Frequently asked question:

What is Travel Hacking?

Travel hacking is a term that gets thrown around a lot on the internet. It get thrown around so much it can be confusing to get a clear sense of what travel hacking actually is. The term is pretty broad and can have different meanings depending on who you talk to. If talk to someone, they may use it as a blanket term for traveling as cheaply as possible. Other people say it's when you leverage credit cards to rack up a ton of points to travel for free. Below we will dive into what people actually mean when they say they are hacking travel.

At it's core, travel hacking  is about figuring out ways to make travel cheaper. Travel has a reputation of being incredibly expensive, but it doesn't always have to be. Using travel hacking tactics can drastically reduce the cost of travel, or even make it free! This makes it appealing for those of us trying to up our savings rate or pay down debt. Travel hacking can help people both still be able to travel without sacrificing their financial goals.

The two main ways that people travel hack is:

  • Earning tons of miles on credit card bonuses
  • Monitoring for cheap deals

There is no "right" way to travel hack. Some people apply for 20+ cards a year and earn millions of miles while others prefer to watch for deals. Most people do some combination of both. It comes down to your preference and the amount of travel you plan on doing. Having a plan of the travel you want to do can give you a clear path on what you need to "hack" to go on the trips you want.

Earning miles with credit card bonuses to travel hack

Earning miles by signing up for credit cards is often the most common usage of travel hacking. The number of blogs covering this topic have skyrocketed in recent years. Some of the most popular blogs are:

Earning miles with cards is a simple process. The basic process is as follows:

  • Find which card you want to apply for
  • Apply and get approved
  • Meet the minimum spend to get the bonus
  • Get the points

Travel mapWe wrote a guide on how  to get started with credit card bonuses that goes more in depth than these bullet points. If you want to get in depth with it, take a look at some of the blogs above to start your travel hacking journey.

Need a card to travel hack?

Check out the collection that we put together of the best cards for travel hacking

In this collection

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Chase Sapphire Reserve

American Express Platinum

American Express Platinum

SPG Preferred

Starwood Preferred Guest Card

Monitoring for cheap deals

If you don't want to apply for a bunch of cards, monitoring for cheap deals can still save you tons of money. You can save even more money if you have a bit of flexibility with your destination. I personally have gone on the following trips by watching deals: 

  • Minneapolis to Budapest for $453 a person
  • Chicago to Lisbon for $405
  • Chicago to Delhi for $700
  • Minneapolis to Las Vegas $175 (direct on Delta)

Most of these are nearly half of what the average price is and always save me hundreds every year. It's all from being proactive and watching for deals to come around.

If you are wondering how the heck to watch for deals, you don't have to. There are a ton of blogs out there that post deals from around the world. Do a search for flight deals from YOUR_CITY and I am sure you will come across a blog that monitors for you. A lot of the deals sell out within 12-24 hours so it pays to be fast. To stay on top of the deals, follow the deal blogs on Twitter to get deals as they happen.

If you have a specific trip in mind, Google Flights is a great place to check on the routes you want to fly. Their calendar view is a powerful way to check the next 6-12 months at one time. If there isn't a deal right now, I check back weekly to see if prices have changed. 

Google Flights Calendar

Travel hacking opened up opportunities to travel that I otherwise wouldn't have. You can find tons of success stories around the internet of people hacking their ways to amazing trips. Travel hacking empowers us to both travel and meet our financial goals. You no longer have to choose between either of them, you can have both.

Is there a travel tip or hack that we missed and should add to our FAQ? Let us know!

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