5 ways to start travel hacking

It’s been awhile since I talked about my goal to work on every continent before I’m 35, but this weekend the preparation already began as I dove headfirst into the world of travel hacking.

Hacking has recently been applied to almost everything to mean finding shortcuts to get what you want. It might be body hacking, lifestyle hacking or in my case, travel hacking.

The bottom-line is: I want to travel but don’t want to pay for flights. Is that so much to ask?

I always find when I arrive to a new place, I can live as economically as I need to, whether it’s a week straight of Greek salad in Crete, sleeping on a wood floor in Estonia, taking enough chocolate-laced croissants from the buffet at breakfast in France to last me all week or hitch-hiking a ride next to a chicken in Malawi.

But getting there. That is the expensive part.

Hacking my way

So, like all good hackers, I started inching my way towards a free ticket. Numerous others have gone before me on this journey and I have benefited greatly from their advice and sites. For example, the Travel Hacking Cartel, of which I am a proud affiliate, sends me two to three promotions every week that allows me to receive free miles for a variety of programs. Similarly, the less beautiful Flyertalk Forum is a huge discussion board with tips and tricks on finding free flights.

Originally I was hesitant to sign up for all these point programs because I thought they would never add up to anything and that I would be spammed until even Austin, MN wouldn’t take me in. (Home of Hormel…get it?) I also thought I couldn’t earn many miles without a credit card, which I didn’t want. However, after an hour, I was already over 5,000 miles and on my way to my free trip.

So how do you start?

  1. You will need accounts on numerous airlines/hotels. You can wait to sign-up for them until there is a deal, but you will want to start an account on Points.com. Here you can track how many miles/points you have in each program and even trade from one to another, so even though I received 1000 Frontier miles, they might still be worth something on an airline that will fly internationally.
  2. Next check a deal-tracking site like Travel Hacking Cartel or Flyertalk Forum once a week. A few minutes should be enough to find the deals worth going for.
  3. Third, create an alternative email account that will receive all your promotional emails. If you don’t want to be bothered by them, create something like airlineemails@gmail.com and use that when signing up. Just make sure if you need to click a link to confirm signup, you’ll know where to go.
  4. If you do have a credit card, make sure you are receiving miles for each purchase. If you are thinking of getting a credit card, check the deal tracking sites to see which is offering the best mileage bonuses. Look for at least 30,000 miles when setting up a card.
  5. Finally, set a goal. It’s no fun to sign up for promotions if you’re not sure why you’re doing it. Think of where you want to travel and how many miles you will need to get there. This makes every mile feel so much better.

I’m starting the count, working my way up for the next trip. Where will you be going to?

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Do you have other tips on earning free trips? Leave it in the comments so I can travel sooner!

Posted on August 16th, 2011 in Community