About Me

 What is this blog?

We have been full-time travelers for around 4 years now. Instead of having a home, we have hotel points and frequent flyer miles.

The premise of this blog is to document our full-time travel as we set out to show that it can cost the same, if not less than stationary life. Instead of paying rent, we pay for hotels. Instead of a car or car insurance, we have other transit costs. We use miles and points strategies to bring that cost down as low as possible, setting our goal budget around $20,000 a year. Around what it would have been with our fairly simple stationary life, only now we travel all over the world instead. All the while, we use the stats page to document exactly what we spend as we travel.

(Read more about the rules of the stats page below.)

Meet the Staff

Writer: Caroline Macomber

1052137_559312307478_1940027542_oBefore I wrote about travel, I wrote about being the only person in Amish Country, Ohio with dreadlocks.  I suffered from a severe case of ennui and treated it with large amounts of artwork and daydreaming.

That was before I married Drew.

Now, I travel.

Drew, my husband, has the blog “Travel is Free“, a travel blog for advanced miles and points collectors that helps folks learn how to earn miles and points for free, then use them for some incredible flights.  

I learned about miles and points by helping him haul gold coins to the bank back when you could buy them from the mint with no shipping costs to rack up spends on your miles-earning credit cards and falling asleep to the sound of United’s hold music when he booked crazy routes with those miles. 

 

Technological janitor: Caroline Macomber

Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 10.28.43 PM

If you see me tweeting that I have a technical issue and I need help making sure our sites don’t crash, please respond.

Please.  Like…really.

 

 

Resident Instagram Observation and Implementation Mis-manager: Caroline Macomber

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 8.44.10 PM

If you find the Travelisfree instagram page looking awfully full of cute puppies or pictures of my nephews, it’s because I’m mostly in charge of our Instagram.

For better or worse.

(Does that count as using my art degree?)


Master Platinum Ambassador Creative Director Muse: Pug in costume

Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 10.33.56 PMSome people meditate.

Some people run triathalons.

I google pug memes.

 

 

The Rules of the Stats

  • If we buy points or something, we’ll try to list this on the day we purchase, that way you can know what deals we are jumping on.
  • If we pay (cash or points) for a hotel (or mattress run), we’ll list the expense for the night we stay, not the day we booked it or paid for it.
  • If we pay with points that we bought or mattress ran for, we will just list the number of points. (Trying to divide the expenses of the points and trace the origins could be impossible at times. So most of the time it will just list the points. The expenses will already be accounted for anyways.)
  • If we specifically transferred from Ultimate rewards or something else just for that stay we will reference it.
  • If we transfer points from one program to another, we will try to list it in real time.
  • If we pay for a flight in cash or points we will list it on the day we fly. We cancel too many flights to do this any other way.
  • We don’t post points earned from credit card spends on regular purchases. If we buy anything else, from food to toiletries, we’ll list it as we spend the money.
  • All living expenses except charitable donations will be listed as accurately as we can manage.

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Thanks! Enjoy!

 

51 Comments on “About Me

  1. Hi Carrie, Saw the link on TBB and I will be curious to see how the year goes. Travel is Free seems to be more from Drew’s perspective, so It will be fun to get yours too. Loved the “Bambi” analogy in your TBB comment. My husband and I, although a different generation from you, make similar travel choices. My son, while not traveling all the time, has been on the road for many months at a time. Enjoy! And do keep blogging!

    • Yes Travel is Free is all Drew’s work. (I just edit his blogs and help him with design things for that blog.)

      Interested to hear that there are others with a similar travel-style! Perhaps we’ll bump into one another somewhere out there. 🙂

  2. Just stumbled onto your very-close-to-ours-hearts way of thinking.We are just starting our annual,now up to 5+ months “lifestyle” .We do a winter in FL and just kept staying longer.I kept researching and we have really caught onto the points way of life.We are in Panama right now,12 nights all on points! I just love this!! Love to run into you guys.Our friends/family think we secretly won the lottery.We are off to Maui in Jan.for another free trip.Nice to meet you!

    • Always a pleasure to meet other like-minded folks! Actually on the right hand side-bar of Drew’s website (http://www.travelisfree.com) there is a widget that offers a list of where we’ll be in the next coming weeks. I hope we overlap somewhere! If we happen to head towards Maui, I’ll send you an email. How long will you be there?
      Thanks for your comment and hopefully we’ll see you later!

