Travel Hacking New Orleans

Flights & 4 nights for 5 people- under $300

Hey!  We just returned from New Orleans and I wanted to share with you how we saved so much money on this trip by travel hacking our accommodation & flights.  We’ve been able to travel more since learning how to better utilize our credit card points.  For more info, start HERE:

Why this Dave Ramsey follower still uses a credit card

Travel Hacking the Canadian Rockies

We flew to New Orleans on Southwest airlines.  The total cost of 5 flights on Southwest would have been $1269.40!  Instead, our total was $56 and some change thanks to using 56,350 points.  You could get this many points by getting the sign-up bonus on the Chase Sapphire Preferred and then transferring the points to Southwest.  Check out 10xtravel for more info on all things credit cards!

Savings: $1213

For our hotel nights, we wanted to do a plantation tour, but also stay in the city.

Because we were arriving into New Orleans on a Saturday night during Jazz Fest, city hotel rates were really high.  We decided that we’d stay outside of the city for the first night, then drive in on Sunday.

The first night we stayed at the Home2 Suites by Hilton in Gonzales, LA.  This was a perfect family-friendly property.  Our room with two double beds and a sofa bed was HUGE, and the free breakfast was sufficient.

The total cost for that night was $112.78.

We had some points left on our Barclaycard Arrival+.  Which allowed us to completely “erase” the purchase.  Barclaycard is offering a 50,000 point sign-up bonus which is good for $500 of travel purchases.

Savings: $112

In New Orleans, we picked our hotel considering what would accommodate our family, but was also not too close to the French Quarter.  I’d read on some blogs that the French Quarter can get a little rowdy at night and little ones (or their big mama, lol) would have a hard time sleeping.

Brian had some Hilton points to burn, so we chose the Hampton Inn by Hilton by the Convention Center.  If we would have paid out of pocket for the Hampton, 3 nights would have cost us just over $694.  This is without 2 nights of valet parking (we were able to park the first night on the street), which would have added an additional $88). Hilton now allows you to redeem an uneven amount of points – i.e. the Hampton was 36k a night and we redeemed 77k to help us save a little more on the last night.

Our final bill at check-out was

3 nights at the Hampton with 2 nights parking FULL PRICE: $782

3 nights at the Hampton with 2 nights parking WITH POINTS: $235

Savings: $547

We also rented a car, but it’s not a necessity when visiting New Orleans so I won’t include it.  Our reason for renting was because we did want to drive out to the plantations, and we needed cost-effective airport transportation.  I’m so glad we did have the car because of all of the flight debacles we had on the return.

Also, when flying on Southwest Airlines, your car seats fly for free!  This is a big money-saver!  We bought car seat bags a couple of years ago from Amazon and this backpack one is our favorite.  Hands-free with kids is a must!

We also just purchased this inflatable booster seat for our oldest.  It worked really well – and we could fit 3 kids across the back of a Ford Escape.

 

(If you weren’t traveling with three small kids you could easily purchase a plantation tour with hotel pick-up plus airport transfers).

So that’s how we did flights for five & 4 nights of hotel for under $300!  Do you travel hack?  Have you been to New Orleans?

While in NOLA: Visit the Garden District & Tour Lafayette Cemetery

** Leah’s disclaimer:  It’s never a good idea to go into debt by using credit cards.  We use them for most of our business/personal expenses and then pay the statement each month.  Don’t play this game if you lack self-control. **

 


Booking.com

Why this Dave Ramsey follower still uses a credit card

As much as I preach the Dave Ramsey financial gospel, there is one solid thing that I disagree with him on.

I think you can get out of debt and pay your bills and still have a credit card.  

Now, as Paul Harvey would say, here is “the rest of the story.”

We never struggled with credit cards.  We had a car loan and student loan when we took Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University.  We were young and dumb, BUT we were smart enough to know that paying 18% interest was just DUMB.

So I say this all with a disclaimer:  If you’re still silly enough to pay 13%-30% interest, or think balance transfers are an advanced financial decision, this post may not be for you.

In the last couple of years we began to use credit cards fairly heavily.  Not because we’re accruing debt, but because of the type of household we run.  My husband is a self-employed salesman and we realized that all of the money he was spending each month on gas, hotels, and even some fast food, was doing nothing for us.  After a visit to our local bank branch we realized that opening one of their cards could help us accrue some points and at the very least get cash back or some small travel.

