If you have read this blog before, you know Andrew and I are big fans of travel credit cards. Last year, I published a year in review of our travels and how much we saved, which came to a grand total of $11,110. This year we saved slightly more with a total savings of $12,927.
I continue to be amazed by how much we can save with so little effort. If you follow along, you can easily find a way to save money on your hotel or flight too! Keep in mind we mainly used credit card points to save, but there were a couple other methods I’ll explain as well.
For full disclosure, The Florida Travel Girl earns a referral bonus for anyone that’s approved through the below credit card sign-up links.
January – Melbourne and Orlando Staycations
Amount Saved: $1,172
This is one month we actually didn’t use credit card points to save money traveling! We started out the year with a staycation in Melbourne at the Pineapple River House AirBnb. I connected with them through Instagram and they offered me a free stay in exchange for promoting them on the blog. It was really fun to hang out on the river for a couple of days and it gave me the opportunity to review a place to stay in Melbourne, Florida
The other “trip” I took in January was for a work conference. My day job footed the bill for me to stay at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress while I attended a conference a Disney’s Contemporary Resort! This was an enjoyable week out of the office and I loved getting to explore Orlando while I was there.
March – Keystone, Colorado Ski Trip
Amount Saved: $711
We didn’t travel anywhere in February while we saved up for our ski trip to Keystone, Colorado! We went here for five nights, but only paid for three nights because we split the room with our friends. Technically we saved even more on this trip because of that!
We stayed at the Hyatt Place Keystone, which was an awesome hotel. It is very close to the slopes, has free breakfast and outdoor hot tubs with mountain views! The rooms go for 15,000 points or about $187 per night. We used points for one night and then our free nights from the Hyatt Credit Card for the other two. Since the credit card carries a $75 annual fee, I counted that as the cost of the night.
For flights, we found Frontier to be very cheap on the way to Denver, so we paid in cash. On the way back, we booked a United flight through the Chase portal for 25,000 points. The flights would have been $300, so since it was under 30,000 points, I considered this a deal!
April – Orlando Staycation
In April, we took a short one night trip to Orlando. Usually we just take a day trip, but we got a hotel this weekend for two reasons. One was that my friend was visiting and had a very early flight the next day. This saved me from having to wake up an hour and a half earlier to drive her to the airport.
Second, World of Hyatt gives you a free night if you stay at five different “brands”. We had stayed at an Andaz, a Hyatt Place, a Hyatt Regency and an Unbound Hotel in the past year so we realized we were only one brand away! This led to us finding the Hyatt House Orlando.
It normally costs $181 per night, but we got it for 10,500 points. This is less than the usual 12,000 because of a spring promotion going on! It definitely pays to keep an eye on the promotional emails. After staying here, we received a free one night stay at any hotels costing 15,000 points per night or less.
May – Mediterranean Cruise and Ireland Trip
Amount Saved: $6,931
Our big trip this year was our two year anniversary trip to Europe. We had never been before, so we wanted to go all out! We took a Mediterranean cruise out of Barcelona and then went to Dublin for a few days. I documented it on the blog here, if you are want to read about it.
We planned out our points for this almost a year in advance. We knew we would have to pay cash for a Royal Caribbean cruise, but we wanted to use points for our hotels and flight. I found the best flight deal to be through United Airlines Partners. We were able to transfer 60,000 points per person and get a round trip flight to Europe, including one stop. This meant we flew from Orlando to Barcelona, then Barcelona to Dublin and then Dublin to Orlando. Using points made these flight a lot cheaper than paying with cash. Our Lufthansa/Aer Lingus flights would have cost $5,800 total! Although we could have gone with cheaper options for around $4,000 total, this was a huge savings for 120,000 points.
As for hotels, we stayed in Barcelona for two nights and Dublin for three. We got an IHG credit card to earn the 80,000 points for Barcelona. We found this to be one of the best hotel brands for getting a stay in Barcelona, as there weren’t many Hyatt’s or Marriotts. This saved us from paying $435 for the hotel out of pocket.
In Dublin, we stayed at the new Aloft, which is a Marriott hotel. We still had enough points from the Starwood card we got last year to pay 75,000 for 3 nights. This hotel was the perfect location and so clean and new! We saved $658 by using points here.
