¨Long-term, perpetual travel is the dream of many. But surprisingly, for such a popular desire, few people realize how accessible it is.¨
What is Travel Hacking?
As detailed in my posts 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,
Some travelers spend hours finding little loopholes in the travel industry’s incredibly complicated loyalty program and pricing rules to even the playing field. 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¨.
How Does Travel Hacking Work?
Travel hacking is the process of:
- Acquiring loyalty points from many different travel companies.
- 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 many benefits just from the simple steps outlined above.
I also have found myself in a position where I 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.
A Simple Way to Travel Hack
Even if you do not want to be actively involved in this battle, Fifty Plus Nomads should use travel hacks. At a minimum, we should
- Join several loyalty programs.
- Sign-up and use airline and hotel-branded credit cards.
- Take advantage of special offers to get loyalty points.
That said, I wish I had tried travel hacking earlier. I suspect that while I was traveling full time from 2011 to 2015, I would have been able to fly and stay in many hotels for next to free.
If you have the chance to travel frequently (I used to fly 25-40 times a year), I would highly recommend you consider seeking some professional help with Trevor Wright from Mile Method. While his services are not cheap, they are well worth it. In 2019 and 2020, he helped me earn around 250,000 miles and a dozen or so free hotel nights. (This, despite that I reduced my spending considerably and had several problems that kept me from maximizing my points during the Coronavirus Pandemic).
Just these simple steps, as you will save later, yielded a lot of results for me. They will work for you, as well.
Some Additional Air-Travel Related Posts
- Why Alliances are Essential to Travel Providers. Are they Good or Bad for Consumers?Travel industry alliances are essential to the business´s survival. However, alliances have both good and bad implications for consumers
- Extra Fees: What are Ancillary (Extra) Fees and Why Are They Increasingly Becoming A Travel Industry Lifeline?More and more the travel industry depends on the sale of other products to expand and maintain its profitability. Expect to be bombarded with hints to buy other things (ancillaries) on your next cruise, flight, etc.
- The Internet Has Changed the Face of the Travel Industry More than Any Other Major IndustryThe internet has changed the travel industry probably more than another industry. This article discusses how these changes affect the consumer.
- Travel Industry Cost Saving Techniques: The Good, the Bad, and the UglyThe travel industry has made several changes to save costs in recent times. Some like using more fuel-efficient planes do not affect consumers that much. Others like reducing staff have made the experience worse for consumers.
- Business Travelers Versus Leisure TravelersThe travel industry gets most of its clients from leisure travelers. However, it makes more money from business than leisure passengers. The airlines put up with us leisure travelers because they couldn’t survive without us. However, they don’t hide their preference for business travelers.
- Why Are There So Many Connecting Flights? A Discussion of Why Airlines Love the Hub-Spoke Model More than ConsumersUnbeknownst to most consumers, the cause of most of our airline-related complaints is the hub-spoke model. Unfortunately, however, the hub-spoke model is also essential to the airline industry’s financial viability.
- Airline Schedule Changes: Why Don’t Airlines Keep their Promises?Learn why airlines change their schedules after you buy your tickets and what you can do about it.
- How Many Taxes, Fees, and Other Charges Do Consumers Pay For Airfare, Hotels, and Other Travel Services?The amount and number of travel taxes, fees, and other charges added to your bill will probably surprise you. Many are hidden and like everything else, taxes keep going up.
- Airline Consolidation: What Are the Disadvantages and Advantages For the Consumer?The airlines have consolidated so fast in the USA and Canada that only 5 players dominate the market. Learn what this means for consumers.
- The 3 Reasons Travel Prices Are So Radically Different than Other Products: Perishability, Capital Costs, and Yield ManagementHave you ever wondered why travel products seem to be priced so crazily? Learn the three economic factors that contribute to the pricing of travel products: perishability, high capital costs, and yield management.
- Why Pack Light Advice Doesn’t Work for Me (and May Not Work for You Either)I have had more problems because I packed too light than too much. Packing light advice is mainly geared toward people who are going on a whirlwind trip through Europe independently. I usually travel for long periods and stay in only a few places often with great climate variations. I also hate washing my own clothes.
- Some Hard-Learned Packing Tips From My 5 Years Traveling Round the WorldWhile I do not always follow packing light tips, there are many other tips that I use all the time. This post outlines the tips that were most useful during my 5 years traveling around the world.
