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The Best Guide to Travel Hacking for Beginners

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Travel hacking is something that I do to make the most of our vacation. I love to travel but I am not rich to be able to afford it. Learning how to travel hack takes time but it will be all worth it once you go for your dream trip without shelling out a cent.

With travel hacking, I was able to fly my husband and I to Paris, Amsterdam, Israel and Italy. And this is with only with a very minimal out of the pocket.

I know people who are pro travel hackers, who dedicate all their time in this “hobby” and  they get to travel every month and even a few times a month. Now, I am a wife and I have a full time job so I do not have the luxury of time to do travel hacking that often.

I can say I am just a small time travel hacker who chooses to travel at the right time. But I wanted to share my experience to those people, who are like me, who wants to travel for less or even for free but do not want to dedicate all their time in travel hacking. I wanted to share that it is possible to travel hack despite a busy life.

What is Travel Hacking?

Travel hacking is the process of using loyalty points to pay for airfare or hotel stays. Airlines and hotel chains have their own loyalty program in which customers are able to earn points by using them. Once customers earn enough points, they can redeem these points for free flights or free hotel stays.

Although travel hacking does have a bad sound to it, like cheating to be able to travel, it is actually legitimate.  It is just a skilled way to travel for cheap.

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But before you get into travel hacking, there are a few things to consider which can affect your success.

  • You should have a credit score of >700.
  • You should have a history of responsible credit use
  • You should not carry a balance on your credit card.
  • You should pay your bills on time.

How to Get Started with Travel Hacking

Set a Travel Goal

Having a goal set will help you stay organized. Think of a travel destination that you want to go to and from there work your plans.

I did not do this when I first started and I think I had wasted a lot of time. When you have a goal in mind, it will help you focus more and will achieve your goals sooner.

Register for Airline and Hotel Rewards

Research on what airlines fly to that travel destination that you picked and what hotels are there as well. Then start signing up for their loyalty programs.

Because I did have a goal in mind when I first started, i just started signing up for every loyalty program I ran into. Don’t do that! Start with 1-2 airlines and 1-2 hotels.

Sign up for Credit Cards

Now that you know which airline and hotel to use, it is time to choose the best credit card that will suit your needs.

Now, don’t go overboard though, do not apply for so many cards. For a beginner, it is best t start with 1-2 cards. When I was new to this, I started with this card and until now I still have it.

There are two types of credit cards to choose from, flexible credit card and the airline/hotel credit card. The flexible credit card earns points which can transfer to different airlines or hotels. This type of card is good for those who are just starting.

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The less flexible card will be the airline credit card or hotel credit card. These cards earn points which can only be used on a specific airline of hotel chain. These cards are good for those who already know what airline or hotel they will use.

Keep track of Loyalty Programs and Credit Cards

When you signed up for loyalty programs and credit cards, there are a lot of things you need to keep track of. I used Excel and Google doc to stay organized.

I track the date I opened the card, due date, minimum spend, the date when minimum spend should be met, bonus, credit limit and annual fees. Doing it this way will help avoid hefty fees.

Meet Spending Requirements

Most credit card offers bonus points when you meet a spending requirement within a certain period of time. Usually it can be $3000-$5000 in 3-4 months.

If you are like me, you will think that is a lot of money to spend. But with a little strategy, these amount are achievable.

In order to meet the minimum spend, put all your expenses in the card but make sure to pay off the balance each month. If your household expenses are $1000/mo then you will definitely meet your minimum spend in 3 months.

Earn Points for Everyday Spending

At this point, you will realize that using cash is a no-no when you are travel hacking. Every point counts so put all those cup of coffee expenses on your card.

Use your Points

Now the fun part. You accumulated enough points and now ready to use it. Check the airline and hotel you want and start booking. Make sure to book as soon as possible since award seats fill up fast.

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Keep in mind that in travel hacking, you need to be flexible with dates. If you have a specific dates in mind, then try to book in advance.

Tips for Success in Travel Hacking

Stay Organized

Keeping yourself organized when you are doing travel hacking will have a high impact on your success. It will help you avoid fees and will make your travel planning easier.

Stay Disciplined and Responsible

Having a lot of credit cards gives you a higher spending power. It will be tempting to spend those dollars because you know you can. However, falling into this trap will lead to the biggest disaster in your lifetime.

Check out How To Create a Monthly Budget to help you know how much you can really spend.

Staying disciplined on how much to spend and being responsible to pay off outstanding balance every month will help you succeed.

Stay Flexible

To be able to travel for free, there will also be trade-offs. The date you want to travel might not be available at the time you want to book it. So it is very important to be flexible when booking.

The Last Thing You Need To Know About Travel Hacking

The best way to start travel hacking is to start slow at first. It will be overwhelming early on but once you got the hang of it, then you can start signing up for more.

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