Category: Travel (page 1 of 7)

The planning of a MINI-RTW, continued travel hacking.

I figure I should start detailing a bit more about the adventures I go on and how we do it all on the cheap. (the “we” in this equation is my  hopefully -probably forever partner-in-crime and newly nicknamed Tom, because he is as persistent as Tom from Tom & Jerry when he sets his mind to something)    Most people don’t believe or understand,  It’s really actually possible to stay in a hotel for free for an entire week, to have lounge access in most airports, to fly in business class and to get 200,000 aeroplan miles in the span of a year and to redeem them for a round the world trip to many crazy destinations AND pay only a few hundred dollars in tax, without having to do anything crazy.

I suppose I’m getting ahead of myself. Your definition of crazy may also be different from mine 😉

I first read about travel hacking on Chris Guillebeaus blog and was amazed at this idea of signing up for credit cards, getting bonuses and flying all over the world for next to nothing. I was enamored. This was right around the time where I started getting in shape financially, probably back around 2008/2009.  For my birthday in 2010 I received a signed copy of Chris’ book The Art of Nonconformity from my boyfriend at the time. He got me a signed copy of it which was so sweet!

That book was what I needed to read at that time. I won’t turn this into a book review and the book isn’t a literary marvel but I took some  key points from it to apply to my life. I share similar ideas with Chris I suppose.  I make my own rules and that book helped me on my path towards what has become my biggest  and most enjoyed time suck; travel. From 2010 I worked on my finances and in mid-2012 went on my first solo multi-country trip.

That trip wasn’t travel-hacked a whole lot, I paid a fair market economy price and got a few deals here and there and definitely did it on a budget. I got rolling with travel hacking moreso in 2013 and took off running with it from 2014 onward.  Key to my success with travel hacking has been meeting my boyfriend and working on it as a team. Together we have accrued and used over $16,000 in points in the past few years, that value is higher if you translate the value of our flights and hotel stays into what they would have cost if bought out right. We keep track in a spreadsheet that most of the time is hopelessly out of date.  We are currently working on a fairly huge (for us) trip that will hopefully take us from Eastern Canada, around parts of Western Europe, to Australia, through parts of Asia and around through the Western coast of North America and back home again.  Here’s an idea of what the return leg of the journey is likely to look like;

Travel hacking isn’t for everyone. There are a two key ducks you need to have in a row to really get the ball rolling;

Income; On my own I was able to do all right, I was able to earn around $500-$1,000 in a year in points and slowly build up my aeroplan balance to somewhere around 30,000-60,000 over a year orso but my income has varied in past years and I’ve noticed I’ve really been able to kick up travel hacking a notch since I no longer have a mortgage and my income has increased. Additionally teaming up with Tom has been beneficial for us both. You can refer eachother for credit cards deals etc, and get around income requirements you don’t quite have yourself by claiming household income etc.  Having one member of your household earn in the range of 60-80k annually and the other 40-60k allows you to take advantage of the best creditcard deals due to income requirements, you can do it on your own, but together is a double whammy.

The other key to it all is TIME. You need a lot of time, and a lot of persistence and some skill to apply for, spend and then accumulate a nice pile of points to be able to take advantage of what you’ve earned.  It also helps to date a nerd. 😀 I’m sitting next to Tom right now who has programmed a java script to scrape itinerary results that we’ve collected to put together the best itinerary and times with our requirements; minimum stop over hours in certain cities, excluding certain airlines etc., which we will then be able to call in and actually piece together on the phone.

A very helpful thread to get started with is the FAQ: FAQ: The Complete Newbie Guide/FAQ to the Air Canada Aeroplan Mini-RTW on FlyerTalk.

Prince of Travel (a blog I don’t know otherwise) also has a helpful post on the basics of planning a mini-rtw

Obviously this has to be of interest to you and it definitely takes a certain type of personality, on the whole it’s very achievable for many people. That’s all for me today though, I need to get ready to head to Cape Breton for the weekend to do the Cabot trail! 😀

On the road again; sampling some poutine in Montréal

I flew out of YYG, Charlottetown, early this morning on-route to NYC for a long weekend of much deserved chilling. Our reward itinerary, booked on Aeroplan included a day long stopover in Montreal which was awesome! One of the things on my to do list was to grab a poutine and poutine we did! There were some restaurants higher up on the list but this one was close to where we happened to be wandering around and the weather was rainy so we popped in for lunch.

I’m currently enjoying a quick stopover at the Maple Leaf lounge at YUL, Montreal airport after spending the day in Montreal and sampling some poutine at Frite Alors!

We shared the “La Frite Alors!” as a regular lunch combo, which was enough for both of us, with peppers, onions, bacon and mushroom… and gravy and cheese with a salad on the side. It was greasy and good! Total bill before tip for the shared lunch combo with a Pepsi on the side was about 15 bucks.

Off to New Yrok shortly (assuming Ill get there as currently there are weather delays!) catch you later! 🙂

So I got a raise yesterday!

Not a lot, but every nickel counts around here. I built one of my company contracts to increase every 6 months vs yearly. (compounding the effect a little 😉 ) So every 6 months everyone gets a small raise, and so do I, as an employee of the company that I co-own I get a salary just like everyone else. I only pay myself 30 hours per week from the company regardless of what I work though. Sometimes I spend more time and sometimes less, in the winter definitely less

My semi-annual raise this time is $0.25 per hour, resulting in an after tax increase bi-weekly of $11.23 for the next 6 months. Woohoo! Since I get another raise in 6 months of $0.25, maybe a few cents more and I’m confident I’ll keep this contract for another year from now (until November 2015) I’ll gross 30hrs x $0.25 x 52wks + 30hrs x $0.25 x 26wks = $585 more over the next 12 months!

2014-03-25 16.57.04

Vroom, let’s go

Now that’s something to write home about. 😀 Okay I shouldn’t complain, I’m fortunate. I have a house! I have a job! I still get raises! I have it pretty good. Instead of letting that raise just disappear into my spending money I decided to increase the contributions to my travel savings.

I have two savings accounts that I use solely to save for travel. One named planned travel and the other future travel. I’ve labelled them such in my budget and on my online banking. Every Sunday scheduled transactions contribute to both accounts so that I’m always saving for whatever trip I’m planning next AND whatever trip is going to happen after that. So once I come home from a trip, I always have a little bucket set aside for the next trip and I just keep saving on! I really like the system, it helps me with the ‘travel-hangover’ where I come home and all the bills are paid but you kind of have to start from scratch towards the next trip. You know what I mean?

For the past 18 months orso I’ve been contributing $25 to planned and $10 to future travel every Monday. I increased my contributions to $13.75 and $28.75 weekly to roughly use up my net raise. I marked my calendar to increase my savings plan again with my next raise in May. Over the next 12 months that means $2,275 saved specifically for travel. An increase of $455 net for 2015 over the past year. 😀

I usually spend more on travel than $2,275 per year but increasing my weekly savings too fast won’t work. The smaller contributions are less noticable, painless and makes saving so easy that I barely notice it anymore. I might fool around a bit with increasing it every once in a while in increments of a quarter or 50 cents here or there. I want this savings plan to remain painless and unnoticed. It’s just part of what happens to my bankaccount and I rarely look at these accounts unless it’s time to plan something. I do need to increase my savings overall, this is a step in that direction.

So, have you gotten any raises lately, what did you do with them?

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