Flying Around the World on Points for Free!

We finally took the plunge.

Last week, we booked our biggest and longest trip ever! It has been a few months we are thinking of this and hinted about it previously in a few articles but now it is official, we used our travel hacking know-how to fly around the world with our little baby girl in less than five months.

All-in-all, we will explore seven countries, over three continents, spanning through a five-month period. To start, we are flying to British Columbia, Canada, to see family out east and explore the coast.

Then, flying to Zurich, Switzerland, and exploring parts of Germany, Austria, and Italy by land. Afterward, we will fly to Bangkok, Thailand and explore Northern Thailand for a month before flying to the South.

Finally, we are hopping on a flight to Tokyo, Japan, for a little week of city-fun before heading back home. For simplicity, all dollar amounts will be shown in Canadian Dollars.


Cheap around the world trip


First Stop: British Columbia, Canada

We begin our journey in August to British Columbia, Canada, where we will land in Victoria and, from there, drive around the coast of BC. We will start with a few spots around Victoria before taking the ferry to Vancouver. From there, we want to explore the Garibaldi and Gold Ears Provincial Parks and stop by a friend’s place near Gibsons. Including time we will stay with family, we will stay a total of 28 days in BC.


Planning an around the world trip


For the flights, we booked with rewards points through Aeroplan. Looking through Google Flights, the cheapest direct flight that matched our dates was $1628 for two plus an infant.


Flight to BC with Aeroplan


Knowing this, we then compared the price when using Aeroplan rewards instead of paying for the flight directly. In the end, we ended up saving over $1,250 on our flights by using rewards and still managed to get direct flights.

The beauty of Aeroplan is that it allows you to book flights through all of the 27 airlines in the Star Alliance.

This flexibility is the secret to our success.

Unfortunately, 9 of these airlines charge carrier surcharge. Whenever you purchase a ticket, you can notice taxes and a charge for YQ, those are carrier surcharge.


How to fly for free


When booking our rewards flights, we always try to avoid these airlines since booking through them adds hundreds of dollars to the total cost of our tickets.


Airlines with low carrier surcharges

  • Air New Zealand
  • LOT
  • TAP

Airlines with the highest carrier surcharges

  • Air Canada
  • ANA
  • Asiana Airlines
  • Austrian
  • Lufthansa
  • Thai Airways


This makes a stunning difference when booking international flights. Booking our flight to Zurich through Air Canada, for example, would have added over $600 to the bill.

However, sometimes we do not have any other options and need to book through expensive airlines. For this flight to BC, we booked a round trip flight with Air Canada since they are the only Star Alliance partner to fly within Canada. The surcharges were minimal ($84 per person) so the total bill, for us three, ended up being $376.40 Canadian.


Redemption details Miles Amount $
Total for 2 Adults – Economy 50,000
Infant – Economy $50.00
Carrier Surcharge $168.00
Taxes and Airport Fees $158
Subtotal 50,000 $376


For this flight, our total cost was $376 plus 50,000 Aeroplan points. Counting the total return per point, we saved 2,5¢ per point, which is a pretty good redemption for seats in Economy class.


$1251 Saved on flights  ÷  50,000 points redeemed  =  $0.02502 per point


To put this in perspective, 50,000 points is the equivalent to a single sign-up bonus we received for signing up for an American Express card. With a single credit card, we were able to accumulate enough points for a trip for three, saving us $1,250.


Find your card today and start earning those SWEET miles!


For accommodations, we will mainly be staying with friends and family but there are a few nights we wish to stay in Vancouver which we will book through Airbnb or with our SPG rewards.  If you would have any recommendations for us, leave it in a comment below.


Second Stop: Europe

For the following three stops we booked a multi-city flight through Aeroplan which allows two separate stops (in our case, Zurich, and Bangkok), plus a stopover (in our case, Tokyo).


How to fly to Europe for free


Looking up the same flights, the cheapest direct flight that matched our dates was $8587 for two plus an infant. There was also an option with a layover in Iceland for $5962 but this would add a few hours to our trip.


Aeroplan booking travel hacking


Seeing this, we knew from the getgo that this would end up being an amazing redemption. Aeroplan charged us a total of 90,000 points and for these flights and $0 in carrier surcharge so we ended up paying $454.00 after all taxes and fees.


