Book Award-Winning Excursions and Tours with These Travel Rewards Cards

Earlier this year, TripAdvisor came out with a new report highlighting the most popular excursions and tours booked throughout 2017, plus other travel trends.

Some of the most popular travel experiences booked last year include a skip-the-line pass for the Vatican Museums, St. Peters, and the Sistine Chapel; a Chicago River Architecture Cruise; and a skip-the-line walking tour of Ancient Rome that included the Colosseum. Other tours at the top of travelers’ lists included the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, the Eiffel Tower, and the Empire State Building.

Still, cultural categories like “food tours, cooking classes, and historical and heritage experiences” experienced huge growth in 2017, according to TripAdvisor. This just goes to show that, when it comes to travel, it’s not just about getting to your destination; it’s about experiencing everything it has to offer, including new foods and culinary techniques and iconic cultural landmarks.

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    How to Book Award-Winning Excursions and Tours with Rewards

    Now, here’s something you may not know — you can book many excursions and day trips (including all categories mentioned above) with credit card rewards. Depending on the program your rewards card belongs to, you may be able to book excursions through a credit card travel portal or book them yourself and redeem statement credits to cover the expense.

    If you want to save money on travel (who doesn’t?), getting your excursions covered with rewards is a smart move. Here are some top strategies to try:

    Book Excursions through Chase Ultimate Rewards

    One of my favorite ways to pay for excursions and day trips with rewards involves utilizing the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. This portal lets you book hotels and flights you can find on similar search engines like Expedia, but it also offers tours and excursions.

    While you can’t find every excursion or day trip offered online, the “activities” offerings from Chase Ultimate Rewards closely track what you’ll find on Viator.com. The best part is, you can book these excursions directly with points. If you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, that benefit surges to 50% more travel.

    Here’s a good example of how this works. You know that skip-the-line Vatican tour with entry into St. Peters and the Sistine Chapel — the one that was the most popular excursion booked in all of 2017?

    You can book this walking tour for $45.56 per adult through Viator.com:

    If you have a premier Chase travel credit card, however, you can book this tour with rewards instead. With the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and the ability to get 50% more travel when you book with points, you can book this excursion for 3,053 points per person, which is an absolute steal.

    Another example is a day trip I booked this summer out of Praiano, Italy. Myself, my husband, our two kids, and my brother wanted to go to the Isle of Capri for the day. We considered taking the ferry, but weren’t sure we wanted to take public transportation to nearby Positano and back to catch it. We also wanted to take a boat trip around the island, which isn’t possible if you take the regular ferry. A private boat captain for the day was also considered, although the $1,000+ price tag quickly squashed that idea.

    Ultimately, we chose to book this day trip that’s offered through Viator:

    While the price offered through the Chase portal was slightly higher, the price in points (free) made it extremely reasonable. Since a slight discount was offered for children, I wound up paying 29,170 points for the five of us. That obviously beats out paying almost $500 in cash through Viator!

    Obviously, these aren’t the only excursions offered through Chase. My family has booked everything from vegan food tours to snorkeling excursions and even multi-day trips. If you have points with Chase and want to save on travel other than airfare and hotels, these excursions generally offer a good redemption value.

    Pick Up a Travel Credit Card that Offers Flexible Travel Credit

    If you don’t have a Chase travel card or prefer to squirrel away your points for superior airfare redemptions, don’t despair. There are other cards you can use to pay for excursions, and some would even say these cards are a better choice for this type of travel.

    The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is ideal for excursions. This card doles out unlimited 2x miles for each dollar you spend along with a huge signup bonus. The kicker is, you can redeem your miles for any travel experience you want, whether you book a tour through Viator or through a travel discount website like Expedia. The only requirement is that the tour codes as travel on your credit card statement.

    Your miles can be redeemed for one cent each, making 50,000 miles worth $500 in travel. You use your card to book any excursion you want, then use your miles to remove the expense from your credit card bill. It’s as simple as that.

    Use Cash-Back to Book Day Trips and Excursions

    Finally, don’t forget that you can redeem cash-back rewards for any type of travel you want — including excursions. There are many instances where earning cash-back is advantageous, and this includes the fact that not everyone wants to jump through the hoops created by many of the biggest rewards programs.

    Cash-back is simple, and you can often earn 2% back or more with the best cash-back credit cards. Personally, I think that the Chase Freedom Unlimited® is a solid cash-back option for travel since you can pair it with a premier Chase travel card for better redemption options. With this card you can earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Also earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases. Best of all, it has no annual fee.

    Please Note: Information about the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by TheSimpleDollar.com. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.

    Editorial Note: Compensation does not influence our recommendations. However, we may earn a commission on sales from the companies featured in this post. To view our disclosures, click here. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by our advertisers. Reasonable efforts are made to present accurate info, however all information is presented without warranty. Consult our advertiser’s page for terms & conditions.

    Holly Johnson

    Contributing Writer

    Holly Johnson is a frugality expert and award-winning writer who is obsessed with personal finance and getting the most out of life. A lifelong resident of Indiana, she enjoys gardening, reading, and traveling the world with her husband and two children. In addition to The Simple Dollar, Holly writes for well-known publications such as U.S. News & World Report Travel, PolicyGenius, Travel Pulse, and Frugal Travel Guy. Holly also owns Club Thrifty.