Extracurriculars like sports activities, dance and marching band may be costly sufficient given the uniforms, group charges and tools. Throw within the often-exorbitant price of touring to meets and performances, and it’s straightforward to really feel like competing is an enormous foul in your checking account.

I actually really feel that means. As a aggressive athlete in two completely different barbell sports activities — weightlifting and powerlifting — I might have simply spent greater than $2,100 on a five-day, five-night journey for 2 to Albuquerque, New Mexico for the USA Weightlifting North American Open Collection II.

As an alternative, I spent solely $400 money and redeemed roughly $570 price of Southwest Fast Rewards and World of Hyatt factors (utilizing NerdWallet’s valuations). That whole price consists of my competitors entrance charges (which don’t take bank card factors) and the overall price of our mixed meals, leisure, rideshares, accommodations and airfare.

Downtown Albuquerque, New Mexico. Picture/Getty

The lodge

Staying additional days to teach athletes as a volunteer may very well be brutal — particularly for the reason that money price for our keep on the Hyatt Regency Albuquerque would in any other case have price about $1,200.

The Hyatt Regency Albuquerque is a Class 1 property, the lowest-priced tier for Hyatt factors bookings. A keep prices 5,000 factors per evening in the course of the standard season. So I transformed 25,000 Final Rewards® factors to the World of Hyatt program to cowl our five-night keep.

So how a lot cash are 25,000 Chase Final Rewards® factors price? It relies on the accountant you speak to. These 25,000 factors may very well be price:

  • A meager $250 when redeemed for money.

  • $312.50 when used to ebook journey instantly by means of the Chase Final Rewards® portal, given the 1.25x multiplier that Chase provides to Chase Sapphire Most popular® Card holders.

For the needs of this journey, I’ll say that I parted with $312.50 price of factors — the quantity it takes to ebook the keep by means of Chase Final Rewards®. (In case you ebook instantly by means of Hyatt, factors worth can fluctuate from one location to a different.)

However irrespective of the way you slice it, I parted with means fewer factors than the room’s money worth.

Value: $0 money plus $312.50 in Chase Final Rewards® factors

Teaching and competing at sporting occasions or different extracurriculars may be rewarding, however costly. With the proper bank cards, it may be loads cheaper — and actually rewarding. Picture/Sally French


Our Southwest flights would have every price $250 roundtrip, however my boyfriend’s was virtually free due to my Southwest Companion Pass. This go is basically a buy-one-get-one airfare deal the place you solely pay taxes and costs ($11.20 round-trip on this case) on the second ticket. One strategy to get one in every of these coveted passes is by incomes 125,000 qualifying Southwest Rapid Rewards points in a single calendar yr.

The welcome provide on my Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card bought me a lot of the strategy to proudly owning a Companion Move. Further spending on the cardboard bought me the remainder of the way in which. Right here is the present welcome provide: Earn 80,000 factors after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first 3 months.

I used the Fast Rewards factors I might racked as much as cowl my very own portion of the airfare, which amounted to 18,299 factors. NerdWallet values those Rapid Rewards points at roughly $250.

Value: $11.20 plus $256.19 price of Southwest Fast Rewards factors

The prepare to Santa Fe took us to the center of the vacationer motion. There was a market with artwork, music and meals proper outdoors the station. Picture/Getty

Different transportation

Trip shares: We skipped the rental automotive and relied on trip shares, provided that our lodge was a block from the Albuquerque Conference Heart, the place I’d be spending most of my time for the weightlifting meet. Plus, parking at our lodge was a hefty $18 per evening.

Trip shares have been surprisingly low cost, and we used them for the brief 4-mile journey between downtown and the airport, in addition to to take brief journeys round city.

The trade-off: The rideshare provide was far too low given the demand, and we frequently had lengthy waits to get a driver to select us up — greater than half-hour on some events. I used to be by no means crunched for time on this journey, but when I have been, then having a rental automotive would possible have been much more dependable.

Prepare: One of the best, most dependable and most cost-effective type of transportation for this journey was the New Mexico Rail Runner Specific prepare, which we took for a daytrip to Santa Fe. The trip was roughly 1.5 hours and price simply $9 per particular person spherical journey.

Our high, low cost meal for large portion sizes: Frontier. This meal for 2 got here out to only over $16. Picture/Sally French

Meals and drinks

Listed below are my finest eating finds and money-saving ideas for any journey.

