Save $1,400 and Road Trip For Under $500: Challenge Accepted!

The fiancée and I are headed off on a 1,000 mile road trip in a couple of hours! We’ll be traveling from Tampa, FL (our home base) and are gonna spend a couple days in Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina before we head back home. When all’s said and done, we’ll be gone for a week and the best part about the whole trip is that we’ll only spend about $500 for food, gas, lodging, and doing cool shit!

Are we sleeping in my car? Nope. (Even though we can both comfortably lay down in the trunk…don’t ask…or do..it’s an interesting story.) We’re staying in a hotel for our stay in Savannah and then we’ll be partaking in our first Airbnb experience in Charleston.

So how are we doing it so cheaply? We used our rewards from our Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card and our Chase Freedom credit card. (I’m not an affiliate or anything like that so I get nothing if you guys click on the links, promise.)

I originally got my Chase Sapphire card when we booked our tickets to Germany last summer. (I’m originally from there.) So after paying for a couple of my common expenses, I received that 40k Bonus which equates to basically $400. Add in the 2x the points dining out (a huge guilty pleasure of ours) and 2x the points on travel (thanks plane tickets to Germany!) and I got a bunch of points right out of the gate! We also took advantage of the 20% off travel when we booked our stay in Savannah through the Chase Ultimate Rewards. I can’t remember the exact price but I’d say our room was about $175 a night so that’s $525 saved right there! We made sure to get a hotel that served breakfast so we have that covered (savings of $60ish) and it has a kitchen so we’ll make our own dinner (savings of let’s say $100ish.)

The Sapphire Preferred is a pretty sweet card but the only huge downfall is the annual fee of $95. It’s waived the first year but they get ya the second year and every year after that. You could probably give ’em a call and beg and plead to get the annual fee waived by threatening to close the card but I’m not that ruthless.

Onto the next card; the Chase Freedom! It gives you up to 5% back on certain categories per quarter. We got a bunch of cash back the first quarter due to groceries, dining out the second quarter, and on gas so far this quarter! We also got the $100 sign up bonus for spending $500 during the first 90 days I had the card.

We didn’t find anything reasonably priced in Charleston so we decided to give Airbnb a shot. It’s like $500 for our stay there but all we did was redeem some reward points to cover it. Again, we’re gonna bring food for breakfast which saves us $60ish and food for lunch and dinner which is like a $175 savings?

Of course we’ll eat out a couple times in each city and we already have stuff planned out that we’d like to visit so it won’t be a boring vacation. Plus we’ll end up using our Chase cards so we can get rewards for the next trip!

So how can you vacation like we are?

  • Get a credit card that offers some sort of rewards; preferably travel rewards. If you can swing it, a set-up like ours with the Chase Sapphire Rewards and Chase Freedom will get you pretty far!
  • Spend enough to get the bonus rewards. These are quick hits to get a shit ton of rewards relatively quickly. Basically any card will have the same sort of set up.
  • Please, please make sure that you don’t get a credit card and buy a bunch of shit that you can’t really afford and get yourself into debt just to get reward points. It’s a slippery slope. This is what we do: we pay all the bills we can through our credit cards and we immediately transfer money from our checking account to pay for it. This way we get some rewards (we usually get a minimum of 2% back a transaction so it adds up quick!) It also allows us not to spend money we don’t have and get into debt.
  • Depending on how much you spend and your travel preferences, it can take some time to get enough rewards to take the kind of trip you want so have patience; don’t spend money on shit you don’t need.
  • Credit cards really aren’t evil. You basically use the same spending behavior as you would with a debit card but you add an extra little step: you have to manually pay the credit card. Get in a good routine and you’ll be set. Pay it every night before you go to bed, when you wake up, or during your lunch break at work. I have faith in you; you can do it!

Have you use these cards? Have any others that you like using?

If you wanna really get into travel hacking, check out the Travel Hacking Cartel. Chris Guillebeau created it and he’s an all-around bad ass blogger who has traveled to literally all countries in the world. You can check out all about his awesomeness here. (I’m not affiliated with him so I don’t benefit if you click these links.)

On another note, we are off on vacation so I’m taking a week hiatus from the blog. I have a few surprises up my sleeve so be sure to stick around 🙂

Have a good week everyone! I’ll catch ya on the flip side!

-Marc

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