Maybe you’re newly engaged and already pumped for that wedding and honeymoon! Maybe you’ve been engaged for a while and are starting to figure out plans. Or maybe you know you’ll be getting engaged soon and figured “why not start looking into the honeymoon”? Either way, congrats on this huge next step in your life!

Soon you’ll be tasting cakes, buying a dress or suit/tux, and searching for the perfect venue. Yes, it’s really stressful at times. Yes, no matter how many hours you poured over your budget, it seems like everything is higher than you expected. But, it’ll all lead to an amazing day that you’ll never forget. And what’s even better is that honeymoon is just around the corner. Some amazing vacation to look forward to after all of the wedding stress. I can’t think of a better time to travel the world than with your new spouse.

But before you start booking time off for that honeymoon, it may be a good idea to look into flights, right? And even more important… where you want to go! The best thing I discovered in this process was the art of travel hacking, or finding great credit card sign-up bonuses and other tools to be able to fly anywhere for under $100. Check out my travel hacking guide below.

We booked a business class flight for our flight there and back for only $60 each.

My fiancé, Chris, and I did this when we booked our honeymoon to Southeast Asia: starting in Hanoi and ending in Bangkok, with a stopover in Seoul for a day to explore. We booked a business class flight for our flight there and back for only $60 each. Now we’re going to be going to a place we had only dreamed of for far less than we expected, and in luxury too! And the best part is wedding planning is the perfect time to start travel hacking, and if you don’t believe me, check out this article explaining why.

travel hacking guide

Croatia is the newest must-see location in Europe, and it’s no wonder why. Find this secret beach close to Dubrovnik after flying in luxury for less than $100.

Now that you know you’re in the prime time of travel hacking, it’s time to come up with a winning strategy to optimize your miles earning and get you where you want to be! Whether it’s France, Hawaii, or even a Thai beach, having a good travel hacking guide to get you there is always a good idea.

Whether it’s France, Hawaii, or even a Thai beach, having a good travel hacking guide to get you there is always a good idea.

Now the average length of an engagement is about 14 months. Obviously, several people have longer or shorter time frames, but no matter how long you’re engagement is, getting started collecting miles earlier will ensure both a higher likelihood of obtaining those reward tickets and more time to collect more miles and get business or first class. So keep reading to determine which cards are best to open in this time frame.

12-14 months prior to wedding: Chase Sapphire Reserve or Preferred.

It’s important to note that Chase Ultimate Rewards cards now fall into Chase’s dreaded 5/24 rule. This means that if you’ve opened up more than 5 credit cards within the last 24 months, you’re extremely likely to be rejected for cards such as the Chase Sapphire cards, Chase Freedom, Chase Ink Business, and even cards like United Mileage Plus Explorer Card and Business Card and the Marriott Rewards cards (as these are Chase co-branded).

Knowing this, if you haven’t opened any new cards lately, it’s best to start with Chase cards since you likely won’t get them if you wait too late. Therefore, I recommend opening either the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Preferred cards. They both offer consistent sign-up bonuses of 50,000 miles if you spend $4,000 in three months. To put that into perspective, one round-trip flight to Europe is typically 60,000 miles in economy. So by the time you hit your minimum spend, you’ll almost be there!

They both offer consistent sign-up bonuses of 50,000 miles if you spend $4,000 in three months. To put that into perspective, one round-trip flight to Europe is typically 60,000 miles in economy.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred offers 2X miles on travel and dining and only costs $95 a year (waived the first year). Chase Sapphire Reserve offers 3X miles on travel and dining, lounge access to 1,000+ lounges worldwide, $300 in annual travel credits (for airline tickets, baggage fees, etc.), $200 in Uber credits a year, and up to a $100 statement credit for TSA precheck or Global Entry.

Yea, it has amazing perks, but costs $450 annually. It may seem like a lot, but with these perks, it basically pays for itself. You can only open one (you won’t receive the sign-up bonus unless this is your only Sapphire card you’re opening and haven’t received the bonus within the last 24 months). However, I have loved my Preferred card, and use it for everything. Either way, they both offer the same amount of sign-up miles and are great cards. They also transfer to several airline partners such as United, Korean Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Air France, British Airways, Southwest, and Virgin Atlantic.

Wedding costs at this point: Venue, photographer, officiant, and maybe DJ. You’ll hit your minimum spend of $4,000 with these deposits and everyday spending. If you’ve saved up money for these items, offer to pay in full to really get the minimum spends over with.

