Travel Hacking Credit Cards Saved Us $12,203

Travel Hacking Credit Cards Saved Us $12,203

We knew 2020 would be an epic year for our family vacations because we wanted to kick off international travel. Add to that a desire to hit up Aulani in Hawaii and the potential cost became unmanageable. Luckily, through travel hacking credit cards, we were able to book both vacations and save $12,203.76 while doing it! This is a guide to how we did it, what credit cards we used, and the trips to Hawaii and Europe we are going on this year. Full disclosure: We only recommend the cards we personal use. If you choose to use any of the credit card links below to sign up, we will get a miles bonus as well.

Travel Hacking Credit Cards

If you are unfamiliar with what travel hacking is, check out our post, What is Travel Hacking, or our podcast on Travel Hacking 101. Essentially, it is signing up for credit card offers that will give you large sign up bonuses in exchange for hitting a minimum spend requirement (minimum dollar amount charged within a specified time frame). Sure, there are ways to save money on vacations without signing up for cards. However, travel hacking credit cards are by far the best way that we have found to do it.

I need to explain a couple of things before we get started, though. First, our redemptions below are not the best value that we could have gotten. However, we have kiddos in school and need to travel during breaks. Since these times are popular times to travel, you don’t get the best deals on miles and points (I will use these two words interchangeably) redemptions. Second, you do get miles from buying things on these credit cards, but you get the most points from sign up bonuses. Since you only get these bonuses once, we opened a lot of different cards to get as many bonuses as possible. This means we had to spread our travel around to different airlines to use as many miles as possible.

Okay, let’s do this…

Our 2020 Travel Plans

We are taking two epic trips this year that we needed to save as much money on as possible (because they ain’t cheap, people!!). These are the two vacations we are using points for:

  • Disneyland and Aulani – Spring Break (March) 2020
    • We are spending a day and a half at Disneyland to start this trip. The boys have never been, so we thought it would be fun to show them the two parks.
    • We will then fly to Honolulu and spend six nights at Aulani in a one-bedroom villa
  • Disney Mediterranean Cruise and Europe – June 2020
    • We fly to Barcelona and spend one night exploring
    • Boarding the Disney Magic, we sail around the Mediterranean Sea for seven nights
    • After disembarking in Rome, we spend one night before flying to Londo
    • Ending this amazing trip, we will spend two nights in London and four nights in Paris

There are four of us, which makes getting expensive flights that much more expensive, whether you’re using miles or cash. Luckily, we really don’t have that problem with accommodations. Here is the breakdown:

Hawaii – Saving Money With Credit Card Points

Flights

  • I booked four one-way flights from Tulsa to Los Angeles for 103,776 Citi Thank You Points, valued at $1,297.20.
    • We did this by Leslie and I both signing up for Citi Premier Master Cards
    • This credit card currently has a $95 annual fee and a sign up bonus of 60k points with $4k spend/3 months
  • I then booked four multi-city tickets from Los Angeles to Honolulu and from Honolulu back to Tulsa six days later using 242,440 American Express Points plus $1,602.93 in cash, valued at $4,641.20.
    • We did this with three AMEX credit cards
    • I signed up for the American Express Platinum Card
    • This credit card currently has a $550 annual fee and a sign up bonus of 60k points with $5k spend/3 months, but you might be offered 75k points if you use this link (there are additional perks to this card like access for you and two guests to the AMAZING Centurion Lounges, which I value at $300 for this trip since we will eat our meals in two different airports here)
    • Leslie and I both signed up for an American Express Gold Card
    • This credit card currently has a $250 annual fee and a sign up bonus of 35k points with $4k spend/3 months, but you might be offered 50k points if you use this link.

Accommodations

  • We are staying in Anaheim across from Disneyland the first night at the Hilton using a free weekend night that came from one of our Hilton Honors Aspire Cards, valued at $193.17.
    • We both signed up for this one – this is my favorite card right now
    • This credit card currently has a $450 annual fee and a sign up bonus of 150k points with $4k spend/3 months (there are additional perks like the free weekend night)
  • We are using DVC points for the rest of our nights, but that is a topic for a different post.

Europe – Saving Money With Credit Card Points

Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater: Fabulous or frightening???

Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater: Fabulous or frightening???

We absolutely LOVE dining at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater! This is at Hollywood Studios and a must-do for our family.  We always like to find a place to relax during our park days, and it is not always feasible to go back to the hotel to kick our feet up for a bit.  Sci-Fi is a great place to get out of the sun and crowds to relax somewhere dimly lit and quiet.

When the cast member seats you, you enter what appears to be a 50’s style drive-in theater complete with a star-filled sky and classic cars that also serve as your booth.  On the screen, there are old, campy-style scary movie clips and cartoons playing.  This is why I have heard some parents say that they think it would be too scary for their kids.  I wouldn’t let the scary movies prevent you from trying this place out! They are of the old black and white “scary” movies with the giant spider or oversized woman attacking the town (the kind of movies that Mystery Science Theater 3000 makes fun of).  Our youngest gets frightened easily, and he thinks the movie clips are silly.

Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater is considered a Table Service meal if you are using the dining plan.  Even when using the dining plan, we have always paid out of pocket for this experience because we usually like to get milkshakes, beer, and a couple of appetizers.  We have not ever had an actual meal there so I can’t speak for the entrees, but the fried pickles and spinach artichoke dip are amazing!

Our kids have always been seated in the front seat with Dan and I in the back seat.  The cast members always make a huge deal about if the kids have their drivers licenses which the boys think is hysterical.  They will usually give the boys their own drivers licenses to take home with them.  Along with the ambience, my favorite part about dining here is that the kids are usually so captivated by the movie clips that they don’t even want to talk.  I know that makes me sound like a horrible mother, but it is nice to disconnect a little and just relax.  Check it out and let me know what your thoughts are on Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater!

Click the link below to watch our Sc-Fi experience from July 2016 and go to about 6 minutes!

Worth Melting 4- Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater

 

Best Kept Secret in Animal Kingdom Park

Best Kept Secret in Animal Kingdom Park

Walt Disney World is full of activities to keep your family busy from sun up until sun down.  Matter of fact, we have spent roughly 1.5 months collectively in the World and still have yet to do everything.  While we all want to do and see as much we can on these magical vacations, let’s face it, we aren’t as young as we used to be! I don’t know about you, but I often wonder where my children get their endless energy.

With that being said, I have the perfect solution! The best kept secret at Animal Kingdom Park is The Boneyard.  Our boys LOVE this area (We may love it even more)!  It is a giant play area with rope climbing, slides, caves, and even a large area made to look like an archaeological site where the kids can unearth dinosaur bones.  The best part is that the majority of it is shaded with areas to sit! There is only one way in and out with a cast member standing duty monitoring who comes and goes.  They don’t let any kids leave by themselves so you don’t have to worry about them sneaking away from you.

Our boys ask to go here every time we are making our plans for Disney World.  It makes the must-do list for Animal Kingdom! So, next time you are there, go ahead and take a moment to put your feet up while your children run freely and burn some of that wonderful energy….the only downfall is that they don’t let you take in beer.

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