Sweet Spots and Travel Hacking – Airfare

One of the most common questions I get about our world travel plans is how much all the hotels and airfare for a family of five are going to cost. Well, so far we’ve spent $511.16 for all the flights we’ve booked to date. Between the five of us that’s 20 one way flights, seven of which are in business class. 

How did we manage that?

I have to give a bit of background before I can answer this question. About three years ago, I was researching how to stretch my travel dollar for our year abroad and was specifically looking for tips and tricks to getting the most bang for my buck.

That’s when I first heard about travel hacking. It was certainly an education and once I was up to speed I quickly became obsessed with sweet spots!

I’ll get back to this in another post but it’s no secret I love credit cards and the lucrative sign up bonuses that come with them. But you must know I never carry a balance and am careful about how I use credit. Credit card sign up bonuses are simply the easiest and quickest way to free travel. Though there is certainly much more to it than that.

Hotel bonus promotions are also another really good one that I’ll delve into as well.

Loving the Sweet Spot

There are a ton of award programs out there. And I’ll bet every one of them has a sweet spot. It’s just a matter of finding them. And I love finding them and then working them to the max.

Consider the airline tickets I’ve booked for the five of us so far:

Boston to Hanoi Vietnam with a FREE stopover in Tokyo
$331.24 and 325,000 Alaska Miles – 5 Business Class tickets

Tokyo to Kyoto Japan roundtrip
$31.92 and 50,000 British Airways Avios – 5 Economy tickets

Chiang Mai Thailand to Rome Italy
$148.00 and 270,000 Aeroplan points – 2 Business Class and 3 Economy tickets

That’s a lot of flying for $511.16. Not even considering that a large part of it is in premium cabins.

But those mileage amounts sound huge. They’re really not.

The Fastest Way to Free Flights

Take our five business class tickets from Boston to Tokyo. I booked those seats on Japan Airlines using Alaska Miles. Tokyo was just the free stopover and we’re continuing on to Hanoi Vietnam on the same airline and cabin in the Sky Suites again.

But you think 325,000 Alaska Miles is impossible to earn! At first glance it certainly looks that way until you use a few sweet spots. I’ve earned way more points than that. Stay with me here. This sounds confusing until you think about it.

You can earn Alaska Miles many ways including actually flying on Alaska Air (which I’ve never personally done). But the easiest way to get Alaska Miles or most any other airline mileage is through credit card welcome bonuses.

Miles and Points are Fungible

Most hotel points transfer to airline mileage programs. The only two that are worthwhile for airline mileage, and they are stand outs, are the reward programs for Marriott and Starwood group of hotels (Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest ). To boot, Marriott Rewards and Starpoints can transfer back and forth – another sweet spot worth talking about later.

When you combine credit card welcome bonuses, regular everyday spending that you charge to one of few worthwhile cards, and hotel bonus promotions then we actually have a super charged sweet spot!

So if you’re interested in some free travel or just want to cut down the cost of your next vacation, stay tuned. I’m crazy about travel hacking and can’t help myself sharing.

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Thanks for reading, Colleen

8 Replies to “Sweet Spots and Travel Hacking – Airfare”

  1. Wow, I am a believer! Way to go! How is Japan so far? Wow the week has flown by. When do you head to Vietnam?

    1. Sorry Don, I’m still trying to figure out this comment thing. I just saw this now. We head to Hanoi on Sunday.

  2. Rob, Colleen and family, the Blog is looking great already, and you guys seem to be off to a super start. Have fun! We are envious and are looking forward to learning a few travel tricks. Looking forward to regular updates!

    1. Hey Jamie, thanks! Well, I’ve been envious of you guys for years so now it’s your turn. Sorry for the response delay. Somehow this comment just showed up for me.

    1. I booked the Boston to Tokyo and Hanoi flights toward the end of January. So that’s just over six months. The Tokyo-Kyoto-Tokyo flights around March. The Chiang Mai to Rome flights were booked two months ago.

      As a general rule, if you’re flying at peak times and have very specific dates, then you need to book as soon as the seats are released (generally 357 days out). But if you have flexibility and not travelling over Christmas, March Break, or say Carnival time to Rio de Janeiro, then award seats are pretty easy to find.

      Though maybe not on coveted inspirational travel type routes like Emirates first class where you get a bedroom and shower in the sky.

      I was surprised how easy it was for me to find FIVE JAL Sky Suite seats though.

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