Travel tips

Travel can be affordable! I am just like the majority of the population who work for a living and with a limited number of vacation days per year. For every trip, I put a lot of time into planning out my vacation to maximize what I get from what I pay 🙂 Many of you might not have as much interest as I do in planning or might not have much time to plan so here I put a list of useful tips to make your vacation planning easier and save some hard-earned money! Note that some of those links are referral links so I’ll get a referral bonus if you book/sign up with my link, thank you in advance for supporting my blog 🙂

Updated: March 16, 2024

Cash Back Rebates

The easiest way to get some money back on most of the travel booking sites as well as regular online shopping is via cash back portal (that means first you need to start with one of those cash back rebate website and then search for the store/website then click through it to receive whatever the % cash back listed, sometimes they have special promotion to give extra percent), very easy to sign up and start collecting cash back! I would very appreciate if you click through my referral links below so I can get referral bonus 🙂

Rakuten: you’ll get $30 sign up bonus with $30+ purchase! If you have the American Express Gold or Platinum card, you can switch to earning Amex points instead of cash which I value more than cash (see below section for details)

TopCashBack:  you’ll get $10 as sign up bonus

Points and Miles

If you have good credit score or a frequent flyer, check the following blogs/sites out for how to travel for almost free:

Boarding Area:

The Points Guy:

Flyer Talk:

Credit Card Points Transfer to Airlines

This is where the power of “travel hacking” comes into play. Most of you might already know about earning credit card points for statement credit or redeeming for gift card. Similarly, with certain credit cards below, you can transfer the points to airline miles to maximize its value! For example, 50,000 points usually equals to $500 statement credit or worth of gift card. However, if you transfer those 50,000 points to Air France’s Flying Blue loyalty program, 50,000 miles can redeem for a one-way flight ticket from the US to Europe in BUSINESS class! That’s worth thousands of dollars! Or 40,000 miles roundtrip from US to Europe, that’s worth more than $500!!! Furthermore, stack with the credit card company’s transfer bonus (usually once or twice a year) to get an additional 25% or more. That knocked down the number of points to only 37,500 points in business class one way or 30,000 points in economy roundtrip!

50,000 points sound like takes forever to rack up? Not at all! There are sign-up bonuses such as the 60,000 points (sometimes as high as 80,000 points) after $4000 spend within 3 months of account opening with the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card! In addition to bonus on categories like 3x the points on restaurants and 2x on travels. You can’t believe how fast your points will accumulate with everyday spending!

The best travel credit cards where you can transfer to airlines:

Chase Sapphire Preferred: This card has an annual fee but it’s totally worth the fee because of other travel benefits: 0% foreign transaction fee when using the card internationally and what I value the most: primary auto rental insurance when paying with the card on car rentals!

Chase Sapphire Reserved: This card has a hefty annual fee but it comes all the benefits of the Preferred card above plus a Priority Pass membership that you can access to airport lounges and restaurants and up to 2 guests as well! If you travel a lot then this card makes the most sense. Lastly, to offset the hefty annual fee, there’s also a $300 travel credit that you can apply to almost any travel expenses such as airfares, hotels, etc.

American Express Gold This card is not only great for transferrable Amex points but also for restaurants. It comes with a monthly $10 Uber/Uber Eats credit as well as $10 Grubhub credit. Those two alone makeup for the annual fee. In addition, combined with Rakuten (mentioned above shopping cashback) points, the points accumulate pretty easy and quick!

Credit Card with Annual Free Night

IHG Premier Credit Card: This card is incredible that you get a free night certificate that you can redeem at any IHG hotels worldwide that is up to 40,000 points in value. And the best thing is that for properties over 40,000 points, you can pay the difference with your point balance. It also comes with the TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry credit that you can use to apply for those programs to fast-track the security or immigration line coming into the US. Global Entry is the best because it includes TSA Pre-Check once approved. The free night alone totally worth its annual fee!

Hilton American Express Surplus Card: This card requires $15,000 spend within a year to get a free night certificate. However, it can be redeemed at ANY Hilton properties worldwide (for example the Waldorf Astoria Maldives that cost $2000+ a night). Also, this card comes with automatic Hilton gold status which gives free breakfast, late check-out (if available), and room upgrade! The free breakfast alone is well worth the annual fee if you plan to stay at Hilton properties.


1. Google Flights:

I use Google Flights when I have a general idea where I want to go but not exactly on place and date, for example, the Caribbeans. I usually input my home airport and select a date and then click on the “map”.  Then, it’ll display all the flight prices to everywhere in the world during that time period so that’ll give me an idea of the price around that area. When I know exactly where I want to go, I can search on “lowest fares” and select the duration of the trip for example 8 day trip. That’ll display all the prices of an 8 day trip from now up till 11 months for some destination so I know when is the cheapest time to travel. Note: Google travel is like a search engine, not an agency, so it’ll direct you to the airline to book. You can also track the price and Google will notify you when the price changes.

2. SecretFlying:

If you are not sure where to go, try Secret Flying to see where on sale (sometimes they found error fares which can save over 80% off regular flight price) to spark some interest! I constantly checking this site everyday to see if any place super cheap to go!

3. Directly with the airline

Sometimes airlines have special sales that the rates aren’t available in other 3rd party booking agency like Expedia. Sign up for the airline’s email notification to get alert of sales! I saved at least $100 with my Grand Cayman flight from JetBlue’s two days fare sale event!

