Welcome back to another trip report post! In this post, I will recap my recent trip to Glacier National Park in Montana.
Posting my trip reports are one of my favorite parts of having this blog as I get to recap how anyone can travel for cheap if they want to. I see all too often that people make excuses why they can’t travel. I hear: “I wish I could but I have no free time,” or “I can’t afford it right now, but maybe in the future.”
For me, I want to prioritize travel now because I am not guaranteed anything, and I want to explore the world as much as possible now.
To travel cheaply, I utilize Travel Hacking to get flights, hotels, and rental cars for free or cheaper than average costs. I essentially put my everyday spending on travel credit cards and strategically open up new travel cards when I know I have future expenses that will meet the minimum spend requirements. I always pay off my credit cards in full every month and never accrue any debt. Since starting travel hacking in mid-2015, my credit score has risen ~50 points to ~800.
Check out some of my previous trip reports below:
Let’s see how my Glacier National Park trip compared to the rest!
We decided to go on this trip pretty last minute. I recently quit my job in early July and negotiated my new job to start a week later than expected. After confirming I had a week off I called up my friend, and we booked the trip about ten days before.
With that being said the flights were more expensive than usual due to our late booking. Luckily, I have the Southwest Companion Pass and was able to use points to book the trip to Spokane Washington for 15k points and bring my friend for free. I usually have my girlfriend set as my companion, but I can make three switches per year on Southwest. It’s pretty cool.
Another cool perk is that I still have a “Priority Pass” lounge access card from when I had the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. We had a layover in Denver, and they have a restaurant that gives $28 off per person if you have a “Priority Pass” card. So we had a nice steak dinner for free :).
On the way back I decide to reserve my Chase Points and pay out of pocket for a Delta flight. Since this trip we decided to go camping, we traveled with all of our camping gear, so I reluctantly paid for a checked bag on the way home (Southwest was free).
We flew into Spokane and drove through the night into Montana and arrived at the National Park around 7 am.
Total Flight Costs:
$178.80 Delta Flight + $25 Delta bag fee + unavoidable security tax on both Southwest flights $11.20
During my time at Glacier, we decided to camp rather than a hotel or Airbnb.
Camping was pretty cheap – $20 a night to camp in the park. I already had a tent that we brought, and my friend hooked me up with a sleeping bag. To be honest, this was my first time camping in a tent for multiple days in my life. So I was a novice.
My main issue was I didn’t bring an air mattress or any sleeping pad. Because of this, I decided to buy an inflatable pool raft. Yes, I said that right, I slept on inflatable (Ice Cream cone) pool raft for four nights in Montana. While this was a better option than sleeping on the rocks and twigs, it was a 2/10 sleeping experience.
I also had to adjust to not taking a shower for 4 days while camping. For my next camping trip, I will come better prepared!
Total Camping Costs: $40
The best part of being at Glacier was the fantastic hikes and scenery we saw daily. We already had a National Park pass so entering the park was free.
We went swimming in a few lakes and went on some challenging/amazing hikes. The good thing about National Parks is that hiking usually takes up most of the day and its free and you get some great exercise. I hit over 40k steps on my Fitbit one day from hiking!
On the way back to Spokane, we met up with my friend/mentor Jillian from MontanaMoneyAdventures. We ate some (huckleberry) ice cream and had a good chat about travel, personal development, intentional decisions, and more! We recorded a video that I will post on my Facebook page once its out.
Total Entertainment Costs: Free!
Rental Car, Food, Souvenirs & Miscellaneous Costs
Majority of my cost (outside of the rental car) was for food and supplies. We stalked up at Walmart on the way to the park and picked up the food we needed for camping. Lots of canned foods, nuts, beef jerky, oatmeal, etc. We also had to pick up bear spray, bug spray, my pool raft, etc.
Rental Car and gas cost: $175
Food/supplies costs: $69.51
Souvenirs cost: $33 for a T-shirt and fridge magnet
Total = $277.51
Total Spent on Trip: $532.51
Overall, this trip was pretty amazing. Glacier was one of my favorite National Parks I’ve been to so far. After working a high-stress job for the last 15 months, I was able to take a break for a week and enjoy the outdoors with good company. Even though I am still working in a corporate environment, I think its important to make time to see the world now. Even if that means squeezing in 3 or 4-day extended weekend trips.
Travel Hacking allows me to reduce my largest (travel) expenses and will enable me to do more for less money. If you are in a stable place financially and can pay off your credit cards every month in full and meet minimum spend requirements for bonuses, it can be a great strategy to optimize your travel.
If you take away the Delta flight that I paid out of pocket for, I spent a total of $328.71. Not bad for five days in Montana.
My Automatic Travel Savings Plan
To pay for my trips throughout the year, I put money away automatically 2x a month in my Capital One 360 savings account*. I have separate savings account just for Travel, so it makes the $200-$500 trips very doable because I already have the money in my account. So I never really have to adjust my monthly cash flow for travel. I withdraw from my travel account to pay for the trip.
Question for You!
What trips have you been on recently?
How do you get the most value when you travel?
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