intro: Want to book a Christmas family vacation for next to nothing? Not a problem, says Summer Hull. In fact, she even knows the secrets to turning all that holiday shopping into a free trip.
Hull is the maverick behind MommyPoints.com, her travel blog where she documents her past successes and tips for scoring big deals.
This year Hull said she, her husband and their 4-year-old daughter have trotted the globe on more than 19 vacations spanning 100,000 miles – from the Bahamas to Paris. Most of the time, she said they are traveling for nearly nothing, cashing in miles.
In an interview with “Nightline,” Hull showed fellow mom Lauren Finnerty from Houston a few opportunities she was missing to get points towards travel and shared a few of her secrets to scoring deals this winter. See some of Hull’s tips below and watch the video above to see examples and explainers.
quicklist:1 title:Unwrap Extra Miles by Using Shopping Portals on Airline Websites text:Some airlines have an online shopping portal that rewards users with a certain amount of miles when they purchase items through them. These portals can be a good resource for purchasing holiday gifts because then users can reap the benefits too.
For example, Hull said, she used United Airlines’ United Mileage Plus shopping portal to buy printable photos for her family.
“We have pictures ... all over our house,” she said. “We’ll print them online and like Snapfish or something, and a lot of times you can go through a shopping portal like United... it can really add up especially if you have $100 worth of photos, you have 1,000 miles.”
quicklist:2 title:Use Credit Cards With Specific Rewards Programs text:To rack up miles for free travel, Hull has a dozen active credit cards that she swaps out for different purchases, such as airline cards for flights, and looks for cards with large sign-up bonuses.
However, other travel experts caution that holding on to so many cards at once can cost you.
“A lot of people can earn a lot of great rewards this way,” said Paul Brady, the consumer news editor for Conde Naste Traveler. “But it’s true that Delta, United in particular have recently devalued their points programs and are watching to see if American will make the same decision.”
quicklist:3 title:Grab Points at the Grocery Store text:The holidays are a busy time not just for gift-giving, but also for eating. At the grocery store, Hull said to use the “stacking” method, where you buy items that are either discounted or you have a coupon for, and pay for them with a card that rewards points or miles for groceries.
"We don’t just look for one deal, we like to stack different deals," Hull said. "So, for example, on a day where you earn more field points at the grocery store, you pay with a credit card that earns grocery store points.
quicklist:4 title:Arm Yourself With Apps to Save Money on Flights text:Hull uses several apps on her smartphone, from apps that scour for the best retail deals, like PoachIt, to apps for specific stores. For example, Macy’s has an app that features all its coupons.
“Wherever it is that you’re going to be shopping, force yourself to arm yourself with some apps, some tools that will make sure that you’re paying as low as possible,” Hull said.