Our Free Trip to New Zealand and Australia

Mr. FIREat40 and I are really excited for our upcoming trip to Australia and New Zealand. The trip is 15 days long. We will be spending 9 days in New Zealand and 4 days in Sydney, Australia. (We lose 2 days for travel.) It's a long trip, so without proper planning, it could be costly.

However, with travel hacking we were able to receive all flights and 13 nights in hotels for free for the entire trip.

How did we do that? Let's walk you through it.

First, I have the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card. When I applied for this credit card, I received 100,000 sign-up points. This card is awesome because it allows you to transfer points to hotels and airlines very easily. This is the only credit card I use on a regular basis, so I was able to rack up the points.

(Unfortunately, Chase decreased the sign on bonus to 50,000 since I applied for the card. So I was lucky to take advantage of the large sign on bonus when I had the chance, and I have been holding onto over 100,000 points to use for this trip.)

Also, Mr. FIREat40 and I each opened an American Airlines Advantage credit card. That provided us each 60,000 sign-up points, totaling 120,000 points. I also had about 40,000 points in American remaining from previous travel and another American travel card that I had opened and cancelled a year or so prior.

This gave us a total of over 260,000 points to use for this once in a lifetime trip.

To fly roundtrip to Sydney from the US costs 80,000 points per person on American's partner Qantas. Then it costs 40,000 points roundtrip per person to fly from Sydney to Christchurch, New Zealand. So that equaled 120,000 points per person or 240,000 points total.

Flights from New York to Sydney cost about $1,200 per person, so this saved us $2,400. Flights from Sydney to Christchurch cost about $300 per person, so this saved us $600. In total this travel hacking scheme saved us at least $3,000 in flights. We only had to pay for taxes and fees, which was about $500 total.

Hotels were a bit more complicated. We needed 13 nights in a hotel for this trip.

First, I used my remaining Chase rewards points to book 8 nights in hotels throughout New Zealand. I found that hotels in New Zealand cost less than 10,000 points, so this allowed us to capitalize on my remaining Chase points.

Next Mr. FIREat40 was able to get 2 nights in Sydney using his SPG rewards from American Express card. He also was able to 2 nights at a Holiday Inn in Queenstown using his IHG points. And finally, he was able to book our last night in Sydney because his American Express card gives him one free night per year. All of these points were accumulated using sign-up bonuses from opening credit cards.

We estimate that we saved over $5,000 in travel hacking for this trip simply by opening credit cards and taking advantage of sign-up bonuses. Instead of spending money on flights and hotels, we are prioritizing our spending on activities and experiences in both places. When we are back from our trip we will be sure to post our pictures!

For more tips on travel hacking check out other blogs like thepointsguy.com.