Julia Menez is a travel hacking coach and founder of the travel hacking lifestyle website Geobreeze. Download a free travel hacking video course + hotel upgrade email template at geobreezetravel.com/2birdsboutique!
What is travel hacking?
Travel Hacking is the art of utilizing loyalty programs set by credit card companies, airlines, and hotels to get free travel. It is 100% legal and an increasingly popular hobby amongst travel enthusiasts. When done correctly, travel hacking can help you save thousands of dollars on travel each year, increase your credit score, and avoid interest payments on your credit cards!
How to Start Travel Hacking
Step 1: Plan Your Dream Trip(s)
Play with Pinterest
Put together vision boards of your dream trips. Where do you want to travel? Who do you want to go with? How long would you stay? When would you go? The more specific you can get, the easier it is to focus your travel hacking efforts to make your dream trip a reality for next to no cost!
Dream Up Non-Travel Dreams Too!
If you are having trouble coming up with a dream destination, start with brainstorming foods you would like to eat, experiences you want to try, pictures you would like to recreate, and apartments you would like to sleep in. You might be surprised how some daydreaming can lead you to refine your travel goals!
Step 2: Know Your Starting PointWhat is Your Credit Score?
Leverage Your Spending Patterns
Some credit cards give bonus points for spending in certain categories like groceries, gas, and restaurants. Use a service like Mint.com to get a picture of your spending patterns, and which categories you spend the most money on. You’ll be able to target credit cards that give you more points for your everyday expenses!
Step 3: Develop an Action Plan
Research Credit Card Loyalty Programs
Who flies from your home airport to your dream destination? What hotels are in the area? Research which card currencies are accepted at the airlines and hotels at your dream destination (examples: Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards) and how many points would you need.
Resources like this Transfer Partner Master Chart can help you decide which programs may be the best fit for your travel hacking strategy.
Plan Out Minimum Spending
Most cards require a minimum spend of a few thousand dollars in the first few months in order to get a sign-up bonus, which is the fastest way for you to earn a large bulk of points. Apply for cards right before planned large purchases such as kitchen remodeling, holiday shopping, or car down payments to easily meet the minimum spend without inflating your budget.
Hire a Travel Hacking Coach (Optional)
If you are feeling overwhelmed with all of the research, credit card terms, and rewards redemption rules, hiring a travel hacking coach service like Geobreeze can come in handy to provide a customized travel hacking plan. Travel hacking coaching services can provide you with a customized strategy that best fits your travel goals and personal spending patterns, so that you can travel to your dream destination for next to nothing!
Step 4: Take Action!
Increase Your Credit Score, If Necessary
Get Travel Hacking Cards
Apply for cards based on your research in Step 3. Once you receive your cards, be sure to set up automatic payments in full each month, to avoid ever paying interest (the interest on high rewards cards are notoriously high).
Optimize Your Spending Habits
Plan out which cards to use for each of your expenses to optimize earning points. Prioritize cards where you are working on a sign-up bonus, then use a tool like cardpointers.com to prioritize other cards.
Use a service like awardwallet.com to track how many points you have with each different account as you work towards your travel hacking goals. Additionally, set calendar reminders to use any additional card benefits such as redeeming free hotel nights.
Travel hacking can help you afford travel experiences that may have previously been out of reach, all while helping you to organize your personal finances, increasing your credit score, and avoiding ever paying interest on your credit cards. Interested in learning more? Check out the free travel hacking tips on Instagram at instagram.com/geobreezetravel and on the blog at geobreezetravel.com/blog!