The happiest place on earth. For our family this was a dream trip that was 2 years in the making. And like any great trip, the journey is often just as memorable as the destination.
As you’ve read in other posts our family was clawing out of debt – budgeting carefully, couponing, selling things, fixing cars, general DIY-ing, declining invitations, taking the wait and see approach to healthcare and many other things.
We had a vision. I distinctly remember dinner table discussions about escaping debt. During one of those occasions, I promised, once we get out of debt, we will celebrate with a trip to Disney… The kids were on board. My family showed great patience and understanding through those 2 years and we didn’t lose sight of our goal. We all sacrificed.
I stayed encouraged by reading various Financial Independence blogs and listening to podcasts and learned about the travel rewards game. Nice travel is expensive, as pursuers of FI we are sacrificing some of life’s extravagances now (fancy cars, clothes, expensive food, new furniture and luxury travel), so that we can later enjoy flexibility. It is difficult to reconcile spending thousands on one week with a long-term mindset. I learned that the Disney trip we envisioned costs 8k for a family of four. Considering all the sacrifices, the thought of such an extreme expense on one week of fun, made me uncomfortable. I would struggle to enjoy the trip with the cost in back of my mind. Yet, the promise had been made. And the mission accomplished. Enter the travel rewards strategy, taking over a year to complete. Here’s what we did:
- American Airlines Citi card (Joe) – 60k bonus after hitting minimum spend + a few months every day purchases + minimal work travel miles
- Chase Sapphire Preferred (Sarah) – 60k bonus after minimum spend
- Chase Sapphire Preferred (Joe) – 60k bonus after minimum spend
- Capital One Venture (Sarah) – 60k bonus after minimum spend
- Capital One Venture (Joe) – 60k bonus after minimum spend
These cards have 3-4k minimum spend requirements during the first 3 months of account opening to receive the bonus points. The strategy is to open one at a time, staggered. With annual fees of $100, the idea is to consolidate the points through transfers to your partner’s card and close it before the annual fee hits.
Once we received the bonus points, we continued to use the Chase Sapphire Preferred as our go-to card for everyday expenses, including larger ones like the roof replacement in fall 2020. Below you can see points used for the trip:
Airfare, Hotel, Park tickets, netted out to $850 combined for a family of four. This was for 7 nights and 6 days at the parks! I now felt comfortable spending on other things, such as nice meals and extra experiences (Jedi lightsaber and droid anyone?).
In nerd fashion I kept an itemized list of trip purchases, even down to the Dollar Tree ponchos. The majority was food – which was outrageously expensive and so-so quality.
I relaxed and didn’t worry about trip cost. By saving $4500 with points, the trip was far more enjoyable. An amazing week with family – a sibling trip with my wife’s family and kids. Immersed into Disney’s imaginative world we were surprised, thrilled, and exhausted. The memories will last a lifetime. I urge you to see the world, make memories, but if you can keep the expense reasonable, you will enjoy travel even more. And the memories won’t be tinged with any financial regret or aftermath.
Bon Voyage friends!