Miles earned: 50,000 miles each. I encourage both of you to get these cards as it makes earning miles even easier. Also, one can open the card and refer the other for added miles!

travel hacking guide

9 months prior to wedding: Chase airline branded credit card, such as United Mileage Plus Explorer Card or Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus/Premier. Maybe add in another card for additional miles of your choice that isn’t related to the honeymoon such as Citi Thank You Premier or AA Advantage Gold or Platinum.

As we’re trying to stay under the Chase 5/24, getting another Chase card makes sense. But you can’t apply for two credit cards under the same bank at the same time. So, you’ll need to wait 91 days after the first card to open this one. As United and Southwest offer cards under Chase, and are Chase Ultimate Rewards airline partners, meaning your Reserve and Preferred card miles will transfer, these two airlines are good cards to pick.

This is the time where you might want to start looking into which airline you’d like to redeem miles with. United is great for flying internationally anywhere, as they are in Star Alliance, with partners worldwide including Lufthansa, Air Canada, South African Airlines, EVA Airlines, and more. You can easily book a flight on their website, as they show most of their alliance reward flights too so you can book with United miles.

Southwest is a great card if you’re planning to fly in the continental United States or the Caribbean. And in 2018, they’ll be starting to fly to Hawaii too. So this is a great airline if you’re planning to visit the Bahamas or Hawaii on your honeymoon.

United is great for flying internationally anywhere, as they are in Star Alliance, with partners worldwide including Lufthansa, Air Canada, South African Airlines, EVA Airlines, and more.

For the United Card, the sign-up bonus is typically around 40,000-50,000 miles, but you can occasionally see offers as high as 70,000 miles (typically in the summer) if you spend $3,000 in 3 months. The annual fee is $95 and comes with two lounge passes. Southwest offers 40,000 miles if you spend $1,000 in 3 months for the Rapid Rewards Plus and Premier Cards with an annual fee of $69 for the Plus and $99 for the Premier.

Don’t forget: Southwest offers the companion pass if you earn 110,000 miles in a year (learn more about it here).

Wedding costs at this point: Caterer, cake, florist, lighting, etc. Basically, you’ll most likely hit your minimum spends via deposits alone, as at this point you’re making the bulk of your deposits.

Miles earned: up to 70,000 miles each for the United Card or 40,000 miles each for Southwest.

travel hacking guide

Travel hacking makes seeing the gorgeous islands of Tahiti within your budget.

6 months prior to wedding: Chase Freedom Card or the other Southwest card (if applying to one above) and another card for fun and future flights like Delta Gold Amex or Amex Everyday Preferred.

At this point, you should have around 90,000 Southwest points and up to120,000 United miles each. So, we’re in the home stretch at least. If you’re collecting Southwest points, now is the time to open the other Southwest personal card and earn another 40,000 miles if you spent $1,000 in three months. If you’re collecting United miles, open up the Chase Freedom.

Many people think this is solely a cash back card. But if you’ve already got a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Reserve, you can transfer your cash back points into Chase Ultimate Reward points. This card offers $150 cash back, which can be transferred to Ultimate Rewards to 15,000 miles after you spend $500 in three months. This card also offers 5X per dollar on different categories that rotate on a quarterly basis, meaning you can rack in even more points fast.

Many people think this is solely a cash back card. But if you’ve already got a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Reserve, you can transfer your cash back points into Chase Ultimate Reward points.

Wedding costs at this point: You may find some costs slowing down at this point, as most costs come in right at the end. So having lower minimum spends is a good thing now. Just via normal spending and smaller wedding items like buying decorations will help you hit your minimum spend here.

Note: Chase Freedom points also transfer to Southwest via Chase Ultimate Rewards. However, the 40,000 miles on the Southwest card is obviously more lucrative.

Miles earned: 15,000 miles on Chase Freedom or 40,000 miles on the other Southwest card.

At this point, you’ve hit your 5/24 if you’ve opened up the other cards on the side. So no more Chase cards, but with the 135,000 United miles you’ve each earned or the 130,000 Southwest miles, you’ll be in excellent shape for your honeymoon. That doesn’t even count the points you’ll earn via using the card! And you should definitely be booking your honeymoon flights 4-6 months out at the very least. Again, with collecting these miles: the earlier the better.

 

So now that you have a roadmap for collecting miles with this travel hacking guide, where are you planning to go? Hawaii on Southwest in late 2018? United to France in June? It’s your choice! Be sure to subscribe to the blog for more money saving tips and honeymoon advice!