17 Surprising ways to save on travel


Sure, you can look for an airfare sale or take advantage of a hotel promotion, but how can you enjoy extra stackery or find hidden savings? On this week’s Frequent Miler on the Air, Greg and I cover ways to save on gas, hotel food, flights, rooms, rental cars, and more. Ever thought about renting a Uhaul cargo van, ordering off the kids’ menu, or booking a park-and-fly rate to save a few bucks? All that and more on this week’s show.

Elsewhere on the blog this week, read about how you and a partner can manufacture Delta Platinum status each year, a way to sidestep Flying Blue award surcharges, the best offers holding strong for May 2022, and some cool new Hyatt bottom line reviews.

1:36 What crazy thing did Hyatt do this week?
7:57 Mileage running the numbers: Is it worth spending to keep Air Canada Aeroplan elite status?
13:54 Main Event: 17 Surprising ways to save on travel
14:42 Ways to save on gas: Gift cards at the supermarket, Walmart+, Speedy Rewards, and more
21:30 Save on hotels: Greyhound road rewards, best rate guarantees, Capital One Spring, buying points, shopping portal return
33:08 Save on Hotel food: Kids menu, Uber Eats, discounted gift cards
38:28 Flights: same-day change, companion tickets, Alaska companion ticket
53:25 Save on airport parking
56:05 Save on rental cars: rent from a dealership, Autoslash to rent or track, rent a Uhaul
1:09:06 Question of the Week: Which airline programs allow holding an award ticket to avoid phantom award space?

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This week at Frequent Miler

Great ways to save money or miles on flights

This resource can be a terrific reminder of the many ways to save some dough on a flight, which could come in handy with domestic airfares holding steady at more-than-I-want-to-spend. One tip that I wish we’d have included on the podcast was the vacation packages tip: you can sometimes find some real gems in terms of airfare, particularly for international premium cabins (sometimes you can bundle a car or hotel room and pay less than the cost of airfare alone through normal channels). This is definitely a resource to review and come back to when it’s time to book your next trip.

Delta Mileage Running from Home (2 Player Mode)

Greg’s obviously relieved to hear about Delta’s voucher extension.

I’ve long thought Greg was at least partly off his rocker for the expense to which he went to manufacture Delta Diamond status. By contrast, this two-player system that creates an easy path to alternating Platinum status makes a lot more sense. It’s still a lot of spend to dedicate to Amex cards though, so you have to really value the perks. While this is a lot more reasonable, I still don’t find it compelling enough to do. That is of course largely influenced by the fact that I don’t fly Delta often enough for the perks to matter to me.

Unsung sweet spot: Flying Blue for Air Europa flights

I admittedly haven’t flown Air Europa, but its 787 business class is flat-bed and the savings in surcharges is significant here. My family of four would save eight or nine hundred bucks one-way with Air Europa over an Air France or KLM award while still getting Flying Blue’s 25% discount on long-haul child award tickets, so Air Europa will be an option that stays on my radar.

A work-around for Virgin Atlantic’s grayed out “Points” search

Virgin Atlantic The Loft

I haven’t actually dealt with the title problem in quite some time, but Virgin Atlantic’s website sure can be frustrating when you run into an airport that won’t show up or you want to see prices in points on a route where it doesn’t want to show them. This “multi-city” trick could come in handy if you’re looking for awards bookable through Virgin Atlantic.

Star Alliance to launch a credit card, redeem across 26 airlines

I’m just including this snippet of news because it seems like a a juicy little rumor. Could Star Alliance create its own transferable currency credit card? I found the wording of the announcement interesting: it didn’t say that points would be redeemable with all 26 airlines, it said redeemable with all 26 airline frequent flyer programs, which is why I’m hopeful we’ll see transfers. I’m going to bet that Wells Fargo issues this and I hope it’s as cool as it sounds.

