We’re Not In Kansas Anymore

Last month my girlfriends got together for brunch and pedicures.  As much as I enjoy a professional polish, it’s a budget breaker I reserve for special occasions.  In between stories of kids (theirs) and careers (mine), I thought back to the last time I had a salon pedicure:

Hawaii was at the top of my mom’s bucket list, so in celebration of her 60th birthday, I promised her we’d go.  Newly married and just starting out on our journey to becoming debt free by paying off a combined $85,000 in student loans, I didn’t want to ask my husband for family funds to pay for a girl’s trip.  So, I hit the internet in search of savings.

I learned about credit card sign-up bonuses on the BoardingArea blogs.  A sign-up bonus from the United branded Chase card was a start, but only netted a round trip flight for one of us.  So, I discovered Opinion Miles Club, and for months spent the first thirty minutes of each day taking surveys and giving my opinion in exchange for hundreds and eventually thousands of Mileage Plus miles.

Christmas 2013, I gifted my mother a wrapped pineapple and our flight confirmations.

After the holidays, I applied for the Marriott branded card, and earned enough points for four nights at the JW Marriott on Oahu.  But we had more days to fill, so I took more surveys, discovered online shopping portals and dining programs, and may or may not have joined a wine club to earn more miles for two intra-island flights between Oahu and Maui.

Short on time and out of points, I used Rocketmiles to book hotels for the rest of our trip.  With Rocketmiles, even though I was paying out of pocket for paradise, at least I was earning miles for future flights.

After more than a week of Haleakala sunrises (her), sleeping in (me) and lots of mother-daughter snorkeling, we ended my mom’s trip of a lifetime with a pedicure in the hotel spa before heading back to the Heartland.  Before our plane even touched down at the Kansas City International Airport, I was already planning my next big adventure using points and miles.

Since Hawaii, Ryan and I have continued to travel hack our way around the world.  The following year, we signed up for a Southwest branded Chase card and focused our spending, survey taking and portal shopping to earn the coveted Companion Pass.  We also strategized our way to several free flights across the pond.

Travel offers opportunities to see, taste and do things most Americans only see on TV.  It pushes your boundaries.  It leaves you amazed by the beauty of people and our planet.

Enrich your life and find yourself in travel.  You don’t have to be rich to travel, but when you travel, you are rich.

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