24 Sep Travel Hacking Recap: Iceland and Norway Savings
We received a whopping $6,340 of free travel by travel hacking our recent trip to Iceland and Norway–and no, travel hacking is not something bad as the name suggests! As I’ve shared before, we utilize frequent flier miles and hotel points to greatly reduce our travel costs on most every trip we take. From free hotel stays to nearly free plane tickets, we are either redeeming or earning miles as much as possible. While there are many ways to earn miles, our favorite way to earn is from credit card sign on bonuses, dining reward programs, online shopping portals or special promotions such as the BOGO Club Carlson Promo that ran last year. There are so many ways to earn miles, and while I could go into more detail, instead ,I’m going to share the more exciting news of how we redeemed our miles and what we got for them. If you are looking for more ways to earn miles a few of my favorite sites are Million Mile Secrets, Mommy Points, and The Points Guy.
Please remember, a trip to Iceland and Norway does not have to cost this much if you book budget accommodations, so don’t get discouraged about the cost if you want to visit–my point here is that this is the amount we would have paid if we booked the same accommodations without using the travel hacking strategy. Of course, we wouldn’t have actually spent this much if we were paying for the hotels and plane tickets out of pocket, but by using points we were able to stay in places that would otherwise be out of our price range. Here is a breakdown of how we used our points and the awesome hotels we stayed at, and we saved the best for last in Oslo. Seriously, this room was amazing–we were in the “King’s Suite”. Make sure to check out the video clip in our review of the hotel. And, apparently, I didn’t take a single photo of our Iceland hotels–sorry, I’ll work on that for next time!
Plane Tickets: 2 plane tickets – 84,000 miles – $4,025 worth of free travel
Originally we booked regular reward tickets on United from Miami to Reykjavik for 60,000 miles. We earned these miles from the United credit card sign on bonus and from a few special promotions we participated in. When redeeming miles for award flights, you will sometimes get a horrible flight schedule, and in this case ours was just that. We had a layover in Oslo, Norway–yes, our layover was in fact taking us out of the way. But, due to us being able to endure a long flight for the sake of huge savings, we happily booked our tickets. How much savings you might ask? Well the flight was going for $4,025 pp and we paid $100 each! And since we were going all the way to Norway anyways, we thought why not make it a stopover and spend a few days in Norway, too. However, due to a scheduling conflict and flight change, we had to change our tickets and ended up booking one way tickets to Iceland for $300 per person and canceling the first leg of our United tickets, resulting in a partial refund of our points. Overall, this made our tickets more expensive, but in the end we still only paid $400 pp for plane tickets to Iceland and Norway, and in my book that’s a great deal!
Park Inn Island in Reykjavik, Iceland: 4 nights – 67,500 points – $680 worth of free travel
When arriving in Iceland, we based ourselves in Reykjavik for the first 3 nights before heading to the South Coast for a 1 night road trip. Even though the hotel was a little ways away from downtown Reykjavik and it felt like some of the decor was stuck in the 70’s, we really enjoyed it. The rooms were clean, the free breakfast was good and all of the staff was very friendly. For 18,000 points per night for a superior category room, we felt it was a great deal and would stay there again in a heartbeat. We used points that we earned at the BOGO Club Carlson promotion last year.
Radisson Blu Saga Hotel in Reykjavik, Iceland: 1 night – 38,000 points – $146 worth of free travel
After our South Coast road trip, we had one more night in Reykjavik before heading to Norway. We had to redeem more points per night for this hotel than we did for the Park Inn, but decided it was worth the extra points to see another hotel in the area. The hotel was nice and an upgrade from our previous hotel, but the location still wasn’t too close to downtown, although it was definitely walkable. This room cost us 38,000 points for the night, and again we used the points we earned for the BOGO Club Carlson promotion.
Clarion Hotel Royal Christiana in Oslo, Norway: 1 night – 16,000 points – $471 worth of free travel
After arriving in Norway, we spent our first night in Oslo at a hotel right in the center of Oslo, across the street from the Central Train Station. This hotel was really classy and very modern–we booked a suite, so our room had a sitting area and balcony overlooking the city center. This is a Choice Hotels branded hotel, so we used 16,000 points for the night and had the choice between a standard room and a suite, so of course we picked the suite! We used points that we purchased from the Daily Getaway promotion last year, so our total out-of-pocket cost came to $33 for a room that was going for just under $500 per night!
Comfort Hotel Grand Central in Oslo, Norway: 2 nights – 32,000 points – $1,018 worth of free travel
After a side trip to Flåm, Norway, we had one night left in Norway. This hotel was the granddaddy suite of our trip–the scenario was exactly the same as the Royal Christiana hotel–16,000 points and $33 per night for a suite, due to the points we purchased through the Daily Getaways promotion. The Grand Central Hotel was so awesome, funky and sarcastic–we absolutely loved everything about it, and to top it off, it was in the train station–talk about location! Anyways, we enjoyed this hotel so much that we had to write a separate review about this hotel’s great features. It was pretty awesome, but I guess it should be for a cost of over $500 per night. Thankfully, we had points to burn.
So, like I stated above, overall we gained $6,340 worth of free travel for our trip to Iceland and Norway. Both countries are pretty expensive to travel in and around, but we were able to greatly reduce our costs by travel hacking, which allowed us to spend more money on the experiences we enjoy. The aspect of travel we value most is creating memories through adventures that we will always remember like glacier hiking, ice climbing, and white water canoeing to name a few. Utilizing the travel hacking technique, we are able to travel and have more experiences than we would otherwise be able to afford, and to us that’s what travel is all about!