Hawaii 2019, Travel Hacking

Flying from N.J. to Hawaii for $89.60

We’re just getting started with travel hacking, and this summer we’re taking a trip to one of our dream destinations: Hawaii

Hawaii has been coming up regularly as a dream destination within our family for several years now. We have been getting more intentional with our travel hacking and credit card opening throughout 2018, and I really wanted to push the envelope and take the opportunity to see if we could pull off an amazing vacation for 2019 with the fruits of our effort and focus.

We’re dreaming of the sites to see on Kauai

I know the topic often comes up in the FI community: “How do I get my partner / spouse on board with the FI lifestyle?”. It can be challenging to have significant others fully buy into a life of less spending now, to help build and shape an exciting tomorrow. While I haven’t faced many challenges in my own personal situation, booking this trip truly has been a ‘game changer’ in helping to clearly prove the amazing benefits that can result from getting intentional with travel hacking. Lately my wife has been far more dedicated to the cause, and she has even been getting into the research to help identify what card we should open next to piece together an amazing and complete vacation for as little cash as possible.

So how did we travel hack and book these flights?

I think there are a handful of important traits that are very important for FI and successful travel hacking to get the most value for your efforts:

  1. Be as flexible as possible – In our case the points necessary to fly from Newark to LAX was the lowest for the entire month during July 4th, a date when most people want to relax and celebrate rather than travel.
  2. Be creative and optimize – In this case we’ll be flying to and from LAX with United Airlines, and then flying American Airlines from LAX to Kauai and back. Is it convenient this way? Not particularly. Did it provide us with the flights we needed at the lowest expense? Yes!

The non-monetary “travel miles” expense for the trip cost us 130,000 United MileagePlus Mile, and 100,000 British Airways Avios Miles.

United MileagePlus:

The outbound United Flight was a mere 50,000 miles (12,500 per person) given the July 4th date, and we splurged a little for the 80,000 miles (20,000 per person) return flight, because we felt flying direct would save us headaches with the kids.

I first took out a United MileagePlus credit card several years ago, and that included a 50,000 mile sign up. To be completely honest and transparent, I have also had some occasional Business class airfares to Europe for my work that have also steadily accumulated over the years to help cover this total number of miles.

British Airways Avios Miles:

With American Airlines partnered with British Airways as a OneWorld partner, this made flight options from LAX to Hawaii relatively easy. Astonishingly it only cost 50,000 Avios miles each way to Hawaii and back (12,500 miles per person per flight), for a total of 100,000 Avios miles to go from LAX to LIH (Kauai) and back to LAX.

This past Summer I took out the British Airways Visa Card from Chase. They provide you with the opportunity to earn up to 100,000 bonus miles depending how much you spend on the card: 50,000 miles after $3,000, another 25,000 miles after achieving $10,000 in spending, and final 25,000 miles with $20,000 in spending for the year. Now I want to be clear that the primary reason I successfully charged $20,000 to this card over a matter of months is because I was able to use it for paying down an existing student loan that I had. I was prepared for paying off that student loan at that time anyway, it just worked out in my favor to do so using this tiered credit card reward program. So, by the end of the Summer I had earned 120,000 Avios miles, when you added in the points per dollar spent on various categories.

Here we come Hawaii

Well, there you have it: Our family of four is flying to Hawaii in the Summer of 2019 for 230,000 airline miles that we mostly acquired from travel hacking, and $89.60 of hard cold cash to cover the “September 11th Security Fees” of each flight segment.

Stay tuned for future posts as we share our plans for covering the hotels and rental car. At the end of the day I have no doubt we will spend a reasonable amount of cash during this trip for various adventures and sightseeing tours; This past summer my children got a taste for zip-lining and I have no doubt that will be a priority of theirs for Hawaii too. However, my goal is to really build out a truly amazing and enjoyable vacation that everyone will remember, leveraging as much travel hacking and rewards as I can reasonably use, to deliver us a vacation at a tiny fraction of the cost that most people would be spending.

We’re really doing this, we’re travel hacking our way to Hawaii this Summer. Let’s do this!!