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On the Money: Cashing in Unused Points

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Try these five affordable vacation and staycation ideas.

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By Jenny Hoff, Photo by Kevin Schmid

Summer is here, and for many Austinites, the travel bug is strong after more than a year of staying close to home—or in your homes. Whether you now feel safe to spread your wings, or you’re looking for a getaway you can drive to, there are many ways you can cut costs without dampening the experience.

Put those accumulated miles to use.

While it may feel like a distant memory, you more than likely have a credit card you use that accumulates some sort of travel reward—hotel night stays, airline points or general points you can use toward flights, cars, hotels or experiences. Now is the time to take stock of your rewards and see if you have enough to book a getaway for free. Ready for some island hopping? Austin has announced a new nonstop flight to Honolulu on Hawaiian Airlines, which you can book using JetBlue points, Hawaiian Airlines points or points you may have accrued through a Chase Sapphire or similar card with general reward points. Since travel is still light, many airlines are letting you use fewer points to get to more destinations.

Consider a house swap.

You live in one of the hottest cities in the country, which makes your property a sought-after commodity in the world of Airbnb and house swapping. Yes, even in the summer! Check out sites like Love Home Swap and HomeExchange for the perfect location on your next trip. The sites have a membership fee, but just one trip could equate to thousands of dollars in savings. This is an especially great option for families with small children, since you can search for a home swapper that also has children and come to a house with everything you need already set up.

Rent a camper.

Remember all those people who bought campers in 2020 when air travel became virtually obsolete? Many of them are now renting out those campers for great rates. The price varies depending on what you need—a trailer you can hitch to your vehicle and use for cooking and sleeping, or an RV that serves as a camper and vehicle in one. There are plenty of affordable options on Austin-based site Outdoorsy.

Airbnb a campsite.

Are you dreaming of camping out under the stars but finding all the parks already booked out for the summer? While park camping is the most affordable option, if you can’t find a spot to set up your tent, check out Hipcamp, a site that dubs itself the “Airbnb for campsites.” Many sites you can rent for less than $50 a night, still making it a much more affordable choice for sleeping outside of your own home.

Take advantage of Hill Country daytrips.

There are a lot more daytrip options outside of Austin than just Fredericksburg and San Antonio. If you want to live like a cowboy for a day, check out the “cowboy capital of the world,” Bandera, Texas, and go horseback riding through the countryside. Or if you have young children, another great way to spend the day, without spending above your budget, is taking kids to experience the science center in Johnson City before visiting nearby Natural Bridge Caverns. Need more ideas? The Daytripper is a great resource for adventure all over the great state of Texas.

Certain credit cards also allow you to use points for experiences, like cooking classes, city tours and museums, so be sure to check out what you can get for free or at a discount before booking. Even if you’re hesitant to venture far, you can make your summer feel like a getaway using the right sites, card rewards and some creativity.


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