After conducting a few interviews this week, I had an epiphany: I’ve been wasting a lot of money on travel. It’s not that I had crap experiences. Au contraire. It’s that I haven’t been doing enough homework on how to best use awards dollars to offset the hard costs of travel. Brian Kelly, the miles maestro behind The Points Guy, reminded me that earning miles is not limited to butt-in-seat airline travel. A flexible-use credit card, credit card sign on bonuses, loyalty promotions and mixing and matching loyalty program miles with credit card points will give travelers the biggest bang for their buck. Another Kelly tip? Credit card points offer more value when transferred into an airline loyalty program. Who knew? I was so inspired that I am going to sign up for the Chase Sapphire card Kelly kvells about.

Then, a conversation with George Hobica of Airfare Watchdog revealed that one of the most important tools in modern travel is setting airfare alerts. Why? Fares are fickle. Say a route is beefed up and there are empty seats from x to z. Or, the price of oil goes down. Or, business travel tapered off for some reason. Prices fluctuate all of the time. If you set up an alert weeks before heading to a specific destination via airfare watchdog or google, you can capitalize on these fluctuations.

Thanks, guys, Excellent intel going into peak holiday travel season.