienna in March was also 50-60K miles each. Thank You points are just like cash credit so you can use them to pay for inexpensive flights or hotels via the Chase portal site. So again, you can maximize them by flying when tickets are cheap.
All in all, this is one of our greatest life/travel hacks so keep an eye for amazing credit card deals.
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keywords: travel hack, airfare, credit cards, cheap tickets, travel for free
We travel a lot, usually to countries with chilly off-seasons. We also travel extremely light, taking only 1 medium size luggage for the entire family + carry ons (for up to 2 weeks). Needless to say, I've mastered the art of packing (for us) and wanted to share my top five travel essentials for cold weather trips.
1. The crossbody bag. I like to have my passport, money, hand sanitizer, assorted snacks and toys easily accessible. I tend not to bring a backpack (too touristy, also not super stylish) or a large handbag (too annoying) and so I opt for my crossbody bag. Currently, I'm using a black, pebble leather bag from Coach. While they don't carry my exact style, this model is fairly similar ($175).
2. The ultimate stylish travel/diaper bag, the O.M.G bag from Lo & Sons. This bag is lightweight, attaches to the top of our luggage (see video), and has a massive amount of space. It is also super cute and I constantly get compliments on its sleek design. This bag holds everything I need for our plane trip - including change of clothes, my computer, toys, snacks, etc - and for our daily activities when we hit the streets of whatever city we are in. The large strap makes it easy to put on the back of the stroller and the nylon material wears super well and is moderately weather proof. My bag has taken a beating and it still looks beautiful. Also, the customer service is awesome. When my fob broke off, the company immediately sent me a new one. This may be a bit on the pricier side for a diaper bag, but it is totally worth it ($275)
3. The lightweight down vest. We tend to travel off season which means we hit countries when they are chilly (e.g. Denmark in September, Sweden in October, Switzerland in January, Finland in March). Packing in layers is essential to stay warm when out and about all day. To dress warm without sacrificing style, my go to item is a chic down vest (like this one from Calvin Klein, purchased in a TJ Maxx for $30). I have at 3-5 vests in my wardrobe but this one is my favorite.
4. The monochromatic wardrobe + pop of color. When I pack, I only bring interchangeable wardrobe items with me. I hate wearing the same outfit, so I pack carefully curated items that all go together and can be easily layered with my vest. I also add a pop of color and a few accessories so that I'm not bored with my outfits. Featured here is sample of what I pack:
- 1 black jeans
- 1 black corduroy jeggings
- 1 light grey wool sweater
- 1 dark grey wool sweater with zipper detail
- 1 black thermal shirt
- 1 grey cowl neck cotton shirt
- 1 white tank (not shown is also a grey and black tank)
- Red plaid scarf
- Wool arm warmers
5. The weatherproof walking shoe/boot. We usually walk 6-10 miles each day so finding the right weather proof walking boot is essential. My current boot of choice is the Merrel Eventyr Bluff Waterproof boot in black. Not only are they comfortable (without much break-in needed), they have held up beautifully to the 60+ miles I've walked in them. Also, their monochromatic coloring matches my wardrobe extremely well and I like the industrial detailing. I purchased mine from Belk.com because they have amazing prices but are currently out of stock (approx $135).
Keywords: packing, travel, crossbody bag, diaper bag, shoes, clothing, style
Whenever we travel, we usually book a session with a photographer via flytographer. We have had so many amazing photos taken - including the ones of us on my website. Our first session was in Prague with Honza - you can see our gallery here. Our next amazing session was in Rome with Roberta. The typical hour session costs $350 and the half hour session is $250. We have done an hour each time and think that is the perfect amount of time with a little one. If you want to try it, you can use my referral link, enter promo code #flyfan and save $25 (I also get $25 towards my next session :).