The two expenses bringin me down


Thanks to frequent flyer miles, we keep the expenses of international flights at bay.  AND YET there are still some culprits raising our expenses more than I’d like.  So I wanted to know, what expenses are coming between me and the super low budget I want? Well, I took a look at the stats to see what I could find…

December: The leading contributor to our December total of $1,815.48 was accommodations costing $838.35, (about %46 of the total for that month).

November: The leading contributor to our November total of $2,709.32 was accommodations costing $819.63 (about %30 of the total for that month).

October: The leading contributor to our October total of $2,170.93 was land transit costing $762.45 (about %35 of the total for that month).

September: The leading contributor to our September total of $1,930.54 was food and beverages costing $575.95 (about %30 of the total for that month).

August: The leading contributor to our August total of $2,092.90 was land transit costing $649.44 (about %31 of the August total).


As you can see, with the exception of September, land transit seemed to contribute to our costs most in the beginning of the trip while accommodations took the lead for the end of our trip.

Really this sets things up for us to talk about why those expenses are so high and how we can keep them lower.

Why accommodation expenses and land transit expenses can get high, and what we can do to keep them lower…

1.) Land Transit

Why it’s high

We have sadly few miles and points tricks for non-air travel.  While there are certainly mileage programs that can be great for short hauls (like distance based programs like British Airways,) we tend to think of miles as a valuable way to eliminate what could otherwise be an enormous expense- international flights.

Also I’ll say that we are never all that extremely miles-rich.  For whatever reason, we don’t  do a whole lot of generated spends, racking up tons of miles.  We are constantly collecting here and there and always have enough to play around with, but not enough to nullify the need for a little conservation.  In fact…we’ve made using miles well our main focus.

All this to say while it’s absolutely possible to use your miles for short hauls from Budapest to Bucharest or London to Edinburgh, and while we’ll sometimes do this, we tend instead to use trains, boats, hitch-hiking, car-pooling, rental cars, etc for these short domestic hops.

So here are some strategies we’ve picked up for trying to lessen this cost.

> Read Drew’s post on the best use of British Airways Avios  as many people do find British Airways Avios very useful for short hauls.

>Depending on what country you’re in (this is particularly helpful in Europe) look into carpooling via a carpooling website like  You’ll have to pay a little to your carpool host but it’s usually very reasonable.

>I am dying to find out some strategies for cheap car-rentals…  I know that you can use websites like hotwire and costco travel for car rentals but if anyone has any more advice for this, let me know!  Share the knowledge! For the time being, car rental is a sort of last resort or special scenario for us.  For instance like when we wanted to do our DIY safari.

>If you are getting a train or bus ticket, (depending on where you are) you are probably going to get the cheapest price by going directly to the train or bus station to buy your ticket.  Do this in advance though.  Usually we’ll just go to the train or bus station the day before we plan on actually traveling.


2.) Accommodations

Why it’s high?

One of the reasons our accommodations were high was in part because we were chasing the IHG Big Win promotion and were therefore making paid stays at IHG properties.

This isn’t something I would have changed really as we ended up earning 206,000 IHG points for my Big Win, Drew’s, and Drew’s mom’s.  This is not including the points earned from the stays themselves (somewhere around 199,943 points between all three accounts) for a total of 405,943 IHG points at our exposure.

As you can see from our Sept. 26-Oct. 14 stats, these points can be an incredible asset, particularly for those with flexibility.  Thanks to PointBreaks we were able to take care of 17 nights with just 85,000 points.  At regular price that wouldn’t have even covered 3 nights!!  (And if we use all of our 405,943 IHG points on PointBreaks (unlikely) it would give us 81 nights!!)

Another reason these expenses can get high is because in Europe hotels often have a third-person fee.  Drew’s mom was with us for much of the trip, so this third person fee was something we were constantly paying attention to.

Keeping it cheaper

How can we keep that cost low?  Honestly, despite the cost of chasing promotions, we’ll probably still go for the IHG Big Win again.  This time in Asia however, where properties will be less than the 100-200 we experienced for our paid stays in Europe.

