I have been asked this about 6 times in the last few days.
Why not do a post on it? Cuz I’m shilling a credit card, which isn’t our overall goal but does help people travel for free.
Rewards Canada got me into this game over 5 years ago and they have been doing this over 15 years – here are the current CDN ranking of travel credit cards.
American Express Gold Rewards Card. (no annual fee first year)
Those other number 1’s are great too, but the HYBRID part is the key.
Spend $1500 in the first 3 months – get 25,000 Amex MR points plus your spend = 26,500 MR points.
- Free flights? Convert to Aeroplan or Avios or the other airline options (we have pages on both of them) at a 1:1 ratio
- Free Rooms? Convert to SPG at a 1 MR:0.5 SPG = 13,250 SPG = 39,750 Marriott points
- Free Travel? Use it as a $265.00 credit for travel when booking on that card.
THAT is what is great about this card – the many options available.
Now, here is what I have found over the years.
Find out which points you need and will use the most and try to get points in all of those programs – there are many Amex MR cards out there and you can refer to get more points.
The “pay with points” usage (#3) used to be seen as the worst option but when you can get a flight for $100 or use up 25,000 Aeroplan, your better option is to pay $100 and use up 10,000 MR points rather than 25,000.
Those are all great cards with nice sign up bonuses, but the Amex Gold Rewards Card has been #1 many years in a row for a reason.
Here is our link to get that card. and thanks if you go through us!
Well it’s that time of year where people start finding flights for our CDN March break from Fri. March 10 till Sunday March 19.
When we first started going on March break trips 7 years ago the flights to Florida were usually around $350 Cdn for the first couple years – then we got into points.
This won’t be about points – you should collect them, yes – but just good flight prices.
Right now the best 3-5 day trip I could find was Detroit – Ft. Lauderdale…Spirit…
That is US funds and if you are in the $9 club – a little more if not.
While that price is very good…this one is a little better…
Same days, but actually more time in Florida!
Well, that is about $100 CDN for a round trip flight to Ft. Lauderdale for March Break – if you can drive to Cleveland…
You may not be a big fan of Spirit, but c’mon these prices are unreal!
Check their site for more.
Ok Karen is about to go on holidays but she left us a good one!
She won’t be based in the Kenwick BDG anymore but she’ll have new contact information when she gets back in March!
For now 519-542-1009 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Remember she is a licensed travel agent.
I cannot stress enough the money you will save using these 2 options for travelling.
I have gone on long enough about Google Flights but if you haven’t tried it like my friend yesterday – give it a shot!
Especially if your travel days are somewhat flexible – in this case he was flexible by +-2 days.
That is huge when it comes to airfares.
We based this on a Detroit – Ft. Lauderdale flight with original days at $375/flight.
That seems reasonable, but just change your days a bit and perhaps change the airports you are flying in or out of.
2 minutes later the flights were $175 each but out of Cleveland.
So there are choices involved here – are you willing to save $200 per flight to drive 2 extra hours?
How many flights? Do you have time? Also I have noticed there are many Cleveland airport hotels that offer FREE PARKING for the time you are gone – that is big.
Then we had to check hotels – but you don’t have ANY hotel points? So then we check Expedia/Travelocity etc.
This trip could be way cheaper – and your could be way cheaper too – if you just collected some hotel points!!!
It is worth banking hotel points for future use as well as you will probably use them eventually.
I get asked all the time “How do you do this” so I made a page “How Do You Do This” that covers the basic Canadian credit cards to get for hotel points.
My last post I did was “Free Flights take work” and they do.
When I first started accumulating points over 5 years ago I had been reading blogs for a couple years and decided that British Airways “Avios” was going to be my points of choice for flying.
At the time you could get a round trip flight to New York City from Toronto or Detroit for only 9000 Avios compared to 20,000 points plus in other programs!
I looked at where I wanted to fly and decided Avios was going to be where I put my spending points.
Now, Avios are great don’t get me wrong and the biggest thing about collecting Avios is that you can use them not only for flights, but for hotels and car rentals as well at about 1 cent per point.
Like if a hotel booking would cost you say $500 on Expedia it will probably cost you around 50,000 Avios when you sign into BA.com and check the same hotel.
