Travel Blogging

How I Booked 2 FREE Round-Trip Tickets to Paris

My mom and I are headed to France! She has a milestone birthday this year so I thought it’d be amazing to take her somewhere she’s never been. We are spending a few days in Paris and then heading to the French Riviera. Sounds amazing, right? We can’t wait.

When I first started researching for our trip, I planned to just buy our tickets outright. But then I thought why not use my hard-earned American Express credit card points? I became a card-carrying member of the American Express Platinum club almost a year ago, which by the way, I should have totally gotten sooner! I love it and all of its benefits but that’s a post for a different day.

After spending a minimum of $5,000 within three months, I received 60,000 points, which is equivalent to about $500 for future flights or hotel stays. I didn’t spend my initial 60,000 points right away because I wanted to use them for something special. I continued to accumulate points by using it as my every day card instead of my debit card. By the time I cashed out, I had over 120,000 points. And I couldn’t think of anything more special than treating my mom to a free trip to France! So how did I do it?

  1. Find a flight. I look for flights on several websites (Google Flights, Expedia, Skyscanner and others) before deciding to purchase a ticket. I saw on Google Flights that Delta had flights to Paris and from Nice during my desired travel dates. And Delta happens to be my preferred airline because I fly it most often (hello, status!).

  2. Always go to the airline’s website to book directly. I went to Delta’s website to see how much the flights were, both in points and dollars. I always go to directly to the airline’s website just to make sure I’m getting the best rate.

  3. Transfer Points. I saw that one round-trip economy class ticket to Paris was 66,000 points on Delta from BWI. I had about 75,000 points on Delta so it was only enough points for one ticket. But then I remembered that Delta and American Express are partners! I called AMEX and they were able to instantly transfer the remaining points I needed over to my Delta account. Since I was using points from both my Delta and AMEX accounts, I splurged for two Economy Comfort seats which were only about 20,000 more points. Score!
    *Note: You could receive more points if you booked your trip through American Express Travel, but I didn’t have enough AMEX points alone to book the flights I wanted directly through their site.

  4. Book the flights! It took about 3 minutes for my AMEX points to show up in my Delta account. Once they were there, I booked our tickets directly on Delta’s website and voila! We’re headed to Paris!

Delta still charges taxes and fees per ticket, so I paid about $120 for both tickets. But guess what? Those were paid too! One of the benefits of the AMEX Platinum is that you receive $200 per year to use for incidental fees on any airline of your choice. Because my AMEX is linked to my Delta account, I was immediately refunded the $120, making the tickets FREE.99!

I was on Cloud 9 that day not just because they were free, but because I was able to do something for my mother that I knew she would love and appreciate. I called her at work and she couldn’t believe it. This frees up more of our cash to dine at amazing restaurants, take great tours and stay at better hotels! It’s my mother’s first time to Europe so I want it to be amazing for her. Our trip is already off to an amazing start!

*This post is not sponsored by Delta or American Express, but it should be! Call me!
**Since they aren’t paying me, I didn’t include links throughout this post. But check out more benefits of the Platinum card
***The fee for the AMEX Platinum is $550 per year. Please only apply for this card if it’s in your budget.

A Year in Review: Lessons Learned in 2017

At the end of 2016, I was slightly burnt out from my biggest year of travel to date. I'm not one of those travel bloggers whose goal is to travel year-round without having a home base. I like having a career (that affords me the opportunity to travel), being able to spend time with my family and friends on a regular basis, and having stability. My goal this year was to find a better balance between my home life and travel schedule. With only 10 days standing between 2018 and me, I can honestly say that I feel like I succeeded in my effort.

In 2017, I traveled to Seattle and Vancouver, Guatemala (six weeks), Miami (twice), South Africa (four weeks), Kenya (four weeks), Charlottesville (one week), London, Philadelphia, Ghana (10 days) and Las Vegas. While that may be a lot or a little to you, it was just right for me. I went somewhere each month this year but was still home enough to feel like I wasn't packing and unpacking every week.

I learned a lot about myself this year, mostly that it's okay to stay in my lane. Will Drink For Travel is almost four years old and with so many travel blogs out there, it can be difficult to find and keep my own voice. That sounds cliché, but it's true. I also learned many of the following important lessons throughout my travels:

1. Be flexible.

I was supposed to spend eight weeks in Kenya but because of their elections and concerns for safety, I was forced to cut my trip short. This meant I had to condense all of my travel plans into a few short weekends. I had to pick what I thought was most important for me to see. I chose to go to the beach (duh) in Mombasa. It was one of the most beautiful beaches I've seen and served as a reminder that I have to sometimes make priorities and stick to them.


2. Revisiting old places can be great.

This year I visited a few familiar places, including Miami, London, and South Africa. I've always had mixed feelings about visiting places multiple times. With so many places in the world I haven't seen, I always feel like I can visit a new place instead. But this year, I found myself longing for Miami, on assignment in South Africa, and wanting to see my beloved Baltimore Ravens play in London. While I had been to each of these places before, my trips this year were different than previous times and I found myself falling in love with each even more. It was a great reminder that revisiting places can provide new experiences.


3. It's okay to want to stay home.

Last year, I was in Zambia for around nine months in total and while it was amazing, it also took a toll on my personal life. I was missing birthdays, graduations, and many of other life's happenings. I made a concerted effort to balance my time this year with a better mix of home and travel. I've probably spent somewhere close to 5 months out of the country this year and I've fared much better with a balanced life.


4. Savor the moments. 

As a travel blogger, I want to capture as much as I can. But in many cases, I've found that I was missing what was happening around me. There are a few places I went this year like Miami and Las Vegas where I didn't really want to create any blog content. I wanted to enjoy my time with my friend and my mom. I've learned to know when to turn blogger mode on and off in order to be present and in the moment.


5. Be open.

As I said last year, this will always be on my list of lessons. I find that the more open I am, the more I'm able to receive from the world in return, which can be both good and bad. But in my experience, I've found it to be mostly good. I'm so ready for whatever life has to offer!

I'm looking forward to 2018 and everything that will come my way. Cheers to a fresh start and a chance to see more of the world!