7 Ways to Make Your Travel Plans for the Year

Picture this. It’s the start of a new year and you’ve made travel goals for yourself but have no idea where to start. Have no fear! We’re here to help. Follow these tips to help you plan your travel for 2019:

  1. Start planning early.

    This goes without saying but it needs to be said! It never hurts to start thinking of the places you want to visit this year. I always start my year thinking about where I’d like to go because I think it’ll keep my travel wheels turning. Even if I don’t make it there, it’s still on my list of future vacation destinations.

  2. Look at your calendar and plan your paid-time-off.

    I’m a big believer in maximizing long weekends and holidays in order to make the most of your vacation. You can still work full-time and find the time to travel the world. There are 10 holidays recognized by the Federal Government (sometimes 11 if it’s an inauguration year) between January 1st and December 31st. That means there are 10 (sometimes 11) days that you potentially have off and can use to go on vacation. Use them wisely!

  3. Identify festivals and events you want to go.

    Have you always wanted to go to Essence Festival but it always seems to sneak up on you? Not this year! Pull out your calendar and google each event or festival you’re interested in attending. Keep them on your radar by setting up travel alerts on helpful travel sites like Kayak or Skyscanner. The alerts will not only remind you of places you want to go and when, but they’ll help you keep an eye on the price changes.

  4. Open a travel savings account.

    This was one of the best things I’ve ever done. I opened a checking and savings account with Charles Schwab because they don’t charge any withdrawal fees abroad. I’ve allotted money to automatically be withdrawn from my paycheck to go into this savings account. When the time comes for me to travel, not only have I already saved for my trip’s expenses, but I’m also able to access this money abroad without paying a fee. Genius!

  5. Get a travel rewards credit card.

    If you’re not using a travel credit card (and paying it off monthly), you’re not living right. My mother and I traveled to Paris completely free (in Economy Comfort, by the way) because of my American Express points. If you’re wondering how I did it, become a believer and read more about that here.

  6. Follow travel hacking sites on social media.

    You must, must, must do this and have your friends do it too! This is the best way to find places to travel cheaply and will allow you to see more of the world.

  7. Stop making excuses.

    There’s no time like the present. Travel is a privilege but it’s one you can take advantage of with proper research and planning. Use these tips and get to it!


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.