My first experience with free travel was proposing to my wife in Southern France. When I was a kid, I was a romantic. I believed in the fairy tale romances and that I’d someday get the girl and be able to make a big surprise proposal. So, even before I had my first girlfriend, I knew where I wanted to propose, in the small town of Menton on the Mediterranean Sea.
After graduating high school, I had the chance to play some tournaments in Southern France. This 6-week adventure around the small coastal towns was not only an incredible experience as a tennis player, but it was life changing. I fell in love with the French culture, and I knew that I wanted to explore more of this globe if I had the chance.
My home base for that trip was the small town of Menton. And, the last night of my stay, I decided to take a long walk up to a 16th century church at the top of the old town in Menton. This spot had a view of the Mediterranean Sea with mountains in the background. It was at sunset. The sea was an amazing teal blue and blending into the sky. The clouds overhead were changing from pink to orange to purple. That’s when I heard a voice inside say, “This is where I want to propose to my future wife.”
Fast forward to 2010 when I’m in my late 20’s. Almost 10 years exactly from that magical, prophetic moment. My tennis dreams were in the rear view after a back injury in college made me give it up. But, I had found a woman I knew without a doubt that I wanted to marry. Menton crept back into my mind, but there was one catch.
Proposing in France costs some money, and I didn’t have much to spend. I started to become more practical about spots I liked in Nashville (where I was living), but then my friend emailed me about a credit card that came with bonus points. Not just some bonus points, but 100,000 points! I looked up the link, and the bonus offer said, “Enough for 2 Roundtrip Tickets to Europe!” Wait… What?! If this was legit, my proposal budget just got a $2,500 boost in free travel money.
I was a die-hard Dave Ramsey guy. I had one credit card to my name that my mom opened for me at the beginning of college. I didn’t plan on getting any more, and always laughed at the t-shirts and other gimmicks that got people to sign up. But, thanks to a good credit score as a result of my mom’s foresight, and a friend’s guidance that I could trust, I went for the deal.
I signed up. After spending $2,000, I earned 100,000 British Airways points. A month later, those points showed up on my account and I booked the tickets. That June, I pulled off one of the best surprises and memories of my life.
That sparked a cautious but serious journey into the world of credit card bonuses. I never knew that you didn’t have to carry a balance or have to pay interest fees as long as you paid your cards off on time. I was still very careful with my spending. My spending habits never changed as I got credit cards. But, instead of having to save up to achieve travel dreams, I was getting sign-up bonuses and traveling for free. It felt pretty surreal. And, it still does to this day.
Our engagement lasted about 18 months. Enough time for a few more credit card sign ups. Because we had the points, we were able to do a 10-day honeymoon in Hawaii. Then, we spent 6 weeks in Spain. (Some advice: I don’t necessarily recommend being away from your culture and friends for that long right after getting married! There were some ups and downs getting used to the married life while trying to navigate daily travel decisions.)
We went to grad school all the way in Vancouver, BC. With our points, we were able to fly for free to go back and see family and friends for holidays. Then, once we got settled in Denver, the free travel really started to pick up. It was pretty incredible to look through travel magazines and stare at travel guides at the library knowing that we had points to go anywhere in the world. We weren’t making much money, but we could afford some amazing vacations because we were flying for free.
Now, several years later, my wife and/or I have been to Hawaii, Spain, New Zealand, Turkey, Greece, Scotland, Iceland, Peru, and South Africa without paying for our flights. And, some of these trips have been on business class for free! We’ve also gotten free flights for extended family vacations, visits for holidays, and to go to weddings.
This is our story, but it’s quickly becoming the story of many millennial and retirees. Travel, and all its blessings, is an incredible passion for me and my wife. Every year I’m amazed at where we’ve gone without stretching our budget. We’ve taken so many dream trips and haven’t sacrificed our monthly spending or the money it takes to see friends and family throughout the year.
My hats off to other free travel experts and the experiences they have, but I want a more normal life with a home base and a job and nonprofit that I can love and serve. However, I’m also practical about my love for travel and my free summers as a teacher. It has been amazing to learn the secrets of free travel, and now with this software I’ve created, I can put most of it on autopilot.
If you resonate with any of this, I think it’s worth trying out Travel Freely. It’s completely FREE! Dip your toes in and see if it’s for you. Thanks for reading, and Travel Freely. =)Start Travel Freely