Joyful Travel Year End Review

It’s that time of year; the time when we look back and reflect on all that has transpired in the previous 12 months. I’m not one to spend a lot of time looking back but this year has been filled with abundance for me. Please indulge me as I share my Joyful Travel Year End Review with you. Read all the way to the end to find out what I’ve got planned for 2020.

In the Beginning

Early in January had me taking a trip to Maui, HI to a healing retreat. I’d never had this type of travel experience before and wasn’t sure what to expect. However, I went with an open mind and was not disappointed. The scenery was beautiful but the deep inner work was the magic of this trip.

Ever the travel hacker, I booked my airfare on United with points and spent under $20 in taxes and fees. I also scored a free rental car by using Chase Ultimate Rewards points in the Chase Portal online. As well I used points for a free night in a hotel on my arrival. All in all, it was a fabulous trip. I wouldn’t have done it had I not been able to use points for the airfare, rental car and hotel.

Joyful Travel Blog is Born

I had been toying with the idea of starting this blog as a way to share my enthusiasm for using credit card points and miles to travel for pennies on the dollar. I dragged my feet (or more likely my fingers) on this one for several months. The main reason is that I didn’t know if I could write well enough to keep readers informed and possibly entertained too. The important thing was to just take one step and write the first post. My hope was that someone out there reading, would find a nugget of information to help jump start a travel hacking hobby.

That first post in the beginning of March was titled Travel Hacking in a Nutshell. I just wanted to get the basics about this wonderful hobby down in a post. Of course, there’s way more to travel hacking than what I wrote in that post. For me, it was the catalyst to write more.

Sister Weekend in NYC

I had been wanting to spend the weekend with one of my sisters in the Big Apple. We finally coordinated our calendars and chose a weekend in March. The weather was beautiful and the time together was great. I used Hilton Points to cover two nights in a hotel. Breakfast was included which always saves money, especially in NYC.

The hotel savings was $490. Since I had used points to pay for the hotel, my sister booked my Amtrak Ticket. That saved additional money. We had great time in NYC.


In April, I had the opportunity to travel to Phoenix, AZ. Again, I used points and miles to pay for my round trip airfare on Southwest from Philly and 4 hotel nights in downtown Phoenix. That trip cost me only $11.20 and saved me $1,432,82.

In May, I sent my husband on a weekend getaway to Florida and used points to cover his flights. He stayed with family so there was no lodging cost. Edward had a great time and I was thrilled that we payed only $11.20 for the airfare.

The Travel Expert Summit

Also in May, I embarked on a project that took much of the early part of the summer to complete. It was a proud moment when I released The Travel Expert Summit into the world. Positive feedback on the content offered by our 15 World Travel Experts continues to come in. It gives me great joy to know that people learned so much from the interviews. CLICK HERE to watch the Summit.

Summer Turned to Fall

Lisa Joy and Edward Phillips on our family celebration trip in Ohio.
Lisa Joy and Edward Phillips

My husband and I took a long weekend to celebrate a family event in Ohio. Our hotel room for 3 nights was booked with cash as we got a special family group rate. Since we drove, there was no need to use points or miles for airfare.

While we were there, we had a few issues with the hotel. By speaking up while on the property, we received a $100 credit on the stay. After we arrived home, I wrote to the manager about our experience and was rewarded with enough Hilton Honors points for a free one night stay. It always pays to take the time to bring concerns (or positive feedback) to hotel management.

My Weekend in Florida

Just a few weeks after our OH trip, I took a weekend trip to South FL. Staying with family saved my hotel points for future stays. The flights were booked with Southwest Rapid Rewards Points. Again, I paid just $11.20 for the taxes and fees out of pocket. Points earned with my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card covered my rental car for the weekend. I had a great time with family and friends and came back thoroughly refreshed.

Minneapolis in October

As the weather got cooler, I traveled to MN for a retreat with dear friends. I used Marriott Bonvoy Points to cover the two night stay at the hotel. Southwest Rapid Rewards came in handy for the round trip flights. Of course, I only paid $11.20 for the taxes and fees. The hotel stay was wonderful and I took the time to write to the manager to tell him.

I was really surprised when he rewarded me with 5,000 Marriott Bonvoy points as a thank you for my constructive feedback. As I have said before, take the time to give feedback. You never know how you might be rewarded for your efforts. Even if you don’t receive more than an emailed response, you are offering worthwhile information. It’s a quick act of service that any of us can do.

November Trip to Phoenix

Sunrise at the Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass, a beautiful resort hotel outside of Phoenix.
Sunrise at the Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass

In early November, I was back in Phoenix and spent 3 nights at the Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass. The weather was gorgeous and I so enjoyed my morning walks at sunrise. Reconnecting with friends was great and I made a few new friends as well. Again, I used points and miles to cover hotel and airfare. I even covered a restaurant meal for two with points. My total cost out of pocket was $23.70 for a savings of $1,29697.

