You’ve heard of house hacking but what is travel hacking? This is not a new concept, its been around since the 1970’s, when the first frequent flyer loyalty program was created. The basic idea is to take advantage of a situation to make it more cost-effective. Especially to earn free flights, hotels, and rental cars.
Of course this is all legal!
However, it is not only about finding the cheapest ticket or hotel or how frequent travelers almost get paid to travel. To be honest, you might already be taking part of this already without realizing it!
The most popular way of travel hacking is using airline credit cards! This is sort of aligned with ‘credit card churning,’ where you keep signing up for credit cards to get the promotional sign-up bonuses and then when the promotional period is over, stop using it. It seems that credit card companies are smartening up and lowering the sign-up bonuses. I do not recommend this because if you are in the U.S then your credit score takes a hit every time you apply and close a card.
When applying for a credit card but you really have to decide if it is right for you. Especially when you are considering those with an annual fee. If you plan on traveling so much that benefits outweigh the annual fee then it would be alright. If you are not going to be traveling often or spending enough money to make the card essentially pay the annual fee, then paying an annual fee would put a damper on your plans.
If you’re looking for some other low-budget ways to travel-hack, especially for PhDs or those in Academia, then look no further!
- If you are already en route to another location and you have a layover, see if you have enough time to do some exploring. I usually have my long flights booked with a layover so I get to visit 2 places instead of just the final destination. For example: when I was traveling by train to Aarhus, Denmark, I booked my tickets to have some time in Copenhagen to explore a bit. I got to visit two cities in one fell swoop instead of traveling direct to Aarhus.
- Business travel – say you are based in the Americas and are headed to Europe for a conference or meeting. Your company is paying for a portion of the flight and hotel. You are only supposed to stay a few days, however you might be able to ‘extend’ your trip by booking a holiday directly after it. I’ve booked a holiday right after a conference so I can travel around a little more but the bulk of the trip was on company dime. Since I only had to pay for my holiday food and hotel. Essentially getting a free flight in the process. No credit cards needed
As you can see both of these are taking advantage of a situation, especially if you are already headed to a location. If you are able to pair these up with a free flight courtesy of an airline card then be my guest. For those who do not want to use a credit card or have sworn off credit cards these are two ways that you might be able to incorporate.