What if I told you that I booked a $7,000 trip to Kauai for under $50 simply by doing the things that we all do every day? What if I told you this wasn’t my first time securing this kind of travel at this price point, nor will it be my last? I’m outlining just how I booked a $7,000 trip to Kauai for under $50
Okay, you find this a little hard to believe, am I right? This must be some other sales pitch or paid advertisement, right? I must have swam across the ocean and slept on a public camping beach in a tent.
I’m a normal person, working in my very own creative small business, raising my two kids and enjoying life with my husband who builds custom homes for a living. We don’t have family in the travel business and we don’t dedicate hours of our life to figuring this out. We stay at top-notch resorts and fly well-known commercial airlines.
How I booked a $7,000 trip to Kauai for under $50 really doesn’t have a special formula or require much of anything at all. I am able to travel for nearly free by doing all of my normal everyday things, much like you do, too.
Before I share… is this for you?
Let me ask you this: do you have to put gas in your car? Every week are you at the grocery store having to put food in your refrigerator? The water that comes out of your faucets at home, how does it get paid for? Friend, you’re already paying in order to just survive here. Why are you not rewarded for it?
Are you ready for my secret?
I pay for my life on credit cards.
Before I go any further I feel I need to clarify something: we don’t have debt, we don’t pay interest or fees for said cards and there is no “catch”. I promise – there isn’t a catch. More on this at the bottom of the post.
I could go on and on talking about previous trips we redeemed, but today I am going to stick to this one trip to Kauai. In 2017 we stayed at the Grand Hyatt Kauai and I fell instantly in love. Everything about it stole my heart and took my breath away. I am NOT a repeat traveler. There is so much world to see, why would I go to the same place twice? Yet, here we are again taking the same trip, staying at the same resort.
Earning points for free travel
When you open a credit card (not all cards are created equal by the way), you are offered a “sign up bonus”. This is a large sum of points that you receive just for signing up and using the card. This is your fastest way to travel redemption because you get A LOT of points in a short period of time. There are other ways to earn points, too. One very simple method is just by using your card for everyday purchases. For every $1 spent you earn 1 point, however, some categories earn you 2 points or 3 points. Credit card companies also run promotions that earn you more points for purchasing certain things (only take advantage of this if it’s something you would actually purchase with or without a bonus, otherwise you’re spending money for no reason – not good). Points add up fast. Here is some basic math:
How I earn points every month
*All of these are per month
Groceries for our family of 4: $650
Vehicle gas: $100
Natural Gas: $40
Kid’s sports/activities: $150
… the basic essential bills list could go on. You get the idea.
We strategize placing anything and everything that we NEED to purchase on our credit card. During the month we pay it off twice to ensure we never accumulate interest, otherwise, this method of redeeming free travel goes out the window.
Most important, we take advantage of every opportunity to earn a lot of points in one big swoop. Always ask if a company accepts a credit card for payment. When we paid off my car a couple of years ago the credit union allowed us to pay on a credit card. That was a lot of points in one afternoon! It was the best!
You have the points, now how do you redeem?
Alright, now for the actual method to how I booked a $7,000 trip to Kauai for under $50! My first and best piece of advice I can give you BEFORE you go opening up a credit card is to do your homework. Plan your vacation – where are you looking to go? What airline will you use? Are your dates flexible? Then strategize the best card(s) to get you there.
For Kauai, we took advantage of a limited time offer that Southwest had at the time – 75,000 bonus points for signing up! *The current sign-on bonus is 40,000-60,000 depending on the card you sign up for. If you’re not familiar with Southwest, they offer something called a Companion Pass. It allows your companion to fly free (no points, no dollars).
You earn a companion pass by collecting 110,000 points. To do this quickly and easily, we opened up a personal SW card and a business SW card. Combined they earned us 150,000 points during this promo period, well above the 110,000 point requirement. If you want a Southwest companion pass – strategize this. It’s valid for the remainder of the year in which you earned it, and the entire next calendar year. So if you plan for your points to hit in January, you’ve just got yourself nearly 2 years of a companion pass.
Choosing an airline
Okay, back to Kauai. We chose Southwest because of the companion pass and the fact that their flights from Phoenix to Kauai were cheaper than American or Delta (two other airlines we have points and status with). We secured two roundtrip tickets for a total of 110,000 points, leaving us 40,000 points leftover (not to mention the beloved companion pass). These are still a lot of SW miles left to use.