  3. FROM jan. 20 for 2 weeks.Then back to South fl. for the winter.Who knows where during that time?How about you guys?

  4. Good question lol. For now it looks like South Africa until Dec. 5th, then Porto Vallarta Mexico until Dec. 15th, then a bit of miles-running hopping from city to city until we visit my folks in Ohio on the 21st, then we’ll likely visit family and friends for awhile. Next flight after that would be a two week trip to Milan starting Feb. 9th, then hopefully to Asia, perhaps via Hawaii. Sounds like we’ll miss you though unless we did Hawaii before Milan. Still, I’ll connect with you if we do end up heading that way! Always great to meet up with folks. 🙂

    • Yes,that would be fun!Just a question….do you guys have a home somewhere? We still do but have been mulling over selling it.The capital would allow must husband not to work at all.He works very long hours for 6 months which allows us this adventure.How about you guys?

      • Actually our lease ended July 31st and our travel began July 31st. 🙂 This is no coincidence. When Drew’s site started making a bit of money and we realized that my income was pretty well nullified by our stationary expenses (rent and utilities), we basically came to the conclusion that we could either give up having a home for travel, or give up travel for a home. We can’t afford both for now, but given the choice between the two…well…we have a very hard time ever saying no to travel. 🙂

        Maybe someday we won’t have to choose and will be able to come and go from a home somewhere, but for now, this is our reality and we’ve made a choice we’re happy with. 🙂

        I guess it’s different for everyone though and I definitely realize that our version of adventure isn’t better or worse than the adventures a person can experience with stationary life. But for us, the freedom to float around the world is just so worth whatever feelings of comfort or security we may have given up.

        We should chat over coffee sometime! 🙂

  5. Hi Carrie, a friend of ours just referred us to the Travel is Free blog last month since my wife and I are getting more into traveling. However, do to our work schedules, and other priorities, etc. we only take about one long trip (8-10 days) and two long weekend trips a year. I am in education so I have my Summers off though and we would like to maybe double what we are currently doing. I read through your post on how to meet the spending requirements for the credit card bonuses. We already plan on doing that, but we are a little new to the whole frequent flyer and the hotel points thing. Do you have any recommendations for a couple like us that wants to be gone maybe one month out of the year, every year, total (rather than for many months out of the year)? Any thoughts for “weekend warriors” like us, or links to blog entries is appreciated 🙂

    • Hey Kevin,

      Thanks so much for your comment!

      The things that first come to mind are PointBreaks which you can read about herehere as well as Drew’s posts on the Best Use of Ultimate Rewards Points or the Best Use of American Express Membership Rewards Points.

      I will say that a person doing a month trip vs. non-stop travel should perhaps focus more on the collection of miles than the collection of hotel points, because the flights could be your biggest expense.

      However before I give too many suggestions, I’d love to hear more about your specific ideas in terms of locations and dates because that could help you decide whose miles you should be going after.

      Be looking for an email at the email address you used for your comment.

      Excited for your growing interest in travel!

      • Thanks, Carrie. I’ll check those out. I just sent you an email explaining a little more where we are at on the process as well.

  6. Hi, I’m Esther. I just heard about your site from BootsnAll. I am a stay at home mom of 5 and I would love to travel the world. I also can’t go all the time because of my husband’s job. I really want my children to see my grandma who lives in Kagoshima, Japan. Do you know any cheap routes to get there or just Japan in general? ( I can get there by train if I have to) I would be flying from N. California ( SFO, Sacramento, Oakland, San Jose) I just got 2 reward credit cards and I”m hoping to use the rewards to pay for the cost of airfare. If the route includes other countries, I’m game. =) Thankyou for your blog! I don’t understand it all yet but it really is awesome!

    • Hey Esther!

      I just replied to your comment on the “getting to know chase” post, so you can find some info there too.

      I just did a post about American Airline’s off-peak prices and I think that would be a good direction to go in your general miles earning as well as in trying to get a trip to Japan. In that post I also mention various ways you can earn AA miles which includes the credit cards that can be helpful for that.

      I think those off-peak rates could help get your family to Japan! Again, feel free to email me at caroline (at) travel is free (dot) com if you still have questions after reading that post.

      Glad you’ve made it to our site!

  7. I have been unable to locate any place on Drews website or news letters to contact him directly. In his most recent news letter about AP, there were some pretty serious omissions, INMHO. Since you seem to monitor your site, would you please have him contact me.

