Lin's Tips: My 5 Best Travel Hacks for Our Members
As a veteran spouse, a mother, and a businesswoman, I find myself frequently flying to find new Veterans Advantage partners, to attend veterans events, spend time with family in Northern Michigan, and now and then, to take a vacation. Over the years, I’ve have learned ways to make my trip more affordable, more enjoyable and less stressful. Whether you manage a veteran mission-driven business like me or are taking a fun vacation with the family, I hope my tips for will help you!
Here are my top 5:
1. Get a Great Seat with Your Discounted Tickets
Everybody who travels today will agree that one of the most important parts of any flight is getting a great seat. More and more, the airlines are offering the best-priced tickets, and the deepest economy fares, only when you give up the opportunity to select your seat. With planes so crowded these days, you are guaranteed to get the middle seat in the back of the plane.
I choose to fly with our Veterans Advantage partners who offer VetRewards Exclusives-- United, JetBlue, and Southwest--that give me the best price AND the best seat. These airline discounts for Veterans Advantage members like myself who are enrolled in VetRewards are off the airline’s best available price that allows me to pre-select my seat assignment while keeping money in my pocket to use on other necessities for my trip.
When I book our family travel, getting a discount while still selecting our seat is particularly important for me. For example, when I purchase tickets for our family of five, I typically save at least $125. That’s more than a one-day park ticket for admission to Universal Orlando! Along with our discounted airline tickets, our family can sit together on the flight getting there.
2. Get Extra Value When You Combine Loyalty Program Points with VetRewards Savings
I find that the popular discount travel search engines no longer give you the chance to earn hotel loyalty program points with your discounted travel. To me, this means missing out on points that in some cases may be more valuable than the hotel discount! You lose the major opportunity to save points for free travel.
Using my VetRewards Card with Wyndham and Choice Hotels, I can always earn Wyndham Rewards and Choice Privileges points on my discounted stays. And, I get all the extra perks that these programs offer to loyal guests, such as earning rewards for free nights and gift cards with each stay or using my points to bid on Wyndham Rewards Auctions.
The same goes with VetRewards discounts on United and JetBlue. In addition to getting up to 5% savings on my tickets anytime (no blackout dates and no limit on the number of tickets!), I can combine Mileage Plus and TrueBlue points with my discount. If you are a frequent traveler like me, you’ll be surprised how quickly the savings add up. Your combinable travel points alone could buy you a much-needed vacation once a year!
3. Check two bags free for convenience and savings
I typically will have longer stays at my destination and like to travel with a lot of fresh clothing, In addition to packing a change of clothes for each day and my toiletries, I need clothing for evening events, my portable backup charger and portable speaker for conferencing, my iPad along with my laptop, my vitamin supplements, my gym clothes and shoes, reading material, and business wear with a pair of heels for important meetings. This adds up to a lot to pack!
On these trips, I look to book JetBlue whenever possible. With VetRewards, I can get two free checked bags with every ticket I purchase. This saves me $120 in checked bag fees ($60 each way), in addition to 5% off my ticket. I love checking my roller bag instead of lugging it on the plane and trying to jam it in the overhead bin. I save money and my back!
4. Take Time to Get Global Entry
The best investment I have made for easier airline travel is getting my Global Entry Card. While it does cost $85, it’s truly worth it. For five years, you get expedited TSA-PreCheck screening, which puts you in a shorter security line. You can keep your shoes, sweater or jacket on, and your electronics in your bag, and streamline the entire tedious and time-consuming security process.
On many occasions, I would have missed my flight if I had gone through the regular security line. You have to make an appointment at the airport to get pre-screened, which takes a little time out of your day, but TSA PreCheck is worth every penny! They need to ask a few questions and take your picture, which takes only a few minutes. Global Entry will send your Global Entry Card in the mail within a few weeks.
You don’t need to remember to carry your Global Entry Card when you travel. You can enter your Global Entry ID into your reservation online, and the airline will automatically print TSA Pre on your ticket. To use the TSA Pre-security line, you show your airline ticket with “TSA Pre” printed at the top, along with your driver’s license.
Don’t hesitate. Check out your closest airport and make your appointment today for Global Entry.
5. VetRewards TravelProtection
If you travel more than 100 miles from your home, for any reason, whether business or just for fun, I advise you to purchase TravelProtection along with your VetRewards Card. You can get this coverage at an extremely affordable rate of $20 a year, a price that can’t be beaten with other insurance plans, like those offered by the airlines when making your reservation. Their plans only cover you for a single trip, while TravelProtection covers me all year round for any trip more than 100 miles away from home.
You should purchase a plan for yourself and any family members traveling with you. In the unexpected event of a medical emergency, Travel Protection will provide coverage for approved medical transportation up to $50,000.
Like me, so many people travel frequently. Many are unaware that emergency medical transportation can be incredibly expensive and is not covered by their regular health insurance plan or Medicare if traveling abroad. Nobody thinks they will experience a medical emergency when they travel. But it does happen. On one of our family vacations outside of the country, our oldest child experienced a medical emergency and required an air ambulance back to the U.S. Our MedEvac insurance covered the cost, which was over $30,000 for the flight alone.
After this terrible experience, I've learned to make sure emergency medical help is only a phone call away from anywhere in the world. The Hartford can assist you with finding a doctor, getting your medical records from home, replacing a prescription, or even with translation in a foreign country. If you need to be evacuated for a security reason, they can get you home from anywhere in the world, if necessary. I also like the Emergency Travel Assistance and Identity Theft Assitance Services. The Hartford will provide critical help if you are met with unexpected challenges like a lost passport, lost luggage, or a stolen wallet.
*TravelProtection is a Veterans Advantage service providing low-cost travel insurance at $20 a year for members enrolled in VetRewards. We are not compensated in any way to endorse the other products and services mentioned in this article.