HOW TO FLY FIRST CLASS FOR FREE

This is part one in a series about photographing destination weddings. Next week, I’ll be covering everything about pricing, packing, and preparing for destination weddings.

Brendan and I travel frequently for our careers. We’ve learned how to work the system to make our time away from home enjoyable. Even better, we’ve learned how to make the most out of our work trips and credit cards so that we can travel for (almost) free when we book vacations.

One of the most important things that is allocated in our annual budget is traveling. I would rather spend $2K on a trip than buy new cars, furniture, clothes, etc. There is no right or wrong, and everyone has different priorities. We believe in experiencing and exploring the world as often as we can. Having a baby has limited our dispensable income. So, we save points to make these experiences a possibility.

How do you fly first class for free? It’s simple. Build loyalty with companies that you want to support. By working with the same business repeatedly, you will gain more perks. I sign up for every loyalty program with every travel company, just so I can build up points.

Delta

For flying, we have committed to Delta’s medallion program. We chose Delta because they seem to be one of the better budget airlines. While they are far from perfect, their planes are typically newer, they give upgrades often to medallion members, and their staff is (usually) kind. Living out of Asheville, we connect through Atlanta often, which is Delta’s biggest hub. I recommend supporting an airline that flies frequently out of your city. As much as I love Southwest and JetBlue, it doesn’t make sense in Asheville, since neither airline flies out of our regional airport.

A few perks that I’ve received since becoming a medallion member:

// Free upgrades to first class and comfort+ (even at the lowest level!)
// Free bags for myself and companions
// Priority with rebooking if there are delays
// Priority boarding (integral for carrying on gear)
// Priority line for ticketing (if Gold or higher)

Because of the above, it is almost always worth it for me to book with Delta. Even if it is $50 more to book with, say, American Airlines, the perks more than pay for the price difference.

Delta Amex

Because we wanted to accelerate our milage accrual, I chose to get the Delta Amex. The platinum card gives you one free companion ticket a year, zone one boarding, and a free bag any time you fly. You also get a signing bonus of 50,000 miles. There are extra perks at certain spending thresholds, which makes it easier to climb up the medallion program and build miles. I want to make this clear, do not sign up for any reward credit cards if you cannot pay them off every month. Reward cards have incredibly high APRs, so the bonuses are not worth it if you build interest.

Since I’ve had the card, we’ve easily booked at least 2-4 free airline tickets a year.

 

Chase Sapphire

I use this card for business expenses because it has a fabulous rewards program. This card is great if you want to book through various travel agencies vs. one business. I use my points with Chase typically to book rental cars or hotels. You can also cash in on points, but the points are worth more if you trade in for travel. I also like this card because the annual fee is low, the signing bonus is wonderful (50,000 points), there’s no fee for international purchases, and they also have coverage for rental cars (sometimes better than car insurance policies).

 

Marriott

When Brendan is in tournament season, he stays at hotels way more than I do. Because of this, he has signed up for Marriott’s credit card, which enables him to build loyalty and points for free nights. Depending on the card, you receive a certain number of free nights, perks during your stay (free water/free wifi), and extra points for hotel purchases.

 

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