    Thanks Mark

    • If you have questions or thoughts feel free to comment on Drew’s blog or on twitter (@travelisfree). We’re hopefully going to come up with a better system for reader communications soon but for now we can’t keep up with emails. :-/ I’ll pass along the message as well though.

  8. Hi Carrie, Our family–husband, wife & teenage daughter–are becoming gypsies in July. We are selling just about everything we own and hitting the friendly skies. My question for you is this: When you travel, do you make friends at the places you go? Are you in one place long enough to develop relationships? Or do you rely on the friends at home to give you the community that you need?

    • Veronica, that is exactly the kind of question I love thinking about.
      Honestly sometimes yes and sometimes no. At one time I thought that the backpacking/hostel scene was much better for cultivating friends on the road, but I have also made friends in hotel lounges, or in random little cafes. One thing that does seem to be helpful is trying to stay somewhere long enough to develop a bit of a routine, (by eating at the same restaurant every day for breakfast, or visiting the same cafe when you want a place to grab internet, etc), then sometimes within those routines you will make friends. Even then however, the nature of travel is very transient, so someone is always leaving, whether it’s you or the friend you’ve just made.
      I will be honest and admit that there are lots of times I rely on Skype and my friends from home for a sense of community, and there are some times that Drew and I must be one another’s community.
      To be honest, community is what I miss the most when I travel, but it’s in no means impossible to find. There are lots of forums for traveling/nomadic families, (Wandering Educators comes to mind) and you can always hop onto “couchsurfing” and see who’s willing to meet up for coffee. (Couchsurfing allows people to meet up for coffee and do day trips in addition to actual couch surfing.)

      Ultimately, yes community on the road can be challenging, but it is totally possible, even if it comes and goes. It’s different than the consistency of home, but it’s exciting too.

      Hopefully that’s helpful and thanks for the thought provoking question!

  9. Carrie – you guys have been to Fiji correct? Were you able to do the Yasawa’s on a budget…and if so do you have any tips?

    Thanks!

    • Well..we saw “Octopus island” which I think is the first island that is considered the Yasawas (and the only one that can be done as a day-trip rather than overnight) and honestly, here is my advice.
      1.) Don’t go to Fiji unless you include the Yasawas
      2.) Go to Fiji when you are throwing budget to the wind. 🙁

      Unfortunately the Yasawas are really difficult on a budget because they are teeny little islands with very few accommodation options and no points options that I am in any way aware of. So it’s just kind of one of those things you have to pay for. Fiji itself can be done on a budget, (for instance by using points at the InterContinental Fiji) but honestly what makes Fiji incredible, imho, are the Yasawas.

  10. Appreciate the advice Carrie – where did you stay in the Yasawas during your visit?

    • We actually stayed in the dock town and just did a day-trip to the Yasawas (Octopus Island is the only Yasawas Island within reach for a day trip I think). We stayed at a super cheap hostel type place in Suva close to the docks. Definitely not the kind of place I would recommend unless you’re hoping to rough it lol. But all of the islands offer neat little bungalow type places (probably mid-range in terms of cost and luxury). If we went back we would do an overnight trip and stay at one of the little bungalows on the islands but that was for sure not even remotely in our budget back then. lol.

      In the dock town all the little travel agencies selling the boat tickets will also offer packages for your overnight stays and I think that is the main way of reserving your stay since most of these places aren’t chain hotels at all.

  11. When you come back to C’ville, I hope you let us know. I live the other side of the mountain and perhaps we could do a meet-up. I’m all for sharing and spreading the word.

  12. Hi Carrie,

    I just came upon your husband’s website by chance, and subsequently your blog, and I am apparently the only one to wonder about this, but I don’t understand how you travel full-time? How are you making money for points, for food, for essentials if you are traveling constantly? I’m very interested and confused! Enlighten me! =)

    Thanks!
    Katy

    • Katy thanks for your question! I am happy to touch on that.
      So right now we are making our income via Drew’s blog. (Mine makes no money right now). A big part of managing full-time travel off of that kind of income is being frugal. So we know about miles and points because we need miles and points in order to travel. Because our income is online, we can do it from a traditional home in the States or we can do it from a hotel room. But again, the key is budgeting.

      Hope that answers your question a bit, though the question of HOW does one make money via blogging…is a bit more complicated and probably deserves a blog post of its own.

  13. Hello. Love your blog! Stumbled upon it a few months ago while starting to piece together some long term travel for the family. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your transparency. No doubt our strategy has been impacted but all your information. To show my appreciation, I would like to nominate your blog for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award.