> Read about how having the club carlson card saves points as well as how you can use the strategy of BRG to score absolutely free nights.  These are both strategies we’ll be using in the near future.

> Try to keep a diverse range of hotel points on hand, even if you only have a night’s worth in your lesser favored programs.  This is not something we’re great at as you can tell by how often I reference IHG :-/.  But as a result we got screwed a time or two.  For instance hitch-hiking to Garmisch Partenkirche from Berchtesgaden took us longer than we expected, leaving us with an unplanned night in Innsbruck.  By the time we arrived around 11 pm the hotels with whom we have points were either sold out or just…not there.  So we had to pay >$100 on a Hilton- more money than the train ticket from Berchtesgaden to Garmisch Partenkirche would have been in the first place.  I love hitch-hiking so it still felt worth it, but it just goes to show that banking on one hotel program can leave you high and dry when your plans get changed.

> If you do have a night you can’t cover with a BRG or points, consider NOT just going for a hostel.  A $20 hostel will give you no points where as a $95 Holiday Inn could give you loads of points if  you learn how to earn lots of IHG points with each paid stay.



As always, this is just what I’ve found in analyzing my own travel strategy and travel expenses.  But what are some things you’ve learned about lessening the cost of short-hauls and accommodations?




5 Comments on “The two expenses bringin me down

  1. If you were traveling solo, would the points earn from a room without crazy promotion be justified comparing to a 15 USD hostel? The economic is certainly different for 2 or 3 people comparing to one. As I travel alone, I only do hotel when there is a great promotion or can redeem the points cheaply (like 2 nights in Radisson Blu Budapest for 9000 points.) As much as I see the value of point break hotels, given that one can purchase the points cheaply already. Furthermore, a bed in a hostel cost cheaper than a point break hotel for one person! The point is solo vs non-solo do have a lot of differences.

    • You definitely have a good point. Points became a lot more important to us when we got married and realized that a hostel was suddenly less of a good deal when needing to pay for two beds. There was one occasion where we convinced a hostel to let us pay for just one bed and split it but he was in disbelief that we were going to try to both fit on just one of the teeny beds he had.

      All to say, you’re right paying for points may be less appealing for someone who only really needs to worry about one bed.

  2. Totally agree about solo travel…I try to save the points for a couple situations:

    1. Places where you HAVE to stay in a hotel (ex- I went to the Middle East as a single lady)

    2. Resorty places (there aren’t as many hostels in some places of the Caribbean and Pacific)

    3. Beginning/ends of trips (I am usually coming off a term of medical school and it’s nice to crash after that, or rest up for a day or two leading up to the next one)

    4. Places it’s crazy hot or cold and you know finding a cheap place with heat or AC is going to cost you anyway

    5. If food is included (I was totally broke at the end of my last trip, staying as a platinum member at an HI in Bangkok got me a nice breakfast (brunch really) included. I spent about 60-75 baht at dinner time for a 2 course meal, and a little dessert.

    • Awesome input Dizzy.

      I agree with you about #3 especially. Drew and I suck at planning ahead, but when we do, it’s usually to make sure we have a reservation after a late arriving flight or before an early departure flight.

  3. I really think you guys are missing out on some golden opportunities by not using a cash back travel website like Connexion World Travel to get some money back on your hotel and travel reservations. Every little bit helps and you still earn on loyalty rewards and CC points.

    It looks as though you prefer IHG as your go to hotel brand. They currently are not our most lucrative for cash back but it could equate to several hundred dollars a year on just IHG hotels, by simply doing what you already do.

    You may consider looking at Accor Hotels Le Club points program . They are partnered with Sky Team, One World, Star Alliance and they even work with Avios. They are all over Europe and Asia and earn one of the best cash back returns we offer.

    Incorporating a cash back earning program into your points and mileage strategy is simply another tool to help you get the most out of your travels.

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