Around the World for Free – Part 1: Introduction to Travel Hacking

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.

A picture I took of the Shinkyo Bridge in Nikko, Japan.

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

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!

A picture of us exploring Park City, Utah.

Flight Deals

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+.

A Picture I took From a Bridge in Florence.

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

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.

Recap

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?

The Louvre in Paris, France. It was very majestic up front.

Connect with me on Social Media!

If you liked this post, feel free to share it with your friends or connect with me on social media and give me a shout out! It really helps me continue to produce more and better content for you guys!

Stay Tuned

Here is the table of contents for the “Around the World for Free” series:

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15 thoughts on “Around the World for Free – Part 1: Introduction to Travel Hacking

  • March 13, 2017 at 2:12 pm
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    Hi SP — I can’t wait to see the rest of this series. My lone travel hacking story aside from credit card points is way back in college (around 1996 I think) I traveled to Switzerland from NYC for $100 as an air courier. Basically a delivery company would give you a steep discount so that you could escort cargo by plane on short notice. Sometimes you wouldn’t know where you’re going ahead of time, and sometimes you wouldn’t even see the cargo — it would be excess baggage and you’d fly with carry on only. Alas, this has not been allowed since 9/11.

    Reply
    • March 13, 2017 at 10:15 pm
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      Thanks for the comment, Rich!

      It’s awesome that you were able to travel for so cheap on an air courier. Too bad we can’t do that any more because of 9/11. It would have been such a great way to travel cheaply!

      Reply
  • March 13, 2017 at 9:50 pm
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    I like the tips you have here. For a 18 year dying to travel, you have any further advice for how to start out traveling?

    Reply
    • March 13, 2017 at 10:13 pm
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      Hey Juan, thanks for the comment and that’s a great question, but it’s also kind of vague at the same time.

      Think to yourself and answer the following questions:
      1. Are you looking to travel sooner or later?
      2. Are you okay with opening multiple credit cards?
      3. How is your credit?
      4. Do you have a job that would allow you to travel around and does it have an alternate travel policy?
      5. Do you have some money and just want to find cheap deals to travel to places and not deal with miles and points?

      Depending on how you answer, the situation can change, but it would help me tailor a more detailed answer for you.

      But in general, for people who just want to travel as soon as possible, I would say the best way to do it is by finding what deals are out there and being open/flexible to where you can go.

      The steps would be:
      1. Follow Twitter accounts, like TheFlightDeal, for special deals that start from your home airport.
      2. When a deal is posted, if you like it, book it.*

      * = As long as you are flexible with where you want to go, this will always be cheap. For example, if a flight from your home airport to Japan is $700, but a flight to Hong Kong is $400, it might be better to do the Hong Kong one and then take another flight from Hong Kong to Japan for $200.

      P.S: The best deals usually come when you don’t need a round-trip and a specific location in mind. I will post more about this in Part 3 of the series as well.

      Reply
      • March 17, 2017 at 10:31 pm
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        Sorry for the late reply and I appreciate yours.
        1) I’m looking to travel later. After getting settled in college I’d like to travel.
        2) I have never opened up a credit card so I’ll do my research on that before I open one.
        3) ^^
        4) I have a small part time job I work on the weekends while still in high school. A travel policy wouldn’t pertain to me here.
        5) I’ll learn about miles and points now to get started as I hear that they become very useful in the long run.

        I’ll continue following your series as you have some excellent tips. Thanks for your reply and the info you’ve already given.

        Reply
        • March 20, 2017 at 5:09 am
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          No worries, Juan!

          Since you’re still in college, you still got a lot of time to save up some money and maybe open up some credit cards for some easy points and miles.

          For now, I recommend getting started with learning how to manage your money, then moving onto your credit, and then dabble into some churning to get some easy points and miles.

          As you keep on going, you’ll be able to set yourself up for financial success and still be able to be a world traveler!

          Reply
  • March 13, 2017 at 10:21 pm
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    Thanks for these great tips! We plan to visit Belgium once we pay off our student loans in early 2018. Woop woop!

    Reply
    • March 20, 2017 at 5:07 am
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      That’s awesome!

      Hopefully you’ll get to travel around the entirety of Europe then as well, it’s a beautiful place!

      Reply
  • March 14, 2017 at 11:58 am
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    A few months after I got married, I had to travel to London for work. My wife always wanted to go there, so all I had to do was pay for her flight ticket and some transportation. She would tour during the day and we would hang our in Piccadilly Circus in the evenings and went sightseeing to Parliament, Tower Bridge and other places over the weekend. It worked out fantastically!

    Reply
    • March 16, 2017 at 2:42 pm
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      Thanks for the comment, SMM!

      It’s great that you only had to pay for your wife when travelling to London! It’s an awesome perk of work travel!

      Reply
  • March 16, 2017 at 8:45 am
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    We recently started travel hacking using signup bonuses. Its amazing how quickly the bonus points add up. In your opinion, do you think there is a limit to how many cards a person should open in a certain time frame? And are you familiar with the 5/24 rule that I heard Chase is implementing?

    Look forward to reading the rest of the series.

    Reply
    • March 16, 2017 at 2:47 pm
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      Thanks for the comment, Stafford!

      Yes, points add up so quickly, especially when there’s so many ways to generate points!

      I would say the best limit would be 1-3 cards within 3 months. There are people who go harder. I believe I had 5 cards approved in one month before.

      Yeah, Chase’s 5/24 rule is a pain, it’s now recommended to apply for Chase’s cards first before applying to other cards. I have a post on this coming up, so look forward to that as some of your questions will also be answered there.

      Reply
  • March 16, 2017 at 10:37 am
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    What an awesome idea for a series! I started travel hacking after taking the free TravelMiles101 email course. It’s helped me a ton – I literally cannot afford flights/hotel necessary for travel at all, so without travel hacking I wouldn’t ever be going anywhere. I started doing it a little over a year ago, and in that time I’ve gotten a free anniversary stay at a Rocky Mountain lodge, a trip to FinCon, and most recently a trip to Seattle. I’m also planning on using it to go to FinCon this year, and to a family reunion in North Carolina.

    I also didn’t know about the flight deals Twitter accounts – very valuable info, thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • March 16, 2017 at 2:48 pm
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      Nice redemptions! I’m also going to FinCon for free (hotels paid for by points and flight is covered by work), only had to pay for the ticket though.

      I’ll have a post out on how to set up the feed for Twitter as well, so look forward to that as that may help you uncover more flight deals!

      Reply
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