    I look forward to reading your future posts and applying some of what I have learned here!
    All the best, Sarah of SproutedRoots.com
    http://sproutedroots.com/new/very-inspiring-blogger-award/

  14. Hi Carrie and Drew! I recently discovered your blog when researching United Award travel, and you two are incredible! I’ve been following travel hacking bloggers for a few years now, and I am so surprised I’ve never come across you sooner. I am in the process of trying to plan a trip from San Francisco to Johannesburg with a stopover in Korea/Japan, pretty much EXACTLY the same as you two pieced together for one of your blog posts! That post was super helpful as Africa is not the easiest destination to get to with points, but I was still having trouble getting my routing to work online and with agents. I want basically the exact routing you used, but always run into an invalid routing error. Any advice you could suggest? Thanks, and again, love the blog!

    • I wonder if your route includes too many segments? We made a “united error message decision tree” here if that will help: http://travelisfree.com/2014/08/05/united-error-message-decision-making-tree/

      Right below the graphic on that post there is a list of your segment limitations depending on where you’re going. I think your flight would need to be limited in 4 connections to Japan/Korea and 4 connections back. That includes your stopover so that may be your issue there. Maybe it’s hard to fit into 4 connections to and from Japan/Korea?

  15. Hi,
    I came around this page while hitting some travel blogs…
    N Loving ‘it !!! Looking forward for more 🙂

    M jus taking baby steps towards travelling! Suggestions??

    • My first suggestion for anyone just starting out with travel is to pack light! And don’t get too stressed about a schedule or itinerary. Some people prefer to have everything planned out before they go as far as what they’ll see on what days, but it’s also fun to see what will happen more spontaneously!

      And if you would like suggestions for where to visit as a new traveler, I would suggest hmmmm Budapest, Salzburg, Ireland, Thailand, New Zealand… anywhere! 😀

      And if you’re also taking baby steps with the miles and points strategy for travel, I would suggest starting out with this post: http://freakinflyers.com/what-are-these-credit-cards-getting-us-navigating-the-currencies-that-can-and-cant-get-you-closer-to-free-flights/.

      Hopefully it will give you a good handle on what to aim for!

  16. Hello — I’m really enjoying this blog and Travel Is Free, which offer somewhat different voices in the travel-hacker-blogosphere.

    But here’s a question that seems to pertain more to you than to other, older, retired, or biz-traveler hackers:

    — How do think about or plan for the long term? In other words, do you keep an emergency fund in case of big catastrophes or health crises? How are you envisioning your retirement, especially the period after your health is declining?

    I love travel hacking because it allows me to have those adventures that others delay until retirement (or never, as it often happens), but I also feel uncomfortable if I’m not planning for emergencies or my old age….

    • That’s a great question. We are (for better or worse) not planners. But I think we probably both know that If we were going to make this a long term plan (as we hope to,) we’d really need to increase revenue so that we could have an emergency fund and retirement fund and etc.
      At the risk of being too vulnerable, I’ll admit that such funds are not in the budget yet, but I guess the plan is to just keep working really hard on the blog and everything that we do in hopes that we can get to the point where we’re not only providing for our lives now, but also providing for the future.
      Like I said though, planning is not our strong suit while perhaps risk-taking is. 🙂

      • Yep, it sounds like I’m more risk-averse — and I actually enjoy planning! Good thing, as I have a planning-type job stateside, and also tend to enjoy my travels more when the nuts-and-bolts are worked out in advance so I can just enjoy the weeks away…

  17. Drew posted something about Uber and there’s a piece of advice that’s very confusing to me but I can’t find a way to get in touch. Tell you have him explain what he mean by this: “Then for the email address… Gmail allows you to make folders with an email address itself. “

    • Sure thing. I’ll send you an email with a more specific explanation of that part.

  18. Hi Carrie! We sat together at dinner @ the A2DO – I was the other full-time nomad. I’ve just moved to DC for a new job and have been set up in corporate housing for the next couple of months. I think you mentioned that you will be passing through DC a few times in the near future — I have a pull-out couch in a metro-accessible location if you guys are looking for somewhere to crash.

    • Hi MaryBeth! Thanks so much for reaching out! I will send you an email right now!