Football Weekend in NJ

My husband’s alma mater, Ohio State Buckeyes, played Rutgers in mid-November. We stayed in North Brunswick at a Hyatt. I transferred Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt to cover the two night stay saving over $400. Capital One points covered the $50 parking fee. Our out of pocket costs were from the gas and tolls as we drove there. Buckeyes for the Win!!!

Thanksgiving in Ohio

Last minute, we got invited to visit family in Ohio to celebrate Thanksgiving. We drove so needed no airfare covered with miles or points. I used my Hilton Honors points to cover the three nights in the hotel. One of those nights was covered with the points I had received after our less than wonderful stay in September.

This trip was great but again, there were a few issues with the hotel. I brought the issues to the attention of the front desk personnel who chose not to do anything about them. After my stay, an email to the manager brought a profuse apology along with another batch of points to cover a one night stay. While I prefer to have a great experience when traveling, being compensated with points when things don’t go right is a good trade off.

The Year Comes to a Close

We did not do any traveling in December which was just fine with me. Staying in Philly when others go away brings a beautiful quiet to the usually bustling city streets. It’s been a great year for saving money using points and miles earned with credit cards. However, this Joyful travel Year End Review would not be complete without mentioning what I’ve been working on for 2020.

Lisa Joy Phillips Travel Hacker as she does her Joyful Travel Year End Review
Lisa Joy Phillips Travel Hacker

Drum Roll Please

It’s time for me to dig in and teach the ins and out of how to take your everyday credit card spending and turn it into travel savings. To that end, I’ll be offering a course to help you take steps to travel for pennies on the dollar. Look for this in the first quarter of 2020.

Finally, I have set a goal of helping 500 people save at least $1,000 on travel in the coming year. That adds up to a Half a Million Dollars in travel savings. I want you to be one of those 500 happy travelers.

Scroll down below and reply to this email if you are interested in learning how you can save $1,000 on travel next year. Better yet, share this post with family and friends who would also benefit.

So there you have it; my Joyful Travel Year End Review.

Wishing you a very Happy New Year filled with money saving Travel!

Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card

Why You May Want to Start with this Great Travel Hacking Credit Card

The Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card. Why this card may be a great first travel hacking credit card for you.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card

It is no secret that I love Chase Bank credit cards for Travel Hacking. As I’ve written before, the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card is a great first credit card. That’s because currently, the sign up bonus is 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points. And, the annual fee is only $95. However, there’s another great Chase Sapphire credit card. This one is the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card. Read on to find out why you may want to start your travel hacking hobby with the Sapphire Reserve rather than the Sapphire Preferred credit card from Chase.

The Elephant in the Room

Let’s talk about annual fees. People are often scared off by the amount of some credit card annual fees. The Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card comes with a $450 annual fee. But let’s look at the value you receive for paying such a high annual fee.

Travel Credit

You receive a $300 credit toward any travel purchases each account anniversary year. This effectively takes your annual fee down to $150. If you plan to travel a lot, as many Travel Hackers do, that $300 credit is a no brainer.

Another Valuable Credit

Use your Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card to pay the fee for either Global Entry ($100) or TSA Precheck ($85) and you will receive a credit for the full amount. If you already have one of these designations, you can use the credit for a family member or friend. Depending on which designation you choose, your annual fee is reduced to either $65 or $50 dollars. That’s less than the annual fee of the Sapphire Preferred!

Priority Pass Select Membership

Priority PassMembership free breakfast. Image Courtesy Amy Phillips
Breakfast Courtesy of Priority Pass Membership

If we stopped with just the two points above, you’d be hard pressed to say no to this card. However, Chase has sweetened the offer with a Priority Pass Select Membership. This membership gives you access to over 1300 Airport Lounges around the world. Priority Pass lounges offer a comfortable place to relax before your flight. Most offer free food and alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. You can bring up to two guests in with you. The value of this membership is minimally $249 per year.

The Sign Up Bonus

The Sapphire Reserve credit cards comes with a 50,000 point sign up bonus after spending $4,000 in the first three months. See number 5 to find out how much those points could be worth to you.

Points are Worth More

The points earned with the Chase Sapphire Reserve are worth 1.5 cents each when you use them to pay for travel in the Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal. With the Sapphire Preferred, the points are only worth 1.25 cents. This means the 50,000 bonus points are worth $750 at a minimum.

Transfer Partners

Chase has many transfer partners which can make your points go much further. From my own experience, when I’ve transferred my Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to book a business class flight to Europe, I got a value of 10 cents per point. I wrote about the value of Transfer Partners here: Redeeming Credit Card Travel Points

Points Earnings

You’ll earn 3 x points for all travel and dining purchases. This is an additional point per dollar spent as compared with the Sapphire Preferred credit card. All other purchases earn 1 x point.

There are no foreign transaction fees on purchases made with you Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card.

What if I already have the Chase Sapphire Preferred?

