Do you like to travel? We love to travel. Our “splurge” is travel and food – best if we combine the too. We budget for two big trips a year. We consider it pivotal to our happiness. We are not into budget travel anymore – too old for penny pinching like staying in hostels and such.
Last year we went to Sicily and Los Angeles + OC + Santa Maria wine country. I went to Toronto and Paris + Reims with girlfriends. I traveled to Washington, DC twice for CME conferences.
You may have heard about the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card. It came out last fall and instantly became the hot new travel card. I already had the Chase Sapphire Preferred and had racked up over 50,000 points. The Sapphire Reserve offered 100,000 bonus points so I opened one last September. Now, they offer 50,000 points, which is still a great deal. I’m not a credit card churner, but for folks who travel, a travel credit card is definitely worth having. This is assuming you won’t go into credit debt. I pay the cards in full every month and leverage the credit to accumulate points. I rarely use cash.
You may balk at the $450 annual fee. The fee is really $150. You get $300 in travel credit (taxis, flights, hotels). You also get a credit for global entry. So the first year, the fee is essentially $0. I already have global entry which includes TSA Pre-Check. Dining and travel spending accumulate triple points. You also get Priority Pass Select membership. This is not that useful but better than no lounge access. Centurion lounge access with the Amex Platinum (M’s travel card) rounds things out nicely.
One of the ways we are able to budget two big trips a year is by using one trip combined with CME. Many doctors have a CME fund with their job. It isn’t quite enough to fully fund a pricey CME trip since the funds are also for my licensing and society fees.
Back in January, we went to Hawaii (Big Island and Kauai). I attended a conference on the Big Island. I used points for my round trip flight. M used his Amex Platinum points for his flight. The CME fund paid for hotel, rental car and most of our meals during the conference. We paid for the Kauai part on our own.
I have since accumulated > 150,000 points on the Sapphire Reserve card. We prefer to visit Europe during shoulder season if possible (less crowded). Last year, we went to Sicily in April. Weather was great and we barely ran into any tourists, let alone any Americans. Lodging was definitely cheaper since it was off-season and thankfully, food is quite reasonable (and delicious!) there. I managed to have a cannoli every day. Flights and hotels are often cheaper too during shoulder season. Not quite shoulder season but we just booked a trip to Paris in May. I booked 2 round-trip direct flights and 4 nights hotel for $94. The rest were paid with points. Our only expense will be food and local transportation. We won’t be as frugal food-wise as Physician on Fire was on his recent trip there.
How do you make travel more affordable? Comment below.