- 3 Simple Baggage Tips to Avoid Wasting Time, Money, and TroubleA series of simple steps to avoid problems with your bags such as making your bag stick out from the others on the carousel and finding the most durable bag.
- Get an Upgrade to Avoid Uncomfortable Air TravelI have frequently managed to score business class seats either as an upgrade or for a modest additional fee. Learn how I did it and how you may be able to follow in my footsteps.
- Airline Bumping: What is it REALLY All About? Why It is Often a Blessing?Airlines routinely sell more tickets on a plane than there are seats. They expect no-shows. Most of the time this causes no problems. If there is trouble, often they can find volunteers who will receive some compensation to take a later flight. Once in a rare while, airlines have to involuntarily bump someone. This explains your rights if this happens to you and why I am glad I have volunteered to be bumped a couple of times.
- Round the World Tickets 101: Are They Worth the Trouble or Not?Once in my life, I bought a round the world ticket. My experience was favorable but I think the number of times these tickets are useful for most travelers is fairly limited for the reasons outlined in this post.
- Flight Schedule Changes: Simple Tips to Keep Flight Changes from Destroying Your TripIn the last ten years, I have spent nearly half of my life traveling around the world. One of the few unexpected changes is the sheer number of times airlines have changed my itinerary significantly. Sometimes it has worked out to my advantage. Other times, not. This post tells you what you can do if this happens to you.
- Why Buying the Cheapest Airfare is Often a Big MistakeI am surprised how often I can get significant improvements in convenience and comfort when I don’t buy the cheapest ticket. Often, for example, I can fly in business class from the US to Cancun for only $20-40 above the cost of the cheapest ticket. Often for a few dollars, I can get much more convenient flights as well.
- Top Tip: Eliminate International Flight Connections StressProbably the worst type of flights involve having to make a connection in a foreign country. Here are some tips to make these connections as stress-free as possible.
- Are Budget and Traditional Airlines Really that Different? Why Occasionally You Should Avoid Budget AirlinesOften nowadays there doesn’t seem to be that much difference between budget and traditional airlines (legacy carriers). However, unless the difference in ticket prices between budget and traditional airline is above 15%, I would recommend choosing traditional airlines for the reasons outlined in this post.
- Finding the Cheapest Flights 101: A Simple GuideA synopsis of my experiences with finding the cheapest flights and using search engines. The article also covers many tips for finding the cheapest flights, some of which are not discussed that widely elsewhere.
- Airfare Bundle Tickets: Advantages and DisadvantagesI often buy tickets with a mid-price range of bundled services attached. I often think the few extra dollars are worth it. You may or may not choose to follow in my footsteps after reading this post.
- Travel Hacking: How to Exploit Frequent Flyer and Loyalty Programs for Your Own BenefitHere are dozens of tips to hack your way toward low-cost flights and hotel rooms using frequent flyer and other travel loyalty programs.
- Frequent Flyer Miles: A Lazy Man’s GuideThis is a synopsis of my use of frequent flyer miles during my round the world travels from 2011 to 2015. It should help you to see how the programs have changed in the 2010s and give you some ideas how you can design a frequent flyer strategy that works for you.
- Airport 101: Avoid Immigration, Customs, Airline Check-In, and Security ProblemsWithout a doubt, one of the most frustrating parts of living as a fifty-plus nomad is dealing with airports. In my five years traveling around the world, I encountered several issues I did not anticipate including finding the right terminal, not having proof of onward passage, and unexpected fees. This post helps you avoid some of my mistakes.
- Frequent Flyer Miles: How to Master the Art of Redeeming MilesOnce you earn frequent flyer miles, you then have to figure out how to redeem them efficiently, Here are some tips from my own experience and that of experts.
- Earning Frequent Flyer and Other Travel Loyalty Points Without Leaving HomeI used frequent flyer points to pay for 40% of all my flights during my five-year trip around the world. It was easier to do in 2011-2015 when I traveled; however, it is still a good way to help pay for your travels. Here s a guide to how you can earn miles without traveling by using credit cards and buying affiliated products.
- Getting to the Airport Trouble-Free: 6 Simple TipsGetting to and from the airport and airport parking will be easier if you follow the six simple tips in this post.