Did we win a vacation? Nope and it’s not because I am a blogger (though I am excited to have some really fun sponsored content to share while we are there!)
I was born into a house where I had entrepreneurs for parents, and one of them was also a CA. I grew up learning the value of money, how to save, how to find deals and keep track of spending.
I am by no means an accountant (we actually don’t even budget! And no I am not independently wealthy, we just usually only buy what we need and we tithe and trust God. Budgets really stress me out so we have found this way works better for us). I am also not a “professional” Travel Hacker (Yes…this is a thing….) but I have loved to explore, travel and adventure almost as long as I have been taking photographs. We needed to find a way to make travelling more feasible.
People ask us a lot how we get to travel so much. And the answer for that is pretty simple:
We decide to.
Yup. That’s the big secret.
You know the stuff I tout about living the life you really want? We try to do that as much as possible. And travelling FIRES US UP. It brings us joy, connects us as a couple and family and fuels things that we are passionate about. SO we choose not to buy new TV’s or the latest IPads. We don’t drink or smoke, and we don’t go out for fancy dinners or a lot of meals out in general. I don’t buy designer shoes, purses or watches. I would rather use money for travel experiences than stuff. And that is because these experiences are what we VALUE. This may not be the same for you, but if it is. You are the one who gets to choose where your disposable income goes, we make travel a priority. We save what we can for travel, and we Travel Hack the rest. (And by we, I mean me!)
And yes, we both have jobs that are flexible, and our kids aren’t school age yet, so that certainly helps in how often we can get movin, but I think even those things are part of the way our life has been designed.
But you want to know how we got to go to Banff for free. So I will tell you my top three Travel Hacking tips for this trip. I will use a disclaimer that if credit card debt or over spending in general is a problem for you, then I would NOT recommend you try this at home. There are also a lot of online travel hacking resources, but doing this in Canada is not as easy in Canada, it iis certainly doable (hence our free trip to Banff!) but not as many options as in our neighbour USA.
How are we able to go to the Rockies and pay Nothing? Nadda? Zip Zilch?
Short Answer: POINTS
Long Answer: The DL on the how/where the points came from.
- TD Travel Visa Infinite. This has been my favorite credit card for YEARS. Every dollar you spend earns you points that get converted back into travel dollars. Once you have your points you just book your travel WHEREVER YOU WANT on your credit card. As in, on a website, through an airline or hotel. Once the charge goes on your card you just call and say “hey, I want to use points for that charge” and bingo bango bongo, it’s gone. Once you have the card you also have access to Expedia for TD, which gives you special deals and earns you extra points and you can redeem your points when booking through that site (so no charge ever hits your card). I got this card on a trial back when I did MUCHO travel hacking (had like 6 credit cards at a time) and they waived the annual fee. I now pay it annually but it is well worth it for me!
- WestJet RBC Mastercard. This card has an annual fee as well but it gives you a $99 companion ticket once a year. This means that you pay $99 (Plus taxes and fees) when you book a second flight for someone travelling with you. BONUS when you have the WestJet credit card you don’t pay for your first checked bag. Like, EVER. I love flying WestJet anyway but not having to pay to check your bag is a bonus and another way we saved money on the trip! (Try to minimize as I might, I cannot go for more than a few days with just a carry on!) We used our companion ticket for 2017 on this trip because I think it’s the only place we are flying to this year and it’s normally not a cheap flight so a good value to use it!
- Expedia+ points. There are lots of online booking tools and I have used many MANY of them but I in general stick to Expedia because I earn points with them. I can sometimes get points obsessed…but only when it comes to travel and groceries… so I have booked MANY flights and car rentals for family and friends through my expedia account to get the points. (I think if I lived in the USA I would end up being one of the Travel Hacking, coupon clipping money saving gurus, but I don’t go too crazy here!) These points have been saving for YEARS (yes years!) and in the end they got us three nights of condo style accommodations at resorts in Canmore, AB and Golden, BC.
We are also pretty lucky to have parents who gave us access to their timeshare, we paid for the booking and fees associated with the timeshare with our points a year ago when we booked it (timeshares you need to usually book way in advance!) sp this was a pretty sweet deal for us, and I know not one everyone has access to.
To REALLY make this work you have to be willing to buy EVERYTHING you possibly can with your credit card. Yes I TAP for coffee, and I ask how much I can put on my credit card when we buy a new car. Every purchase is points! So like I said if overspending is a problem for you this may not be your best bet. (When I really look at it…I guess the trip really isn’t technically free, I couldn’t have gone if I hadn’t spent money, it is just money I would have spent somewhere anyway!)
I hope you’ll follow along our trip on Instagram and here on the blog, and that if travelling is something you love, that these tips may help you to get on your way!
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