No money? No problem!
Travel Credit Card:
For the past year I’ve been earning airline miles through the Capital One Venture Card. During the first three months of having it, I had my whole family using it in order to spend $3,000 in the first three months. I successfully got the sign up bonus of 40,000 miles, which is a huge kickstart to saving up for an expensive flight. From then on, I get 2 miles per every dollar I spend. Groceries, gas, vending machines- I use my card on EVERYTHING. And don’t forget to use your credit card on things that automatically deduct from your account, like Uber and Spotify!
Capital One has a super easy way to determine how much money you have towards flights. 100 miles is equal to $1, so just from getting the sign up bonus, I have $400 to use towards a flight. When you purchase your flight, you can either book straight through the Capital One portal, or book on your own, and then use your miles to pay off your credit card bill. Personally, I think booking on your own is a better deal. It enables you to look around for the best price and take advantage of airline sales that the portal might not show you.
Airline Credit Card:
More recently, I also got the Mileage Plus Explorer card from United Airlines. After years of using different airlines for each trip I took, I decided to become loyal to one airline and get a card from them. If you spend $3,000 on your card in the first three months, you get a bonus of 50,000 miles (70,000 if you already have a frequent flyer account with them). Obviously college students can’t spend $1,000 per month, so I’ve also added my mom as an authorized user to help me reach the $3,000 mark. I get 5,000 miles just for adding a second user, and they send my mom her own card so we don’t have to share. It’s super easy!
Some people don’t like United’s frequent flyer program because miles can expire, but they only expire if there is no account activity. I keep my account active by taking surveys through E-Rewards and earning miles. For every $25 in E-Rewards currency, you can get 500 United miles! You can redeem up to $100 (2,000 miles) every 30 days. That’s up to 24,000 miles per year just from taking surveys. I even downloaded their app to my phone so I can take surveys no matter where I am.
Frequent Flyer App:
I downloaded the Frequent Flyer app on my phone in order to get money towards Airbnb. Basically, I let the app track my location each day, and then I get points for it. Once I get 25,000 points, I can redeem them for a $25 Airbnb gift card. There are other travel related prizes you can also redeem for, but I personally will get the most use out of Airbnb because I can use it anywhere I travel. It takes a little while to get enough points (I’ve had the app for about six months, and I’m halfway to my goal) but you literally don’t have to do anything to accumulate points. I even downloaded the app on my mom’s phone to hopefully get two Airbnb gift cards before my next trip.
Since I know I’ll be taking an overseas trip after I graduate, I can set up flight price alerts so I can keep track of flight prices to my destination. I always use Google flights and Skyscanner. For this particular trip, I have some flexibility on dates and destination, so I’ll set up about 10 different alerts to be sure I get the best price. It’s better to set up more alerts than needed, because you never know when an airline will have a flash sale for certain destinations or dates! Google flights will also give you tips like “fly out of Kansas City to save $90” or “leave one day later to save $50.”
I find it easier and less daunting to pay for a trip little by little, rather than trying to dish out hundreds of dollars at one time. I already have an excel document with visa prices, estimated flight prices, and activity prices for a trip I want to take after I graduate next year. If you know what you want to do ahead of time and can pay for it before you leave, then you can pay for things one at a time. It’s just like moving money into your savings account every week, but instead you’re paying for one part of your trip every week.
How do you help pay for a big trip? Leave some suggestions in the comments below!