Greg’s Top Picks for May: Business Offers, Blockbuster Offers and More

There are some excellent offers out there still this month, including several that I’m surprised have stuck around (like the big Amex Platinum offer and the no-fee Chase Ink card offers). However, I missed a chance to roast Greg on this week’s show: do offers like the Citi Premier (which he says there is no hurry to get since 60K is the standard offer) or the 60K JetBlue offer belong on the list of top picks? I’ll have to grill him about that on next week’s show.

[Update: Access on arrival restored] Delta Reducing Sky Club Access To 3 Hours Before Flight

This is just a a small update to a previous post, but I thought it was worth a highlight here because a number of readers mentioned their disappointment with the original announcement regarding lounge access on arrivals. It’s nice to see Delta hear the feedback and change its tune – arriving passengers will still be able to access the lounge if eligible.

World of Hyatt adds 52 new all-inclusive properties throughout the Caribbean and Mexico

I never thought I was into all-inclusives until I took my first family vacation to a Hyatt Ziva property; I quickly realized how convenient it is for everything to be included (and to be able to leave dinner with a cranky kid and still get room service later if I wasn’t finished). That said, having looked into a number of the Dreams properties during Choice Privileges promos, I’m only lukewarm in my excitement for many of these additions. Still, with some of the low point prices, these would make for a pretty cheap getaway, which might be just what I need when the winter rolls around.

Hyatt Regency Kathmandu Executive Club Room: Bottom Line Review

Carrie continues her jaunt around the world and this time she offers a bottom line review of a nice-looking Category 1 Hyatt Regency. While she notes the rooms being a bit worn, the place still looks like a great option given its low award price point. I’ve long been interested in Nepal because it is one of those places that I imagine I may never have visited if not the ability to use points and miles to get there. If we ever do get there, I’ll probably give this Hyatt Regency a shot.

Hyatt Centric Wall Street Premium Suite award: Bottom Line Review

I recently spent a couple of nights in a huge (by Manhattan standards) suite at the Hyatt Centric Wall Street. Between the space, cleanliness, and friendliness I was very happy with my decision to stay despite the fact that I had to pay for parking. I’ll be back for this room the next time I want to be in the financial district.

Grand Hyatt SFO: A terrific hotel connected to San Francisco’s airport

I love hotels that are right at airports — the convenience of being right there when it’s time to go catch your flight can be really nice. As someone from the East Coast, I could see this being really convenient the next time I book a United or Alaska flight to Hawaii with an overnight connection in San Francisco on the way out.

That’s it for this week at Frequent Miler. Remember to keep your eye on this week’s last chance deals for Stephen’s weekly update.

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Glad to hear you mention the “one-way car rental to the airport” trick. This is actually fairly well-known and common in my area (Ventura, CA). I think it’s because of a combination of (a) expensive parking at LAX, even off-airport, (b) about 70 miles, so an expensive Uber ride, and (c) slow/infrequent/expensive transit options. It’s my go-to unless I’m doing a very short trip.

I’ll add 2 other advantages: (1) You can fly into one airport and out of another, which can often save money/points, lead to more convenient flight schedules, or give you more options to get home during IRROPS, and (2) It makes it very easy to earn car-rental elite status. For example, Avis gives Preferred Plus status after 12 rentals in a year. Normally you’d have to take 12 trips in a year, but this way, you can do it in only 4 trips. As a result, I’ve had Avis Preferred Plus status for years… which isn’t worth a ton, but it has gotten me some nice upgrades on occasion, and I was able to redeem my points for a free rental once.


On the topic of portals…

Several mentions throughout the show. Regarding people being surprised that they can get earnings on hotel reservations. This is one reason I install the portal buttons on my browser. There have been multiple times that I have been surprised to find out something qualifies for earnings that I did not think about. Make sure to check them for food app delivery and ride share apps (Grubhub is still on Rakuten, Lyft & Uber on Dosh, etc).


I’ve had a long interest in saving money on travel going back to the 80s when I hitchhiked around Europe using the Hitchhiker’s Guide to Europe. That book had all kinds of tips, including a notable one contributed by a reader that you should bring only a scarf or a towel because you never need them both at once (a suggestion that went on to influence another well known Hitchhiker’s Guide). They also had information about selling your blood to blood banks, and a table showing which coins from one country could be substituted for coins of higher value in coin-operated machines in other European countries.

