Welcome! Many of you know me either through family, friendships, school, work, or through other avenues of life - some of you may have just come across my blog randomly. For those who know me, they would say that I am outspoken and passionate on many subjects including, but not limited to - faith, marriage, healthy communication, basketball (Go Duke! Go Warriors!), finances, investments, and travel. This blog may touch a little on each of those subjects, but will focus primarily on the subject of travel and how to get there within or below your budget, or in some cases for free by taking advantage of miles/points/rewards programs! From the knowledge I have acquired and the successful trips I have taken over the years, I started a travel consulting business after someone I helped suggested that I start a business to help people to get there for less. This blog is an extension of that business and has allowed me to help young families, retirees, and anyone with a tight budgets come up with customized plans to meet their travel goals (big or small) with as little costs as possible.
THE FIRST FORAYS INTO TRAVEL AS A KID
Travel is something that I grew up doing on the regular and something that I’ve become very comfortable and accustomed to. My Dad was in the ministry and travelled a lot, and would often bring the entire family along - this was long before the heyday of miles/points/rewards travel. Prior to heading off to college, I had already traveled with my family to Hawaii, Canada, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Australia, and all over the United States. At one point, our passports were filled with so many stamps we had to get replacement passports! However, as I became a young adult, life happened (and this seems true for the majority of people), and the traveling dwindled down through my college and initial post-college years as work, responsibilities and “finding oneself” became priorities. But over the past 5 years, after getting married and settling down, the wanderlust has come back in full force.
FINDING WAYS TO TRAVEL AS AN INDEPENDENT ADULT
Once I became an independent adult, I had to find a way to travel on my own and on a budget, while still taking care of my financial responsibilities. My first introduction to the miles/points/rewards world was my first year out of college. My roommate at the time introduced me to a hotel rewards program, which prompted me to start accruing points through a credit card for my future honeymoon. Alas, I did not actually use those points for our honeymoon in 2010! Instead, in the the fall of 2013, my wife and I took a 3 week long Europe trip (#chiusdoeurope2013, if Instagram is your thing) using miles we gained through 2 credit card sign-up bonuses. At the time, we thought $875 paid in fuel surcharges/fees was a steal - we only later learned what a poor redemption value it was!
Going on Amazing Trips as a Couple: Since 2013, we have learned from our experience and flown domestically all over the U.S., essentially for free, vacationed in Puerto Rico (#chiusdopuertorico2014) with friends at very minimal costs, and spent a month long vacation in Asia (#chiusdoasia2014) spending a total (flights, hotel, ground transportation, food!) of approximately $1,300 out of pocket versus what would have amounted to $39,000 had we not had the miles/points/rewards balances to do so! While these trips were no doubt amazing, it does not compare to how this knowledge has allowed us to spend more quality time with family.
Getting to spend quality time with family that would not have been possible: As I write this, my sister’s family of 6 just left to return to California after visiting us here in South Carolina for a week. Not only did their 6 roundtrip flights only cost a total of $67.20, I was able to put them up in a hotel right around the corner from where we live, for 5 nights, for free. Another good example is last April, when my sister, brother and I had to get last minute flights to Hong Kong to see our dying mother. While their tickets cost $1000 each, my out of pocket was only $175, due to the fact that I had miles/points/rewards to use.
Finding a way to live responsibly while still going on adventures: Many of us work very hard for the money we make, yet at the end of the day, our money goes towards things we are responsible for - family, bills, and financial debts. Traveling, experiencing a different culture, and seeing new sights, is often a desire of many, but quickly becomes relegated to the bottom of our financial priorities. I found myself in this predicament post-Europe trip, so I started studying, investigating, and understanding as much as I could about how to maximize travel, particularly the free kind. It has taken me the last two and a half years, but I’ve figured a lot of it out (though the learning never ends). Based on what I've learned, my aim is to help families like mine, who think that they cannot afford to travel, to not only be able to do it, but also take their extended family with them. I want to help young couples, who think they can no longer travel once they have their first baby, do it by being able to bring their parents along to help with childcare while they travel “like they used to.” I want to help retirees, who have worked hard their entire life, experience the world without their travels eating into their retirement funds.
After starting my travel consulting business, I continue to get similar questions, fears, and desires for knowledge that boil down to some key financial principles - most of which were never taught to us in school or by our parents. I write this blog as an outlet to answer these questions, address people’s fears about rewards/travel/points programs, to create an open forum for dialogue and questions, and to share some of the amazing stories in hopes of inspiring others to travel and get wherever it is you want to go, for less.
Thanks and I hope you enjoy, get inspired, and share your stories here as well!
The Common Sense Money & Travel Guy
If you are interested in a 1-on-1 consultation to customize a travel plan for you and your family, click HERE to learn more.