If you’ve ever searched for last-minute travel deals, you probably walked away convinced that seat-of-the-pants vacations are just for the wealthy. Not so.
Yes, late bookings often come at a premium. But there are deals to be had, too — especially for flexible travelers who are creative when it comes to earning and redeeming points and miles. Sometimes thinking off-season can pay off.
No one goes to the Caribbean at the peak of hurricane season. No one, that is, except cruise ships.
Unlike that Cayman Islands or Bahamas hotel you’ve been eyeing, cruise ships aren’t stuck in one place. When a tropical storm or hurricane takes aim at your vacation destination, the ships simply change their itineraries while hotels have to hunker down.
While that could mean you end up in, say, Cozumel instead of Jamaica, your worst-case scenario is that your whole vacation is spent on the ship, which is designed to deliver nonstop fun regardless of where it’s floating.
If that’s a risk you’re willing to take, you can earn extra airline miles in the process. United, American and other airlines will pay you 1 mile per dollar spent if you book your cruise with them, plus, in some cases, up to 100,000 bonus miles.
Some airlines, like United will let you book your cruise with miles, though you’ll want to make sure that’s the best value for your points. Gratuities, shore excursions and drinks add up fast, so factor those into your budget. Get familiar with the terms, conditions and promotions of your go-to travel credit card to make sure.
How to maximize your rewardsYou want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2018, including those best for:
- Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®).
- Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card (Earn unlimited 2 miles per dollar on every purchase).
- Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve® (Get 3 points per dollar on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases).
- No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card (Earn unlimited 1.5 points per dollar spent on all purchases, with no annual fee).
- Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express (Get 5 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or through American Express Travel, plus get access to the Global Lounge Collection). Terms Apply.
Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
I survived a cruise — and you can, too
How to snag credit card rewards flights in peak season
Hack your way home for the holidays: A guide to redeeming your credit card rewards