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'The Street' (Guest Contributor): Beginner’s Guide to Travel Hacking


Where is the first post-pandemic place you plan to travel to? As more individuals are vaccinated and states and countries begin to reopen, the demand for travel will continue to increase, potentially raising trip prices. We all deserve a vacation after this past year, but you don’t have to blow your budget to do so. Here are some easy, legitimate ways to save money when you book your next trip!

Credit Card Rewards

Putting the majority of your purchases on your credit card allows you to earn reward points with every purchase while simultaneously increasing your credit score. When selecting a credit card, make sure you choose one that provides the rewards you are looking for, whether it's airline miles, travel points, or cashback. Keep an eye out for beneficial sign-up bonuses and always check the card’s annual fee(s) to determine if the cost is worth the benefits provided.

For airline miles, determine which airport and airline you most often fly with, and research the deals for that specific airline’s card. Many airlines offer 20,000-90,000 miles for a new cardholder once a specific dollar amount of purchases have been made in the beginning months of the card’s opening. Other benefits may include: earning miles for every purchase made on the card, free checked bags, priority boarding and companion passes. If you are not loyal to a specific airline, shop around for other credit cards that provide points that can be used toward travel, including airfare, hotels, car rentals, and/or cruises.

Things to keep in mind:

If you do not have your budget under control and have outstanding credit card balances, do not apply for a new credit card. This strategy is only for those that are able to pay off their credit cards in full and on time each month.

Check your credit score before applying for a new card. You may need to improve your credit score before the credit card company will approve your application. Some tips to improve your score include:

· Pay your current credit card bills on time and in full.

· Keep your oldest credit account open.

· Don’t max out your credit limit or apply for new credit.

· Make sure you are organized to track your spending requirements, payment due dates, and annual fees.

Track Flights

Flight prices can fluctuate daily, so if you are looking to book a flight at least a few months out, it may be beneficial to track the flight to see if you can get a cheaper ticket. Hopper and Google Flights are two simple ways to track flight prices, the best days of the week to fly, and the cheapest airport to fly to and from. Sign-up for price change alerts, and be ready to book once the flight hits a price you are comfortable with.

If your travel dates are flexible, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are typically the cheapest days to fly and Sundays are usually the most expensive. On average, the best time to book a flight is 1-4 months before you plan to travel. Book your ticket directly with the airline, which will ensure you receive the correct updates and can contact the airline directly if an issue arises or you need to make a change. Always register for your airline’s loyalty program (which is free) to start accruing miles.

Do Your Research

Just like when it comes to improving your personal finances, it takes time and effort to become a skillful travel hacker, however, the time spent will be worth it when you start saving on your trips! Some of my favorite resources are: The Points Guy, NerdWallet, and Aunt Kara. Remember to keep your current financial situation in mind, as the advice provided may not always be the best fit for you.

With a little extra work, you can potentially save a lot of money when it comes to your future trips. Make sure you have a solid budget in place, and include a travel savings bucket, so you have the funds ready to book when the time is right.

Posted on TheStreet.com on May 1, 2021

About the author: Haley Tolitsky, CFP®
Haley Tolitsky, CFP® is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ with Cooke Capital in Wilmington, NC, providing highly personalized financial planning and investment management services. She is passionate about financial empowerment, specifically for women and the next generation, and loves the opportunity to motivate and guide others to take charge of their financial lives. Haley can be reached at htolitsky@cookecapital.com.
Financial advisory services offered through Acorn Financial Services, Inc. (AFAS), a Registered Investment Adviser. Securities offered through The Strategic Financial Alliance, Inc. (SFA), a registered Broker/Dealer. Haley Tolitsky is a Registered Representative of SFA and Investment Advisor Representative with AFAS. Cooke Capital is otherwise unaffiliated with AFAS and SFA. Supervising office (703) 293-3100.



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