If you started out with the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card, Chase will not allow you to have both the Preferred and the Reserve. You can however, “product change” and upgrade to the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card. I would wait at least 6 months from when you opened the Sapphire Preferred to do the upgrade to the Sapphire Reserve.

All it takes is a private message or phone call to Chase to get the ball rolling. I will be doing this myself and can’t wait to get the additional benefits of the Reserve.

Whether you choose the Sapphire Preferred or Reserve credit card, you’re going to have a great travel hacking credit card in your wallet. If you plan to travel often and can pay the $450 annual fee, the Chase Sapphire Reserve may just be the better card to start your Travel Hacking journey.

I’d love to know your thoughts on the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card. Scroll down and leave a comment.

Travel Hacking Small Wins

I’ve been thinking a lot about how when Travel Hacking, small wins can add up to great savings over time. When I got started in this hobby, all I wanted was a free round trip flight to San Diego. To that end, I applied for one credit card; the Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MasterCard. That credit card name sure is a mouthful!! With that one card, I got a $100 credit on the flight I happened to be booking at the time. Then I met the minimum spending requirement of $3,000 in 90 days.

That earned me 40,000 AAdvantage Miles. Offers vary all the time and as of this writing, you can earn 50,000 miles with this card. The minimum spend is only $2,500 in 90 days. Also, this card continues to carry no annual fee in the first year. If you’re interested, you can find out more information here: Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MasterCard.

My First Small Wins

With that one credit card, I earned myself a free flight to San Diego the following year. I didn’t have to use the full 40,000 points I’d earned from meeting my minimum spending requirement. I continued to use that one card to make most of my purchases. That first free flight felt life changing. That redemption of miles meant a savings of over $400. This savings was in addition to that first $100 credit I received when I first applied for the card. That may not seem like a lot of money to you. However, to this self proclaimed frugal gal, it was a huge win. Let’s call them Small Wins Number One and Two.

The Wins Get Bigger

Business Class Seat in the 20 Seat British Airways Upstairs Cabin. This was a big win by using Credit Card miles as a Travel Hacker.
Business Class Seat in the 20 Seat British Airways Upstairs Cabin

A little over 18 months into this hobby, I had earned enough American Airlines miles to fly one way to Oslo Norway in business class. My seat was located upstairs in a special business class secion on British Airways. There were only 20 seat in the whole section. half of them were unoccupied. It cost me 55,000 AAdvantage miles and the cost of the taxes and fees. This really was a huge win for me. Flying business class was not something I had ever imagined doing.

Learning about travel hacking showed me that what was possible without breaking the bank. That trip to Norway had me flying business class on both the outbound and inbound flights. I used two different types of points/miles and flew on two different airlines.

The other type of points I used were Chase Ultimate Rewards Points. I earned those points with both the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Chase Business Ink Preferred. There is nothing like sleeping in a lie flat bed/seat complete with pillow and fluffy duvet blanket. I arrived refreshed when I got to Oslo after my overnight flight on Lufthansa.

Another Win

Business Class Lounge Shower Heathrow Airport London. I loved this one of my Travel Hacking Small Wins.
Business Class Lounge Shower Heathrow Airport London.

A great perk of flying business class is the opportunity to access business class lounges in the airport. Those lounges offer comfortable seating, nap rooms with beds and lots of delicious free food and drink (including alcohol). However, for me, the best part of my experience in the British Airways business class lounge was taking a shower; at the airport!!! That is a true luxury. Imagine how fabulous I felt before boarding my 7 hour flight back to the States. It’s hard to put a price on a shower but I can tell you how much money I saved on that trip.

My Oslo Trip Costs

My lovely Airbnb in Oslo in a great location.  Another of many Travel Hacking Small Wins.
My lovely Airbnb in Oslo

I’ve written about this trip before because it’s really the one that got me completely hooked on Travel Hacking with points and miles. The full cost of my one week long trip would have been over $12,000. That trip included business class flights, a week in an Airbnb, one night in a luxury hotel and a 14 hour round trip scenic train ride to Bergen, second largest city in Norway. I paid a total of $217. Technically, this is a rather large win. I couldn’t have been happier with that savings. In fact, Money Magazine interviewed me about my amazing experience. You can read the article here: This 54-Year-Old Mom Used Credit Card Points to Take a $12,000 Dream Vacation to Norway for Only $217.

Other Wins

I think one of the best aspects of using credit card points and miles is the flexibility they afford me. When I learn of a family occasion that requires travel, it’s so great to be able to book flights and hotels with miles and points rather than dollars. It allows me to say “yes” a lot more often to traveling. It’s taken me to places that I hadn’t expected to go. It’s great to be able to visit friends and family while doing it with a frugal eye. Life is great when you have a stash of miles and points.

Travel hacking small wins add up to big wins over time. As I’ve written before, in a little over two years, I’ve saved over $18,000 on my travel. Can you imagine how you can achieve those first small travel hacking wins? Scroll down and leave a comment. I’d love to help you.