Our Trip to Belize without Miles or Points

As you may recall, we quickly jumped on a cheap fare* to Belize about a month ago. We were on the fence about whether or not to keep the tickets (all US airlines have a 24 hour fee free cancellation policy). But in the end, we felt that the benefits of securing tickets relatively cheaply to a destination we’ve always wanted to visit (and at ideal flight times) outweighed the cost.

So, we’re off in just over a month and now are in the process of putting together our trip. We only have 5 days there, but luckily Belize is only the size of Massachusetts. We should be able to do some fun things in the short amount of time we have.

So far, we’ve narrowed it down to San Ignacio and San Pedro (Madonna’s La Isla Bonita). We love to mix adventure with beach time and we think this will achieve that objective. If anyone has any must do’s or killer eats in these locales, we’d love to hear ‘em!

But how to offset the in-country expenses when there aren’t any hotels at which we’d be willing to stay where we can use points? It’s been quite a year for credit card bonuses and we’ve been on a sign up spree. There have been so many offers that I haven’t wanted to pass up so we’ve been applying for 4-6 cards each every 3 or 4 months. Needless to say, we’re sitting points/miles rich right now. That’s not going to help us with Belize though…

In the past few months, we’ve added some cash back cards to our portfolio that we’re hoping to leverage for our upcoming Belize and Australia adventures. One of my favorite cards for travel expenses that can’t be covered with miles and points is the Barclaycard Arrival Plus credit card. It gives you about $420 towards travel expenses after spending $3,000 on the card in 3 months. But Ken and I each have had it 3 or 4 times and although we continue to apply for it with each round, we keep getting denied.

So, we’ve moved onto my new favorite. The Spark Cash for Business card from Capital One. The spending requirement is high at $4,500 in 3 months, but after meeting that, you get $590 cash back (including the 2% back for the $4,500 in spending). With both of us receiving this card, that’s $1,180 to be used towards our travel expenses.

One benefit that this card has over the Arrival Plus is that it’s cash back, not a statement credit. And even better, you get 2% back on all spending, not just certain bonus categories. That means that it works for everyone, not just us travelers! I mean, I don’t know anybody who wouldn’t love an extra $590. I haven’t yet tried a second application for either one of us, but I plan to give it a go later this year. Of course I’ll report my findings!

Back to Belize… The hotels that we’re eyeing for our five nights average $225 per night. There are cheaper options, but given how much luxury travel we’ve done, we’re now spoiled and are willing to pay a little more for the comforts higher end hotels provide (we’re definitely not frugal travelers).

5 nights at $225 comes to $1,125 in total hotel costs. So, our $1,180 cash back (from one card each) covers that entire expense. Unlike others, we apply all of our credit card bonuses to our travels including cash back, but obviously the $590 can be used for just about anything. For us, this bonus takes the sting out of the airfare and excursions a little bit. We’re headed to Australia at the end of the year and I’m hoping to employ a similar strategy for that trip.

Bottom line, although there are destinations where using miles and points isn’t possible or doesn’t make sense, there are still ways to offset costs by using cash back credit cards to fill the void.


*There has been a plethora of cheap fares around the world of late so don’t forget to follow me on Facebook to be alerted quickly!

Photo credit: “Xunantunich (High Quality)” by Thomas Shahan – Xunantunich. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons

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