¨Long-term, perpetual travel is the dream of many. But surprisingly, for such a popular desire, few people realize how accessible it is.¨
As detailed in my class on Travel Economics 101, the travel industry, by necessity, prices its products differently than most other industries. Two people pay vastly different sums for precisely the same service.
Not surprisingly, many consumers find the travel industry’s differential pricing unfair. The travel industry uses frequent flyer and other loyalty programs to address consumers’ negative perceptions and encourage customer loyalty. Frequent flyer and other loyalty programs enable participants to travel more often and access high-end luxury travel services at a lower price,
To even the playing field, some travelers spend hours finding little loopholes in the travel industry’s incredibly complicated loyalty program and pricing rules. The search for loopholes has spawned many websites and even some books. The process of finding and exploiting these loopholes has become known as ¨travel hacking¨.
What is Travel Hacking?
Travel hacking is the process of:
- Acquiring loyalty points from many different travel companies and
- Using these points to secure free or severely discounted travel.
There is nothing wrong with travel hacking. Loyalty programs are an easy way for companies to attract new customers (especially the coveted businesspeople) and keep them coming back repeatedly. Airlines weathered 9/11 and the 2008 recession primarily by selling points to credit card and other businesses. These businesses, in turn, used these points to encourage otherwise reluctant consumers to spend money on their products.
The most lucrative source of points is sign-up bonuses for airline and hotel-branded credit cards. Hackers often use these bonuses to gain hundreds of thousands of points without ever traveling.
Nomadic Matt’s book How to Travel Hack and Get Free Flights and Hotels is the best guide to travel hacking available.
It is not easy to be a travel hacker. As more and more people learn the hacks, the travel industry develops rules to close these loopholes. A never-ending battle between hackers and the travel industry has evolved.
I know several people who have become excellent hackers. I admire their dedication. However, I have not become an expert travel hacker. Until recently, becoming an expert hacker seemed like too much work. However, airlines have made it harder to get a lot of benefits just from the simple steps outlined above.
I also have found myself in a position where I will need to be a more active travel hacker to support my travel addiction.Therefore, I am now willing to put the time and effort into being a more expert travel hacker. (I will talk more about how I plan to be a more active travel hacker later in this class).
A Simple Way to Travel Hack
Even if you do not want to be actively involved in this battle, Fifty Plus Nomads should at least use some travel hacks. At a minimum, we should
- Join several loyalty programs;
- Sign-up and use airline and hotel-branded credit cards; and
- Take advantage of special offers to get loyalty points.
Just these simple steps, as you will save later, yielded a lot of results for me. They will work for you, as well.