We just returned from an absolutely stunning trip in Maine, with the main purpose of seeing Acadia National Park. This is our 3rd large trip that was greatly aided by travel hacking. What is travel hacking? Basically, it’s using points and miles to travel to amazing places on a budget! This won’t be a comprehensive guide, but I hope the details inspire you to give it a try!
Acadia National Park was one of many places on my bucket list, and I was aching to see some mountains and do some hiking. Acadia climbed to the top of the list (pun intended). I started in 2017 by researching Maine and grew to love it the more I researched. One of my favorite places to start the exploration journey is TripAdvisor. They have pages for almost every destination and you can find things to do and places to eat there too. Everyone on TripAdvisor raved about Maine, so I did some quick research on the best time of year and picked early September. Now to figure out HOW to get there.’
CREDIT CARDS WE USED
Mr. Pocketchange and I had earned the Southwest Companion Pass last year, so we had some points in our account. The companion pass is achieved by earning 110,000 points in a calendar year. This in turn gives you the Companion Pass for the remainder of that year and the one following. This allows you to fly 2 for the price of 1, whether paying with points or cash. Earning the Pass is not necessary to travel hack, but it definitely is a great perk. Each Southwest card we got gave us 50,000 points after meeting the minimum spend. Mr. Pocketchange and I got this Southwest Plus card and this Southwest Premier card and in addition to meeting the minimum spending by putting our normal expenses on the cards, we earned the Companion Pass last year! This article by the Points Guy will tell you more about the Companion Pass.
I used around 22k points for our flight up to Portland, Maine, and paid just about $22 in taxes for both Joey and I. That was the total cost of the flights!
Next, I needed to figure out lodging. One of my favorite hotel programs is IHG because they’re so flexible. You can cancel up to 24 hours in advance and get all the points back. Very convenient for when you have a change of plans! I have the IHG Card (this link will give you 80,000 points if you’re approved after meeting a minimum spend) and used my annual bonus night for the Holiday Inn Resort in Acadia National Park for 1 night and also for a night in Portland, Maine. The other nights, I booked with Airbnb, my other favorite way to stay.
As Mr. Pocketchange mentioned in his post last week, after all was said and done, we spent just over $1,000. If you include the travel accommodations because of the traveling issues, we spent only $347 on our trip. Crazy, but this is travel hacking!
One of our favorite experiences in the Portland area was taking the ferry to Peak’s Island, renting bikes and biking around the perimeter. We met a man named Steve on the ferry over, who told us all about the sights we were passing as well as some things to do in Portland. We biked around the entire island (3 miles), stopping to beachcomb, take pictures of lovely views, try the numerous cherry-sized rose hips, taste wild raspberries, explore the Battery Steele and eat some delicious ice cream. It was sad to leave. It was such a glorious day.
In downtown Portland, we tried a variety of coffee shops and walked around the old town. We also stopped at the Whole Foods a couple times for lunch…I was in heaven with all the other people there who love healthy living. It was like my homeland! If you’re in to eating healthy, and even if you’re not, be sure to try LB Cafe for breakfast. This was a cafe with a *delicious* menu. The Holy Donut was also another tasty, although not so healthy, indulgence in downtown.
After Portland, it was up to Bar Harbor, where we stopped at a diner along the way. I had the most delicious scallop chowder and blueberry pie there. I wanted ALL the wild blueberry everything on this trip! We spent 1 night in Bar Harbor at the resort, then the other 2 nights at the Airbnb in Surry, Maine. The night at the Bar Harbor Holiday Inn resort wasn’t anything super fancy, but it was very convenient to downtown Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. Our Airbnb was a bit outside the park, but in a full apartment with our own entry, and in a very peaceful and relaxing area. If I were to go again, I’d probably pick a place a little bit closer to the National Park. There were plenty of Airbnb’s, hotels and Inns along the way.
Bar Harbor and the surrounding towns gave us an abundance of lobster shacks, ice cream houses and restaurants with blueberry pie. Be sure to hike while you’re there to work it all off. 😉 We did 6 hikes in the park, and mostly used the public transit bus that was free from the Visitor Center. The Beehive was my favorite hike, but every single hike was beautiful and unique on its own. Getting out into nature, doing a challenging hike, and seeing amazing views at the top of the summit was so refreshing. Nature has a way of truly resetting the spirit and putting us in awe of God and his attention to gorgeous detail. The leaves were just barely starting to change, but the temperature were around 70-75 and perfect. No rain at all until the day we were driving back to Portland.
I definitely recommend a trip to Maine to see the beautiful land and go hiking. I also recommend travel hacking, because it allowed us to do so much with very little. Depending where you are wanting to go, there is a card to help get you there. Just be sure to be very responsible and only put everyday spending on it, not treating it like extra free money. We stick to our normal budget while using the cards so we don’t wind up paying interest and defeating the benefits. If you would like recommendations of cards for your trips, or if you’d like a fee-free card recommendation to just start out, let me know and I’d love to help you out.