Part I: Credit Cards
Part II: Points and Miles
Part III: Aspirations, Earn and Burn
So far, we've covered earning all of these awesome miles and points, but now we need to cover the fun part - spending them!
One of the most awesome parts of travel hacking is the aspirational travel you can achieve. Have you ever taken one of those long international flights in an economy class middle seat directly in front of a kicking, screaming three year old? Have you considered how much better that flight would be in a first class lie-flat bed with bottomless champagne? Have you ever considered paying tens of thousands of dollars to upgrade?
My guess is that you answered “yes” to the first two questions and a resounding “no” to the third question. First class does cost an incredible amount more (in some cases, up to $20,000 for one international ticket), but once you start travel hacking and earning miles and points, you could be traveling in style - totally free!
Here are a few of my aspirational travel goals:
Fly first class on Emirates Airlines
Did you know they have a shower? On the plane? While you’re flying? Enough said.
I priced out a sample fare on December 1, 2014:
Example flight: SFO > Dubai, First Class
Cost (in dollars): $23,327.90
Cost (in miles): 90,000
Granted, I think this fare on December 1 is a bit higher than other fares that you could find on Emirates, but can you imagine spending $23,000 on a one way ticket? That's just insane! In this case, signing up for about two credit cards with 40-50,000 mile bonuses will get you $23,000 worth of flight. THAT is what we do this for!
Fly first class on Singapore Airlines in Singapore Suites
Singapore Suites are sliding door cabins with full beds. Amazing.
Again, I priced out a sample fare on December 1, 2014:
Example flight: SFO > Singapore, First/Suites Class
Cost (in dollars): $7,847.50
Cost (in miles): Not as cut and dry as Emirates, but from what I can tell on their mileage chart: 107,500 miles
In this case, the mileage cost is a bit more, but you're still getting a pretty killer deal. In both of these cases, you would probably be best off to use partner airline miles to book these flights. In the case of Emirates, you can use AlaskaAir miles to book award travel on Emirates. For Singapore Airlines, you would use United miles.
Earn and Burn
The most difficult thing for me when earning miles and points is actually spending them. There's nothing more sad than seeing a mileage balance of 100,000 + be reduced to nothing. But in reality, this is why we earn these miles, so it's important to use them!
One of the biggest things to keep in mind in the miles and points world is that things are constantly changing. In the past year alone, all major US airlines significantly devalued their miles and made sometimes devastating changes to their redemption values and award charts. This can happen at any time and it should be expected. As a result, miles are really a depreciating asset - there's no benefit to hoarding them, so do keep that in mind when earning and considering some of your aspirational travel goals.
Favorite Travel Blogs
These three introductory posts have really only scratched the surface of what travel hacking really is. While there are tons of blogs out there that cover travel hacking in remarkable depth, some of my favorites to get you started are:
One Mile at a Time
The Points Guy
Million Mile Secrets
Just a twenty-something with a full-time job and a full-time obsession with traveling. It's best to LiveTraveled.