Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Travel Tips - Part 1

This is a sporadic posting of tips that can help you travel on the cheap, what I promised on my Facebook wall to do as an inexpensive 'course', but then thought, What the hell!  I'll just do it as a free blog. Why not?

I'm back from 5 weeks away, one in Toronto for Fan Expo 2017, then 4 weeks that took me here: London, UK/Frankfurt, Germany/ Munich, Germany/London, UK/St. Petersburg, Russia/London, UK/Tallinn, Estonia/Prague and travelling around the Czech Republic/London,UK/Peterborough, UK/Home.

Despite rumors, I am not rich. Far from it. I'm a writer, editor and teach one writing course through a college, usually one term a year.  Money is always tight and I spend judiciously.

My life might be like yours. Or you may have a more conventional situation: a spouse, children, a mortgage, car payments, etc. etc. etc. Single people pay more for travel than couples, but couples with a family pay more for everything. If you are single or in a childless relationship, you likely have more options for travel.  But ultimately, anyone can travel on the cheap.

I'm no expert, but I do travel a lot, several times a year, at least one big trip over the ocean to Elsewhere. The first and foremost thing I focus on for travel is this: a credit card that give me points for a flying program.  In my case I have two such credit cards because I want options.  I'm in Canada but if you are in the US or the UK or France or Germany or anywhere else, you should have such credit cards available to you.

Think about it. You have a credit card anyway, right? You need a credit card. Everyone does nowadays. Why not let your card accumulate flying points for you because ultimately, in the price of a flight, you are paying for this service anyway so take advantage of it.

Sometimes these cards are free. You can get an Air Miles card which gives you points and Air Miles has flight offers for their points. The free cards are, of course, more limited than the credit cards you pay a fee for.  I have two cards I pay fees for, one giving me Aeroplan points, which covers the Star Alliance group of carriers.

The other card is with a bank that gives me Avion points. This one is good because I can book any airline in the world, any seat with my points.

I am also a member of British Airways club and collect Avios points when I travel with that airline. This is a small number of points as I rarely travel on BA, but the points can be applied to a flight for a tiny discount.

If you are serious about travel and you need to go on a shoestring, pay for one credit card that gives point--it's worth it.  I suggest (in Canada) the Aeroplan card because of the number of airlines that you can travel on with your points.  My Aeroplan card is with one of my banks and I use this credit card for EVERYTHING. I buy with my card: groceries, pay my land line and Internet bill, my cellphone bill, my hydro (electric) bill, buy my monthly public transit pass, pay for any restaurants I eat in and any clothing I need, and etc. etc. etc.  If you have a car, you can pay for your gas and likely your car payments and insurance as well with your credit card.  Let's say, for example, your monthly expenses are $1,000 (just picking an easy number).  You will acquire 1,000 Aeroplan points each month if you charge those expenses, which totals 12,000 points a year.  Two years or less gives you a free short haul flight.  And if you pay for a flight, you receive points for what you paid and also for the miles you travel. Let's say you cross the country to visit family and travel 3,000 miles. Round trip gives you 6,000 miles worth of points PLUS the points for the price you paid for the flight, which might be $1,000 or 1,000 points.  For that one flight you have acquired 7,000 points.  Points add up and if you charge everything on your card you possibly can, you will be amazed at how fast you acquire enough points to fly over the ocean. Aeroplan occasionally has sales, too, so you might get your over-the-ocean flight for less points, as I did both this year and last year.

This credit card system only works if you are someone not prone to getting into heavy debt. If you pay off your card balance each month, you have no interest to pay. And you acquire points.  But if you are spending beyond your means already, this won't work for you, so go for the free card, like Air Miles non-credit card, which will require much longer to acquire enough points for a flight, but ultimately will save you grief. Basically, if you cannot pay off your card each month in full, this plan will be a liability for you instead of a benefit. It's for people who have control of their finances, even if their income and expenditures are equal and their income low. If you are a person who goes wild with a credit card, this will be a no-go.  But for those who are organised and careful, obtaining a credit card that gives you point with which you can travel is the first thing to do to get you Elsewhere. The points will accumulate and you will find yourself taking to the skies much sooner than you expected, paying only taxes and airport fees.

Once you've acquired enough points to fly somewhere, there are some intricacies that will save you money and points, but that's for a later blog post.

Stay tuned for Part 2.

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