Ahoy, mates! Time to dust of ye olde shelves of Abandoned Cubicle dot com. It has been a while, no? I figured it best to accumulate a few ounces of material worth posting rather than sticking to that boring weekly schedule of old. Since we’re really close to our spring break vacation, there are a few tips worth sharing, that might save you some coin too…
In a nutshell, we used the Hopper app to find our flights, signed up for a new business credit card (Capital One Spark) to make the flights virtually free, used British Airways Visa bonus Avios to book our rental car, and paid a modest $125 per night for a condo found on VRBO. And trust me folks, that’s a good deal for South Florida this time of year…
Hopper is a great app – Download it now!
I love this little app. Before a coworker turned me on to it, I’d been relying on Kayak.com to find the best flight deals. With Hopper, you can set your destination, pick whether or not you want a layover, and then sit back. Hopper is constantly checking flights for deals and will alert you when it’s the best time to book.
For this specific trip, I was a bit worried. Flights were coming in at $400+ a person, round-trip. I knew my Capital One Spark bonus points would erase about $600, or 1.5 flights, but still, those are expensive domestic fares! Hopper came through in an unexpected but pleasantly surprising manner.
One happy January day the app buzzed my phone with a notification: Book flights at a regional airport in Omaha and save $300 per ticket! Wow. That’s a huge win. $1,000 saved? I’ll take it! The only hitch was that we live 6 hours from Omaha. But because the flight was later in the day, we rationalized that this would be our “$1,000 road trip”. A chance to bond and enjoy each others’ company as we headed south to lovely Nebraska…
Figuring out logistics with Cheap Ass Airlines
We’re flying on Frontier Airlines. Whoah, Nelly. Do they EVER nickel and dime you. Granted, we’ve not had a bad experience with them in terms of delays or anything. Still, it just seems wrong to charge passengers for carry-on luggage.
Our solution? We boxed up our luggage ahead of time and shipped it Priority Mail to my folks house near where we’re staying. That’s costs us $120 to ship in both directions. That still saves us over $100 in carry-on fees, and we avoid a trip to the carousel after our long day of travel. We’ve done this before several times for trips out west as well. You may even be able to ship to the hotel you’re staying at if you work with the concierge ahead of time?
British Airways Visa – Our secret weapon
This card was our primary plastic all of last year. The bonus exceeded 100,000 points but you had to put $20K spend on the thing. It was sweet to have finally met the bonus point thresholds, but I tell ya, fine readers, do your homework before signing up for seemingly good cards like this one.
The “gotcha” was when I tried to find flights using those points. BA came up dry on most domestic roundtrip adventures in flyover country. Damn. I called to explain my dilemma, and here’s the fun part. BA call center agents have Queen’s English British accents. Ha! I truly am James Bond, and how may I help you today?
I was advised to use my stash of over 100K Avios to book hotels and rental cars. Hotels are limited to the same ports BA flies through, but rental cars are EVERYWHERE. So score, I was able to book our spring break beater with Avios. In the end, I reckon we’ll often have a destination requiring us to rent wheels, so we’ll be covered for a few more trips thanks to my Brexit friends.
Business Credit Cards to the rescue
Many of you are familiar with this tip, but it’s such a lucrative one. If you’ve got a little side gig, sign up for a business credit card and get some more bonus miles. Easy! Just remember the financial bloggers’ fine print: Always pay the balance every month to avoid interest, and make sure you’re not generating spend to make the bonus point threshold. In other words, don’t justify a 70″ TV purchase unless you’re old 65″ tube died.
I went with the Capital One Spark business card this go-round. It offered a $500 travel credit after spending $5,000 in the first three months. Now, there is a $95 annual fee, but only after year one. So if I cancel in dick-move fashion at month 11, I avoid that fee altogether. Easy peasy!!!
Summing it up – Go get Hopper and sign up for some plastic!
This is the thing about personal finance. Once you learn to “ride the bike”, you become that much better at finding deals, saving money, and all while still enjoying a slice of life. It’s not a winner-take-all scenario at all. This is about having a curious mind to learn and apply frugal ninja tactics. The legal kind, mind you. (No Heisenbergs here, Walt.)
As for the blog? Yeah, yeah. I’ve been a slacker to the extreme these days. Work is crazy busy, and I’m doing my best to compartmentalize that nut show so it doesn’t spill over into time with family and time for myself.
These are some interesting times for me. Early retirement has re-emerged as an appealing off-ramp, but I’m struggling with the notion of “taking the easy way out”. Financial independence is not an automatic license to leap, after all.