My Challenge to You: Make a One Year Travel Plan

An added benefit of traveling for free or close to free, via points and miles, is the ability to share tips with friends and family. What started off as, “Steve’s crazy scheme,” now brings a host of questions. “Steve that’s amazing, can you tell me how to do that?”

If you want to travel but think, “it’s just too expensive,” remember not to always think of travel as being an immediate need. If you wanted to save for a car you wouldn’t say, “Well I’ll never be able to afford it by next month, so I guess I’m never getting a car.” If you wanted a house you wouldn’t say, “Meh, I won’t have the downpayment by this time next year so I guess I’ll never get a house.”

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Cars, Houses, Travel… They all take a plan.

No, you’d set a goal and save for it. If it was a goal to save for six months or six years, you’d still stick to your plan. Larger financial goals take longer to save for. There’s plenty of ways to save money, cut costs, or reduce the (Must Have) monthly expenses.

But for some reason people don’t tend to think the same way with travel. People lament about not being able to travel or it being too expensive, but don’t realize that the premise is the same. At first glance, they’re right. Our culture tends to make us think that travel always needs be not only super luxurious, but that luxury needs to be expensive.

It’s the “work, work work, take one vacation a year, then go back to work, work, work, then retire, and THEN travel,” mentality that’s so ingrained in our psyche.

But you can change that. Instead of disappointingly watching other people travel and saying, “I wish I could do that,” I’m challenging you to take that trip you always wanted to take, visit that state or country you always wanted to visit, or embark on the vacation with a friend or family that you’ve told yourself, “I’ll go someday…”

Everyone says they'll do something, "someday..."

Everyone says they’ll do something, “someday…”

Recently I spoke with two friends of mine who asked for feedback on traveling and for my advice on how to do so without breaking the bank. Both told me they wanted to make the trip within about a year, which got me thinking, “A year is plenty of time to make a plan, put things in place, and make it happen. There’s no reason people can’t achieve a travel goal within a year’s time.”

Friend #1 mentioned he wanted to go to Europe and asked my thoughts on planning a trip there. He gave me a timeframe of about a year and asked for feedback how to make it happen. Specifically he wanted to go for free, or as close to free as possible. Travel CAN be expensive, especially when we think of Europe. Read below for what I wrote back to Friend #1, about how to create a plan that got him there, and then read for my challenge to you.

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I've re-posted my email to him, with changes only for privacy. I lay out some basic advice on how to gather enough points/miles to get to Europe for free, perhaps even flying first class, and perhaps even having enough points to stay at a hotel for free.

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"You've got a solid year to get this moving, that's great. But I'd get started now. The earlier you start, the more options you'll have. Plus award seats go quick.

1) I'd pay off all outstanding credit card balances you have. Sometimes the end of a statement doesn't line up with when they report, and you want to show yourself utilizing as little of your credit, and being as little in debt as possible.

2) Keep in mind, I'm assuming you're taking a specific person with you on this trip. If he/she were to grab these offers (credit card rewards and signup bonuses) as well, you'll double everything you have, which would make this even easier. But if he/she is not looking to open a bunch of cards or this is a surprise, understood.

3) I'd go with a "United" plan. Meaning your goal is to use United to get to Europe by this time next year.  United is strong to Europe and has a ton of partner airlines that accept United Miles. As of the moment they also do not charge fuel surcharges which people tend to forget about. You've got enough time, so I think not only could you get two tickets to Europe I think we can get you there in business or first class (if you want to spend the miles.)

4) I'd apply for three cards in two phases. First, there's the Chase Explorer card that's offering 50,000 miles when you hit a minimum spend, (easy to do) plus 5,000 miles when you add an "authorized user." That's free and easy to do. That's 55,000 miles right there.

If you book early, a "saver" award" of a round trip flight from the US to Europe is only 60,000 miles. Make sure whichever link/webpage you click, it has the 50k offer since credit cards test out lower offers sometimes. Just in case, take a screenshot of the offer. The fee is $95 but it's waived the first year. So you could cancel in 11 months and get free miles if you didn't like the card. So one card and the usual lifestyle spend, and you've already got one roundtrip ticket to Europe.