 Redemption details Miles Amount $
Total for 2 Adults – Economy 180,000
Infant – Economy $50.00
Taxes and Airport Fees $404.00
Subtotal $454.00


For these flights, our total cost was $454.00 plus 180,000 Aeroplan points. Counting the total return per point, we saved 4,5¢ per point, which is an amazing redemption!!!


$8133 Saved on flights  ÷  180,000 points redeemed  =  $0.04518 per point


Alternatively, even if we compared the non-direct flights priced at $5962, we would still save over 3¢ per point.


$5508 Saved on flights  ÷  180,000 points redeemed  =  $0.03060 per point


To put this in perspective, this would value a single sign-up bonus from American Express to over $2,250!!! Pretty amazing value if you ask me.

Sheraton Zurich

So this covers all our flights starting from Montreal to Zurich, then Zurich to Bangkok, Bangkok to Tokyo, and finally, Tokyo to Montreal. These are all direct to minimize time wasted in airports and optimize comfort.

Once we land in Zurich, we are staying 5 nights at the Sheraton Zurich Hotel for free using our SPG rewards points. This is where travel hacking becomes interesting!

The going rate for our dates was $483 per night, which is expected for a 4-star hotel in Switzerland, but there was no way we could afford to stay for so long if it wasn’t for SPG rewards. Our total redemption for these 5 days was 40,000 SPG points, deeming the total value to be over 6¢ per point. This is a particularly amazing redemption given that SPG points are usually valued between 2¢ and 3¢ per point.


$2415 Saved on hotels  ÷  40,000 points redeemed  =  $0.06037 per point


SPG free night redemptions  Amazing hotel spaHow to stay in hotels for freeFour Points by Sheraton Panoramahaus Dornbirn


We are then taking a train to Dornbirn in the Austrian state of Vorarlberg where we will be staying 6 days at the Four Points by Sheraton Panoramahaus Dornbirn for a total redemption of 35,000 points. This stay would have cost $180 per night, deeming the total value to be over 3¢ per point.


$1080 Saved on hotels  ÷  35,000 points redeemed  =  $0.03086 per point


Four points Sheraton BolzanoFour Points by Sheraton Bolzano


Afterward, we are heading to Bolzano in northern Italy. Staying 5 days at the Four Points by Sheraton Bolzano for a total redemption of 19,000 points. This stay would have cost $196 per night, deeming the total value to be over 5¢ per point.


$980 Saved on hotels  ÷  19,000 points redeemed  =  $0.05158 per point


AC hotel Padova by Marriott

From there, we are taking another train to Padova. We want to explore Venice and the AC Hotel Marriott Padova offered a great redemption while neighboring Venice city. Since this hotel was more than half the price as the ones in Venice, we will take the train or rent a car to explore the city while staying in Padova. This hotel would have cost $183 per night but we used 20,000 SPG points for 5 nights instead. This brings up the value of this redemption to over 4.5¢ per point.


$915 Saved on hotels  ÷  20,000 points redeemed  =  $0.04575 per point


Find your card today and start earning those SWEET miles!


The Westin Grand MunichThe Westin Grand Munich


Our next stop will be Munich, Germany. From there, we will be able to explore a lot of the city and do a few excursions in the neighboring towns. We booked 5 nights at the amazing Westin Grand Munich for 40,000 points. Given that this hotel goes for a whopping $635 per night, we are saving a ton of money on this redemption. This is our best redemption so far with a value of over 7.9¢ per point.


$3,175 Saved on hotels  ÷  40,000 points redeemed  =  $0.07937 per point


Finally, we are coming back to Zurich to catch our next flight and staying another few nights at the Sheraton Zurich Hotel. All-in-all, we are spending a full month in Europe, where accommodation prices are often exorbitant, and paying a total of $0 for our whole stay!


Third Stop: Bangkok, Thailand

By mid-October, we are flying to Thailand for a two-month stay in this South-East Asian paradise. We are landing in Bangkok but will be starting our journey with a month in Chiang Mai, a beautiful city in mountainous northern Thailand.



We cannot wait to explore the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. This 700 years old temple stands at the heights of Doi Suthep mountain. Then, we would like to checkout the Doi Inthanon National Park (pictured above). There are so many things to do in, and around, this small city!

We are planning to rent an apartment in Chiang Mai for a whole month before flying down south to the magnificent beaches of Thailand.


Rewards points travel


Once down south, we are thinking of staying around Krabi, Ko Lanta, or maybe Ko Phi Phi. We have not yet decided on the exact spots we want to visit, as long as it has sandy beaches and endless amounts of Pad Thai, we will be happy.


