Money Saver | Travel
Expedia Travel Hacks that You NEED to Know
In 2019, I was able to book 4 nights at a 5-star, all-inclusive boutique resort for my honeymoon in Cancun, Mexico. The original price was estimated to be $4,000; I paid $0.00. It wasn’t magic, it was math!
For a full-year, I worked every angle, doubled my points whenever possible, and blended together the ultimate recipe to make the most of my points, coupons, and daily deals on Expedia.com. My hard work basically bankrolled my honeymoon thanks to careful planning.
In this article, I’ll be sharing my best travel hacking tips and tricks for one of my favorite websites - Expedia. I’ll be covering the best ways to:
- Earn points
- Get free upgrades and bonuses
- Take advantage of seasonal deals
How to Earn Rewards Points and Travel for Free
As an avid traveler, I’m always on the hunt for a good deal. I want to go farther, for longer, and for less. The easiest way to do that is to maximize my ability to earn points on specific travel provider websites or with a travel rewards credit card; however, not all purchases are treated equally. Each program will provide incentives to book certain hotels or buy from specific companies and this is where you can make serious point grabs quickly.
For example, in Expedia’s Rewards program, you’ll earn 2 points for every $1 USD spent on hotels, vacation packages, activities, cars, or cruises. For flights booked on Expedia, you’ll get 1 point for every $5 you spend on airfare. You will receive double points if you book through Expedia’s app.
Let’s put a few numbers behind it so you can see the power of playing the game! If you spend $500 on a hotel, $500 on a car, and $1,000 on airfare on Expedia, then you’ll earn 2,200 points. If you book on the app, you’ll earn 4,400 points!
According to Expedia’s Rewards page, 140 Expedia points has the cash equivalent of $1. To give you a better idea of what your points are worth, have a look at the chart below.
|# of Expedia Points||5,000 points||30,000 points||80,000 points|
|Approx Monetary Value||$35 USD||$214 USD||$517 USD|
I book nearly all of my trips (both business and pleasure) on just a few travel programs so I can compound points quickly. If you book all over the market, you’ll never accumulate enough points to make a serious dent in your travel costs. I then pay careful attention to any promotional offers that might earn me double, triple, or even quadruple points! This is how I quickly racked up over 30,000 points on Expedia for my honeymoon.
Free Upgrades and Bonuses for Customer Loyalty
How to earn points quickly tends to be the talk of the town, but unlocking free upgrades to save money on hotels and packages is where the real fun begins.
Free upgrades and bonuses tend to be reserved for the upper echelon; these are customers who are frequent travelers and companies like Expedia encourage customer loyalty by incentivizing high-value upgrades with their spending—the more you spend, the greater the rewards.
For example, I am a Gold Member with Expedia, which means I spent at least $10,000 on eligible bookings or stayed 15 room nights in a single calendar year. By booking both my personal and business travel on Expedia, I’m able to quickly achieve Gold Member Status. This unlocks special perks like:
- Free WiFi
- Free breakfast
- Free spa access
- Free welcome drink or snack
- Free room upgrades (unlimited)
- And more!
Prior to 2021, I then would take my travel hacking to the next level by staying at Expedia VIP Access hotels exclusively. VIP Access hotels are great properties with amazing service and your points used to be worth DOUBLE when you paid with points.
This is how I was able to get the cost of my 5-star resort down to $0.00. The resort was a VIP hotel so my 30,000 points were doubled to 60,000 (cash equivalent $428), the hotel had an extra 10% off deal, then I used a coupon, then I applied a cash gift card I received from work, and finally, we got a free upgrade to a suite thanks to my status. This is basically the Olympics for travel bloggers.
Please be advised that as of January 31, 2021, Expedia rewards points will no longer be worth double when redeeming at VIP hotels. This is likely a consequence of the pandemic and it is unclear if this is a permanent change or temporary. However, as of February 2, 2021, customers can earn triple points when booking at VIP hotels.
Take Advantage of Seasonal Travel Deals
Flexibility will be your greatest asset when it comes to travel hacking. If you’re dead set on a specific location, date, or supplier, it becomes more difficult to work the system.
Every travel rewards program or website will have daily, weekly or monthly deals that will give customers the opportunity to redeem even more generous discounts for a fleeting amount of time. This is because travel reward programs strike marketing agreements with specific hotels, carriers or service providers throughout the year to make an additional commission in exchange for a prominent position in their marketing.
For Expedia, I always start my travel search in the Deals section of their website so I can explore what’s on sale. I try to come with a general idea of what I want to do (i.e. city break, ski trip, etc) and then I look to see what deals are on that make the most sense for my location, budget, and timeframe. Plus, you can earn triple the rewards points when you book a VIP Access Hotel that’s on the deals page, which is more points to use for later trips.
When hunting for the best deals, don’t forget these two important rules:
Avoid peak season. For example, while Santorini in July may sound like fun thanks to the gorgeous scenery and cooling Mediterranean winds, this is the worst month to travel as Santorini will be flooded with tourists and therefore, the prices are inflated. Always book for the beginning or end of the travel season. There will be fewer people crowding your destination than during the high season and you’re more likely to snag a deal.
Take advantage of sales during national holidays or major celebrations. There will be deep hotel and flight discounts during Christmas, New Year’s, and even Valentine's Day. If you plan accordingly, you can snag a real deal! For example, I specifically buy airline points during Christmas time because they’re regularly on sale for up to 50% off.
Flexibility and planning around major holidays like Black Friday will help make your travel budget go farther, for less. However, please be advised that these deals quickly refresh or expire so take advantage when you see something you like!
Adopt These Year-Round Travel Hacking Habits
After traveling to over 50 countries, I know that good habits all-year-round are critical when it comes to making the most out of travel hacking. This means that I am constantly thinking about the best ways to earn points 365 days a year, even if I don’t have an immediate trip coming up. That’s pretty much the reality we’re all facing until it’s safe to travel again.
So what does that look like?
Maximize your spending. I shop with the recommended providers with my travel rewards credit card whenever possible to earn extra points. Make your money spent work for you.
Lookout for point sales during the holiday season. However, I wouldn’t buy points unless there is a sale of 30% or more. Don’t forget to triple-check that the points don’t have a looming expiration date—RIP to all the expired points that were never used during the pandemic.
Pick up the tab. When I’m traveling with people, I always book the accommodation on my travel rewards credit card with my Expedia account, so I can scoop up double the points and my companions can pay me back later.
As you become more knowledgeable in the travel hacking space, this whole process will be more and more intuitive. You’re going to start noticing specific times of the week or holiday season where the deals are most lucrative. You’ll get better at spending intentionally with promoted companies to rack up points with your everyday purchases.
It gets easier. Travel hacking is now second nature to me and I look forward to our next big trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina, once it’s safe to travel.
I may have traded in my passport for new pajamas this past year, but even a global pandemic can’t stop this girl from collecting points and upgrades in preparation for when the world opens up again—and it shouldn't stop you either.