We always used credit cards for purchases, focusing on the cash back on certain categories. Occasionally there would be a sign up bonus of $100 to $300 dollars. Recently though, we found out how one can travel practically free using credit card sign up bonuses. This is our first trip where we took advantage of the credit card points we have been accumulating through Chase. This is our first travel hack in Colorado.
Travel is the only thing that makes you richer.
Travel is something we find is essential to our lives. It allows you to see the world from new perspectives and that can change your mind, which is the most powerful thing you can do.
So how can we do this while still trying to reach our goals with FI? If you travel hack after reading our story, check out the Travel Hacking podcast on ChooseFI. In addition, read my guide on redeeming chase ultimate rewards.
Turn your Business Trip into a Vacation
HisFI had a business trip planned to Colorado. It’s easy to think that you have to travel far to see beautiful places, but the United States has a lot to offer and we wanted to take the top sights of a place that’s only a couple states away.
We had both never been to Colorado before. After some research and much spent time on TripAdvisor, we came up with the following.
Our Travel Hack Itinerary
Fly into Denver airport late at night, get car rental, then stay at Hyatt hotel in Denver.
Drive up to Pikes Peak near Colorado Springs.
There was a lot of turns and twists as we climbed to the top, did we mention the 60 mph winds?
Yes, that says 14,115 feet! Talk about trying to catch your breath.
The view was breathtaking!
Here is a video of the event up to Pikes Peak.
It didn’t end there, we drove back down and headed back to Colorado Springs. We still had a whole afternoon so we went to the Garden of the Gods next.
If you didn’t love rocks before, be prepared to love them now.
Rocks towered like skyscrapers in these beautiful formations that would take on any manner of shape should you let your imagination run loose.
Look like hands to anyone?
We were surrounded by these behemoths.
You could also walk through them. There was all manner of cracks and crevices that you could walk into should you dare.
We were pretty exhausted after this, time for some food and another night at a Hyatt hotel in Colorado Springs.
Off to Aspen! It was about a 3 hour drive but we went through independence pass with gorgeous mountain views and death defying drop offs as you narrowly scrape up the winding roads.
We make it to Aspen and park at the Four Aspen Sports lodge where we take the shuttle up to Maroon Bells.
The Colorado post card. Truly a mesmerizing view.
It was trying to rain on us but the clouds added a nice dramatic effect.
See all the yellow in the background? Those are the Aspen trees changing colors. We learned they have this huge underground root system and are actually considered the largest living single organism in the world.
After hiking around Maroon Bells for a couple hours we took the shuttle back down to the parking lot and headed to our hotel, the Independence Square right in the heart of Aspen.
Here is a video of the Maroon Bells Trip done by HerFi who is the photo wiz…I mean she teaches it and she runs this sweet phone photography blog to boot.
After a night in the town of Aspen we woke up and wandered the adorable street market. (see the end of the video above!) Then headed out to our favorite hike of them all- Hanging Lake!
Honestly! So gorgeous!
The hike was a quick one on a steep rocky slope with some great views on the way. We stayed at the Inn at Silvercreek that night. It was a day full of driving since Hanging Lake was a bit off the beaten path.
The next morning we headed out to Grand Lake and had some breakfast in the cute little town.
The clouds were just lifting as we sipped our coffee and looked at this. Not ready to go back to work yet, that is for sure. One day that will be our reality.
We attempted to drive Trail Ridge Road back to Denver but it was closed due to ice. So we went back the “regular” way and that landed us as Stranahan’s Distillery for some drinks and tour before HerFi headed to the airport.
The tour cost $10 per person and included free tastings of two Whiskey’s at the end and the shot glass. Not too shabby, plus we learned how our favorite drink of choice was made.
They also had some fantastic mixed drinks that we found to be creative uses of Whiskey. We shall be trying these in the future.
The Cost Breakdown Using Our Travel Hack Tactics
Okay, so here is what we all care about…what did we spend and how did we travel hack it? Well, I will say for one it helps to be the outdoorsy type who loves to hike. It also helps that we have PNW native blood which means we don’t feel too affected by the rapid weather changed and will hike in rain, sleet, or boiling hot.
We were collecting Chase Ultimate Rewards Points prior to this trip.
HisFI had points from a combination of the Chase Freedom card and the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. We were currently working on getting the 80k sign up bonus for the Chase Ink Business Preferred but wouldn’t meet it in time for the trip.
Below is the breakdown of our costs for the 5 night 4 day trip.
|Cost to us
|Transferred from Chase points to Hyatt points
|Transferred from Chase points to Hyatt points
|Chase cheaper than transfer
|Independence Square Hotel
|Didn’t have enough points for full amount
|Inn at Silver Creek Hotel
|$100 gift card from work bonuses
|Didn’t have points available
|4 day SUV rental cost (had it for 9 days total)
So when it was all said and done we saved a total $931 dollars. Our total cost to us was $1085 for two people. Not too shabby for a travel hack.
What we learned
- Hyatt hotels are a great travel hack when you are working with Chase points. We compared point transfers with the other Chase partners but Hyatt was by far the best deal.
- Before transferring points, check the regular price of the hotel. In the one instance the Hyatt room was $96 and we noticed it was cheaper to book through the Chase ultimate rewards portal rather than transferring the points to Hyatt.
- We booked our car rental through Costco as it was the cheapest option we found, even cheaper than my company’s corporate rates. Having the car rental for longer also made it cheaper for the time we used it for the vacation part of HisFI’s trip.
- We knew we would be on the road a lot, so we stopped by a Safeway on the start of our trip and loaded up on snacks and lunch type items. So we never had to go to restaurants for lunch, breakfast was included in all our stays, so the only meal we had to pay on a daily basis was for dinner.
- Turning a work trip into a vacation is a great way to see places and a great way to save money (and points) when your work reimburses you for part of it.
- The most important lesson. You don’t have to travel far to see beautiful places! Visit TripAdvisor for the place you already live and go see the sights in your hometown.
How we Plan to Fly for Free
In the future, HerFI has the new collection of points which we plan to take us somewhere tropical within the next year for free…yes free! Since travel is essential to us both, we are thrilled to finally not be spending so much money on it (seriously, our last trips over seas were budget busters!).
We will keep you all updated with our latest Travel Hacks as well. Let us know in the comments some ways that you travel hack.