Here are three reasons we use credit cards:

Travel Hacking  

Exactly two years ago my mom saw Bryce of 10xtravel talking about Travel Hacking on Good Morning America..  Not only was Bryce a familiar face from my hometown of only 3500 people, but he helped me (via email) come up with a plan to fly our family of 5 to Australia using credit card points.  I know that Dave likes to poo-poo credit card points ,but we were able to cut the cost of our Australian airfare by nearly $4000.  We also saved $450 on an expensive Sydney hotel and still came home with a bunch of miles to fund some free flights to Banff(we paid about $125 in taxes vs the $1356 cost).  Travel hacking takes focus, but for organized people like us, the benefits outweigh the work.

American Airlines what I would have paid

Discounts

We have two American Express cards- two major hotel branded cards- and both of them offer discounts on everything from groceries to airlines and even chocolate.  If you have an American Express card, scroll down on the main page and just “Add” these discounts to your card.  Here are the promotions currently added to my card:

credit card savings

Another example I can think of is the Fairmont credit card.  They provide breakfast coupons, spa discounts, and more when being a cardholder while also staying at their hotels.  The Fairmont card does carry an annual fee, so it’s important to weigh the cost with the benefits

Security

I know numerous people say that debit cards are just as safe as credit cards, but I beg to differ.  If someone gets ahold of your debit card number, they aren’t essentially spending the issuer’s money, they are spending YOUR money.  Credit cards also provide numerous extra benefits that my debit card does not- such as some rental car coverage, lost baggage coverage and more.  I feel safer using a credit card online (and who doesn’t make lots of purchases on the internet?).

Conclusion

So while we LOVE Dave Ramsey and will forever be indebted to him (see what I did there?) for our financial peace, we really do think that credit cards can be used responsibly.  It’s not for everyone (if you’re renting your couch, please don’t open a credit card), but we’ve found using credit cards to be beneficial to helping us reach our travel goals-  and save us some moola!

What do you think?  Do you use a credit card for travel benefits and discounts?

DR credit card

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Bad (Money) Habits

 

Throughout the last year, I’ve been reading a lot about habits.  It’s really fascinating why we do the things we do- whether it’s our purchases at the store or our bedtime routine.  Moreso, habits are changeable!

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So what habits do we need to let go of when it comes to money?  I’m personally sick of hearing to “give up your latte each day!”  You mean a $4 Starbucks drink x 5 days a week is a bad investment?  Duh.  I want to think of some of the other little money snatchers.

1. Eating out.  Everyone preaches against coffee, but pays no attention to how much we eat out.  Go to a cash system for eating out and you’ll realize how much you really spend.  You’ll be on the 3rd day of the month with no money to burn.  The average American spends $936/year just eating out for lunch!  It’s time to pack a turkey sandwich – you’re wallet (and waistline) will approve.

2.  Target.  Oh ladies, this is a sermon to myself as well as you.  One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to “avoid Target.” It’s like crack for Mommas.  Any big box store could qualify, but Target has a Dollar Spot, and cute clothes, and shoes, and polka dotted gift bags and towels and NATE BERKUS DECOR ITEMS- oh my!!!  And I get 5% off with my Target Debit (after I add 40% more STUFF to my cart!?!).  I’ve started ordering online for store pick-up and just picking it up at the front. No joke.  You can’t buy what you don’t see.  Can’t say I didn’t tell ya! 😉

3. Fundraisers.  Ohmygosh, Mr. Yoder Toter and I had to rein this one in because every sad Boy Scout or school kid that came to our door sold us cookies, popcorn, Yankee candles, and any other item we really didn’t need.  It usually goes like this, “Can’t we just give you $10 for the school?”  “Uh, no, we’re not allowed to do that.”  “Oh, ok. I’ll take the caramel corn.”  Fundraisers can be a great thing, but if you are tight on cash or saving for something or getting out of debt, they just aren’t necessary.  Don’t even get me started on the schools asking me for more money. I digress.

4. Kids.  There is no denying that kids cost some money.   However, I nearly jump through my Instagram feed when I see babies with new fancy clothes.  Like, nicer than the parents.   If you spend $20 on a onesie that your child is going to poo up the back of, I’m questioning your sanity.  (I mean that nicely, but it has to be said).  I have been in love with Freshly Picked kids moccasins for the last year, but they are $60 and I don’t spend $60 on some of my own shoes, so why would I put them on my daughter who will wear them for maybe 3 months?  I know I’ve lost my mind a few times since having kids, but this just irks me.  Buy consignment or thrift.  Borrow from friends.  Go to Target (I’m a hyprocrite!) The end.

So change your money habits, and change your life.  I’m sure you’re daughter would rather have some Gs for college than some cute shoes!

Anyone else on the struggle bus when it comes to avoiding Target?  Please tell me you haven’t spent $20 on a onesie?!

More reading- This book will explain why Target owns you, Momma.

The quote above is from this book, which was one of my top 5 books of 2014.

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