Chris Myden is a travel deals celebrity. He curates and distributes the most outrageous and sought after airfare and travel deals through his site YYZdeals.com and his newsletter (you’ll love seeing this drop in your inbox).
He helps more than 500,000 Canadians spot amazing travel deals through e-mail alerts, Facebook and Twitter.
Recent roundtrip deals he’s found and shared with his network include a two-in-one trip from Toronto to Japan and China for $543, Toronto to New Zealand for $808, and Toronto to Bahamas for $199. He has corresponding sites for Vancouver and Calgary as well.
Ratehub.ca also has a keen eye for travel deals. We’ve recently done an analysis of Air Miles and Aeroplan redemptions and our team is always looking for ways to show you how to maximize your credit card rewards for free or discounted travel.
We spoke with Chris about his travel style, how he incorporates credit cards into his travel regime, and how Canadians can become masterful savvy travelers.
Nicole: You connect your users to some of the most amazing travel deals. How often do you travel yourself?
Chris: I generally like to have some sort of trip to look forward to every two months or so. It usually works out to about five to six trips per year. Two of those will usually be bigger trips to somewhere far away and the others within North America. I feel very fortunate to be able to do so!
Nicole: What are some tips you could give to Canadians who are looking for budget-friendly travel?
Chris: One thing I’ve definitely learned is that when you try to see everything, you end up seeing nothing.It’s hard to resist fitting in six countries on a two-week trip to Europe, but you’ll end up spending most of your vacation inside airport terminals and train stations.
For the most part, travel is pretty efficiently priced. You generally get what you pay for in terms of accommodations. Try looking at Airbnb, the B&B and inns, or “specialty lodging” sections of TripAdvisor (as opposed to hotels) for better value for your money.
For most places, booking your flights around eight to 10 weeks ahead of departure is a pretty good rule of thumb. If the airline hasn’t seen the demand they expected, prices may start to soften around this timeframe. Prices can start to creep up steadily (and stay there permanently) once you get to around four to six weeks ahead of departure. Every now and then there is an unusually great flight deal.
At the destination, to find better value, just try to always think like a local. Is the restaurant full of locals or tourists? Eating out at restaurants all the time can definitely add up. Hit up the local grocery store for at least some of your meals and alcohol. Pick accommodations that make this easier (Airbnb, places with kitchenettes, etc).
Nicole: When you’re spending on travel, what card do you value most and why?
Chris: I do like to calculate the return on what a credit card is giving me. I try to assign everything a cash value. For example, if a card returns X number of points, what are those points really worth to me in dollars? Once everything has been converted to a dollar value, it’s easy to see which cards are giving me the most back per dollar spent. Anytime I’m getting back at least 3% ($3 for every $100 spent) I feel I’m doing pretty well.
Lately, my favourite card for travel (outside of Canada) has been the Amazon.ca Rewards Visa. It has no annual fee, and a pretty rare feature: When you use it in a foreign country, you’re not charged the extra 2.5% exchange rate fee that virtually every credit card is automatically tacking on whenever currency is being exchanged.
So, immediately, it is equivalent to getting 2.5% cash back any time you use it outside of Canada. And it also comes with an additional 1% cash back feature. So when you use it abroad, you’re really getting 3.5% back.
There are better cards to use within Canada but for purchases in other countries, it’s my current go-to card.
(Note: the Amazon.ca Rewards Visa Card from Chase is no longer accepting applications as of April 3, 2017)
One thing I’m seeing a lot of in other countries when making credit card purchases is the option to “charge your card in $CAD.” It’ll come up on the credit card terminal as an available option. It may sound like the better option, but you do not want to choose this option. It’s cheaper to have the credit card company bill you in the local currency (U.S. dollars, pesos, euros, etc), especially if you’re using a credit card like the one mentioned above.