We often get the question, “how do y’all travel so much?” so we’re sharing our top three secrets when it comes to traveling year round.
1. Holiday Time Off
It’s no secret that in the U.S. we “live to work”, unlike our European friends who “work to live.” We’re often granted 10-15 days of PTO each year, so we have to be smart when using our precious vacation days. For that reason, we use every holiday to extend our adventures abroad – our favorites being Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day. You can add 3 to 4 full days to your trip just by planning around U.S. holidays.
For example, by taking 4 vacation days off during the week of Labor Day, you are able to enjoy a full 8 day holiday by leaving Friday after work to the following Sunday.
Fun fact: By law, every country in the European Union has at least four work weeks of paid vacation. And guess what, their productivity levels are higher, proving that a work/life balance really works.
2. Credit Cards
Why pay for airfare when you can use your daily credit card transactions to rack up award miles? It’s safe to say that we have not paid for a transatlantic flight in over 4 years. If you live to travel, there are three credit cards that you cannot live without.
Chase Sapphire Reserve: Receive 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening = that’s nearly one free round trip international ticket! We were lucky and snagged an offer for 100,000 bonus points so look out for different promotions. There is a $450 annual fee, but you receive a $300 travel credit which knocks the fee down to only $150.
- No foreign transaction fees.
- Redeem miles through Chase Ultimate Rewards for ANY AIRLINE. For us in Houston, that means we redeem for KLM, Air France, Lufthansa, Southwest, Air Canada, and United for nonstop flights into Europe.
- Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit
- Priority Pass Lounge Access (including unlimited guest access)
- Travel Insurance: don’t pay extra for trip protection with the airline. This credit card will work to reimburse you on delayed or lost baggage, trip cancellation, and more. The Points Guy does an excellent job detailing the travel coverage.
- Purchase protection such as extended warranty on home appliances.
Chase Sapphire Preferred: Receive 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Redeem points to ANY airline with an annual fee is only $95. Travel insurance is included, but extra Reserve card benefits such as Priority Pass and Global Entry are not.
Southwest Plus & Premier: Enter your new best friend, the Companion Pass. Earn 110,000 miles in one calendar year, unlock this “buy one get one” deal, and your companion travels for free. Save even more when you book on award travel and just pay minimal taxes and airport fees. You can change your companion up to 3 times making it easy to travel with family and friends.
How to get it? Look for promotional offers on the Southwest Plus and Southwest Premier credit cards. If you play your cards right (pun intended) and have a good credit score, you can become eligible for BOTH (just wait a few months in between submitting your application). After spending $2,000 within the first 3 months, you’ll receive 50,000 points FOR EACH CARD.
Companion Pass is valid for the remainder of the year after you hit 110,000 points PLUS the next calendar year, meaning that you could potentially enjoy this benefit for almost 2 full years if timed correctly. Now that SW flies international, we can basically live in Mexico City on the weekends and even save money traveling…¡Órale!
- Southwest Airlines recommends the following: “As an example, if you open 2 cards in October that require you to spend $2000 in 3 months, you should wait until January to put the last of the $2,000 spend on each card so that all the points will count towards the 110,000 needed for the companion pass in the following year.”
3. Understanding Flight Paths From Your Home Base
Nonstop flights from Houston:
Houston – Amsterdam (KLM)
Houston- Frankfurt (Lufthansa)
Houston – London Heathrow (British Airways)
Houston-Paris CDG (Air France)
If you are traveling to a smaller airport, Santorini for example, it will take more miles than usual because of the limited flight options. Instead use award travel to fly HOU-FRA-ATH and purchase a one way interconnect for less than $100 one way to Santorini (JTR). Make sure to leave enough time to connect since you will have two different reservations. That means, you’ll need to pick up luggage from baggage claim, exit as if were final destination, recheck bags, and reenter security with your second reservation. It’s more work, but worth it for better and cheaper flight options.
Tip: We book our award travel up to 9 months in advance sometimes to score the best flights. It’s best to connect in a European city FIRST instead of routing through ATL or NYC from Houston. U.S. layovers are more likely to be delayed, which may put your next leg of the trip in danger. Remember: always cross the pond first, allowing you to keep options open with time zones, trains, and low budget European airlines if needed. Planning is key!
And ta-da! There you have it. Our top 3 secrets when it comes to traveling year round. Now, go and book your next adventure!
Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are my own, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, or airline, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.