5) You're not going to get approved for two chase personal cards in one sitting. There's no magic rule but most people say its every 91 days. Now you CAN get approved for both a chase personal and business card in one sitting. So check out the Chase Ink Plus which is offering 50,000 "Chase Ultimate Reward" points with a 5k spend in 3 months.

This is a business card, so it can be referenced to any business you own or work at. It runs off your personal credit line and report, so you wouldn't need to worry about anything being run against the business or it affecting their credit. It's all on you, but you would be able to reference the business as your place of employment"

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** Note. Not everyone will be eligible to open a business card, so the above may not apply to you. However even if you don't own a business, you may be surprised at your options. Daraius at Million Miles Secrets has some great information on how people have a much greater chance to get approved for a business card than they think.

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"Again, no fee the first year, and the points transfer to Chase Ultimate rewards. The Ultimate reward program has six airlines (including United) and four hotels. You'd have a separate account for your "business" points, as opposed to the personal chase sapphire preferred (see below) if and when you got the Sapphire Preferred, but you can transfer business points over to your personal account. They're the same thing.

6) Next I'd apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred but I'd do this 3 months from now. As I said, it's known to be close to impossible to get approved for two chase personal cards on the same day. It just isn't likely to happen and you don't want to end up with neither. So I'd apply for the Explorer card first since that promo is definitely ending in a month.
Earlier this year I grabbed the Explorer, then waited 93 days for the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
Right now the chase sapphire preferred is at 40,000 miles/points. It could go down but it's been as high as 50,000 before. It also has a 5,000 "authorized" user bonus. Again Chase's Ultimate rewards portal allows you to transfer to 11 different partners, one of which is United, as well as four different hotel partners. So not only could you use the Chase points to get a free flight, you could use it to get a free hotel.
Ultimate-Rewards-Singapore
If you grabbed the Ink and Explorer card this week, the Sapphire Preferred in 3 months, and put every single bit of spending on them over the next 6-8 months (leave yourself time to get the ticket). If you got all three cards, at the least just from the bonuses you'd have 160,000 United miles. If you just got the two personal ones, you're well over 100k. Remember you have to hit minimum spends, but you get points for that, so that's maybe another 10,000.

Plus some categories give you more points (the Ink business is 5x on office supplies and cell phones and 2x on gas stations). The Chase Sapphire Preferred gives 2x on travel and dining. Plus you could use shopping portals to get even more points. Even with just normal spending and you're probably close to pushing 200,000 points by Christmas.

Give yourself another month of spending and points earning, and you have enough to go to Europe in First/Business class.

That's what I would recommend. If you don't think you can hit the minimum spend, I can also walk you through Amazon payments. You can send $1,000 a month and use your credit card, at no charge. It's like paypal, but Amazon currently does not charge any processing fee. You'd be able to pick up an extra 6,000 points in six months without spending anything extra. Amazon probably won't keep this program forever, but they have it now. And for now it's working.

That's what I would do. Tell me if you have any further questions or want me to go into more detail on something. Again if your guest is down for this, you'll double everything you have (first class won't even be a worry) but if it's a surprise, it's still very, very doable.

Also something cool to note, as I said, the Chase points can be used on hotels. So if you had enough points or just wanted to fly economy, you could use the chase points to stay at places in Europe."

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So that was my email to my friend, as I put together a very quick plan for him to bring a guest for a vacation to Europe. It doesn't seem so difficult does it? A few credit cards, some regular spending, and using things like shopping portals and Amazon Payments and pretty soon that far off vacation that was, "just too expensive," is within reach.

My challenge to you this:

• Give yourself a travel goal.

• Decide where you want to go, how long you want to visit, and who you might want to go with.

• Put a plan together on how to get there. Whether it's saving a few dollars in a jar every day, cutting a luxury expense, grabbing some credit card rewards, or building up your miles and points portfolio to redeem for travel.

• Go within one year. This doesn't have to be the dream vacation that you'll only get to do once in a lifetime. Just go somewhere. But keep the deadline to about a year, so it seems achievable. A year really isn't that long, but it's long enough to achieve your plan. And I promise you, after you see that you can travel, and it doesn't have to be expensive, and that you put together a plan and implemented it all within a year, you just might be hooked and eager to plan the next one.

That's my challenge to you. Post a reply or send me a message if you have a question, comment or want feedback or advice.

Where do you want to go? How are you going to get there? What's your one year travel plan?

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