Marriott Hotel in Thailand Marriott Hotel in Thailand


There are a few, super nice, 5-star Marriott hotels in Rayong, Phuket, and Pattaya which are affordable. They are all under 10,000 SPG points per night so we might stay a week or two there. Otherwise, we will simply pay for a local hotel or an Airbnb. If you would have some suggestions for us, please leave us a comment below.


Fourth Stop: Tokyo, Japan

Finally, our last stop in this around-the-world trip is Japan. We are taking a direct flight from Bangkok to Tokyo. Then, will be exploring the city by metro or train for a total of 5 days. For accommodations, we booked our stay with Airbnb right in between the Minato and Shibuya districts. It is a great, central, location to explore the National Art Center, Tsukiji Market, or the amazing downtown of Tokyo.


Tokyo flight plan


To conclude, we will explore seven countries; Canada, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Italy, Thailand, and Japan over a 5-month span. We are just starting to plan this amazing trip and are trying, as much as we can, to use travel hacking to our benefit to minimize our costs.

With the flight and hotel bookings we made so far, we are saving $17,949 by using rewards points! We are still planning a few hotel redemptions so we might get up to $20,000 in savings by the time we finalize everything.

For now, we are very grateful and cannot wait to fly off!

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.




Our Budget Mexico Honeymoon Barely Cost Anything

Last September, we got married and waited until the winter to go off on our honeymoon. After much consideration, we decided to escape the snow in Mexico. With a few travel hacks and rewards points, we were able to cut our costs down drastically. One of the best travel hacks we used was the hotel room upgrade we got from our credit card. All through our trip, we have kept a tab and tracked our expenses to share with you guys. To make it easier for everyone, prices have been roughly converted CAD to USD at 1.3, CAD to MXN at 15, and USD to MXN at 20.


Find your card today and start earning those SWEET miles!


Most people say traveling is expensive and will easily spend thousands of dollars on weekend trips and holidays but this is mostly pushed by advertising and travel agencies. Think about it, who is owned by Priceline and also runs KAYAK, made over $8 billion dollars in revenues last year. Then, Expedia, who also owns, Hotwire, trivago, Travelocity, and Orbitz, made over $6 billion in revenues. Those two behemoths make their money on all-inclusive packages, luxury hotels, and flights. It is not to their advantage to promote cheap hotels and DIY travel itineraries. By sharing our trip itinerary and travel budget, we hope you can find your own way to travel for less than advertised.

To begin, we really wanted to book the flights for this trip with credit card rewards and essentially fly for free! Unfortunately, we waited too long before booking and, since it was right at the Christmas break, there were no more rewards flights available. We still found some fairly cheap flights on Flighthub for $700CAD (540USD) each. The only slight inconvenience when booking a peak-season flight just 3 months before your departure is that it will not be a direct flight unless you are ready to pay a hefty premium. In our case, we got cheap flights and used them to our advantage.

We ended up booking a flight from Montreal to Mexico, with a stop in Dallas, TX, on the way there. For our return flight, we had a correspondence in Miami, FL. Instead of making this miserable and staying in airports for hours, we chose flights with at least 24h layovers to enjoy the stops.


First stop: Dallas, TX

Our first layover in Dallas was a blast! We got there in the morning and had all day to enjoy the city. When we arrived at the airport, we took the DART train out to the city for only $4USD each. Taking a taxis would have been roughly $50USD and $25USD for an Uber. The DART is super accessible, reasonably clean, and took us right to downtown Dallas. We were surprised to see that no other tourist were taking the train and it does not seem like a popular option for commuters either.

In Dallas, the hotels downtown are nice but also, they are very expensive. We stayed at the Sheraton and our reservation would have cost $250USD. Fortunately, we booked with our points and paid a grand total of zero dollars for the night! We started booking all our expensive stays through points to maximize our vacation dollars and you can do the same!


Day 1 – Dallas, TX
Hotel – Sheraton Free!
Breakfast – McDonalds 12USD
Lunch – Sliders 12USD
Dinner – Burgers 25USD
Drinks 15USD
Aquarium 45USD
Snacks 6USD
Total 123USD (160CAD)


After dropping off our luggage in our suite (we even got upgraded to a huge 940 square feet suite for free just for being preferred guests 🙂 ) we went on a stroll around town.


