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Travel Influencers’ Biggest Hacks for Living Off Points

·5 min read
Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock.com
Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock.com

Few things in life are more fun than going on vacation -- but traveling isn't cheap. You probably know it's possible to use points from credit cards and loyalty rewards programs to save money on your trip, but perhaps you're not sure how to go about it.

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Travel influencers are masters at financing much of their vacation with points. Whether you're trying to spend as little as possible on your next trip or upgrade your standard vacation style -- while staying on budget -- you should get in on the points game.

The average cost of a domestic round-trip plane ticket was $327 as of the fourth quarter of 2021, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. The average cost of a hotel room was $153 per night as of July 2, 2022, according to hospitality industry data company STR.

Ready to start vacationing on points instead of money? GOBankingRates spoke with several travel influencers to learn their top secrets for earning points and maximizing them.

Johan Swanepoel / Shutterstock.com
Johan Swanepoel / Shutterstock.com

Time Your Travel Credit Card Signup Right

Opening the right credit card can help you save on travel. However, Jessica Schmit, a travel blogger who runs the site Uprooted Traveler, also recommended strategically planning when you open an account.

"One of the biggest tips I have is to wait until some kind of event where you're going to be spending a ton of money -- think a wedding, buying a house or moving -- to sign up for a travel credit card," she said. "Most of the cards come with a huge sign-on bonus if you hit a certain spend threshold in the first three months, and it feels much better when you're spending a ton of money on some kind of life event to know that you're earning points that you can leverage for future adventures."

leungchopan  / Shutterstock.com
leungchopan / Shutterstock.com

Use Airline Shopping Portals

You already know using a travel credit card will allow you to earn points toward your next adventure. Isabelle Cheng, a travel blogger at theallonsy.com, said what you might not realize is many airlines have partnered with large global brands to create their own shopping portals.

"These airline shopping portals are absolutely free to use and will give you airline points on everyday purchases you most likely were planning on making anyways," she said. "You just click the retailer website through the airline shopping portal and shop like you normally would, except you'll also earn airline points from your purchase."

Volodymyr Hlukhovskyi / Shutterstock.com
Volodymyr Hlukhovskyi / Shutterstock.com

Plan Ahead

Travel influencers might always be on the go, but that doesn't mean their trips aren't funded by a well-crafted point strategy. Jennifer Do, who runs the travel blog Jennifer's Path, said it's best to figure out what you want to pay for with points, then find a way to get it.

"It takes time and focused effort to earn points, and you don't want to end up with points you won't use," she said. "I suggest at least a 12- to 18-month planning window if you are looking to book premium cabins on premium airlines."

SamuelBrownNG / Getty Images/iStockphoto
SamuelBrownNG / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Travel During Off-Peak Times

As experts on the matter, travel influencers maximize their points by paying close attention to the timing of their trips.

"Traveling during off-peak times can help you get more bang for your buck," said Fred Baker, senior travel editor of Travelness. "Redeeming points for flights or hotels during peak season can be expensive, so try to travel during shoulder or off-peak times instead."

He said taking this approach will help you stretch your points further.

Singapore Airlines
Singapore Airlines

Use Points To Upgrade

Many travel influencers don't just use their points to travel -- they use them to travel in style.

"If you're planning on traveling soon, consider using your points to upgrade your flight or hotel room," Baker said. "This can make a big difference in your travel experience and help you get more for your points."

Whether this allows you to fly first class or stay at a five-star hotel for free, you certainly won't regret this decision.

Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock.com
Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock.com

Don't Waste Points on Cheap Travel

All travel is not worthy of your hard-earned points.

"One piece of advice we have is to use points when the actual value of using points is very great," said Becca Siegel, a travel expert and influencer who runs the travel blog HalfHalfTravel with her husband, Dan. "What this means is don't waste your set airline miles or travel points on a cheap flight -- instead, pay for that flight in cash."

She said she recently made the mistake of using her American Airlines points to buy a cheap flight to Guatemala.

"Prices of flights were objectively low, and I should've used cold, hard cash to buy the flight," she said. "Instead, I unwisely blew half my miles on the flight, which was a bad deal when you do the math and weigh the costs and benefits."

Jeramey Lende / Shutterstock.com
Jeramey Lende / Shutterstock.com

Realize Airline Miles and Credit Card Points Aren't Equal

To a novice traveler, airline miles and credit card points might seem interchangeable, but Siegel warned they're not.

"Airline miles have a more set value, whereas a domestic flight from New York to Los Angeles may be 12,500 points," she said. "But using your credit card points accrued from credit card use or from a credit card bonus will be tied to the dollar value of a flight and inflated or multiplied by 100."

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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Travel Influencers’ Biggest Hacks for Living Off Points