Everyone has a travel destination they want to visit someday.

A trip to Europe, exotic South East Asia, enjoying a tropical paradise

The destinations are endless. However, getting (and staying there) can cost you quite a bit.

If the cost is holding you back from booking that ticket, that’s where credit cards and loyalty programs come in.

Here are 5 destinations ‒ and the frugal way to get there for cheap (or nearly free).

Travel to Iceland

A land filled with volcanoes and glaciers, Iceland offers unique outdoor experiences that can’t be found anywhere else. It’s the perfect place for outdoor enthusiasts to experience the following natural wonders:

  • bathing in hot springs,
  • seeing giant icebergs,
  • whale watching, and
  • so much more.

Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavik, has plenty to see and do as well. You can check out the Hallgrímskirkja, a church shaped like a rocket, or visit the National Museum of Iceland to see 1,200 years of human history.

Top off your trip with a visit to Árbæjarsafn, an open-air museum that shows how previous generations lived.

Not to mention you can get a taste of Europe for a much shorter flight, with Eastern Canada being only a 5-hour flight and Vancouver 7.5 hours.

Icelandic waterfall and geyser
Panoramic view of Reykjavik, Iceland

Which credit card will get you there?

The best way to get to Iceland for free is with a flexible rewards travel program.

Flights using airline miles like Aeroplan or AIR MILES will usually only cover the base fare. You’ll need to pay the taxes and fees, which are notoriously high when travelling to any European country. They can often come close to the price of the ticket itself.

The and the Scotia Rewards program is your best choice.

This card specifically will give you a sign-up bonus of 25,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in 3 months, and 5,000 extra after you spend $10,000 on eligible purchases in the first year. And since each point is worth 1 cent when redeemed for travel, that’s a $300 value.

Plus, you’ll earn:

  • 5 points per $1 spent on groceries, entertainment, and dining,
  • 3 points per $1 spent on gas, transit, and select streaming services, and
  • 1 points per $1 spent everywhere else.

A direct flight from Vancouver typically costs around $700 return, with lesser amounts in Eastern Canada. Based on typical spending and factoring in the sign-up bonus, you could earn 1 free round trip in your first year.

Get the details here:

Related: Big Travel Credit Card Sign Up Bonuses That Will Wow You All The Time

Plus up to $300 travel bonus.
Ends October 25th.

Travel to Hawaii

The islands of Aloha – known for beautiful tropical landscape and oozing volcanoes – is arguably one of the most common bucket list travel destinations.  It’s also a place I’ve had the pleasure of visiting.

Hawaii has unforgettable travel experiences around every corner. On my trip there, I headed to Honolulu to stay in Waikiki and enjoyed the beach, food, and nightlife.

Nearby, Pearl Harbor offered some history with tours of the USS Missouri and Bowfin. I went to the USS Arizona Memorial where I paid my respects to the fallen of the Pearl Harbor attack and saw what was left of the great battleship.

Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island is a cool place to see how the islands were formed. On the right day, you can even walk up to flowing lava.

You can expect to enjoy consistently nice weather throughout the year – no worrying about when the best time to visit is.

Hawaiian resort

Hawaii coastline

Which credit card will get you there?

My pick for the best cards to get you to Hawaii are the or the , especially if you live in Western Canada. Otherwise, consider travelling to a border city like Detroit where Alaska Airlines operates.

What do these cards offer?

They’ll give you welcome bonuses of 30,000 and 20,000 points respectively, both after spending $1,000 in 3 months. They also have the same earn rates:

  • 3 miles per $1 spent on Alaska Airlines, and
  • 1 mile per $1 spent on everything else.

As a backup, you can also use your points on American Airlines, but only until March 1, 2020 when they’re dropped as a redemption option.

To sweeten the deal, these cards offer some great Alaska Air benefits. They both come with an annual companion voucher, and the World Elite card lets you take advantage of free checked bags for up to 6 people travelling on the same reservation.

What will it cost to fly there?

Using miles, an Alaska Airlines flight will cost about 35,000 miles plus around $100 in taxes and fees (if departing from Western Canada). For an American Airlines flight, the number of miles jumps to 50,000.

A typical flight can cost anywhere from $500 to $700 depending on where you are in Canada.

