5 Tips For Travel Hacking Your Trips To The Alps
Save Money on Your Next Ski Trip
This is a guest post from Take Me to The Points, a "Travel Hacking" Blog
"Travel hacking" is the term often used for making the most of credit cards, accounts, memberships and promo codes to travel at a discounted rate (or sometimes even for nothing!).
Once you have found your ideal ski property through nidski, you’re probably now considering your options for flights and extras, to and from your home in the mountains.
There are a few "travel hacks" out there which might help to reduce the cost and/or increase the benefits for regular flights to and from the Alps.
Here are five travel hacking tips for getting the most out of your ski travel arrangements. Some take a bit of planning, others are quick, and easy things to put in place today.
1) Collect airmiles and reward points on your everyday spending to reduce the cost of your flights.
The most valuable trick for someone new to travel hacking, is to take advantage of one of the welcome bonuses available with some reward credit cards. Some of these cards offer free airline scheme points (airmiles) when you spend a certain amount. These points can then be used to get a significant discount on the cost of flights (note that whilst these are often described as "free" flights, fees and taxes are still charged). There are a number of cards available, many of which are linked to specific airline schemes such as British Airways or Virgin Atlantic.
For someone new to collecting points take a look at the American Express Membership Rewards. Not only can these reward points be converted at 1:1 to 12 different airline schemes (including Avios for British Airways flights), the Amex Rewards Gold Credit Card is also free in the first 12 months and offers by far the most generous bonus. You get 20,000 points for a £2,000 spend in 3 months (22,000 if you apply via the Take Me To The Points website – scroll down through the list to find the AMEX Gold Card).
An off peak economy return reward flight from London to Geneva, Milan or Salzburg with BA starts at 8,000 points + £35 taxes/fees, business class reward flights on the same routes start from 15,500 points – you can also part pay for flights with points.
Use the BA Avios calculator to check points required for other routes. You also earn 1 point per £1 spent, so potentially putting £2,000 of every day spending through the card in 3 months, could give you 24,000 points – enough for 3 economy reward flights.
Note that reward cards are generally only worthwhile if you’re intending to just use them to earn points and you pay your statement in full each month (the APR on the Amex Gold card is 57.6%!).
2) Join the Ski Club of Great Britain, and get access to discount codes.
If you (or a friend!) are not already a member of the Ski Club of Great Britain, then you should consider joining. Membership starts at £50 (although if you’re quick there’s a 50% off "Black Friday" offer here valid until 26th November 2018!) and members get a wide range of discounts on flights, insurance, equipment, transfers and lift passes. Current attractive offers include discount codes for return flights with Swiss (£25) and Lufthansa (£15) and 10% discount for members with Snozone, Snow Dome and the Snow Centre in the UK. Useful if you want to get a last practice in on real snow before you depart!
A quick extra and tested travel hack for the Ski Club Swiss code. It seems it can be applied against each person travelling – so if you enter the code against 4 people, it appears you could save a neat £100. Handy for families or groups of friends travelling together. These flights are also inclusive of free ski and snowboard carriage (Note the code is only valid on return flights from the UK to Switzerland costing £95 or more).
3) Opt for a credit card which offers travel perks such as airport lounge access and free travel inconvenience insurance.
A couple of cards, including the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Credit Card mentioned above, offer travel benefits such as complimentary airport lounge access. Airport lounges normally offer a separate, comfortable seating area, food and snacks, complimentary drinks and access to WiFi and power outlets, at a cost of £20-25/person. With the AMEX Gold Card you get two free visits per year via Lounge Club, great for when airports are busy during the peak ski weeks.
The American Express Gold Card also provides basic travel inconvenience insurance, paying out £200 in the event of issues such as flight delays or missing baggage.
A step up from this, the more premium American Express Platinum card (which costs £450/year) offers unlimited airport lounge access via Priority Pass, worldwide travel insurance (including winter sports cover - though check the details) and a range of travel benefits. Whilst the fee looks hefty, it comes with a 30,000 points spend bonus, and if you travel regularly it might be worth a look.
4) Use an intermediary payment card to avoid paying FX fees on your currency exchange
Credit and debit cards from high street banks often carry a foreign exchange fee if you spend abroad, often as much as 2-3%. To avoid this, you can use an intermediary card, such as the Curve Card, which you link to your existing debit or credit cards via an App. Not only does this mean you can use one card for all of your accounts, but you also avoid foreign exchange fees. The Curve Card is a Mastercard, it charges 0% FX fees for up to £500 spend per month (1% thereafter), uses the mid-market rate, and charges the transaction directly to your linked credit or debit card in GBP. This also means that, if you have a reward card you can still earn points and miles on your spending abroad.
You can also earn cashback through Curve itself and the card includes a "back in time" feature where you can actually move a transaction from one of your cards to another if you change your mind!
If you’re given the choice when you pay for something while you are in the Alps, always remember to opt to pay in the local currency, otherwise the local payment processor will choose the rate of exchange (which is usually a poorer exchange rate). Also if you do sign up to Curve, use the code O2MEP to get £5 free when you make your first transaction.
5) Visit a Flight Comparison Site before you Book
In contrast to hotel comparison sites, you’re unlikely to get a better flight price anywhere other than booking direct, but that doesn’t mean that there’s no point in comparing flights. You can make significant savings by varying dates, airline, departure airport, etc. Whether you’re paying with points or cash, it’s always worth checking all options which could align with your schedule. Google Flights is a great tool for this, as you can choose multiple airport options and filter and sort by a range of variables to identify the best option for you. It also has a graph to highlight dates where prices dip for your trip options (e.g. you could search for the cheapest 7 day return trip from London airports to Milan in February 2019) and it includes options for buying two single tickets with different airlines.
If you’re looking for reward flight availability with British Airways there’s a tool called BA Redemption Finder, which will you give you a full availability calendar.
One final bonus tip – don’t underestimate your chances of winning competitions for gear or flights on ski blogs. Typically these get significantly less entries than bigger commercial comps.
We hope some of the above tips are useful for your trips to and from your ski property. For more tips on "travel hacking" for your trips to the Alps go to Take Me To The Points homepage or to the American Express referral page if you are interested in applying for any American Express card.
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