3 Roundtrips to Europe on Miles with 1 Credit Card

Who wants 3 round-trip tickets to Rome or Paris? I’ll show you how and a few other few other trips with my favorite credit card!

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Mazatlán: The Pearl of the Pacific

This is the first post on a four part series on Mazatlan.
I.    Mazatlán:  The Pearl of the Pacific
II.   Mazatlán:  Travel Ninjas Trip Report
III. Mazatlán:  How We Booked It
IV. Mazatlán:  A Single Guy’s Take on Mazatlán

Everyone has a special place: that great eating joint where you had your first date with your spouse or significant other, that hidden walking trail that only you and close friends know about, or that perfect spot where you can catch the prettiest sunset. Since I don’t have the Anthony Bourdain effect, I’m okay with sharing our special place.  To all, our special place is Mazatlán.

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$573 – Roundtrip DFW to Las Vegas w/ 5 nights

I found a decent five day deal for two to Las Vegas  the week after Valentine’s Day so it’s right on time!

Flights
DFW – LAS
American Airlines
$117/person
Book on AA.com

Hotel:
Downtown Grand Las Vegas
$339.17 for 5 nights ($67/night)
*There is even potential to submit a BRG claim with Choice hotels to get at least one night for free. Let me know if you need help doing so.
Book on Travelocity.com

Total: $573

Hat-tip from  BRG Deals.

How to Get Started Collecting Miles & Points: Where do you want go?

Like anything else in life, goals are important in the miles and points game.  So knowing where you want to visit or travel and setting the goals to do so is important as that will shape the credit cards you apply for.  All credit cards have different bonus amounts including different redemptions with hotels, airlines, or travel partners.  For example, I usually fly out of Dallas or Oklahoma City so when I travel to Chicago, New Orleans, or Los Angeles, I use British Airways Avios as my redemption rate for miles is lower compared to redeeming American Airlines Aadvantage miles.  The funny thing is that even though I redeem on British Airways, I fly on American Airlines planes.  This is one way of making your miles stretch.

I’m taking a trip from Dallas to Madrid in March.  For this, I decided to collect AA miles as they offer a lower redemption rate they call MileSAAver with an off peak option to Europe between October 15 – May 15.  In this situation, I was able to book a one way flight from Dallas to Madrid for 20,000 miles thus saving an additional 10,000 miles compared to their normal redemption rate of 30,000 miles per one way.  By applying for one of Citi’s AA credit cards and being okay with flying in economy, you could have a free roundtrip to Europe and 10,000 miles left over to use at a later time!

Another example of the importance of setting a destination is to make sure the airline has routes to the location.  Southwest Airlines is one of my favorite airlines to travel with and one that I was able to get a Companion Pass for Veronica for two years.  Basically, the companion pass allows you to book one free companion ticket as long as the main account holder has a booked reservation; and there isn’t a limitation to how many times you can fly.  All you pay is the tax which is usually $11 per round-trip when redeeming miles.   The problem with Southwest is that their destinations are limited and only offer service in the U.S. and a few cities in Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. So if you wanted to travel to Europe, a Southwest Airlines Credit Card couldn’t provide the miles to get there.  But the card can get you to New York City, Puerto Rico or Aruba!

Once you have your destination and your travel goals set, you can then start signing up for loyalty programs and start applying for credit cards.

So, where do you want to go?  Let me know in the comments.

How It All Began

And this is the story of how it all began.

When she was three, I had promised Angela, my oldest daughter, that I would take her to DisneyLand when she turned 5.  Every time a Disney cartoon or movie came on, she would mention about how she was going to DisneyLand when she was “this many” (holding up 5 fingers.)

The Magical Kingdom!
The Magical Kingdom!

Well the time sped up and the next thing I know it is December 2012, Angela was 6, Ian and Lola joined the team and I still had not fulfilled my promise .  And to no surprise, I still hadn’t looked into pricing for the Disney trip.

One day I Googled “travel for cheap” and I stumbled upon Million Mile Secrets., a blog by Daraius Dubash and Emily Jablon in which they show how to travel “very comfortably to see the world, for a fraction of what one would otherwise pay for such travels.”  I started reading and researching his website and stumbled upon other blogs and forums such as Flyertalk, Boarding Area, Frequent Miler, Travel Is Free, Mile Value and many others.