SPG card


.When visiting cities, we enjoy looking at the architecture and design of buildings and we like to hit up the local food scene to discover their specialties. We walked around the city and stopped at a food truck to try some Sothern sandwiches. Afterward, we visited the Dallas Aquarium, which is more of a zoo than an aquarium, but it was still fun. It has birds, monkeys, bugs, and a lot of fishes. It was a bit pricey in Canadian terms ($30CAD each) and did not offer much to see in comparison to other zoos.


Our free trip to Dallas


Nice restaurant Dallas

That night, we enjoyed an amazing hamburger at Chop House Burger with some Texas sweet tea then went out for drinks in a sports bar along the Main Street.

Dallas has a great night scene and we really enjoyed our layover. After a whole day there, we woke up at 6 a.m. and jumped on a plane to Mexico.


Second stop: Mexico

Mexico City under its layer of smog.


Day 2 – Mexico City
Airbnb 45CAD (675MXN)
Breakfast – Cereals  0MXN
Subway System 10MXN
Lunch – Tacos 62MXN
Snacks 20MXN
Icecream 19MXN
Groceries 200MXN
Dinner – Tacos 99MXN
Total 1,085MXN (54USD) (72CAD)


In Mexico City, we booked an Airbnb apartment for 45CAD (34USD) and stayed there 2 night. At that price, we got a centrally-located, clean, 1-bedroom apartment in an old complex. The room and kitchen were nicely renovated but the bathroom was a bit old.

We spent our days exploring the capital, visiting museums, and again; sight-seeing architecture. We ate authentic Mexican dishes at local restaurants and enjoyed the Mexican hospitality. Like in most of our trips, we stopped by the grocery store to buy snacks, breakfast, and lunches for our expeditions. The local groceries are really cheap and we enjoy taking a break from restaurants once in a while.



Mexico Trip Credit card rewards


On our second day, we went to the Teotihuacan pyramids. This ancient Mesoamerican city is located only 40 kilometers (25 mi) northeast of  Mexico City and we took a direct bus to there for only 92MXN (5USD) (6CAD) each. We enjoyed these architecturally significant Mesoamerican pyramids built in the pre-Columbian Americas. It was a great single-day activity but there is barely any shaded areas and bathrooms are only at the entrance so it can be pretty demanding in the beaming sun.


Day 3 – Mexico City and Pyramids
Airbnb 45CAD (675MXN)
Breakfast at Home  0MXN
Subway System 10MXN
Bus to the Pyramids 184MXN
Access to Pyramids 130MXN
Subway System 10MXN
Snacks 80MXN
Water 11MXN
Subway System 10MXN
Groceries 75MXN
Lunch – Handmade Wraps  0MXN
Bathroom 5MXN
Dinner – Enchiladas 100MXN
Total 1,290MXN (64USD) (86CAD)


Mayan Pyramids


Day 4 – Mexico City to Oaxaca
Hotel 66CAD (990MXN)
Breakfast 260MXN
Subway System 10MXN
Bus to Oaxaca 1200MXN
Lunch – Handmade Sandwiches  0MXN
Corn Snack 12MXN
Skipped Supper  0MXN
Water 10MXN
Gum 8MXN
Total 2,490MXN (124USD) (166CAD)


We then hopped on a bus to the city of Oaxaca. The direct bus was 600MXN (30USD) (40CAD) per person with ADO and took roughly 5 hours. Besides this first-class bus, second-class buses operated by AU (440 MXN) and SUR (350 MXN) can also get you to Oaxaca but AU stops in Tehuacan so it is a slightly longer route. SUR operates via Huajuapan de Leon, a much longer route, and use the free highways instead of tolls so it was well worth paying double to get there faster.


Cheap Ado Bus


Mexico travelsThe city of Oaxaca was a nice transition from the mega-city of Mexico (population of 300,000 vs 20 million) with much less smog and traffic. We stayed in a nice hotel on the outskirt of downtown. It was super clean, had a big large pool, and the staff was friendly.

On the night of our arrival, we walked roughly 15 minutes to reach the main square and enjoyed a nice chili corn for only 12MXN (60¢) and enjoyed the festivities that were going on in the square. There were some musicians, some vendors and lots of food. Walking through the streets, we saw some crazy doughnut stands, chili corn stands with lines around the corner, and pizza places with no one to be seen.


