16 Feb What Is Travel Hacking?
I almost cringe at the term “travel hacking”- it sounds like something illegal. But that’s the commonly used phrase for the art of getting free or discounted travel through award points and miles. Try not to think of hacking like a guy on his computer in a dark basement trying to access your bank account online. Think more along the lines of a pinterest life hack- like “you can remove deodorant stains from a shirt by rubbing it with a dryer sheet.” Helpful hacks. Not illegal.
There are numerous strategies for accumulating these award points and miles but the quickest and most common way is strategically opening credit cards with major sign-up bonuses. Before I read about all of the people who are successfully traveling the world with dozens of open credit cards, I was extremely skeptical. I had one credit card to my name, which I almost never used.
A quick word about credit
Yes, spending on credit is a slippery slope for some people. If you cannot stay on top of your finances and keep your card paid off, then this may not be the hobby for you. But if you are responsible with credit and have time to put in a little effort to learn the ropes, travel hacking really pays off.
A travel hacker in action
Just so you don’t have to take my word for it, here’s an official news report about a travel hacker showing a reporter how it’s done:
How we got started
It was a little over a year ago when I first learned about travel hacking. I started small, focusing on miles we could earn with the Alaska Airlines award program to get two of us to Europe. I soon expanded to the American and United award programs with a few more credit cards. By the end of this past year, we hit our goal of two pairs of round-trip international flights (France and Jamaica), all paid for with miles! And we’ve already earned enough miles again to get us two more pairs of international tickets for this year’s trips.
Travel hacking has a bit of a learning curve. While our credit scores have actually gone up since we’ve responsibly managed more and more credit, it’s only because I’ve learned the ropes. When to apply and when to cancel, creative ways to meet the minimum spend requirements, how to find the best sign-up bonuses, which points are most valuable – these are important things to know before you dive in.
Travel Hacking 101: Our #1 Recommended Resource
Thankfully, Chris Guillebeau over at The Art of Non-Conformity blog, created a comprehensive guide to travel hacking, which gave me all the essential info I needed to get started. I still use the excel sheet template he provided to track our credit card info. If you’re looking for a one-stop resource to be on your way to more travel for less money, then I highly recommend the Frequent Flyer Master guide. He also has a newer guide out, Upgrade Unlocked, which focuses on using travel hacking to access luxury travel you couldn’t otherwise afford (it also includes the basics of travel hacking). And for an even more engaging resource, Chris and his friend Stephanie put together an awesome 30 day video course on CreativeLive called Make Your Dream Trip A Reality. You can’t go wrong with any of these options.
Have you tried travel hacking? If not, what are your biggest concerns? If it doesn’t sound right for you, see our other budget travel recommendations on our Resources page.
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