Note: This post originally featured as a guest post for nidski.com
‘Travel hacking’ is the term often used for taking advantage of cards, accounts, memberships and promo codes to travel at a discounted rate (or sometimes even for nothing!). If you’ve found your ideal ski property through Nidski, you’re probably now considering your options for flights and extras. There are a few ‘travel hacks’ out there which might help to reduce the cost and/or increase the benefits for these. Here are five tips to think about for getting the most out of your ski travel. Some of these take a bit of planning, others are quick and easy things you could do 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 very attractive 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 be used to get a significant discount on the cost of flights (note that whilst these are often called ‘free’ flights, fees and taxes do still apply). 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 though, my favourite reward system is 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 completely free in year one and offers by far the most generous bonus at 20,000 points for a £2,000 spend in 3 months (22,000 if you apply via our link). 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 only worthwhile if you’re intending to earn the points and 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 definitely consider joining. Membership starts at £50 and for that members get a fantastic list of discounts on flights, insurance, equipment, transfers, lift passes, etc. 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 travel hack for the Ski Club Swiss Air code – when I tested it, it was able to be applied against each person individually – so if you enter the code against 4 people, it appears you could save a neat £100. 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+).
3) Consider getting a credit or charge 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 provide a separate comfortable seating area, and amenities including food and snacks, complimentary drinks and access to WiFi and power outlets, at a cost of £20-25/person. With the gold card you get two free visits per year via Lounge Club, enough to enjoy the comfort of the lounge on both legs of your flight. In addition cardholders can get a free supplementary card for their partner/spouse, which would provide an additional two visits.
The 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, worldwide travel insurance and a range of travel benefits. Whilst the fee looks hefty, it has a 30,000 points spend bonus, and if you travel regularly it might be worth a look – I recently wrote a post about how I managed to get the value of the annual fee for the card back in perks on one trip (my honeymoon!).
Heathrow Plaza Premium Lounge:
4) Use an intermediary payment card to avoid paying FX fees on your travel money.
Most credit and debit cards carry a foreign exchange fee when you’re spending abroad, often this is 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 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.
Impressively, 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 option, always remember to opt to pay in the local currency, otherwise you will be charged by the local payment processor for the exchange (usually in the form of 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’ll even show you 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 Feb) 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.
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. Last year I won £600 of Swiss Air flight vouchers through a skiing blog and had a great weekend on Mount Titlis!
And if you need any practical travel hacks for packing check out this guide!
I hope some of the above tips are useful for your next ski trip. You can find more information at http://www.takemetothepoints.com and if you are interested in applying for any American Express card use our link for additional bonus points (scroll down to see all card options).
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You can contact me via: takemetothepoints(at)gmail.com