Travel Hacking: A Year in Review (2019)

2019 was a pretty awesome year for us when it came to travel hacking. We were able to spend time in some incredible places for not a lot of money at all. You may have read our Travel Hacking Series, but it’s always fun to see it actually in action beyond just the how. Here’s a recap of all the fun that we had over the past year:

Pittsburgh (total saved = $400)

We flew up to surprise Josh’s dad for his birthday. Originally just Josh was going because I had a different trip planned, but I changed my mind last minute and decided to tag along. The fear with last minute flights is that they are going to be crazy expensive, but thankfully with points this is less of a problem. I booked with Southwest (very much a favorite when it comes to points per dollar allocation) and only spent $5.60 on flight taxes and fees.

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We also decided that because we were surprising him, we should stay in a hotel the night that we arrived. That way, we were able to not tell anyone, thus lessening the chances that someone would let it slip. We stayed at Hampton Inn, which is a Hilton property (which includes free breakfast, which is always a plus!). We were able to pull of a perfect birthday surprise. It was awesome!

San Francisco (total saved = $3,000)

This was a biggie! Our cousin got married in January of last year in San Francisco. When we were younger, we would often not go to weddings that were far away because of the expense that is involved. With travel hacking, that all has changed. We were able to say that absolutely we would be there without stressing out about how in the world we could afford it.

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We paid for 8 nights in the Hyatt Centric, Fisherman’s Wharf and our flights all with points, costing us nothing!

Paris, France (total saved = $1750)

I had to go to Paris for work last spring and we decided to make a vacation out of it. We did decide to pay for Josh’s plane ticket out of our travel fund, but were able to use points for our hotel.

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We stayed in the Hyatt Regency Paris Etoile, which I would definitely recommend to anyone! It was right down the road from Champs-Elysees and L’Arc d’Triumphe. I cannot say enough about the location, I mean, check out this view:

We spent 5 nights at this hotel and loved every second of it. The best part of course being that we did not pay a dime!

Washington, D.C. (total saved = $880)

Our cousin lives in DC and recently had a baby. We wanted to get a chance to go visit them, while exploring a city that we haven’t spent a lot of time in.

We booked our flights on Southwest, only paying the $11.20 in taxes and fees and stayed at the Hyatt close to National Mall, which gave us lots of access to touristy things. We used points for these 3 nights and paid absolutely nothing!

Daytona (total saved = $450)

We were the caregivers for our sick uncle for a while who lived 3 hours from us. We usually stayed with his friend when we would go to Daytona, but on a few occasions, he was getting work done on the house and we had to book a hotel. In 2019, we saved $450 on those random nights.

Pittsburgh 2 & 3 (total saved = $560)

We go to Pittsburgh often because both of our families there, but we also have a rental property there that we need to check on from time to time. This was especially true this summer when we were having work done.

We fly Southwest there in August and again in October, saving roughly $400. Sometimes we stay with family, but as of late we’ve been choosing to get a hotel because it’s easier. We recently have been staying at a nice Hyatt property that we found that is only 5,000 points (Which is crazy cheap in the points world)! This was an extra $160 counted for.

Orlando (total saved = $346)

We went to Aquatica and Sea World for 2 days over the summer and used points to book a room at the DoubleTree (Hilton) Sea World for the night in between, saving $140.

And after living an hour and a half away from it for 6 years, we finally made it to Disney World in December!

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We spent 2 nights at a Fairfield Inn – not super glamorous of a hotel, but super free since it was booked solely on Marriott points.

West Palm Beach (total saved = $270)

My little brother happened to be on the other side of the state for a wedding and we were able to drive over there for a few days and hang out with him when he wasn’t busy with the festivities. We did end up spending $50 on the hotel we stayed at because we didn’t have enough points to fully cover it… but $50 for a 3 night stay isn’t bad!

We stayed at the DoubleTree – bonus perk: free warm cookies at the front desk any time you want!

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Los Angeles (total saved = $150)

Another example of a wedding that I would’ve normally said no to. A dear friend was renewing his vows and I wanted to go, but it was on the other side of the country. I used points to cover one of the plane tickets, making the trip a lot easier to make!

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Bonus perk - Travel Hacking allows us to be more generous

If you’ve been following us for a while, you know that we love to give. Travel hacking has allowed us to do that more than we ever thought possible, whether that be flying someone down to visit or paying for our family’s hotel room in San Francisco. There’s something pretty fulfilling about being able to call and say “hey don’t worry, we’ve got that taken care of for you.”

Grand total for 2019 = a few dollars short of $8,000

Looking back, it’s pretty awesome to see the amount that we’ve saved just by using our credit cards responsibly and being strategic in the process!

All of this is not to say that we aren’t spending any money when we travel. We definitely are, but travel hacking allows us to be more purposeful on the things that we want to spend the money on – which to be honest is usually food, but we also love a good experience. For instance, being in San Francisco, we probably would’ve skipped out on going to tour Alcatraz, which was $75 – but because we paid nothing in our flights and hotels, it made it much easier to part with the money. We even bought tickets for the people that were with us to go as well.

We have a fund that we put $200/month in so that we can use it for travel costs, making for some pretty epic vacations.

Do you travel hack? We’d love to hear about your experiences!