Yes, Free Travel Does Cost You in the End (and it’s worth every penny and every minute of your time)

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This year, I’ve really gone places. Berlin, Madrid, Paris, Tenerife, Bermuda, and hell, the year is far from over! Got to go to St Louis in October. I rarely go on business trips, and since I run a small business, I would pay for them out of pocket, but guess what: I will not. I also like doing one all-inclusive vacation annually just to lie down, sip umbrella drinks, relax and do nothing. That one is set for November. I might even squeeze another trip, too, before the year is over. The costs?

Airline and sometimes hotel taxes. Taxi rides or car rentals. The tours, the food, the booze, the souvenirs. That’s it. My flights and accommodations are usually taken care of by the two industries, credit cards and travel providers. They are working tirelessly to keep me trotting the globe. Often in business or first class seat. Often in 4-5 star hotels.  I realize that not everyone is as warm and fuzzy about these industries as I am, but hey, they are the ones that make my lifestyle possible.

If it seems like I’m bragging, that’s because I am, sorry. But bragging is not the reason for this post. Quite the opposite, since we’ve already established that travel is never completely free–just like anything else in life–what is the real cost of free travel?

You apply for a credit card or two, or three (or five-six at a time if you’re me). You work on meeting minimum spend  requirements in order to get the sign up bonus. You keep the track of all the due dates to make sure you don’t get hit with those pesky late fees and finance charges (not that it’s too hard with all the automation options, mind you, but still, it’s one more thing on your already busy mind). And unlike with regular cashback cards, you do not end up with points you can use on something real like stuff! You know, something you can bring home, something you can put in your pocket or on a shelf, or in a drawer. Something that you can touch.

Well, to be honest, yes, you can redeem your travel reward points in this fashion, but you will be getting 0.1, 0.3, 0.5 cents on a dollar if you’re lucky. We in an award travel business hobby call it a waste!

If you use your miles and points the way you should, then all you get out of them is just a vacation. Alas, you can’t “touch” a vacation. You can’t put it on a shelf or in a drawer. All you’re left with after you come back home–aside of some stupid souvenirs–is in your head. And you can’t touch something that’s in your head. You can’t touch a memory. And let’s not forget about the hassles! Oh, please, let’s not.

Seriously, let’s think of what we have to go through in order to go places. Packing, unpacking, getting to and from the airport, intense “pleasures” of security lines, of dragging yourself on all those tours and excursions. And what about the risks? Luggage might get lost, you might get lost, people might rip you off on a benign transaction, your stuff might get stolen, and the list goes on. I got violently sick in Peru once only because I was stupid enough to ask for ice in my drink at a local cafe. And then I got bitten by something in Machu Picchu that made my ankle itch for the next three weeks. And what do I have to show for all my troubles?

Well, not much. Only these.

IMG_0296IMG_0295IMG_0264

 And these:

  

And those:

IMG_1269 IMG_1261 IMG_1283

P1000255 IMG_2052 P1000249

P1000348 P1000350 P1000382 P1000484 P1000420 P1000428 P1000786 P1000842 P1000840

And some of these, too:

P1010136 P1010235 P1010119 P1010076 P1010111 P1010116

Is it really worth it? The worst possible thing for anyone to do, is to try and pretend being someone they’re not. If you don’t like to travel, that’s fine. If you like other things more than travel, that’s fine too. There are plenty of decent cashback credit cards (boy, I need to make a post about them, one day) that you can use to buy stuff or just lessen your financial burden every now and then. But if you do love to travel to the point that you actually pay for it–then you owe it to yourself to learn how you can leverage your good and responsible credit habits and turn them into astonishing travel bargains. Seriously, guys and gals, only in America…

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