4 Reasons to Travel the World

Traveling is amazing.

Whether you are driving across the country in a van or flying across the Atlantic to explore Europe, trips will make you grow, they will show you the cultures of this world, they make you a better person.

According to a study published in the Hostelworld Global Traveler Report, travel-hungry British traveled on average, to 10 countries, Germans have seen 8, and the French traveled through 5 countries on average. However, Americans are lagging with only 3 countries on average. A surprising 29 percent of American adults have never even left the country! With all the opportunities out there, you almost can’t afford not to travel!


Traveling has never been this cheap

Airline deregulation, competition, fuel costs, and fuel efficiency drastically lowered the cost of travel in the past decades. Nowadays, you can fly to most of Europe for about $500 roundtrip or to Asia for under $1,000. This is nowhere near what it once was. Historically, flight prices have dropped by 50% in the last 30 years.

Traveling has never been so affordable!

Not only did the actual price of travel drop considerably but there is now a ton of alternatives to start traveling for free. All major banks are competing for clients and offering compelling welcome bonuses to new credit card clients.

By using these offers properly, you can travel the world nearly for free. Applying for a few cards, reaching the minimum requirements for the bonuses, and stacking up the points can really turn into considerable rewards quickly. With American Express Canada for example, you can get enough rewards to fly from Canada to Mexico with a single welcome bonus. Add up two of those and you can fly to Europe!


Find your card today and start earning those SWEET miles!


You can even accumulate free hotel stays with cards like the Starwood Prefered Guest card from American Express which offers roughly $1,000 worth of hotel nights depending on the booking.


Traveling makes you happier

Traveling with friends and family creates memories for a lifetime. Buying more stuff provides temporary happiness but experiences and memories are for life. When traveling, you tend to see new things and new places that you never saw before like old archeries on the mountain-tops near Florance.

The joy of discovery is an amazing thing. We really enjoy the adventure. We like to explore the lesser-known parts of cities and attractions. Going off the regular tourist route, you can find hidden gems and they are usually a lot cheaper than the tourist traps.


Vacation memories We found an old archery club wondering around Italy


You get to discover your inner self in travel. Reconnect with yourself and others around you and spend quality time outside of your usual routine. Especially when traveling alone, you get this alone time that you would not have gotten otherwise. Even when traveling as a couple like us, you get to know each other in a whole other way when you spend weeks together 24/7 outside your usual schedule.


Cheap travel ideasDon’t be afraid


You can find yourself in travel and get to know yourself better. Reconnect with yourself and others around you. Spending quality time outside your usual routine is relaxing. According to one study, three days after taking a trip, travelers reported feeling less anxious, more rested and in a better mood.

These gains were still present five weeks later, especially in those who had more personal time and overall satisfaction during their vacations.


Holiday abroadIslands in Laos


Another discovery you will encounter is the food. Don’t be shy and satisfy your need to try, taste, and savor. There is so many cultures, so many recipes around this wonderful world, it would be such a waste to restrict your diet to steak and potatoes.

Just from our past travels, we discovered plenty of new tasty dishes we now started to cook at home. We discovered Osso buco alla Milanese in Italy, devoured Pulpo a la gallega in Spain, and gobbled up Frikadellers in Denmark.


Why should you travelPulpo a la gallega


For us, food plays a major role in our happiness. We like to explore and learn new dishes, new flavors, and new colors. Native dishes allow us to understand their culture even more in-depth. You can feel the work that goes into Italian home-made pasta and hear the chef’s passion in the kitchen when you are there. We enjoy how it inspires creativity and widens our horizons.


Plan the perfect vacationBeach and sunset on the coast of Italy


Traveling widens our perspective

By discovering the variety of cultures around the world, you get more accepting of others. Meeting new people and seeing how they live is a true eye-opener. If you take the time to eat with the locals, learn their language, and play among them, you will truly get accustomed to their culture. Acceptance goes beyond colors or languages and traveling widens our perspective of the world around us.

Of course, it is easily possible to stay in a resort and have very limited contact with the locals, only eat foods you are used to, and shop in the same shops you could back home. This home away from home travel might not be a culture shock. Not all tips will be life-changing, and that is OK. There are many ways to enjoy a holiday.