Pack meals from house, or go to a neighborhood grocery retailer: Weightlifting is a type of sports activities the place many aggressive athletes minimize weight, so I packed protein bars and unsalted nuts from house for the primary couple days forward of my competitors. I additionally purchased perishable gadgets, like yogurt, at a grocery retailer.

Whereas most vacationers aren’t making an attempt to suit right into a weight class mid-trip, it’s not a nasty concept to plan forward. Both pack snacks from house or cease for groceries; you may then keep away from paying the up-charge for an overpriced yogurt parfait within the lodge foyer cafe.

Scout out low cost eats: Each metropolis has them. We headed towards the College of New Mexico to discover the world. There, we ate at Frontier for New Mexican-meets-diner meals. Situated proper throughout from a university campus, costs have been unsurprisingly low (however parts have been large).

Meals halls are nice for teams: Group dinners can rapidly get costly. The Sawmill Market, which was an enormous meals corridor with lengthy picnic neighbors, proved best for group dinners so everybody might order their very own meals however sit collectively.

The view from the highest of Sandia Peak was glorious — and price us $65 to see. Picture/Sally French

Different spending

Competitors entry charge: USA Weightlifting doesn’t settle for bank card factors. Cash-back credit cards can are available clutch to cowl bills like this, however I opted to only pay the $125 meet charge in money.

Sandia Peak Tramway. Picture/Getty

Leisure: Most of my time was spent teaching or lifting, so I didn’t spend a lot cash on different leisure past the $125 meet entrance charge.

My boyfriend and I took in stellar views through the Sandia Peak Tramway throughout a free afternoon, which was effectively price it. I might have hiked as much as the highest and paid simply $18 for the one-way fare down, however most weightlifters famously keep away from cardio. Alas, these two weightlifters spent about $65 mixed on round-trip fares.

We had one other fully free day the place we took that day journey to Santa Fe. Many of the artwork galleries are free to enter. Couple that with window purchasing for artisan items, exploring the farmers market and touring the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, and there was greater than sufficient to fill our day with out paying a dime (past meals).

With tons of galleries, retailers and historic websites, there are a great deal of free issues to do on a daytrip to Santa Fe. Picture/Getty

Bank cards used

  • Southwest® Fast Rewards® Efficiency Enterprise Credit score Card: $199 annual charge.

  • Chase Sapphire Most popular® Card: $95 annual charge.

How a lot we spent: A breakdown

In whole, we spent just below $1,000 in mixed money and factors on a visit that in any other case would have price over $2,000. Right here’s how that broke down by expense class, in whole for 2 individuals.

Due to factors, I saved about 55% off the precise journey worth, thanks largely to the comparatively few factors required to fund my lodge room versus the money fare, in addition to the Southwest Companion Move, which took about half off the price of our airfare.

How we calculated bills

Although we solely spent $400 in money, it’s not truthful to say that’s all of the journey price.

In any case, factors and miles have worth too, as each level spent on this journey is some extent that would have been spent someplace else. I did half with factors that NerdWallet deems price about $570 in worth.

Bills we included or excluded: All the prices cited right here account for any time we plunked down cash in the course of the journey, or for prices we spent forward of time for this journey. For instance, we included the meet entrance charge in our prices, however we didn’t calculate the prices of different gadgets it’s essential to pay for to enter a meet (just like the singlet, which you’re required to put on), since I’d use that for different meets, too.

I positioned gold within the clear and jerk, bronze in snatch, and bronze total. As for my budgeting expertise, I believe I received first. Picture/Sally French

The underside line

Touring to occasions like meets, band journeys and weddings brings pleasure, because it unites you with family and friends for the aim of doing the belongings you love. Nevertheless it additionally brings the ache of paying for a visit that’s most likely not anyplace near being in your bucket checklist.

It may be loads much less painful if you use bank card rewards to cowl the fee. And even higher, the worth of factors you fork over can nonetheless quantity to lower than their money worth. Had I funded my journey fully in money, it could have price over $2,100. As an alternative, it “price” me simply over $980 in mixed money and factors worth. ($420 was precise money and $570 was the approximate factors worth.)

These financial savings far outweighed the annual charges I pay to carry the playing cards that made it occur, they usually made a visit I wasn’t trying ahead to paying for far more manageable. I ended up inserting third total on the North American Open Collection II. But when this can be a price range competitors, I really feel like I received gold.

The way to maximize your rewards

You need a journey bank card that prioritizes what’s vital to you. Listed below are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, together with these finest for:


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