I’m not much of a penny pincher. When it comes to the grand scheme of things, I’m more interested in enjoying myself, and getting the best bang for my buck than in getting something as cheaply as possible. But that doesn’t mean I don’t go for value — and it doesn’t mean that I won’t use resources to my advantage.

When my son and I went to San Diego for his spring break, I saved more than 50% by utilizing the credit card rewards and loyalty program rewards I had accumulated. A week-long trip that should have cost more than $2,000 instead cost around $1,000. My son and I got to do everything we wanted, and enjoy high quality experiences.

Credit Card Rewards

saveFirst of all, I looked at my credit card rewards. Turns out that I had enough for a round-trip plane ticket. So, right there, instead of buying two plane tickets, we only had to buy one plane ticket. I also had credit card rewards that allowed me a restaurant gift card, so we had a free meal, and there was some cash back involved, since I made all of the booking arrangements with a cash back card. With the cash back (it happened to be a higher percentage because of the rotating category), I saw another effective discount on my trip.

Using credit card rewards can be a great way to improve your finances, no matter. I like to maximize my credit card rewards by using credit cards to pay for many of purchases and then paying off the balance. It doesn’t do much good if you pay a high rate of interest and offset all of your rewards. Do what you can to build up credit card rewards that work best for you, and then use them when you go on vacation, or for some other purpose.

You can also make use of the perks offered by credit cards. Since I used a credit card with rental car insurance to make my reservation, I didn’t need to buy the insurance, and that saved me each day. On top of that, my credit card issuer had a special rate with the car rental company. The agent was surprised at how low my rate was. Look at your credit card’s member benefits to save on such items as travel insurance, and to get special discounts.

Loyalty Rewards

You can also use loyalty rewards along with your credit card rewards. One of the best ways to do this is to get a credit card that is connected to a brand that you use frequently. I recently got a miles card associated with an airline I use frequently. This allows me to build up points at a faster rate, and use my rewards more effectively.

However, even if you don’t have a credit card associated with a loyalty program, you can still benefit. I got two of my nights free in a hotel since I used my earned loyalty points. On top of that, I received a discount on the other nights in the hotel because of a different loyalty program through Orbitz, the travel aggregator I use most frequently. By combining my free nights with my discounted nights (not to mention the lower starting price because of the aggregator) I saved more than 50% on my lodging.

Other Discounts

Another way I saved was through a promotional credit on a prepaid card. I ended up with free money that I used for most of my meals. This was a great way to eat, without the need for me to spend my own money. I also looked for other discounts. Before you do anything, it makes sense to look for a discount. We got a free admission to LEGOland, and discounts on whale watching. All of our activities came with discounts. I often sign up for LivingSocial or Groupon in a target city about two months ahead of a trip, just to see what is offered. Then I can remove those settings after the trip.

My husband was surprised at the amount of stuff we were able to do, and the comfort in which we traveled, for the price. It just goes to show that with the right planning, it’s possible to save a great deal of money on your next vacation.



Miranda is freelance journalist. She specializes in topics related to money, especially personal finance, small business, and investing. You can read more of my writing at Planting Money Seeds.