Cheap travelOur Bahamas trip was in a 5-star resort and that’s perfectly fine


If you develop the habit of asking questions, being open-minded, curious and respectful to locals, you will find your travels enriched. Life is often reciprocal in that way.

Don’t be afraid to get off the beaten path and talk with locals. If you have the luxury of long-term traveling, take the time to learn the language. We did so in Guatemala and never learned so much about a culture so quickly.

In Thailand for example, we were not able to learn Thai but most talked English. Anyone we have talked to was very soft-spoken and unbelievably well-mannered. Everyone was welcoming and happy to talk to us. We learned about them and the area and honestly, the best experiences we can remember of came from references from locals.


Travel on a budgetFishermen boats along the coast of Laos


Traveling gets us to disconnect

Ever got that feeling when you forget everything about work, any routine, anything in your daily life? Traveling can do this amazing thing where you disconnect from your obligations and everyday life. Not only does this feel great but it is very healthy.

A study from the Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin found that women who take vacations at least twice a year are less likely to suffer from depression and chronic stress than women who traveled less than once every two years.

Forget about roaming and leave the phone for emergencies only. We all wish to disconnect from our busy lives on vacation but some easy steps can greatly help. Disconnect from social media, leave the work phone at home and enjoy your time off.



Get out there and travel the world. There is so much to see, so much to learn. We wish you the best and have a safe return. Mr. and Mrs. Xyz.



Amazing Weekend Trip to New York using Rewards Miles

Last weekend, we went to New York City to unwind and discover the Big Apple. It was a great way to forget about our daily routines and enjoy the high-pace of the city. A few weeks before our trip, we planned a few activities and got our free hotel stay through reward points.

We booked a hotel in Midtown (right in Time Square) for $325 a night. However, we actually paid a total of $0.00 for our whole stay. The secret is, we used credit card reward miles. 🙂


Free hotel stay!

Find your card today and start earning those SWEET miles!


Visiting New York can become really expensive really fast. With a little planning, we were able to spend under $100 per day and still have a great time. Our main expense was food and drinks since we stayed away from the traditional tourist traps. Of course, we would not be anywhere near this figure without our free hotel stay.

When we checked in our hotel, another hotel guest leaving the city generously gave us subway day passes that she was not able to use. That saved us a few subway fares. (Regular fare is $3 and the 7-day unlimited pass this woman gave us is $32.00)

Thank you random hotel lobby woman! 🙂

We spent our first day walking around lower Manhattan and exploring the great architecture it has to offer. We stopped by Madison Square Park and ate an amazing burger at the original Shake Shack then visited the New York Stock Exchange, the 9/11 Memorial, and the New York Public Library.

At the library, for example, you can get free tours at 11 am and 2 pm Monday to Saturday and at 2 pm on Sunday.

We did not get to it but if you want to see the Statue of Liberty, you can always pay and go with the tourists or you can take the Staten Island Ferry for free and it offers a great view of the city. It runs every day and anyone can just hop aboard.

We then ate amazing, cheap, authentic Thai at Pure Thai Cookhouse near our hotel and ended the night drinking $3 beer at Rudy.

Rudys bar in New York City


On our second day, walked through Central Park and then visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They ask for a “recommended” amount of $25 for entry but it is completely up to you. Most tourists just go with the what the sign says and pay the full amount. However, you simply tell the cashier how much you wish to pay and that will be your fare.

With all its grandeur and spectacular skyline, New York City is definitively nice from great heights. Unfortunately, visiting the observation decks of the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, or the 1 World Trade Center each cost over $30. The cheaper option is to enjoy a nice drink on a rooftop terrace for roughly $15. We went on the rooftop terrace Metropolitan Museum of Art overlooking the obscenely expensive real estate around Central Park. Other great options in Midtown are 230 Fifth, Sky Terrace, The Skylark or you can also get a great view of the skyline from the Staten Island Ferry or the Wythe Hotel rooftop terrace in Brooklyn.


The MET roof top viewThe view from the Met rooftop.


