A lot of people ask how I do all this travelling, how I afford it and how I make time for it.. Well in all honesty, I can’t afford most of it but thank god for travel hacking. Travel hacking is simple, you have to do some researching sometimes but it can save you a lot of money on travel. I don’t have a regular Monday-Friday 9am-5pm job so that also makes it easier for me, but even if you do you can still make use of these tips when you have any time off and want to travel!
Weekday Travel- First of all, travelling during the week is typically cheaper than travelling over a weekend, especially around holidays. If you are only able to travel over a weekend I have found if you extend by just a day on either side, Thursday-Monday or even Thursday-Tuesday it could save you $100’s on plane tickets, but then you must also take into account extra hotel and food costs. If travelling with a group of people it won’t be too much extra to just add on those extra days.
Couchsurfing, AirBnB, & Hostels- If you are really on a budget, travelling solo or in a small group, then couchsurfing or staying at hostels is an awesome way to travel! Couchsurfing is much more personal but is typically free, you stay at someone’s house and they provide a room or a couch for you free of charge. I’m much more of an independent traveler so I like to stay at hostels as they are cheap but you still get to meet a lot of people! I was really nervous the first time I stayed at a hostel in Europe by myself but it wasn’t scary at all, I ended up making some really good friends! If hostels or couchsurfing isn’t for you or isn’t available where you would like to go then you should also check into places on Airbnb before opting to go for an expensive hotel. There are different options you can choose for renting on Airbnb, you can rent a room or even someone’s entire house for a short period of time. I have done both and found that to be a much better option than staying at a hotel because you get all of the amenities of being at home while on the road! This can also make your food budget considerably less because you have access to a kitchen and are able to cook your own food.
Frequent Flyer Programs- Frequent flyer programs are the golden egg of travel hacking. I have been part of United’s Frequent Flyer Program for 13 years and have gotten more free flights than any other program as I typically fly with United. I also like their program the best as it is the most flexible as far as travel goes and is super easy to book on their website. If you book in advance you can find one-way tickets for as little as 12,500 miles around the continental US and overseas flights to Europe for as little as 30,000 miles. The super crazy and awesome part about it: you don’t even have to fly to accumulate miles!! The secret: signing up for the airline’s credit cards. You can get anywhere from 15,000 miles to 60,000 miles with the airlines credit cards and that’s multiple free flights right there! You usually have to be a member of the frequent flyer program first then sign up for their credit card. Right now I have United & Alaska’s credit cards, with United I received 60,000 miles and Alaska I received 15,000. Another plus to having the credit card is that you get double miles when you book your ticket with your card and first bag checked free (except on Alaska). Acquiring their credit card is not the only way to increase your mileage account, you can register your cards through the dining website and earn miles when you dine at certain restaurants, you can become a member of a wine club, you can take surveys, shop through their online shopping website. The possibilities are endless and most of the time free!
**Updates 2018** My favorite card at the moment is the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. Although it does have a $450 annual fee you automatically get $300 refunded as soon as you book any travel, as well as FREE Global Entry, and the priority pass which gets you and usually a guest as well free into 400+ airport lounges worldwide. There are many more benefits but these are my favorite and 100% worth it if you ask me! And can’t beat the points system!!
Hotel & Car Rental Reward Programs- I don’t usually stay at hotels or rent cars but whenever you do the best thing you can do is sign up for all the reward programs! You can get free nights stays, free days for your car rentals, special discounts, upgrades, and if you link the reward program to your frequent flyer program you can also earn miles with your stays or rentals.
Budget travel websites- Before I fly I always use my skyscanner app to compare prices of airlines, travel dates, and destinations. If you don’t have a smartphone, compare multiple sites before booking. There are many sites that you can compare flights with: Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz, Fly.com, Kayak, Priceline. MAKE SURE TO SIGNUP/LOGIN BEFORE BOOKING! You can also earn rewards by booking through these third party sites which can be used towards coupons for travel or free travel.
I’m nowhere near an expert at travel hacking yet but these tips can help out those that are starting and on a tight budget like me!