I travel-hacked a college tour and saved $3,000

Amtrak’s “buy one, get one” spring sale got me started.

My teenage daughter and I had used a similar two-for-one deal last year to take an overnight train trip from Los Angeles to Portland, Oregon. This year, she wanted to use her spring break to check out colleges in Chicago as well as the Pacific Northwest. When Amtrak announced the return of its companion fare sale, I thought a couple of nights on a sleeper train might be a good way to start our college tour. She agreed.

At the same time, I noticed that we had travel rewards piling up all over the place: points, miles, free anniversary nights at hotels, even a Southwest companion pass that had yet to be used. At NerdWallet, we’re always telling people to spend rather than hoard their rewards, which get less valuable over time thanks to program devaluations.

So I decided to see how much I could save on one 10-day trip. In my latest for the Associated Press, find out what the grand total was and how we pulled it off.

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