We then ate huge sesame bagels filled with Lox salmon and cream cheese over at H&H Midtown Bagels East. in the Upper East Side and then walked the High Line. This 1.45-mile-long linear park was built on an elevated section of the old West Side Line train track. The greenery and liveliness of the place were very refreshing. Street performers were entertaining the tourists and the lavish plants have overtaken the train tracks. Our walk ended at the Chelsea Market where we ate at Los Tacos No.1.


The high line New York CityThe High Line.

On our third day, we visited the American Museum of Natural History and the Hayden Planetarium both located on the Upper West Side of Central Park. Just like the Met, these advertise a suggested price but you can contribute any amount you want.

We did not have time to visit it this time but the Museum of Modern Art on 53rd Street is free on Fridays from 4 pm and the Museum at the Fashion Institute is always free. We would have liked to visit a few more but ran out of time. You can look up the free museum days offered around the city and easily save a few bucks.

Another great activity we wanted to try is free kayaking in Queens. The Downtown Boathouse offers free kayaks on weekends and holidays and the Long Island Community Boathouse offer free kayaks and tours for you to roam around and explore the shore. We wanted to experience the sensational sunsets the water has to offer but never got to it.

All in all, we spent slightly less than $100 per day on food and enjoyed three fun-packed days. We experienced new things, tasted new flavors, and saw new heights that we simply cannot see back home. Visiting this ridiculously expensive city made us think about all this wealth. The big cars, fancy apartments, and expensive cocktails must make people happier right?

Would you be happier if you could live in a $30,000 per month apartment in TriBeCa?

How about an $80,000 per month townhouse in Upper East Side? Would you be happy then?


How to be happy$80,000 per month townhouse in Upper East Side


maslow pyramid

Findings from a study by researchers from the University of Cambridge found that spending money can increase our happiness when we spend on things that fit our personalities. These purchase that meets our psychological needs can make us happier but again, that is only true once our basic needs are met.


Our findings suggest that spending money on products that help us express who we are as individuals could turn out to be as important to our well-being as finding the right job, the right neighborhood or even the right friends and partnersSandra Matz


For some people, fancy things might answer their esteem needs but to what point? A 2010 academic study by psychologist Daniel Kahneman and economist Angus Deaton found that happiness increases up to an income of $75,000. After that point, the extra dollar has no measurable effect on day-to-day contentment.


The magic income: $75,000 a year. As people earn more money, their day-to-day happiness rises. Until you hit $75,000. After that, it is just more stuff, with no gain in happiness. – Robert Frank, WSJ.


In states like New York, however, it costs much more to cover your basic needs. This happiness number is therefore higher. Using the current cost-of-living indexes per state from the Council for Community & Economic Research, we can find this optimal income level for each state.


How much do you need to be happySource: Advisor Perspectives


If we go even deeper and look at Manhattan, the equivalent of $75K soars to $162,500 based on this cost of living index. Now if we want to be even more accurate, we should account for inflation since the Kahneman-Deaton study appeared in 2010 and was based on 2009 survey data. The annual Consumer Price Index (CPI) shows a 15.56% increase from 2009 to 2017 so the Manhattan happiness number is more around $187,850 in 2017.

Our happiness number is greatly influenced by how we see ourselves in relation to others. If you live a simple life in a simple neighborhood, there is no reason to keep up with the Jones. Live life to your own standards, not the ones of others. In conclusion, New York City is a great city to visit. We had a great time but boy is it expensive to live there! Spend your dollars wisely and be happy, Xyz.



Travel Abroad for Free with Credit Cards and Aeroplan

In the year of 2016, we optimized our spending and coordinated multiple credit card applications to maximize our travel rewards, fly for free, and travel more. Over the year, we applied for multiple credit cards such as TD cards, each a CIBC card, multiple American Express cards, and an MBNA Alaska Airline card each. (Using these affiliate links will give you a bigger welcome bonus or cash back.)


Find your card today and start earning those SWEET miles!


All in all, we accumulated over 250,000 Aeroplan points, over 10 free hotel nights, and over 50,000 Alaska Miles.

With a rough estimate, we can value Aeroplan points at 3.22¢ each but they can go for as low as 1.3¢ per point depending on your redemption. This brings our 250,000 points we accumulated this year to a total worth of anywhere between $3,200 and $8,050.

