FareCompare 4×4: The Art of Traveling Full-Time

Vickie Griggs and her husband, Dan, sold their home, gave their belongings to their children and hit the road 15 years ago. For the first nine years they owned a motor home and rented cars to get around the cities they visited. Five years ago they sold the motor home and never bought another one. They now live full-time on the road in hotels, condos, cabins, vacation rentals, historic homes, cruise ships or wherever they care to stay. Their slogan: ”No house, no car, no worries, at home wherever we are” truly describes this couples unusual way of life.

Vickie writes about their travel adventures in the blog: UltraEscapes. She also owns Comphoppers: An exclusive on-line travel club for those who travel full- time and those who would like to.

We were lucky enough to meet Vickie and Dan in Orlando, where we got a glimpse into their traveling ways. We caught up with Vickie via email, and asked her to give us just a few of her secrets for snagging comps and living free all over the country.

1. Where-to-Go

Do certain cities lend themselves to the comp lifestyle?
Yes. There are many. As full-time travelers we find that gaming meccas offer the best opportunities. Casino’s are generous with complimentary lodging, meals, transportation, entertainment, gifts and tokens. (You’d be surprised at how little you need to spend on gaming, too. We enjoy the free tournaments, contests and drawings. We also use techniques and strategies to maximize the comps while minimizing the risks.)

It is not unusual for us to spend 30-60 consecutive complimentary nights hopping between Las Vegas resort/casino properties. We have stayed in all the major casino hotels on the strip with the exception of three. Of course, this year the highlights were the Bellagio Penthouse and Venetian Suites. While in prior years the grand openings of NY/NY and the Encore were the big story. Tunica, MS properties (just south of Memphis, TN) offer very generous food comps. Biloxi, MS has a variety of hotel options. Enjoy a beachfront view or take a dip in the pool on the 11th floor at the IP. It has a movie-size TV screen. Tribal Casino areas offer great stop-over opportunities as we travel between destinations, too.

Popular vacation destinations also offer significant savings options. Here many hotels, restaurants and attractions are in direct competition for your travel dollar. In places like Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Orlando, Fl, you’ll find coupons and discounts for entertainment venues and attractions such as water parks, amusement parks, putt putt golf, WonderWorks, MagicQuest, the Titanic and a variety of stage shows. (The grandchildren loved the elevated go-kart tracks in Pigeon Forge! And it was two for one before noon).

For weekend stays look for areas that primarily cater to the business traveler. We’ve spent several wonderful weekends attending the Royals and Chiefs games in Kansas City. We look to Overland Park for lodging options because this is where Sprint and other corporations have their headquarters. And there are great weekend rates available.

2. What-to-Do

Along with free nights at hotels, what are some of the perks travelers should be on the look-out for?
We look for dining options where we can combine reward network offers, loyalty programs and credit card point and rebate programs to create a layered, multiple savings option we call a triple header. For example, we might make an advance dining reservation during a specified time period to earn a 1000 point credit (worth $10), combine that with a 20% off or two for one coupon offer and then pay the bill with a specific credit card that is designed to provide up to 25% cash back. The internet is a wonderful tool for structuring these types of programs. In general, we save between 40% and 60% off retail dining costs. You can find all sorts of programs to join for restaurant, hotel, transportation, shopping, movie and entertainment perks.

Rental car loyalty programs are another great place to garner perks. We get free daily rental coupons, one-way rentals, free upgrades and more. Pentagon Federal’s Platinum Rewards Visa credit card
offers unlimited 5% cash back on gas purchases at the pump credited monthly on your statement.

Amtrak offers passengers reward points and if you belong to Veteran’s Advantage, you’ll receive a 15% discount on train travel. Airlines also offer reward programs, limited fare specials and by using sites like FareCompare you can determine the best price for getting to your destination.

Don’t forget to sign up for your free casino players club cards at every opportunity. First time players often receive special sign up bonus and offers.

3. When-to-Fly

Is there a specific time of year when it’s easier to find comps from hotels?
It is not so much the time of year but the season at your destination that matters. Anytime of the year is a shoulder or off-season somewhere. This is where the flexibility of the Comphoppers lifestyle really pays off. Consider a ski resort during the summer or enjoy a beach front condo in October.

4. How-to-Shop

Other than snagging comps, do you have any tips for saving money when visiting a new town?
Research, research, research. The key to saving when visiting a new location is to do your research, compare options and then combine the various reward networks, loyalty, entity and credit card programs to get the best value.

On-line services, ratings sites, advance purchases, affiliations and reservation timing are just some of the quality tools you can use to significantly reduce the cost of travel before you go. Tip: When we are traveling to an unfamiliar area we often use Google maps to help us decide on hotel options. By looking for areas with high-end malls or up-market restaurants we can be assured we are in a better part of town.

When traveling by car, rest areas often offer brochures, discount booklets and my personal favorite: free coffee.
Once you arrive, check out the local publications, Visitor’s Bureau and brochure stands for additional savings ideas. This is where you will often find information on parks, museums and botanical gardens that have a free entrance day, local events, self-guided tours and other activities.

Lastly, join Comphoppers. We do most of the research for you and if you are so inclined, we can get you started on the road to Comphopping full-time. Then, you too can say: No home, no car, no worries, at home wherever we are.

Follow Vickie on Twitter @Comphoppers

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Published: October 5, 2010