Grilled Mexican Street Corn


Day 5 – Oaxaca
Hotel 66CAD (990MXN)
Churros Snack 10MXN
Breakfast 60MXN
Groceries 210MXN
Skipped Lunch  0MXN
Dinner – Pizza 90MXN
Total 1,360MXN (68USD) (90CAD)


The next morning, we wanted to leave early to the beach but missed the bus by 15 minutes. We were then forced to wait 2 hours until the next one so we visited a local market and enjoyed hot chocolate with a proper breakfast. It was interesting to see the market and be part of the cacophony.


Breakfast at the market


Day 6 – Oaxaca to Puerto Escondido
Airbnb 36CAD (540MXN)
Bus to Puerto Escondido 420MXN
Breakfast 70MXN
Skipped Lunch  0MXN
Cough Medicine 32MXN
Dinner – Gross Fish 350MXN
Water 17MXN
Total 1,420MXN (71USD) (94CAD)


Cheap hotel Mexico


After Oaxaca, we finally hopped on the bus to Puerto Escondido. This time, it was not in a first-class superbus but rather, in a minivan. This long 6+ hour ride was along windy roads, daring the edge of cliffs, and speeding around corners in the jungle. After almost getting sick, we finally arrived in Puerto Escondido where we stayed another 3 nights.


Van in Mexico


Day 7 – Puerto Escondido
Airbnb 36CAD (540MXN)
Breakfast 145MXN
Water 17MXN
Lunch – Handmade Wraps  0MXN
Groceries 80MXN
Supper – Cooked at Home  0MXN
Total 780MXN (39USD) (52CAD)
Day 8 – Puerto Escondido
Airbnb 36CAD (540MXN)
Breakfast 100MXN
Groceries 150MXN
Lunch – Handmade Sandwiches  0MXN
Supper – Cooked at Home  0MXN
Total 790MXN (40USD) (53CAD)


In Puerto Escondido, we enjoyed the beach but the general feel of the city was a bit off. It was great to watch the surfers go and we played in the huge waves but the city itself did not have much to offer. It was loud, dirty, unmaintained, and most of the restaurants we tried were of very poor quality.

As foodies, we expect to find fresh, delightful, meals in any city we visit. However, we failed to find good restaurants in Puerto Escondido. The ones we saw were mostly tourist-trap, out-of-the-freezer meals at exorbitant prices (by Mexican standards).

We did find one good breakfast place called El Cafecito but there was always a long line to get in. After being served frozen fish and bad squid on our first night and looking in vain for a decent place, we decided to simply cook at home since we had a kitchen in the Airbnb.


The view from our Airbnb


All through Mexico, we shopped for groceries at Chedraui (pronounced Che-Dra-Wee) which is like the Mexican Walmart. They sell TVs, washing machines, clothes, groceries, and anything you could need. Shopping for our own groceries was about 3 times cheaper than eating out, except when there is strong restaurant competition such as in Mexico City. We also brought home a bottle of rum and bourbon for about half the price as the airport duty-free stores.



In the picture above; a tall beer, 2L of lemonade, yogurts, cheese, meat, chips, water, spinach, bread, and apples. We bought this perfect lunch for only 150MXN or 7.50USD (10CAD) when it would have cost us about 21CAD for the exact same groceries in Canada.


Day 9 – Puerto Escondido to Huatulco
Hotel 125CAD (1875MXN)
Breakfast – Cereals  0MXN
Bus to Huatulco 150MXN
Lunch – Handmade Sandwiches  0MXN
Taxi to Hotel 50MXN
Dinner – Filet Mignon 450MXN
Medicine 150MXN
Total 2,675MXN (133USD) (178CAD)


We stayed in a great Airbnb with a nice view, clean, and in a pretty good location. The only issue was the noise of the nightclubs blasting their music until 6 a.m. but that was an issue in the whole city, not just this place. After a sleepless weekend, we finally got a quiet night on Monday night then took a very short bus to Huatulco that next morning.


Day 10 – Huatulco
Hotel 125CAD (1875MXN)
Breakfast – Cereals  0MXN
Lunch – Shrimps 160MXN
Groceries 80MXN
Dinner – Steak and Tuna 330MXN
Total 2,445MXN (122USD) (163CAD)


Huatulco was one of the highlights of our trip! Our hotel was perfect, the food was perfect, the beach was perfect, and the sun was always out.


