I love to travel. I have found it to be one of the most broadening things I can do. Because I travel extensively, people often ask me for advice on how to travel, where to travel, and the most affordable way to travel.
Travel does not have to be expensive, nor does it have to be complicated. For my 5 Thursday Thoughts, here are five of my favorite tools to make travel easier and more affordable.
Loyalty programs are one of the best ways to make travel easier and cheaper. Using the same airlines or staying at the same hotels allows you to get discounts and accumulate points that will convert into discounts or free nights. The same is true of airlines. I try to fly two specific airlines and use two hotel chains. I will typically fly Delta or United. Between these two airlines, I can get to almost any destination in the world. I stay at Hilton or Marriott branded hotels. Between the Hilton and Marriott, they have 48 different brands of hotels and over 13,000 hotels worldwide. I usually find a hotel, and I rarely pay for rooms because of my loyalty credits.
Travel Credit Cards
I am not going to debate about credit cards here, but I find a lot of value in travel credit cards. The two main cards that I use are an American Express Business Platinum card and a Chase Sapphire Preferred card. Both of these cards offer significant perks to go along with the earned points you can use for free hotels and flights. Some of the perks include access to airport lounges and free upgrades. The American Express is a charge card that requires full payment every month. The Chase card is a typical credit card, but I also pay it off every month. These cards provide free flights and perks multiple times per year.
The Points Guy
If you try to get the most value out of loyalty programs and travel credit cards, check out people researching the best ways to convert those points to travel. My favorite is The Points Guy. You can get great information on the best conversions for your points to flights and stays. They have an entire team working on how to make the most out of loyalty programs. You can use their expertise to make travel that much easier and cheaper.
TSA Pre-Check costs $85 for five years. If you fly at least twice per year, it is worth every dollar. The lines are shorter. You are not required to do certain things at security, such as take your shoes off, take a laptop out of your bag, or remove your jacket. It is extremely convenient and speeds the time from check-in to your gate. The larger the airport, the more valuable this is.
You cannot buy tickets at Google Flights, but it is one of the few places you can see the schedule of every airline for the routes you want to fly. It will also show you approximate costs. Sometimes there can be significant differences in costs between routes and airports. Google Flights is a great tool to find the best schedule and airport for departure. I prefer to fly out of Norfolk International Airport, but it is not much further to drive to Raleigh, NC, or Richmond, VA. If the costs are significantly cheaper or the schedules are significantly better for my schedule, I will fly out of one of these two airports. Google Flights can give me that information quickly.
If you have ever wanted to travel more, or you want to, make it your hobby like Barbara and I have. These five tools can make that a lot more accessible. If you have a favorite travel hack, pass it along. I would love to hear it.