Jill sent us her reader success story to Australia, and we are so happy to share it with you. I LOVED my trip to Australia earlier this year and know that many of you have plans to travel there, too. Here is her story:
When our son moved to Australia in 2018, we expected him only to be there for a year, so we didn’t plan on making a visit. However, when he decided to stay longer, we knew we had to figure out how to start making trips down under. Evan is the only one of our five grown kids who doesn’t live within thirty minutes of our home. He’s lived in Nashville, Chicago, Los Angeles, and now Australia. Because he’s always lived at a distance, we’ve made saving for travel to see him a part of our budget. When our trip to see him moved from making a trip to California and became making a trip to Australia, we knew we had to do something very different.
As self-employed Christian marriage coaches, our income fluctuates, and it doesn’t really support these expensive trips. That’s when we turned to travel hacking. I had heard about traveling with points but knew very little of the details. I decided to get us two American Express Delta Skymiles Platinum cards, and we started putting all of our expenses on the cards.
Within two years, we had enough points to make our first trip to Australia in January 2020. We spent less than $120 each in taxes and fees on our airfare to and from Australia for that two-week trip. I was now hooked!
The Delta Skymiles Platinum Card has a $250 annual fee, but every year you receive a complimentary companion certificate for a domestic flight that helps offset that fee. Additionally, you can apply for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry and receive a reimbursement of the fee on the card. Having the Delta Amex card also allows us to check our first bag for free for up to nine people on a single reservation.
In early 2022, I discovered Travel Hacking Mom’s online course. I took diligent notes and learned so much more. On our second trip to Australia this past Christmas, I used more of what I learned from them. On our 2022 trip, we also used Delta miles to get to Australia, but the amount of miles needed had tripled since our first trip. Thanks to the pandemic and us having three years to accumulate Delta miles, we were able to still make our 2022 trip on miles.
On our first trip to Australia, we flew into Sydney and then had to pay for an in-country flight to get from Sydney to Melbourne (where our son lives). After taking the Travel Hacking Mom course, I realized that we could use our American Airlines miles (we also have a Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard) to book the in-country flight on Qantas, an American Airlines partner airline. Points for the win again! (Note by THM: Three more cards earn AAdvantage miles, and by opening more cards and getting more SUBs, you will earn more miles than by just concentrating on one or two cards and putting all your spending on them).
American Airlines now has a direct flight from the U.S. to Melbourne that hasn’t existed before. While Delta is usually our airline of choice, we are beginning to put our eggs in the American Airlines basket for our next trip now.
On our second trip to Australia, our son had moved to a new home and no longer had room for guests, so we needed to figure out housing options for our two-week stay there. That’s when we added Home Exchange to our travel hacking strategy. You can do reciprocal or non-reciprocal home exchanges. In our case, we set up our home on Home Exchange which earned us 1200 points on the platform. We then found a home in Melbourne, Australia, that was willing to do a points exchange. The only thing we had to pay for was the annual Home Exchange fee of $175. Therefore, it cost us just $175 for 12 days of housing in our son’s neighborhood! We LOVED the home exchange and found that if you only want to do one exchange, you don’t even have to ever exchange your home—you can just set your home up on Home Exchange and earn the points doing that. It’s very similar to what we do when opening up new credit cards to get introductory points.
Our two trips to Australia and seeing our son in his world were amazing. We also loved getting away for a longer trip than we’d ever taken before. We fed kangaroos, hiked the Blue Mountains, drove the Great Ocean Road, ate fantastic food, and explored a lavender farm.
I’m still a newbie at travel hacking, but I keep learning and experiencing new opportunities all the time. We’re heading on a mission trip to Uganda this summer, and I took advantage of the recent introductory deals on the Chase Ink Business Cards and the Chase Sapphire Cards to cover our airfare for the trip. I’m so grateful to Travel Hacking Mom for teaching me how to make these trips happen!
Thanks, Jill, for sharing your story with us! We loved your reader success story to Australia—good luck on all your future travel hacking journeys!
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