Food in Mexico

Ocean in Mexico

Traveling in Mexico


Our hotel was located in the Chahue bay, which was super quiet, clean, and simply perfect. The sand was a soft gray tone and warm between the toes. After exploring the beach in the next bay over, we were super glad to stay at the Chahue Bay. The beach of Santa Cruz bay had restaurants all along it, was loud and super busy. There was a lot of sellers haggling with us and it was not very relaxing so we stayed in our quiet bay. 🙂


Day 11 – Huatulco
Hotel 125CAD (1875MXN)
Breakfast – Yogurt and Fruits  0MXN
ATV Activity 800MXN
Dinner – Shrimps and Fillet Mignon 450MXN
Total 3,245MXN (162USD) (216CAD)


After the lousy restaurants of Puerto Escondido, you cannot imagine how delighted we were to eat fresh seafood, filet mignon, and fresh fish. 🙂 On the 5th, we went on an ATV ride through the jungle and along the beach. We used a company recommended by our hotel called Paraiso Huatulco. The ride was pretty cheap (40USD) (53CAD) and entertaining, we got to zoom along the beach but most of it was on dirt roads.


My face was the same color as my shirt, I really had a taste of Mexico!


After a nice, relaxing, stay we flew back to Mexico City to catch our flight back home. There is a bus option to go from Huatulco to Mexico City with TAPO company, we could have saved a bit there. However, the (50USD) (65CAD) bus ride takes 15 hours and drives through mountainous roads. We did not need to experience this again so we took an hour flight with Interjet for 3000MXN (75USD each) (100CAD each). The flight was delayed but still much faster than the bus and a thousand times more comfortable than mountain roads. Unlike on American airlines, we had a lot of leg room and were not charged extra for our checked bag.


Day 12 – Huatulco to Mexico City
Hotel 44CAD (660MXN)
Breakfast – Yogurt and Fruits  0MXN
Lunch – Squid 230MXN
Taxi to Airport 150MXN
Plane Tickets 3,000MXN
Dinner – On the plane 0MXN
Ice cream 60MXN
Total 4,100MXN (205USD) (273CAD)


We then spent the night in Mexico and hopped on the plane the next afternoon. We stayed in a cheap hotel downtown so we were able to walk around and explore the city a bit more the next morning. Once at the MEX airport, we walked and walked forever before finally getting to our gate. The airport is super long and unorganized, there were no clear signs so we just wandered until we finally found our airline.


Third stop: Miami, FL

Day 13 – Mexico City to Miami
Hotel – Sheraton Free!
Breakfast 200MXN
Lunch – Airport Restaurant 350MXN
Total 550MXN (27USD) (36CAD)


Just like on the way there, we decided to do a 24h layover. We stopped in Miami and honestly, felt like we would be stopped there forever! The staff was, again, unorganized, and the security check lines went on for hours.

We slept at the Sheraton and our reservation would have cost $150USD. Again, we booked with points so our total was a big fat zero! Just by signing up you also can get free nights at luxury hotels. With all those savings, we felt like it was ok to splurge a bit and got a pizza delivered, followed by room service.


Miami travel for free

Day 14 – Miami
Pizza Delivery 20USD
Room Service – Drink and Desert 27USD
Total 47USD (61CAD)


After all of this, after 14 days of exploration, we ended up spending only 2,359USD or 84USD per day per person (3,100CAD or 110CAD per day per person) for our honeymoon. This number includes flights, accommodation, food, activities and everything else!

We spent less on our whole honeymoon than what my coworkers recently spent on a weekend bachelor party in Tijuana.

Think about that for a second. We explored Mexico for 14 days and spent less than a 2-day bachelor party.

Traveling does not need to be expensive. If you plan properly and budget your vacation, you can stretch your dollar pretty far. We did not stay in 5-star hotels all the time and used Airbnb when advantageous. We mostly ate in local restaurants and cooked some meals ourselves but still had a great time. It is always nice to pamper yourself a bit on trips but you do not need that every single day of your stay.

We had a wonderful time and I hope you can also experience amazing trips for much less than advertised. Being on vacation is certainly not a reason to go into credit card debt and there is always an option for your own budget. Plan ahead and look outside of the all-inclusive resorts.


Share your own travel stories, we would love to hear your adventures. 🙂

Mr. and Mrs. Xyz.














How to Build Wealth and Get Rich Slowly

Sometimes, I feel poor.

My bank account has a low balance and I use credit cards for all my purchases.


