How I flew to Amsterdam for almost nothing

Recently, I took a trip to Amsterdam and the Netherlands to explore a new town and visit my good friend Megan and her husband Taylor. This is a trip I have been planning for a while, ever since they moved over there for Taylor’s expat job with his company.

My dad is a frequent traveler – and he recommended that I sign up for the Chase Sapphire credit card to get points to buy my flight to Amsterdam. I followed his advice – and was able to fly to Amsterdam for almost nothing (all I paid was $56 in taxes).

Flight Prices

Important note: I am only a fan of credit cards for use to earn rewards and points. I pay off my balance at the end of every month. You must evaluate if this is a good financial decision for you.

If you are in a place to sign-up for a new credit card and you are looking to travel, the Chase Sapphire Card is a great option. Read more from The Points Guy on 5 reasons the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card should be your first card in 2016.

Here are the steps I took to get this great deal on my flight to Amsterdam:

1 – I signed up for the Chase Sapphire credit card and earned 50,000 bonus points by spending $4,000 in the first 3 months (this might be hard depending on your spending, so try to put EVERYTHING on your card – Can you put rent? Will friends or family put charges on your card? You really want to only sign up for this card if you can get the signing bonus. There are other cards to consider but this is the one I chose and know best.) Read more on this card from Million Mile Secrets.

2 – After earning 60,000 points…I shopped around flights and points with various Chase Ultimate Rewards partners – I ended up going with United. There’s an option to book through the Chase website or transfer points to another site. If you want to maximize the bang for your buck, it is usually best to transfer your points to another site. Transferring 60,000 Chase points to be 60,000 United Miles ended up being the right deal for my trip itinerary. My options were limited because I had to choose flights that were worth 30,000 points each way, but I was able to find a great option with one-stop in my August trip timeframe.

picture of Amsterdam canal

If you already have 60,000+ ultimate rewards points or you are interested in flying for free, read this beginner guide on transferring miles & points. You might be tempted to turn your Chase Ultimate Rewards points into cash or gift cards. While this is a lucrative offer (and still a great benefit of the card) saving these points for travel and airline miles will help you make the most of the Sapphire credit card rewards (if travel is your goal!).

At the end of the day, I was able to book a $1400 flight for $56. Getting the Chase Sapphire Card was completely worth it. You should be aware the Sapphire card does have an annual fee; it is free the first year and then $95 annually after that. I might cancel next year if I decide it is not worth $95 annually, but after getting this great flight deal I am starting to believe it is worth it.

If you are not ready to take a jump and sign-up for a card with an annual fee, I still recommend you use a credit card for every purchase, pay off the balance regularly, and then use your credit card points to have extra cash. The Chase Freedom card was my starter credit card and earns great rewards. Read more on The Points Guy because he reviews a lot of different credit card options on his blog (and is much more knowledgeable than me).

If you decide you want to sign up for either of the Chase cards let me know so I can send you an invite, referrals earn points too!

Happy (almost) free traveling!

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Monthly Moment: July 2015

Lake at night

My monthly moment in July is a beautiful scene from the Fourth of July at Belews Creek in North Carolina.This year’s July 4th was a day with family, friends, and relaxation. We went out on the lake at the end of a wonderful day to watch fireworks and I was awestruck by the beautiful scene. It reminds me that when asked the question “Would you rather go to the mountains or ocean?” I’ll always choose the lake.

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Monthly Moment

My Journey to Mindfulness: Yoga

The answers that you seek quote

In 2015 I committed to focus on mindfulness. In an effort to improve my awareness of the present moment and strengthen my mind, body, and soul I decided to incorporate yoga into my weekly routine. It was not until I tried yoga that I learned how challenging it is for me to be still and experience the present.

My mind is almost always going 100 miles per hour. I have a hard time taking a break and doing nothing (for better and for worse). Mindfulness is important because it brings the individual back to the people and events surrounding them. Elon offers a wonderful wellness program for employees that includes yoga twice a week, so I was able to ease into beginner yoga classes starting in January.

During yoga practice you are asked to clear your mind of all thoughts and focus on your breathing. Do you know what happened when I started attending these classes? I would get to class, stretch out on my mat, and then start thinking about work, meetings later that day, and my plans after work. I would be thinking about my friends and my love life (or lack thereof) – I found a way to think about everything BUT my breathing. It is very hard to turn off the mind! Over time, and through the words of the teacher, I have learned to let these wandering thoughts come into my mind and then flow out of my mind.

It is a work in progress, but consistently practicing yoga has helped me be better at living in the present moment. When my mind wanders I am most often worrying about something, so I try hard to live in the present moment and soak in everything that is happening around me. There’s other positives too: a few months in I was able to flip my dog! Yoga is giving me strength – in mind, body, and soul.

How is your year going? What have you done to focus on your one word for 2015?

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Monthly Moment: May 2015

Greensboro Yoga Image

My monthly moment for May is a picture I took at a free outdoor yoga class in Greensboro this month. I picked this image because this was a perfect day with my friend Jessi. The yoga class relaxed me and I was excited to be taking part in activities like this outside. Fitness by the Fountain is just another reason I love Greensboro!

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Monthly Moment