At Frugal Flyer we talk a lot about various strategies and hacks we use to lower costs and to acquire points to pay for trips. The amount of money that can be saved is astronomical, in fact sometimes you can get away with paying next to nothing for a vacation.
I thought it would be useful to see what a trip can look like when several of these strategies are put together. In my most recent trip, I took my mom to Anchorage, Alaska using a combination of points and ‘hacks’ to lower expenses. We got the cost down to around $300 USD per person for flights, accommodation and transportation.
Flights: Alaska Airlines using Alaska Miles from MBNA
Flying to Alaska via Alaska Airlines is the most straightforward option. You can pay for flights on Alaska (and their partners) using Alaska Mileage Plan Miles which can quickly be accumulated by churning the MBNA Alaska Airlines credit cards.
You can quickly earn 30,000 Alaska miles just for signing up for the MBNA Alaska Airlines World Elite.
The MBNA Alaska Airlines World Elite card earns Alaska Miles and offers cardholders benefits on Alaska Airlines flights, including an annual companion fare and free first checked bag.
Check out our MBNA Alaska Airlines World Elite review for more details about this card.
This card is currently discontinued and is unable to be applied for.
30,000 Alaska Miles
The main Alaska hub to fly to Anchorage from Western Canada is Seattle (SEA), so most flights will route through there. We were able to secure a round trip for two for only 50,000 miles + $134 USD from YYC->SEA->ANC.
As I have Alaska Gold 75K status from a status match in 2021, our seats were even upgraded to premium and waitlisted for First Class (F).
As an alternative to utilizing the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, you could use WestJet dollars to fly to Alaska via Delta Airlines, however this is far less cost-effective (or ‘points effective’). Also, who wants to fly on Delta…
As an aside – you can get free Gogo inflight WiFi on Alaska Airlines by using a ‘hack’. Gogo provides one hour of free WiFi to T-mobile customers. However it uses very basic logic to validate that the number entered belongs to the T-mobile network. So you just enter random US numbers until you get one that is T-mobile and voila – free WiFi! Read more details on Medium.
Accommodation: Discounted Marriott Fairfield Hotel
There are a myriad of ways to cover hotel costs with points and also to reduce costs of hotels booked with cash. Some previous content we’ve written on the topic include:
- How To Earn Free Hotel Stays as a Canadian – this article mostly focused on the main hotel loyalty programs – Marriott Bonvoy, Hilton, Best Western, and how to earn and redeem their points.
- Redeeming Bank Rewards Points for Hotel Stays – aside from hotel loyalty programs, the big banks also have points that are easy to earn and can be redeemed flexibly for travel, including hotel costs.
- Hotels.com: When to Use and How to Maximize – when all else fails, Hotels.com is another decent option for booking hotels, and there are a few strategies for getting 10%+ in cashback when booking through them.
In our case, we did book at a Marriott – the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Anchorage Midtown. However, the cash rate was already quite cheap, and so it didn’t really make sense to burn Bonvoy points on the stay.
Related: eSims: Budget Cell Data for Travel
We were still able to reduce the cost substantially to only $109 USD per night using the ‘Government Rate’. This is a Special Rate you can select while searching for hotels on Marriott.com.
Marriott is fairly flexible in their definition of government. If you work for a provincial health authority for example. In my experience they will just accept your hospital ID badge as proof. And that’s if they even ask for proof, which is quite rare…
Here are the prices with and without the government rate:
A savings of $53 USD per night, or $159 for the three night stay, is nothing to joke about!
Transportation: Discounted Hertz Rental Car
Renting a car is another pain point of many trips, especially throughout the COVID-19 pandemic as supply chain issues have left most companies with short supply of vehicles.
One of the best ways to reduce costs of rental cars is through corporate rate codes. Various companies are given special codes that grant discounts with rental car companies. One example is IBM.
We were able to reduce our rental car cost to only $30 USD per day using a corporate code. This is very reasonable!
The rental car companies will rarely if ever check for proof that you work for these companies. And if they do, just show your business card that you definitely didn’t make with Vistaprint 😉
We will be covering corporate codes and other rental car tricks in more detail in a future post (one which will be exclusive for Frugal Flyer subscribers, so join our mailing list to learn more).
The chart below shows what we would pay (for two people) with and without our points and miles strategies.
|Retail cost (USD)||Our cost (USD)|
|Flight||$2,543||$134 + 50k Alaska miles|
What I love about saving so much money on the essentials of a trip – flights, hotels, rental car, etc., is that it frees up your budget to splurge a little more on experiences when you want to. And experiences are the main purpose of travel for me.
We really enjoyed Anchorage, and I’ve captured a list of the top five things to do in Anchorage.
As always, happy frugal flying!
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