This might be the hard reality of many people living paycheck to paycheck. However, I choose to live like this to optimize my savings and live a better, happier, life. 🙂


Optimize your accounts

For example, I do not keep a large balance in my bank account since it pays a whopping 0% in interest. Instead,  I try to optimize my returns by keeping any extra money into a high-yield savings account. I highly suggest you do too, you could be making a few extra hundred dollars simply by keeping your money there instead of your checking account.

I only keep a small buffer in my checking account (roughly $1000) and then use my savings account to pay my monthly credit card bill, mortgage payments, and keep my emergency fund. In terms of emergency fund, I suggest keeping at least 3 months of expenses saved in a savings account.

Some go up to 6 months or a year but this is more of a personal preference and depends greatly on your job stability. The important thing is to keep your money at work and have enough put aside in case of an unplanned event such as a job loss or an unforeseen major car repair.


Keep it simple

You can even open different accounts for different goals if you prefer to separate your finances. One account for emergencies, one account for the month-to-month expenses and one for your medium-term goals such as a new purchase you are planning or a vacation fund.

Once your basics are covered and you have a healthy emergency fund saved up, you can invest in low-cost, highly diversified, index funds and let your money grow to achieve your long-term goals. You can see exactly how I invest in my Open Book series.

I sometimes feel poor because my paychecks are very low once they get to my bank account. On top of taxes, I also automatically deduct from my paycheck to fund multiple investment accounts. I start by maxing out my company match plan (10% of my salary) to maximize the 50% match I get. Then I also max out my registered accounts and automatically invest in my preset asset allocation.


travel credit card churning


Use credit card travel rewards

For my day to day purchases, I always use credit cards to reap the rewards. I optimize my travel rewards by applying to generous “Welcome Bonuses” offered by most banks online or in the branch. Most banks will offer bonuses worth anywhere from a few hundred to thousands of dollars simply to signup to their cards.

You can easily accumulate thousands of dollars worth of travel just by applying. We used our points for our honeymoon and could not be happier.

Flying inside the country can be practically free with points. However, it will not give you the best value for your points compared to international flights.


We saved over $800 on our latest trip

For example, flying coast to coast, from Toronto to Vancouver, would save you about $800. This offers a point value of 3.22¢ per Aeroplan. For this example, I am using Aeroplan rewards but the same calculations can be done with any reward program in the US or internationally. (All figures are as of the date of publication and the cheapest flight option was selected)


Flight Cost Taxes & Fees Total Cost $798 $169 $967 25,000 miles $160 $160
Value Of 1 Mile: 3.22 cents Savings: $807


To maximize my return on points, I search for the best flights and try to fly business class when available. Here is an example of the costs to fly across the globe, from Canada to Hong Kong and the savings I can achieve by paying with reward points:


Flight Cost Taxes & Fees Total Cost $6856 $132 $6988 150,000 miles $315 $315
Value Of 1 Mile: 4.44 cents Savings: $6673


This is an example of using Aeroplan, which is the main reward program I use here in Canada. If you are in the U.S., there is more flexibility in the programs offered. A quick search into the airlines and hotels reward programs can show you the full potential of using credit cards for your everyday purchases.

Of course, you need to be responsible and always pay the full balance owed each month! You should not spend money you do not have and you should never have to pay credit card interest.


Find your card today and start earning those SWEET miles!


Know where do you stand?

Using those three main techniques:

  • Keeping your money in an interest-bearing account,
  • Investing automatically in low-cost index funds, and
  • Earning rewards on everyday purchases with credit cards,

you can maximize your money and get ahead in your financial independence journey.  If you start following these and start tracking your net worth then you can clearly see your progress and achievements.

CNN Money has a fun net worth comparison tool you could use to see how you compare to the average American but remember, it is not a race. It is not a matter of being ahead or behind but rather about your personal progress and the concrete steps you are taking to better your financial state.

Under 25 years old have an average net worth of $1,475. 25 to 34 hold $8,525. 35 to 44 stand at $51,575 of net worth. 45 to 54 at $98,350 of net worth. 55 to 64 at $180,125. Finally, 65 and over hold on average $232,000.


How to save


Comparing to these figures, you can see how you compare to the general population. Obviously, if your goal is to retire early (35 in my case) these figures would need to be greatly accelerated. I aim to retire in 10 years or less with a million dollars. My net worth would then stand 19 times higher than the average for the 35 to 44 years old age group. I’m on the right track!

I wish you the best of luck in your journey and hope I can help along the way. Please ask any questions in the comment section below and I will be more than happy to help. Xyz.