August – Tampa Weekend Trip
Amount Saved: $140
In August, we took a two night weekend trip to Tampa and stayed at the Aloft. I looked in to this hotel because I loved the brand so much in Dublin! I had been trying to secure a sponsored stay for the blog, and while Aloft couldn’t give me a completely free stay, they did have a counter offer. We only had to pay $90 per night for this promotional stay. We debated using points instead, but decided to take the deal and save $70 per night, since rooms were going for $160.
September – Naples, Florida Trip
Amount Saved: $428
We were ready for another vacation by September and decided Naples would be the perfect spot. We took Charlie for a stay at the Hyatt House for three nights. It cost 15,000 points for one night, transferred over from our Chase credit card.
The second night we used our free night we earned in April, so that was completely free! By now, my credit card had reset so I had my next annual free night that we could for the third. So basically the stay would have cost $500, but only cost us 15,000 points and the $75 annual fee.
This was a gorgeous hotel and totally worth the cost! During spring break season, it cost a lot more, but I loved staying here in the off season. I highly recommend looking into this spot regardless of when you go!
December – St. Augustine Nights of Lights Weekend Trip
Amount Saved: $500
We ended the year with a couple more short trips. First we went to St. Augustine to experience the Nights of Lights. My parents both have birthdays around Christmas, so we took them along as a birthday present. Since Charlie was also coming, we stayed at the Holiday Inn Historic District, which was one of the few dog friendly hotels in the area.
The rooms go for around $250 per night this time of year of 30,000 points. We got a second IHG credit card and earned 150,000 points for signing up, so I had plenty to use! Since we got two rooms for one night, we saved $500 by using 60,000 points for the stay. This is one of the best ways to save money when visiting the St. Augustine Nights of Lights.
December – San Diego New Year’s Trip
Amount Saved: $2,939
Our final vacation of the year was a trip to San Diego for New Year’s Eve. We love this city and figured it would be the perfect place to celebrate the start of 2020.
One of the many credit card earns we worked on this year was getting a Southwest Companion Pass. To do this, you need to sign up for a personal and a business credit card and meet the sign-up bonuses. Once you earn 125,000 points, you can have a companion fly with you for free.
We are mainly saving our points for a trip to Hawaii, but with the companion pass, we were able to both fly round trip to San Diego for 40,000 points! Then we stayed at the Grand Hyatt San Diego for five nights at the rate of 15,000 Hyatt points per night. With all the holiday expenses, we decided to save an additional $240 on the rental car by paying for that with Chase points as well.
This led to a trip that cost very little out of pocket, but was still so much fun! It was just what we needed to relax before the start of the new year.
My Recommendations For Travel Credit Cards
By the end of 2019, we used 532,000 travel credit card points to save us over $12,000 on flights, hotels and rental cars! Believe it or not, we still have over 600,000 points across multiple rewards program to use in the future and we are always earning more. I highly recommend getting into travel credit cards if you want to save money on your travels too! Here are the cards I recommend and why.
- Chase Ink Business Credit Card – Earn 80,000 points for signing up that can be best used for international flights, stays at Hyatt hotels and rental car reservations.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred – Earn 60,000 points for signing up that can be best used for international flights, stays at Hyatt hotels and rental car reservations.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Credit Card – Earn 75,000 points for signing up that can be used for domestic flights. Get both the personal and business credit card and reach the sign-up bonus in order to get a companion pass!
- Chase Freedom Unlimited – Earn 20,000 points for signing up which can be combined with either of the two cards above.
- IHG Rewards Club Credit Card – Earn 80,000 points for signing up that can be used for hotels like the Crown Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Holiday Inn and more.
- World of Hyatt Credit Card – Earn 50,000 points for signing up that can be used at Hyatt hotels around the globe.
Keep in mind, all credit card have a minimum spend you much reach in a certain amount of time to get the sign up bonus!
We do not have a ton of plans yet for 2020, but we do have plenty of points! I am curious to see if we will be able to save as much next year and what new sign-up bonuses we can find. Let me know if you have any travel plans for 2020 and if you plan to use travel credit cards to get there!