Hello friends and welcome to my new series, Around the World for Free, where I will be detailing and going in-depth about how to travel on a budget or even for free!
“Around the World for Free” will be a multi-part series that will be posted weekly, so make sure you tune in and check out the new posts when you can!
In this post of “Around the World for Free”, I will be talking about what travel hacking is, why you should do it, what are the available methods out there, and examples on how they can bring you around the world for free.
With that, let’s get started!
What is Travel Hacking?
Very simply, the essence of travel hacking is to travel for free or cheaply.
The most typical way of travel hacking is to collect frequent flier miles and points and the awesome thing about this is that you don’t even have to step on a plane or stay at a hotel to get them. There are some other ways like finding great deals on flights, doing some alternate travel through your employer’s travel policy, and more.
Why You Should Travel Hack
Imagine yourself on a sunny beach in Hawaii, basking in the sun and drinking a cold beer. Now, imagine not having to pay a single dime for it because you got it for free.
That’s awesome, right?
If you travel hack, you can get to experience that same feeling of going wherever you want for free!
For example, over the 20 years that I’ve been on this planet, I’ve already visited quite a few places! And it’s mainly thanks to travel hacking!
I’ve been to France, Italy, United Kingdoms, Ireland, Netherlands, China, Hong Kong, United States, Spain, Japan, Korea, and many more.
By traveling to these places, I’ve met many awesome people and have tried many different and weird cuisines (live octopus, anyone?) that I wouldn’t have been able to try if I had stayed in the United States.
Furthermore, I’ve did this all for free or at a reduced price by catching super awesome deals and through the large amount of credit card miles and points that I collect!
By now, I hope I’ve convinced you to consider travel hacking, if so, continuing reading on and let’s start getting into the methods you can use to travel hack. If not, continue reading on anyways.
The Methods of Travel Hacking
Alternative Travel is how I usually fly around the world for free the most and is limited to people who travel for work often.
If your work requires you to travel to a client site, then you might also be able to do some alternate travel. Check with your company’s travel policy to see if you can do it.
The way alternate travel works is instead of flying home for the weekend, you can fly to an alternate destination if the ticket costs around the same or less (at least according to my travel policy).
For example, a typical work schedule for me is that I have to be present at the client site from Monday Afternoon to Thursday Evening, so I usually fly into work on a Sunday Night or Monday Morning and fly back home Thursday Night or Friday Morning.
With Alternate Travel, I can choose to fly somewhere else and spend the weekend there instead of at home. I’ve done this many times and have been able to see many cool spots or meet up with friends.
The most recent example was when I flew into Salt Lake City, Utah to meet up with my friends. I had used the Alternate Travel method to fly myself in and I had used Credit Card points and Miles to fly my friend in. If you haven’t checked out the post yet, I recommend checking it out!
Flight Deals are the things everyone talks about.
I’m sure you heard of someone saying “I just scored a great deal to Japan for only $500 round trip!”. Have you ever wondered how they got the deal? Did they use some kind of secret hidden method?
To answer that, I’m going to say “no”.
The majority of flight deals are usually manual errors because they were inputted by a worker incorrectly. There is no best “time” of the week or random trick like resetting your cookies to score an awesome flight fare.
Because these deals are manual errors, they would usually sell out fast or be fixed in a matter of minutes to errors.
For example, there was a flight error I found from San Francisco, CA to Rome, Italy for $200 RT. Had I not purchased the ticket straight away, I would have had to pay an additional $800+ because the fare quickly “surged” back up to $1,000+.
With Flight Deals, the best way is to constantly be on the look out for cheap flights. Subscribe to Twitter accounts that do fare alerts like @TheFlightDeals or @FareDealAlert and start tailoring/curating a list of places you would want to go to.
Credit Card Sign-Up Bonuses
Credit Card Sign-Up Bonuses are my favorite travel hacking method as you can earn frequent flier miles and points without even sitting on a flight or staying at a hotel.
These days, we can see these bonuses are almost everywhere in our life. I’m sure you’ve probably received a letter in the mail offering you 50,000 bonus miles for Delta Airlines or any other airline out there.
Well, these are the Credit Card Sign-Up Bonuses that I’m talking about!
By applying to those credit cards and meeting their minimum spend (usually around $0 – $5000), you will get frequent flier miles and points in return.
For example, in the last few months, the most popular card to get was the Chase Sapphire Reserve as you can get 100,000 Chase Ultimate Reward (UR) Points after spending $4,000 and paying an annual fee of $450.
The cash value a single Chase UR point is about 1.5 cents a point (thanks to The Points Guy’s point valuation chart), which would be equivalent to $1,500.
You could then redeem your newly found points as cash back for 1 cent per point or use it for travel through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards Portal for 1.5 cents per point. Alternatively, you can transfer the points to any of Chase’s partners and redeem it for rewards there.
Manufactured Spending is the process of purchasing a cash equivalent with the credit card and then pay back the credit card with the cash equivalents.
In essence, it’s a cyclical cycle where you “manufacture”/generate spend to meet sign-up bonuses or just to earn more miles and points.
For example, using the Chase Sapphire Reserve that I mentioned above, we would need to spend $4,000 to meet the minimum spend in order to earn 100,000 miles.
With manufactured spending, we don’t have to do that. We can purchase $4,000 in cash equivalents (gift cards, money orders, etc) and then use them to pay off the credit card. This means that the total amount of money we spent are only the fees needed for purchasing the cash equivalents, which usually come out to about $3.95 for every $500 on a gift card or $0.70 for every $1,000 on a money order.
Overall, there are four travel hacking methods that I briefly talked about in this post: Alternate Travel, Flight Deals, Credit Card Sign-Up Bonuses, and Manufactured Spending. I will be going into more detail with each individual method in future posts.
What do you think I should cover about in travel hacking? Are you looking forward to any specific topics? What kind of methods do you use to travel hack?
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Here is the table of contents for the “Around the World for Free” series:
- Part 1: Introduction to Travel Hacking
- Part 2: Alternate Travel and How to Use it to Your Advantage
- Part 3: Flight Deals and How to Obtain Them
- Part 4: Credit Card Sign Up Bonuses
- Part 5: Manufactured Spending
- Part X: More to come!