Same for car rentals – but they tend to use Avis so it could be higher amounts of Avios in that case.
Point is – Avios points are very versatile – and that’s good in the travel world.
So…5 years ago I had enough points in Avios to get free flights to Miami from Detroit at March break – 20,000 per flight x 4 flights = 80,000 Avios.
At that time, that was the extent of my flight points. (always keep hotel points handy but that is another story)
Then, through another credit card sign up and a referral or 2 you build up more points for next years free flights.
Then, you find another card or two and more people want advice and you pick up a few more referrals and so on…
So then you get to a nice place where you actually have a ‘bank’ of Amex points or SPG points – and those points can be transferred to different airline partners!
Which brings us to a time where you might consider to “diversify” your points into different programs.
Now, those flights to Miami I mentioned earlier aren’t ideal – we don’t stay near Miami at all – it is a 4+ hour drive to the Tampa area for us where we like to stay.
So, with those Miami flights we essentially lose a day driving back and forth to Tampa.
That brings me to my point about diversifying – who does fly to Tampa so we don’t need to waste a day driving?
Well, you can use Avios but since AA doesn’t fly there direct you need a stopover in say Charlotte or Philly and the flights end up being 30,000 Avios now.
Ok, not horrible but that is more points than I wanted to spend – also worth at least $300 in other travel.
Aeroplan? that is an option – 25,000 points + $15 in taxes and stopover out of Detroit.
American? similar/ Delta? similar
Southwest? those points vary more but 20,000 – 25,000 points is reasonable.
So by doing this you are not stuck in one particular program looking for flights that may never come up as available.
I try to have about 4 round trip flight points at least in each program so to be ready if some “free” flights all of a sudden are available.
Lastly, I do keep some points as Amex MR points as sometimes you can just use your points to pay for flights straight up like we did for Disney in August – $600 CDN for 4 round trip flights to Orlando – uses up 60,000 MR points – pretty sweet!
That was through Spirit Airlines where you can always find a deal – not everyone’s favourite airline though!
So last night a friend wanted me to do a presentation on all this travel stuff which I happily did and I must say it went well.
The thing I do notice most often with new people getting into this is they are not aware of all the free flights and hotel nights out there – but booking free flights takes persistence and patience!
You need to give this “hobby” some time to learn about the different point systems, which sign-up bonuses are worth getting, what airlines you would like to fly on, etc.
I have a few pages on that entitled Avios, Booking Free flights, Aeroplan, etc that give you the basics on what to do.
But even when you know the different systems there are problems as to which points to use on flights – now this is a great problem to have – asking yourself “should I use my Avios, Aeroplan or Amex points on these free flights?”
When I first started out my only flight points were Avios and I was continually looking for flights through them but you eventually learn it’s hard to find 4 round trip flights to where you want to go for free!
So take some time and read my other pages if you want, or read other bloggers articles on Avios/Aeroplan/Southwest etc.
I can honestly say it’s been a fun journey and my goal 6 years ago was to fly and stay places for free and I have done that for 5 years now.
On the other side of things, hotel points are extremely easy to figure out and use so at least there is that!
My page “How do you do this?” gets people started who are truly beginners at this.
There are always skeptics and that is fine, but the proof is in the travel! (free travel)
I know a bunch of my fellow Canadians are looking to book March break flights down South right now and for those of you that live in SW Ontario you should consider Cleveland to fly out of.
Yes, it does rock and it definitely can save you hundreds on flights.
Just on flights alone this time out it saved me $120 per person times 4 people = $480!!!
Yes, it is farther to drive than Detroit (approx. 2 hours past Detroit’s airport), but is your extra 4 hours total worth about $500 to you? (minus gas )
I have now found Cleveland flights a few times over the past 3 years and each time have saved hundreds – USE GOOGLE FLIGHTS TO HELP YOU OUT TOO!
The Google Flight option shows you different days and airports to fly in and out of which will save you money almost guaranteed.
I won’t paste a bunch of pictures showing you different options, but can say if you try this option you should end up pleasantly surprised!
So before you book that next flight for yourself or your family, try these options out.