The 10 free nights we accumulated are worth anywhere from $150 to 250$ per night without counting the possible upgrades we can get from our Gold status with SPG and Marriot (more on that later).

Our Alaska Miles are worth 1.8‍¢ each on the lower end to over 6¢ each (explained below) for a total of $900 to $3,000.

This brings us to a grand total of $5,600 up to $13,550! In terms of redemption, we only booked two trips including two free hotel nights for this year.


A good night’s sleep is even better when it’s free

When we were on our honeymoon, we booked two free nights and got one upgrade because of our Gold status. We booked a night at the Dallas Sheraton and our reservation was for a regular King bedroom (worth about $250 per night) but upon arrival, we got upgraded to the Dallas Suite (worth about $450 per night) just because we were preferred guests. 🙂


Sheraton dallas hotel


Later on, when we stopped in Miami for a layover, we booked a free night at the Sheraton worth $275 but the hotel was full so we did not get a free upgrade that time around. However, we still got our stay for free.


Fly for free and travel more

For this summer, we booked a flight to Los Angeles for $101 per person + 25,000 Aeroplan points. For this redemption, we got a rate of 2.8896¢ per point. The great thing about most reward flights is that they offer free stopovers and in some cases (like Aeroplan) free stops within a reward zone. For those a bit less familiar with the flight jargon, here are the main terms to qualify a stop;

  • Connections are a brief transit between flights. Those are usually less than 4h but can go up to 24h for international flights. We try to avoid these and most of the time, the extra cost for a non-stop flight is worth much more than the hours wasted at the airport.
  • Stopovers are connections where you can stop for many hours or days. We used that on our honeymoon to visit Dallas and Miami while saving on the flight cost.
  • Open jaw tickets are a multi-stop trip where you continue your journey through another airport than the one you arrived at. These can be tricky to plan and only booked over the phone.

For our Los Angeles trip, we chose to fly multi-stop direct flights with Aeroplan and we were only charged 25,000 points since they were both Canada/USA Long-haul flights. With the chart below, you can see the different zones and the mileage cost for each.


How to travel for free with aeroplan


We booked direct flights from Canada to LA then LA to San Francisco, and then back home. The best thing is that all of this was for the same price as a single flight.

To calculate the value of this point redemption, we searched for the cheapest flights on Expedia and found out that it would cost us $823.40 each if we were paying for the flights out of pocket.

By subtracting the taxes we paid on our Aeroplan flights ($101) we saved a total of $722.4 with our 25,000 points. This comes out to a total value per point of 2.8896₵.


Learn how to travel for free!


The other trip we booked this winter was our trip to British Columbia in February. We visited family in Victoria and brought our skis to hit the slopes while we were there. Another great benefit of premium credit cards is the travel insurance they usually provide.


Travel abroad for free with credit cards

Most rewards credit cards offer emergency medical insurance, trip interruption insurance, car rental theft and damage insurance, lost or stolen baggage insurance, and other complimentary travel insurance benefits. This can represent huge savings when comparing to private travel insurance.

Even when booking this trip well in advance, both Canadian airlines charged $999.46 for the flight. With Aeroplan, we paid only $125 plus 25,000 points. If we count the difference, we saved $874.46 using our rewards. This redemption came out to a great rate of 3.4978₵ per mile.


How to travel for free


For this year, these are the only three trips we are planning but for 2018, we are planning a trip to Thailand. The cheapest flight on Expedia (with approximated dates since we did not book this one yet) is $1,399.45 for a 2 stop flight or $1,792.10 for a single connecting flight.

Using the Aeroplan, only a 2 stop flight would be available and would cost $100 plus 90,000 points. This brings the total redemption rate at a measly 1.4438₵ per mile. However, if we book this flight with our Alaska Miles, we can book a single stop flight for $120 plus 25,000 Alaska Miles! This brings up the redemption rate to 6.6884¢ per mile.


free traveling with reward cards


We plan on visiting Thailand for the same price as a month of Starbucks! This only goes to show how you can control your spending and choose how to spend your hard-earned cash. You have control over your financial well-being, you can travel the world if you wish to without breaking the bank.

We “made” over 13 thousand dollars in tax-free rewards through various credit card travel points in 2016 and we are aiming even higher for 2017! Best of luck in your travels, Xyz.