Hotels (make sure you check if there’s extra cash back from Rakuten and TopCashBack first and then decide which one offers the highest to get to those sites to book the hotels)


What I like more about than other hotel booking sites is that it displays pictures of each category of rooms. It’s really important for me to know how the room looks from pictures than a text description of the room. Also, has more “local” hotels and bed and breakfasts in smaller villages and towns than other major booking sites.


3. AirBnB: with my referral link for $25 credit for both of us:

When traveling in more than groups of 4, it’s often hard to find a hotel room that can accommodate more than 4 adults. That was what happened on our London trip, my cousin decided to tag along with us last minute so I turned to AirBnB for apartment. I was wary on AirBnB but lucky that the one I picked ended up as pictured! My rule of thumb when booking via AirBnB is make sure the pictures are “verified” so what you see will be what you get (although the pics could be taken years ago so might not always be 100% accurate), contact the host to see how responsive he/she is, read the reviews (you can only write reviews on places you have actually booked and stayed), understand the total price (sometimes there’s cleaning fees) and cancellation policy, and if you have issue call AirBnB right away when you first check-in. AirBnB hold your payment and release to the host 24 hours after arrival so if you have any issue call right away!

FlyerTalk forum has an excellent compiled list of discount codes of major booking sites here:

4. Book directly with chain hotels

The benefit of booking directly with chain hotels is that you can earn loyalty points and enjoy your elite status-free perks if you have it. Combine it with that hotel chain’s credit card, you can earn extra points per dollar spent as well. For example, I spent over $1200 in the Conrad Maldives charged all the meals and activities to my room and with the old Hiltons credit card that earned 10 points per dollar (now 7 points per dollar with the no fee card) plus Diamond status, I earned almost 100K points; that’s enough for another night in the Maldives! Remember, you can still earn extra cashbac via Rakuten or Topcashback. I have seen as high as 10% back!

Trains in Europe

The fastest, most convenient, and affordable mode of transportation in Europe is usually trains. There are ways to save on train tickets. One of the best resource to find out how is TripAdvisor!  Go to the TripAdvisor forum and search, usually transportation is under the “top questions” on the right hand side of the forum. If not, just post a question and I am sure many experts will jump in to answer! Here are some common ways to save:

1. Rail Pass:

If you know how many trips you’ll be taking and want some flexibility on travel dates, sometimes a rail pass can save. You’ll need to do some calculations between a rail pass versus book directly and individually for each trip via the train company to determine which way saves more. Also, if you are under age of 25, a youth rail pass is the cheapest way to travel with flexibility!

2. Book Direct

Book direct with the train company since many 3rd party providers charged a fee and/or marked up the price. Some people choose to book with the 3rd party for convenience because many experienced difficulties with their credit card payment. I have booked many times with many companies and never have a problem! Many countries’ rail companies have English version and very easy to navigate! Plan early and book early to take advantage of advanced discounts as much as 70% off!

(If you are traveling with 2 or more people including yourself, DB Bahn offers a group ticket for less per person, also look for a one-day pass for unlimited travel within a region)

(I like new trains from Westbahn, free wifi which makes a 4 hour ride passed quickly)

I also wrote a quick guide on how to plan a day trip to Hallstatt:

Bus and Ferry across Southeast Asia

For bus and ferry tickets across Southeast Asia all in one site, I recommend using Bookaway. It’s an easy to use booking site in English!


Look for a pass like the museum pass is available for your destination. I had the Paris Museum Pass and it gave free and direct access to many top attractions in Paris without waiting in the line ticket line. It saved us time and money!!! If you plan to visit many attractions then the pass is the way to go. However, if you plan to visit a few attractions then do the calculation to see if it makes sense 🙂

  1. Viator check for coupon code for additional saving
  2. Expedia check for coupon code on “things to do”, I saved 20% on the luau package at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii!


I found this when I was planning my trip to Paris: This website offers discounts and promotions on restaurants like 50% off and special set menus. This really save us a lot of money in Paris – often viewed as expensive dinning out!

Health Benefits of Traveling!

Still looking for a justification to travel, especially for those travel addicts who feel guilty to book another trip! There are actually health benefits of traveling that I recently read called “25 Science-Backed Health Benefits of Traveling“! Check out the article and start planning your next trip 😉 As always, free feel to contact me for questions, I would love to give my personal advise and hear from you!

Need more inspiration for travel ideas?

Check out the list of best travel sites (I am one of them hehe) for more travel bloggers like me 🙂

10 thoughts on “Travel tips

  1. I was just wondering how much money you save per week/per year for travelling? It is my dream to travel as much as you & I think I need to make some changes to my spending so I can do so. Kind regards, Kayla

    1. Hi Kayla, we don’t have a set goal to save $x amount per week or per year. We are not drinkers and the food in Boston is bad so saved us a lot from going out to dine! For expensive flight tickets, we always redeem with points/miles from credit card sign up bonuses and from everyday spending on our credit cards. We always buy things on sale. Three years ago, we started wedding photography on the side to fund my travel addictions 🙂

  2. will get discounts on flights, hotels and will give you listings and times for small airline carriers.Quite useful in Asia and smaller countries.

    Going from Sky scanner to saves you money.

    man in seat 61( trains) has helped with difficult foreign train plans.

  3. Hello! Your blog is amazing and I found it to be really useful. I have couple of questions on traveling to French Polynesia. I am planning for our honeymoon and we plan to go to French Polynesia in December. Can you please suggest about travel booking? How did you book flights and rooms at resorts? Thanks!

    1. Hello, sorry for the delayed response, I just got back from vacation 🙂 Please email me at as there are a lot of choices in planning a vacation to French Polynesia. Have you narrowed down what islands will you be visiting?

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