Think that a trip around the world is out of your budget?  We are here to tell you that it is not impossible. The Top Ten Ways to Save Money for Your RTW Trip series will focus on the best ways to save money to enable someone from any budget level to achieve the RTW dream.  It is Our Goal to enable each and every one of you to travel the world as much as your heart desires.  These simple tips can be followed by every traveler to save money while preparing for an RTW trip and will enable almost anyone to realize the RTW dream.  For a list of all of the articles in this series, click here.

Do you look enviously on the traveler outfitted with all of the latest high tech gadgets, gear, and clothing?  We are right there with you.  That stuff is expensive!  A full outfit of backpacks, hiking shoes, merino wool socks, antimicrobial underwear, travel towels and sheets, packing cubes, camera cubes, daypacks, and electronics bags can easily cost between $1,000 – $1,500.  It’s time to quench that jealousy once and for all because we are here to show you how to get it all for free!

In Our RTW Equipment and Packing List we detail all of the items that we are taking with us.  Depending on your travel style, you may decide to purchase more or less travel specific gear than us, but there are three items that we believe every traveler should invest in: a comfortable backpack, high quality shoes, and a UV water filter.

Osprey Kyte 46 and Osprey Kestrel 48

Osprey Kyte 46 and Osprey Kestrel 48

Travel gear can make your life so much easier.  It is specially designed for the backpack traveler and each item is optimized for weight, size, and durability.  Many of the items are multi-purpose and enable you to do more with less.  Travel gear allows you to go further, do more, and carry less.  If push came to shove, we would not have purchased all of the travel gear that we did if we had to pay full retail price for it, but since it was free, we have come to find that our travel gear can be the difference between a difficult travel day and a painful one.

We have made no secret of the fact that REI is our favorite place to find, test, and purchase our travel gear.  The combination of a huge selection of top brands, great customer service, free shipping on purchases over $50, and the best return policy around, make REI an ideal place if you are not sure what gear to purchase.  When we discovered that American Express Membership Rewards could be redeemed for REI gift cards, we were ecstatic.

After some research, we found that the best American Express credit card offer was for the American Express Gold Card.  This card has a sign up bonus of 50,000 American Express Membership Rewards and only a $1,000 spending requirement in the first three months.  So each American Express Gold Card  can be used to get $500 worth of REI gift cards.  Maria and I each signed up for one card and redeemed our points for $1,000 in REI gift cards.

REI Gift Cards

$1,000 in REI Gift Cards

Again, we only use these credit cards to make every day purchases, such as our groceries, gas, utilities, and mortgage payments.  We also make sure to pay the cards in full each month to avoid paying interest and late fees.  Finally, the annual fee is waived for the first year, but is $95 after the first year, so it is important to call and cancel the card before the one year anniversary.

In The Top Ten Ways to Save Money for Your RTW Trip: #4, we discussed how to use Chase Ultimate Rewards to get your electronics for free, but with the significantly lower spending requirement for the American Express Gold Card, it is even simpler to get your travel gear from REI for free.  In addition to the American Express Gold Cards, REI also offers a branded credit card with a bonus of a $100 gift card after your first purchase.  This is great in case you have a few items left that your American Express points did not cover.

Merrell Proterra Sport Hiking Shoes

Merrell Proterra Sport Hiking Shoes

But just because you have $1,000 in REI gift cards in your hands when you walk through the doors, don’t forget about the other tips we have discussed.  REI has two big sales each year, one in the fall and one in the spring.  In addition, if you pay $20 to become a member, you get a 10% rebate on all purchase, plus you will receive a few 20% off coupons throughout the year.  20% off of that $200 backpack easily covers that small, one-time fee of $20.

Lastly, remember The Ten Ways to Save Money for Your RTW Trip: #9?  If you go through to make your REI purchases online, you will receive 5% cash back.  So if you spend $1,000 on your travel gear through REI, you can receive $50 cash back.  That’s right, you just got paid to purchase your travel gear.  Feels pretty good doesn’t it?

SteriPEN Ultra Water Purifier

SteriPEN Ultra Water Purifier

The great thing about this tip is that you can use it to purchase items that you otherwise would have “suffered without” while traveling.  Travel is not easy, so use this tip to buy those travel items that can make it more comfortable, more fun, and more adventurous.  No more excuses, get out there and enjoy the world!

Disclaimer:  Credit cards should always be used responsibly and we only advocate using credits cards if you can pay the statement balance in full each month to avoid finance charges. Credit cards, when used correctly, are a great tool to build your credit and should never be abused.