This is the first time a topic has ever come up in a podcast where I could hold my own with Greg and Nick. I mean, save ten cents on gas? C’mon, guys! So here are some of my suggestions for saving money:

  1. Sleep outdoors. Whether it’s a beach in Greece, where you’ll learn a lot about the local dogs, or a park in a major European capital, where you’ll get some hard-to-come-by insight into European law enforcement (doubly so if it’s in Eastern Europe during the Soviet era). If that’s a park bench too far for you then considering actual camping, especially someplace like the American west where stunning National Park campsites can be had for $20 and camping on BLM land is often legal and free.
  2. Sleep around. You’ll often meet people, who, in a moment of weakness, will invite you to visit them. You might even be that person, and host people in your house, leading to a reciprocal invitation. If you judge the invitation is honestly meant, don’t be bashful! There are even organizations like Servas that arrange this kind of thing (I haven’t used it but have a friend who is heavily involved). Finally, look at organizations like WWOOF (which used to be called Willing Workers on Organic Farms, but has changed its name several times) which sets up short stays in exchange for a very manageable amount of volunteer labor, or Trusted Housesitters which (not surprisingly) brokers house sitting stays.
  3. Hitchhike. This won’t be help with ocean crossings (although I have, on two occasions in Europe been asked by drivers if I had hitchhiked from the US). If hitchhiking is too much, there are organized car-pool services (like BlaBlaCar) that can get you between major cities in Europe for a share of the gas money. If you actually want to try crossing the ocean there are sometimes positions on yachts or people who are looking for “paying crew” (if you do this, don’t trust the guy in Phuket who says “Drugs? No, I would never, ever have drugs on my boat when entering Malaysia, where they hang drug traffickers, ha ha, no way, mate!”). More formally, if you have a long time and can coordinate with the cruise ship relocation schedules you can sometimes “reposition” with them for $30 – $40 per day to cross the Atlantic.
  4. One I know from friends (didn’t try this myself). In countries with very high inflation it’s sometimes cheaper to use bank notes in place of toilet paper. Doesn’t seem super sanitary to me, but if you’re in dire straights. . .
Gary Podboy

Greg mentioned that car rentals are paid when you return a car. Suppose you rent a car using a card that has car rental insurance, such as the CSP card. Then (assuming you don’t get into an accident) you switch to a different card (one you are working on a SUB) when you return it. Can you do that?


I have done this before at local in-town rental locations. Pre-COVID I would regularly rent from a local place to do business trips, so I got to be on a first-name basis with the owner/manager of the location, they would recognize me and not even check my drivers license. I had some confidence that they would not try to screw me over since I was giving them recurring business. I would personally be less likely to do this at airport locations since they are not trying to grow & maintain recurring business at the individual level … but that is just me. The stories about getting bills for damage (or stolen) weeks/months later are enough to have me keep some hope of CC protection even if the rental itself has been fine.


I wouldn’t do that because:

  1. Sometimes you aren’t notified that the company is making a claim until weeks later (and yes, you have to wonder who really damaged the car in those cases, but wouldn’t you rather have the insurance company fight that battle?)
  2. It would technically be possible for the credit card company to “see” that you had done this on previous rentals and deny you coverage. They would do that by looking for the $200 hold the rental company places on the original card and seeing that it’s never, or rarely, followed by the actual charge.
  3. Finally, and I don’t mean to be all righteous, but that valuable insurance coverage the credit card company is offering you is paid for, at least in part, by the money they make on the rentals. It’s part of the deal that you use the card for the rental and I don’t think it’s asking too much to stick to your end of the deal.

Thanks for the responses. All this talk about claims that appear weeks later has me thinking that I should take photos of the car not only when I pick it up, but when I drop it off too.

Gary Podboy

Here is an airport parking hack I use: find free parking near the airport and Uber to/from the airport. Or, park at a free location that has public transportation to/from the airport (such as a metro station) and take that.