15 Sep “Travel Hacking” with the Alaska Airlines Award Program
One of our goals for our first year after Peace Corps was to take two international trips using frequent flyer miles, and I am pleased to announce that we succeeded!
In September, we took a month-long voyage to France and Switzerland (with a stop-over in Boston on the way home). And in December, we returned to our Peace Corps host country of Jamaica for a three-week visit. We also visited Hawaii twice that year, at a big discount.
I don’t mention all of these great trips to show off, but rather to show you that it is possible.
How We Booked Two Cheap International Flights
We are not rich. At the time, we were living off a modest Peace Corps readjustment stipend plus a little online work from our new business, and we saved a lot of money by living simply and not paying rent (a mix of house-sitting and sharing space with family). Because our work is predominantly online, we continue to work part-time while we travel.
We are not experts. I found out about travel hacking in 2014, thanks to Chris Guillebeau over at The Art of Non-Conformity. His blog, and especially his Frequent Flyer Master guide, helped me realize that a whole world of travel was open to us. I found out that some people are earning a million frequent flyer miles a year, jetting around to dozens of international destinations on a regular basis. Others earn enough to take their whole family on annual vacations. Since this was new to me, I wanted to take it slow and start with the two big trips. I have since been absorbed in every online “travel hacking” resource I can get my hands on!
Now, I want to help others learn this amazing skill. You don’t have to be an expert to do it. But you do need to know a few things first- more on that below.
We are not irresponsible. I’ve done my research. I was very hesitant at first about signing up for a bunch of credit cards to get the bonuses but I’ve since come to understand that there is a methodical, responsible way to go about it that doesn’t damage your credit score. And it’s completely legal. Credit card companies and airlines promote their cards, knowing that people will sign up purely for the bonuses, because they’re hoping that a) it will encourage the customer’s loyalty and b) they can make money off of late fees, interest, etc. If you’re diligent about paying off your monthly balance and keeping track of your cards, the only down side to travel hacking is a little extra time and effort.
I originally focused my research on the Alaska Airlines program because it has so many great advantages, especially for those of us in the Pacific Northwest. For Jedd and I, who travel at least once a year to Hawaii to visit family, the Alaska Airlines Signature VISA pays for itself with that one trip. Since we also have family living in several of the other destinations where Alaska flies (San Diego, Chicago, New Orleans), it’s in our best interest to rack up miles with Alaska Air.
Believe it or not, Alaska Air actually has one of the highest valued award programs in the industry. This is because of they partner with other airlines like American, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, AirFrance, AeroMexico, and more- so you can use the miles you earn with Alaska to book flights around the world. Secondly, the Alaska award program is one of the most flexible in terms of being able to book multi-stop itineraries or get creative with stop-overs without using up additional miles. Finally, with the Alaska Signature VISA, you get an annual companion ticket for $118. That means you can fly somewhere like Hawaii with a friend or family-member; the first person pays the full fare and the companion’s ticket costs only $118.
There’s a lot more about the Alaska program to share, including some lesser known tips and tricks for maximizing your frequent flyer miles, that just won’t fit into one blog post. Instead, I’ve been working on a document that lays it all out there.
Free Guide to “Travel Hacking” with Alaska Airlines
The guide, while pretty much complete, is still a draft because I want to continue refining it and adding to it based on readers’ feedback. My goal is that it will help average people, just like me, better realize their dreams of travel.
I may not always offer this for free so be sure to sign up for your free copy now. I just ask that you return the favor by:
- Spreading the word about this resource on your social networks
- Providing some constructive feedback via e-mail so I can continue to fine tune the guide and make it more useful and clear for future readers
Access the Alaska Air Guide
The button above will direct you to our e-newsletter sign up form and you’ll be able to download the guide upon confirmation of your subscription. If you’re not interested in getting further e-communications from us (we send out a series of useful tools and tricks for cheaper, more meaningful travel), simply unsubscribe at any time.
Take It One Step Further
My guide is very specific to accumulating miles in the Alaska Air award program for people who want to start simple. For those who are interested in earning and using miles in other award programs, or people who want a more general-yet-thorough overview of travel hacking, I personally got started with Frequent Flyer Master by Chris Guillebeau at the Art of Non-Conformity. This is a comprehensive Travel Hacking 101 guide and though it comes with a cost of $49, I can personally attest to its value.
Chris also has a 30 day video course out now, co-taught with Stephanie Zito, called Make Your Dream Trip A Reality. I’ve watched it through and can say that it is comprehensive and probably an even better way to get started with travel hacking! The course will help you:
- Master the system of Frequent Flier miles and hotel points
- Set up a personal points-earning strategy – even if you don’t fly
- Upgrade your dream vacation experience at no cost to you
I would definitely recommend checking out Make Your Dream Trip A Reality on CreativeLive. You can preview one of the 26-minute lessons for free.
(Disclosure: We will get a commission, at no additional cost to you, if you make a purchase by using either of our links above. We only recommend things we can stand behind.)
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