Greetings from Sa Pa, Vietnam, under the shadow of Mt Fansipan (I call it Mt Fancypants), the highest peak in Vietnam. We got here by overnight train from Hanoi, and before that, business/first class flights on United and EVA airlines. Our flights from Bozeman were priced at $5,500 each. Â However, we just cashed in some United milesÂ and saved $11K. This post will be a short introduction to travel hacking. Travel hacking is a means of experiencing the world on a limited budget.
I got Â The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World (Perigee Book.)Â byÂ Chris GuillebeauÂ for christmas a few years ago. I started following hisÂ blog and was introduced to the concept of travel hacking.
Travel doesn’t have to be expensive – start with a question to yourself: Where do you want to go? Simply by setting up an automatic savings plan and setting aside $3 per day, you can fly somewhere interesting once a year. Certainly if you set more money aside, you can go more places. But there is also another way to get to exotic locations: Frequent flyer miles
The basic premise of travel hacking centers around collecting and using frequent flyer miles. Â While you can earn miles from the flights you take, you can earn twice as many on the ground with credit cards, special offers, and banking promotions.
Most of the miles I accrued in the last couple of years involve strategically opening credit cards to take advantage of the bonus miles on offer for opening the card (often accompanied with a minimum spending amount).
The cards I use are:
Chase Sapphire Preferred – This is my go to card for almost all purchases while traveling and at home.
US Airways (to take advantage of the upcoming merger with American)
With some searching around, lots of times you can find special offers where you get up to 50,000 bonus miles for signing up. Some of the card have an annual fee after the first year, so you may want to cancel them. This goes without saying but I will say it anyway, if you carry a balance, the interest you pay will negate any value you have gained through accumulating miles, so set up automatic payments so you never miss. Pro tip: if you apply for multiple cards on the same day, the credit agencies will only ding your credit score one time. However, you may not want to do this as many of these cards require a certain minimum spending amount within the first few months.
Once you have the miles, you have to use them. Redemptions for domestic flights are usually 20-25K miles, and 60-80K miles for international awards. I opened the frontier card and immediately used the miles to take advantage of the great redemption to Alaska and Mexico, allowing me to finish my quest to go to all 50 state, redeeming miles for $1500 in flights to Anchorage.
Lots of times, it makes more sense to earn the miles on the US-based airlines and then redeem them around the world on much nicer airlines through the three main airline alliances:
The best Redemption values are international flights flying business or first class.Â You can get 4,6, or even 10 times more valuable tickets for the same miles you would spend flying domestically. The goal is to maximize the value of the flights you are redeeming miles for. If it is a $300 or less domestic flight, you are better off just buying the ticket.
The first thing you should all go do is sign up for a free mileage program from all the major US airlines and check to see how may miles you already have.
Future posts will discuss finding inexpensive accommodations, and other ways to travel inexpensively.
For loads more information I go to milevalue.com
So the question is, where do you want to go?