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Free Travel, Yes, Please!


I previously wrote about the two $650 vouchers Princess and I received for voluntarily giving up our seats on a flight to Texas to visit Gymnast and my parents last summer. The original tickets cost us either $11 or $64 each, I can’t remember now…we had to spend a couple of extra hours at the Dallas airport, but otherwise, were not inconvenienced at all.

But we got $1,300 from American Airlines for the inconvenience and have a year to use them. I used part of one of them to book our Thanksgiving flights to Texas. Score!

I wanted to use them for some of Gymnasts travel, but because he is only 14, American charges a $150 unaccompanied minor fee in addition to the flight charges. And they expire before he turns 15.

Tickets Booked

With expiration looming and not wanting to waste them, I booked an additional 4 roundtrip tickets with our remaining voucher. (And I will still have $160ish dollars left.) Guys, we got 7 roundtrip tickets from our vouchers for those two seats we gave up on one leg of our trip!

With that being said, the 3 of us are going to Chicago for part of Princess winter break. She hasn’t seen her paternal grandparents in almost a decade and has had VERY limited contact with her dad in the last 6 years, plus I will get to see Gymnast in a city I love and History Buff has never been. We have free accommodations and both kids know they have to save their spending money. Score!

Problem Solved

I posted earlier about the issue I was having with when to send Princess to Texas for her week alone with my parents (her first time to request this.) Therefore, we decided to avoid all the issues we are having with the summer, and she will go for her Spring Break.

Gymnast will be coming here for his Spring Break, but again, I didn’t find it economical to use the vouchers for him. But I’m hoping I can use the remainder of the vouchers for his summer travel after he turns 15. The expiration date gets extended by a year as we use them.

I am so freaking excited. Travel is in my blood, I crave it as most people crave breathe. It’s been one of the hardest things to give up. For the past years, it was satisfied with the kids’ competitive sports.

Now if I could only work it out to get some additional travel vouchers, I would be a happy camper! Do you have any cheap…rather FREE travel resources or tips? I really need to stick with free until I get more out of debt.


  • Reply Angie |

    Almost all travel hacking is based around credit card churning. Please, please, PLEASE do not do this. You could do housesitting or petsitting in areas that are driveable just to see new places and still be able to work remotely. But you have your own pets so you’d need someone to petsit them which would negate the “free” portion of the deal.

    Try to reflect often on this trip as a base for whether you really need a cruise right now as a family travel experience. Isn’t this pretty much a family trip? Aren’t you going to have just as much fun?

    • Reply Hope |

      I don’t know what credit card churning is, but certainly have no plans to do it.
      We will be missing two of the family members…well, Gymnast will be with us for a day. But otherwise, yes, it is a bootstrapped family vacation.

  • Reply Anonymous |

    I have no debt and savings and I don’t travel even a little bit as much as you do. The way you can justify spending even a little bit of money is just ridiculous

    • Reply Margann34 |

      I say if she has free airline tickets and free lodging, then go for it. Food and incidentals should fit in a predetermined entertainment budget though and should be kept on the cheap. No fancy meals out just because you are “on vacation”. Anonymous, just because you don’t travel doesn’t mean that no one else should. But it should be well planned, low expense and paid with cash.

    • Reply Hope |

      I suppose that is why personal finance is personal. Travel may not be your thing, but it is definitely in my blood. There are LOTS of other things that I don’t care a thing about that many people make a priority. How we want to spend our free time, our resources…it’s just personal. But thankfully, this trip is practically free, especially if and WHEN we stick to our food/entertainment budget.

      • Reply Anonymous |

        Oh no don’t get me wrong, travel is definitely my thing. So is financial stability

    • Reply Hope |

      Yes, it certainly can be. But the novelty of a big city after tiny city living will be a treat in and of itself. Yeah!

  • Reply Drmaddog |

    This isn’t classical ‘travel hacking’ via credit cards. This is the result of vouchers Hope was given in compensation for being bumped from her flight — her, and our, legal right. I have been waiting for an overseas flight where the airline was offering, literally, over a thousand dollars in voucher credit, per seat, if you were willing to be bumped to the same flight 24 hours later. I did not, as i had a limited time where i was going, but I did consider it for a few seconds.

    Enjoy this, Hope. I think it is a very frugal hack to volunteer to be bumped for greater compensation than what you paid for your original flight. You scored here.

  • Reply Laura |

    What about costs of getting to and from the airport and/or parking? What about security fees that are required in every ticket and can’t be paid with a voucher? For 7 round trip flights, you’re paying over $80 in security fees alone – meaning the travel is not free.

    Are you paying for internet in flight so you can keep working? Are your cell phone costs higher because you need a hot spot when you travel? Are you paying for gas in a higher cost of living location as family members drive you around or paying for ubers or train tickets?

    Yes, travel may be “in your blood,” but impulsive and poor financial choices are in your blood too. By thinking of these trips as “free” you’re spending money without realizing it. You seem to be ignoring all of the small costs that add up because it gets a bigger immediate want.

    • Reply Hope |

      I don’t know about any security fees…our tickets have been covered in their entirety by the vouchers. Our airline tickets have been 100% free.

      And all the flights we have been on over the past few years have offered free WiFi, but if it wasn’t free, I would not pay for it. I can find plenty to do without internet for a couple of hours.

      Our cell phones all include a hot spot with the plan, so no additional costs there. I don’t pay for gas and rarely take an Uber/Lyft. Most of what we do is either chauffered by family or we walk. We do trains to and from airports, so you are right that’s an extra $10.

      But I appreciate your perspective. Our travel really doesn’t cost us more than staying home for the most part especially when we eat out of our normal grocery budget and save our entertainment budget for trips.

      • Reply Jane |

        Laura is right, vouchers cannot be used for TSA and security fees – between $12-25 per round trip flight. You may think that the travel is free, but it seems like this is money you’re willfully overlooking.

        And all of your cell phones include a hot spot? That seems completely unnecessary. It may be hidden as a “business cost” because you’ve lumped business and personal together for all of the phones, but that cost is outrageous.

        • Reply Hope |

          Again, we have already used the vouchers for 3 round trip flights at Thanksgiving and I didn’t have to pay anything out of pocket. Promise, I haven’t paid a dime for any of the airfare at all.

          As for the hotspot, it’s just included in our Verizon plan, which is a business plan, not something I pay extra for. And you are right, our cell phone bill is crazy. Thankfully, the twins pay their share and Princess will begin paying her share this summer.

          • Kerry |

            How much in monthly expenses do you expect your daughter to be responsible for, in between the car and the cell phone? And on what expected wage when she gets a job? I am honestly curious.

          • Drmaddog |

            Weren’t you paying for gymnasts phone because his dad wouldn’t? Is that on this same plan?

            Also has princess gotten any hits on job, if she has time?

  • Reply jj |

    I have never used a travel voucher, but for Air Canada a quick google said taxes and surcharges are to be covered separately. So Hope, just double check before you go about what extra fees you may owe?? If you use twitter, i’d tweet the airline.

    Otherwise, this is a good way to use up the vouchers.

    • Reply Hope |

      We actually used it for the Thanksgiving travel…there were no fees at all that I had to cover separately EXCEPT for checked baggage, but we didn’t check anything. American Airlines charges for all checked baggage unless you are some level of their rewards program.

So, what do you think ?