How we went to Switzerland with almost Net Zero cost

When we picked Switzerland, we know going in that it wouldn't be a cheap trip. This wouldn't be a trip where we could scrape pesos together for food and lodging (my favorite kind of trip, not Porter's). Switzerland is listed in just about every travel guide as one of the most expensive places in the world. On the first leg of our flight, the German guy sitting across from us (yes, across. We had weird backward train seats from Seattle to Vancouver) spent 20 minutes telling us how expensive coffee is. A guy from Germany. That's like when Thai people tell you something it's spicy. They're at an elevated level of normal. So when they say high, it must really be bad.

Expensive is a bad word for for a cheapskate like me, but Swiss hiking was reportedly the best in the world, so we started strategizing started early. Here's how:

1. United Miles for the plane ticket
We earn a lot of United miles. We're both authorized users on Porter's account, though Porter does most of the spending on his day-to-day and for work- buying medals and tech shirts and thousands of mustache-shaped shirts. I'm not necessarily partial to United, but it's the airline we started with and the way I see it, you've got to have a card with at least one of the legacy airlines. They go everywhere and where they don't, their alliances do. It takes about 30,000 miles each way to Europe (coach- I prefer more flights over fewer fancier flights) plus tax in cash. We also paid a change fee once when a better flight opened up. 

2. Barclay Card Arrival Credit Card for travel expenses
There are a handful of credit cards out there that operated on the 'Pay Now, Redeem Later' system. The Barclay Card Arrival Plus, in addition to having no foreign transaction fees, is one where you can redeem your points for any travel expense. In short, pay for your travel on the card (and pay it off right away like normal), accrue points as you spend, then get reimbursed for anything counted as travel. For us that meant mostly trains (which cost a BAZILLION dollars) and a few hotels. With the sign up bonus and regular accrual, we covered about 75% of what we paid for hotels and trains.

Now that we're home, I'm working on Barclay's other way to accrue points: writing travel stories on their travel advice site. It adds up some 500 points at a time, which is pretty much $5 at a time, so I don't know how long I'll last. You have 90 days to redeem your travel expenses, so I'm hoping I'll get in a mood one night and write up a couple hundred bits of travel stories to cover the last 25% of our hotel and train travel.

3. AirBnB for everything else
I've got a whole post coming up or the thrills of AirBnB. For the sake of this post we'll just say this: we rented out our apartment for the entire time we were gone, effectively covering the cost of most of the food (read: cheese, sausage, and overpriced but totally delicious and worth it meals that Porter had to keep talking me into eating without guilt or dollar signs in my eyes) and fun (site-seeing, souvenirs, crap we didn't ever think we'd have to buy but did) leftover. 

I haven't finished totally everything up yet, but by my calculations, a 10 day trip to Switzerland, with mixed budget accommodations and reasonable spending on site-seeing and food cost about $500. 

Now we have to start strategizing for New England this fall!

1 comment:

amanda said...

So awesome! Switzerland has been my dream vacation since the 6th grade. Not for hiking exclusively, thought that would be awesome. I loved your description! (I think in the post before this)