  19. Hey there,

    I’ve been trying to read up on your blog and am interested in starting to sign up to more credit cards but the only thing I don’t understand is how you meet your minimum purchase for your bonus miles after first applying. For example one credit card offers a one time bonus of 40000 miles if you make purchases of $4000 in the first 3 months of opening account. We don’t make such high purchases….how do you do it?

    thanks

    • If you’re new to the hobby, maybe you haven’t yet heard the term “MS.” (Manufactured spend). But I bet now that you’ve heard it, you’ll start to notice it being discussed on similar blogs. I’ll give you a basic idea here and then point you towards a blog I think does an excellent job on this topic.

      Basically you need to use your credit card to purchase something that can be turned back into money that will pay that card off. Like gift cards for example. But there are some road blocks; for instance many gift cards can’t be purchased with a credit card. Some can, though.

      That’s the vague, basic concept. I think Frequentmiler.net does a fabulous job covering this topic, so I’ll send you over that direction for more of the details on MSing!

  20. Hi,
    Love Drew’s blog and have recently discovered yours too. Am fairly new to travel hacking and have a general question. What do you do for health care & health insurance while you are on the road long term? I’m a bit (quite a bit) older and am on 5 different prescription medications and need to see a doctor monthly for refills on at least one of those. I’ve read lots of travel blogs but haven’t read about to deal with chronic disease that require mess while on the road. I traveled for 1.5 years in Asia & Africa while in my 30’s but was healthy and not on any medication at the time. Now I’m wondering how to do a long trip again while dealing with chronic health issues. Any ideas or suggestions appreciated. Thanks!

  21. Hi Carrie
    Love the blog. thanks for all the useful information.
    I’m confused however regarding Club Carlson points. I see mentioned in many places that you purchase points for far below what I see them listed for on the club Carlson website. Example you purchased 9000 pts for $22 whereas that many would cost $63 buying from Club Carlson. What’s the secret??

    • 🙂 I get this question a lot. Perhaps it’s time to do a post about it?
      So, pretty much anyone can get this same purchase rate by doing manufactured spending on the Club Carlson credit card. Are you familiar with manufactured spending strategies? The basic gist is to earn points on a card by spending money on something that can be turned back into money, like a gift card that allows you to set a pin for instance. If you look down through the other About Me comments, I have a more thorough explanation that works through the math of a MS “purchasing” example.

  22. Hi, just discovered yours and your husband’s site and I can’t get enough of this information. Huge thank you for the time and effort you’ve put into sharing all this.

    I’ve been traveling the last year with my girlfriend because we both work remotely, and sadly I didn’t do anything with credit cards or rewards (get depressed thinking about it!). Looking to change that for this coming year though. I’m wondering how you deal with all the mail involved in credit card applications and churning. How do you get your new cards? Do you MS internationally with no problem?

    Also I saw in one of these comments that you know a lot of other “digital nomads”. Is this through blogging or traveling? We never seem to meet people that aren’t “just on vacation”, and as you probably know, it’s hard to feel socially engaged locally when you bounce around so it’s nice to have a network of similar people.

    • Hey there Julien! Thanks for your comment and glad you found the site!

      I would say that definitely MS is a challenge while traveling, so we usually have all our cards sent to Drew’s dad, and then we just MS as much as possible whenever we are in the States visiting people. Occasionally we’ve had Drew’s dad mail cards to wherever we are too, though again that’s usually when we’re in the States.

      I do know quite a few digital nomads, though I know them “digitally” via blogging. So many of them are friends I’ve never gotten to actually meet. If you read the comments of this post though (http://freakinflyers.com/8-pains-nomadic-life/), some readers had some interesting ideas about how to feel connected to friends nomadically. Personally however, it’s just kind of the ongoing challenge of nomadic life. One little thing we have done to try to feel like a local is find a restaurant that we love, and then eat there every day. The staff starts to kind of recognize you, and even in that really small way, it makes me feel like we’re not just wayfaring strangers.

      Not great advice I realize, but it’s just a little thing that helps in a little way. 🙂

  23. How come the links from “Travel is free” to “Freakin Flyers” and vise versa are gone? I had to google “travel is free Carrie” to get there.

    • The value of having a simple navigation menu trumps the value of getting people to my blog, so it was always kind of intended to be a “kickstarter” for my blog, and someday we’d take that navigation out and see how my blog did. So far there hasn’t been a significant dip in traffic, so we felt like we were ready to have my blog stand on its own and take advantage of a super simple navigation menu over at Travel is Free.

      Glad you found me again though and sorry you had some trouble making your way here!

  24. A note from an admirer of both of you to express my hope that whatever changes are under way, that they wind up good for you both.

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