Based on our calculations and including the sign-up bonus, you could get a free flight in one year. And don’t forget the annual companion flight voucher.

Get the details here:

Related: How To Maximize The Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Program

Travel to Morocco

If your dream vacation includes a camel tour among the dunes of the Sahara desert, Morocco is the perfect destination.

On top of the camel ride, shopping and eating in the souks of Marrakech is a one-of-a-kind market experience that you’re sure to enjoy. And spending a relaxing day at the Hammam (or Turkish bath) is an affordable “must” for any trip.

Morocco offers an experience different from anywhere else.

Souks of Marrakesh

Camel tour of the Erg Chebbi sand dunes in Morocco

Which credit card will get you there?

The rewards program that will get you to Morocco for the best value is Aeroplan. And a great credit card choice is the , especially for flights from Air Canada.

This card, to start, will give you a welcome bonus of 15,000 miles after your first purchase. We value an average Aeroplan mile at 2.5 cents. That’s up to a $375 value right there.

And for a limited time (until September 3, 2019) get up to 25,000 miles – 15,000 after your first purchase and another 10,000 after you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months.

Then, you’ll earn Aeroplan miles on all your purchases:

  • 1.5 miles per $1 spent on gas, groceries, drugstores, and aircanada.com purchases (on the first $80,000 spent annually), and
  • 1 mile per $1 spent on everything else.

For your Air Canada flights, you’ll enjoy some great benefits, like:

  • free first checked bag,
  • priority check-in,
  • priority boarding, and
  • Maple Leaf Lounge access (once per year).

How many Aeroplan miles will it cost me to get to Morocco?

Flights can be found for 80,000 Aeroplan miles, with taxes and fees starting at $166. To get these low taxes and fees, you’ll have to fly on the right airline. In this case, that’s TAP Portugal. They have a connecting option from Toronto to Casablanca.

In dollars, this flight would normally cost around $1,200 to $1,500, which gives good value for your miles (if you can fly on airlines that have low taxes and fees).

Based on our average spend calculations, you’ll only need around 3 years to save for this flight if you take advantage of the current 30,000 mile sign-up bonus.

Full card details are here:

Related: Credit Cards That Are ALWAYS Worth The Annual Fee

Travel to Bali, Indonesia

One of the best parts about visiting Bali is the rich culture and spiritualism. You’ll see beautiful, intricately designed temples on nearly every block, sometimes in the middle of busy city streets.

Bali also has gorgeous beaches with some really spectacular sunsets.

As if that wasn’t reason enough to go to Bali, it also has a sacred monkey forest in Ubud and will give you the chance to explore popular temples once occupied by monks.

Infinity pool meets the jungle at the Alia Hotel And Spa in Ubud

Besakih temple in Bali

Which credit card will get you there?

Since Bali is literally on the other end of the planet, you’ll want to travel business class if you want to make this an enjoyable flight. You’ll thank me later after your 30+ hour long flight.

What’s the best card and travel program to get me there?

The and the American Express Membership Rewards program have my vote.

While it doesn’t earn the most points (that distinction belongs to the ), this card allows you to transfer your points to 6 airline programs, including Aeroplan and British Airways Executive Club at a 1:1 ratio.

To start, you’ll earn a welcome bonus of 25,000 points after you spend $1,500 in the first 3 months. When transferred to Aeroplan, that’s up to a $625 value.

Plus, you’ll earn points on your day to day spending:

  • 2 points per $1 spent on gas, groceries, drugstore,
  • 2 points per $1 spent on eligible travel purchases, including flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises, and
  • 1 point per $1 spent everywhere else.

A business class seat will cost you 155,000 Aeroplan miles, and, if you fly on the right airlines, you’ll only have to pay around $90 in taxes and fees.

These seats can cost anywhere from $3,500 to $5,500 or more, giving you some really outstanding value for your points.

Based on typical $2,000 per month spending, you could earn 34,200 Membership Rewards points every year. Factor in your welcome bonus, and it’ll take you about 4 years to save up for this trip.

A bit longer than our other dream destinations, but it will be an experience you won’t forget.

Or, if you’d rather not have to save as many points, an economy class ticket will only cost 90,000 Aeroplan miles. Similar to the business class option, if you fly on the right airlines, you’ll only pay around $90 in taxes and fees.