What I found out was there were already ways in which individuals were signing up for credit cards and able to accumulate airline miles, hotel points, and cash or statement credits.

I reached out to Daraius and asked him some questions about credit card applications, credit history, and travel hacking schemes that were discussed on his site.  Within a matter of hours, he was able to point me in the right direction and answer my questions.  (To this day, I still follow MMS and have a lot of respect for what Daraius & Emily have been able to do by teaching people to travel “for a fraction” of the real costs.  They have always been professional and very respectful while still earning extra income from their blog.)

Late night reading became a normal pattern for me and I would share with Veronica the information I would pick up on the blogs.  She was very hesitant, as everyone should be when something sounds too good to be true.  She gave me her blessing and I “pulled the trigger”.  I applied for 4 credit cards on the same day and I was approved for all 4!  The plan was moving along.

Within two months, I was able to complete the minimum spending requirements without having to go into debt.  (I will discuss and point you to resources on how to do minimum spending without actually having to go into debt.)  I accumulated 110,000 Southwest Airlines Miles, a Free Southwest Airlines Companion Pass for two years, 60,000 Marriott hotel points, and $440 in statement credits with only four credit card applications.  And my credit score only went down 10 points.  Within 3 months, my credit score was above where it was before I began applying for cards.

In March of 2013, I was able to book 5 roundtrip tickets from Oklahoma City to Los Angeles for a total of $55 in taxes, booked 6 free nights at the Fairfield Inn Anaheim, and paid $40 for 4 DisneyLand tickets after the statement credits.  For a total of $95, I was able to take my family of 5 Traveling Ninjas for a week stay to Los Angeles.

Even though two years late, promise accomplished.

Ian on his first flight.
Ian on his first flight. Looks like a seasoned traveler.

 

OMG, Mickey!
OMG, Mickey!

 

There isn’t a price I wouldn’t pay to do it again and see the extreme joy and amazement in Angela’s eyes when she was at DisneyLand for the first time.  To me, the miles and points game isn’t about bragging to where you have traveled to, but rather the memories that come from those trips.  My kids don’t remember what we bought them last Christmas, but they sure do remember the memories made at DisneyLand and in L.A..  To me, that’s well work the risk.

Life’s a risk carnal” –  Blood In, Blood Out Motion Picture .

Viva Zapata! Angela and Temo at La Plazita in Downtown Los Angeles.

Viva Zapata! Angela and Temo at La Plazita in Downtown Los Angeles.

 

Angela, Ian, at El Pino
Angela, Ian,and Temo at El Pino in East Los Angeles

 

Let Me Introduce Myself, My Name is Temo

I’m Temo Ibarra and I started this site to share the stories behind my family’s travels. (pronounced Tee-moh)

Veronica, my wife, and I often get asked how our family was able to travel to so many places.  We often get comments like “Ya’ll must have a lot of money to be traveling to here and there“, “I couldn’t afford to visit Paris“, etc.  The truth is that we travel real cheap but stay in decent accommodations while only paying taxes on flights.
Example:  staying at the Hilton Times Square for only $0.00/night and $11 in taxes for a round-trip from Dallas to New York City. 

Veronica & I at El Yunque National Park in Puerto Rico.
Veronica & I at El Yunque National Park in Puerto Rico.

So after some motivation from Veronica, family, and friends, we decided to start a site to share the ways how normal individuals and families can travel the world without having to pay full price on flights, hotels, and car rentals.  I’m not even close to being an expert like other bloggers that I follow who have mastered “travel hacking”, but I’m willing to share my stories and to help anyone book their dream trip.  It’s a big world out there; go and conquer it.

What started from keeping a promise to a 5 year old Angela to take her to DisneyLand, has evolved into experiences I will cherish for the rest of my life.  I can not describe the joy and happiness traveling brings to me when I see the look on my kids’ faces when they visit a new place.  Like everything else I do in life, I dedicate this site to them.  We are the Traveling Ninjas!

Ian, Angela, Lola in NYC for Halloween 2014.
Ian, Angela, Lola in NYC for Halloween 2014.

(Yes, we are from the south, Oklahoma to be exact.  “Ya’ll” kind of gave it away, huh.)