For lodging, we chose the Grand Hyatt Kauai. We stayed there last time and loved it. It’s an incredible breathtaking property located in Poipu with great proximity to a lot of things! Hyatt categorizes their properties and this is how their point system works. For example, all category one hotels have a specific point value (regardless of dollar value), category two, and so on. The Grand Hyatt Kauai is a category 5, so it costs 25,000 points per night.
We opted for the club access which grants us free breakfast (saving a mini fortune on a trip of six days) and complimentary apps and drinks at night. This brought our nightly rate up to 33,000 points per night. We booked the Grand Hyatt Kauai for 5 nights costing us a total of 165,000 points. My husband and I both have the Hyatt credit card, so we both earned the signup bonus. Hyatt also gives you one free night on your cardmember anniversary to any category 1-4 hotel. This means that he and I both (between our two cards) can stay two nights at thousands of hotels across the world for free without using our points. This is what we did in Seattle for a property that was $850 per night, but that’s for another day.
We booked our rental car using Chase Ultimate Rewards, my hands-down favorite point earning and redeeming system! I use the Chase Sapphire Preferred for my everyday point-earning because it can transfer to so many partners AND their redemptions are wonderful! The renal cards are fairly inexpensive through Chase anyway, even if you did have to pay cash. I think we spend ~10,000 points on a car. Note: we don’t always get rental cars for the entire trip, because we know there are days we want to lounge at the pool or beach all day, so it doesn’t make sense to have a car sitting and costing us points for no reason.
Like I mentioned earlier, the package we selected at the resort includes breakfast for the three of us, happy hour drinks at night with appetizers as well. When you factor in the cost of breakfast at this resort and the happy hour, you’re looking at about $150 per person for food that we won’t pay for.
The total cost of travel to Kauai:
Lodging: 5 nights at the Grand Hyatt Kauai: $559 per night = $2795
Airfare: Southwest Airlines roundtrip from Phoenix to Kauai: $1026 per person x 3 = 3,078
Rental Car: Booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards through Enterprise: roughly $300
Dining: *this is a variable, so here is simply the # we saved by including it in our hotel package: ~$150 per day x 5 days = $750
Actual out of pocket costs
Hotel resort fees: $40 per night, waved at a certain Hyatt status: $0
Airline taxes: $11 per person x 3 = $33
Rental car: $0 (we do not add on their insurance; we use our own)
& there you have it! The travel cost of this trip would have been just under $7,000 to stay where we wanted to, fly a reasonably priced airline, for the dates we want to go. We paid a total of $33. Yes, we will need to purchase food when we are there, but we are 100% okay with that! This reminds me – by booking the hotel package that includes breakfast for all three of us we are saving roughly $500 and another ~$500 for the evening drinks and apps they serve in the lounge we have access to. Not paying for the travel expenses allows us to take part in more things than we otherwise may have been frugal with. We will be touring the Napali coast, snorkeling, kayaking, enjoying dinners on the ocean and lounging with drinks at the pool.
One of the many perks of staying at a resort is that they have all kinds of activities and things to do that are included in your nightly rate, which means more things to do for FREE!
This my friends is how I booked a $7,000 trip to Kauai for under $50!
If you have any questions when it comes to travel hacking, or which credit card would be right for you based on where you want to go, feel free to contact me. I LOVE talking travel and we have enjoyed doing this for 5 years now.
But what about the interest you pay on your cards?
General note: if you feel that the responsibility of managing a credit card is difficult for you to do, this might not be the right course for you. If you feel like you HAVE to purchase more to earn more, this isn’t right for you. If you want to earn rewards for all the things that you already purchase and you want to travel for free, then this is 100% for you!
We pay our credit cards to $0 twice a month: once at the halfway point of the month and once at the end. You don’t have to do it this way, it just makes it easier for us & allows us to not have to keep track of any due dates. In the years we have been doing this we have paid a total of $0 in credit card interest.
Best card to start with?
This is a very complex question because this game is not a one size fits all. We strategize what cards we sign up for, and which ones we are actively using at any given time, based on where we want to and the best way to get there. While Southwest was best for this particular trip, American Airlines is going to be our go-to when we book Europe.
If I had to pick ONE card to use for the rest of my life and to recommend to anyone else, it would hands down be the Chase Sapphire which by the way has a 60,000 point sign-on bonus right now! If you have any questions, feel free to contact me!