Including the welcome bonus, in less than 2 years, you’ll save enough Aeroplan miles to get an economy class ticket all the way to Bali.

Full details are here:

Related: Score Bonus Miles With These 3 European Airlines

Travel to Thailand

Thailand is just one of the many Southeast Asian countries that will steal your heart with amazing temples, rich culture, and gorgeous tropical flora.

Many people visit to check out the sights and nightlife of Bangkok, like the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, where the craftsmanship alone could take your breath away.

To escape the city, you could head to the coast to enjoy pristine beaches and crystal clear water. You could even swim with a whale shark if you dare.

Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Thailand
Big Garden in Bangkok, Thailand

Which credit card will get you there?

Similar to Bali, the best way to get there is by going the business class route, and the Membership Rewards program is a great way to do it.

Another card option in the program that will get you some well-deserved luxury while travelling is the .

You’ll be able to earn an even larger welcome bonus of 50,000 points after you spend $3,000 in 3 months, and still earn plenty of points on your purchases:

  • 3 points per $1 spent on eligible dining purchases in Canada,
  • 2 points per $1 spent on eligible travel purchases, and
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other eligible purchases.

But, the best part of this card are the perks:

  • $200 annual travel credit for bookings made with American Express Travel,
  • access to the Fine Hotels and Resorts collection, giving you up to $550 USD in value for every booking,
  • advanced status in 4 hotel programs, including Marriott Bonvoy,
  • complimentary airport lounge access for you and a guest at over 1,200 lounges worldwide,
  • VIP treatment at Toronto Pearson airport,
  • and much more.

It might have an annual fee of $699, but take it from me – if you’re a frequent traveller, American Express gives you your money’s worth.

You’ll find roughly the same redemption options available to you as Bali, meaning you can enjoy great value for your points when booking a business class or better seat.

Based on a typical $2,000 per month spend, you’ll earn 28,800 Aeroplan miles per year. With the increased welcome bonus of the Platinum Card, it will take 3.5 years to save up for a business class seat to Bali.

Or, if you’d rather go the economy class route, it will only take a little over a year to save up.

Find out more here:

Related: How To Pay For Your Dream Honeymoon Using Credit Card Rewards

Credit card for free hotel nights

Even if our 5 dream destinations aren’t on your bucket list, there are some credit cards that will give you relaxing hotel stays, no matter where you decide to travel.

The will let you use your points to pay for your hotel stay at any participating Marriott locations worldwide.

You’ll also get good value with an airline program by transferring your points, most of them at a 3:1 ratio. There’s over 40 airline partners to choose from. Transfer 60,000 points at once, and Marriott will give you a bonus 5,000 airline miles as part of the transfer.

Here’s a Marriott hotel for each destination, the number of points you’d need to stay for free for one night (assuming you get a standard rate), the actual cost, and your point value.

And, since Marriott points cover taxes and fees as well, you won’t have to worry about paying a bill unless you spend money at the hotel.

Hotel Points Required Actual Cost (CDN) Point Value (cents)
101 Hotel (Design Hotel), Reykjavik 60,000 $649 1.1
Sheraton Waikiki, Honolulu 50,000 $483 0.97
Sheraton Hotel & Towers, Casablanca 12,500 $170 1.4
St. Regis Bali Resort 60,000 $527 0.88
The Surawongse Marriott Hotel, Bangkok
25,000 $220 0.88

A beautiful room like this will be that much comfier knowing it was completely booked with points.

St. Regis Bali resort bedroom

St. Regis Bali resort dining room

With the , you’ll be able to earn 50,000 points as a welcome bonus after spending $1,500 in 3 months. That’s right – that’s already worth a free night (or close to it) at some of these properties.

Plus, keep earning points at these rates:

  • 5 points per $1 spent in eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy properties, and
  • 2 points per $1 spent on all other purchases.

Full details here:

Related: How To Maximize The Marriott Bonvoy Rewards Program

Where do you want to go first?

While getting to your dream destination takes some saving, planning, and, of course, dreaming, using a credit card and its rewards program can help.

Having the right one will certainly make it easier to take that bucket-list vacation you’ve always wanted.

Do you have a dream destination?

Have you ever used points to get to your dream destination?

Leave us a comment below to share your unforgettable travel experience with us.