Creative Ways to Hack Your Travel

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For the past five months or so, I have been following a pretty well-known travel blogger who goes by the name of Nomadic Matt. Matt’s blog focuses on providing information to travelers on how to travel the world without spending their life savings. Through his blog and his book, How to Travel the World on $50 a Day, I have learned some pretty creative tips for seeing the world, without selling my left arm. Today, I would like to share what I have experienced for myself thus far. I will cover some basics about the credit card I used to gain points (commonly referred to as miles) through a promotion and how I have personally “hacked” my travel in regards to flying for dirt-cheap.

I will be planning a trip in April to see one of my favorite bands CHVRCHES (yes, it’s spelled with a ‘v’) play at the Ogden Theatre in Denver, Colorado. So for this example, I will be using actual travel dates, prices, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® points, et cetera.

 1. How I earned 50,000 points in less than 3 months.

When I originally signed up for this credit card back in October, Southwest (I also signed up with British Airways) was (and still is, at this current moment) offering 50,000 points as part of a promotion for new cardmembers. There are, of course, a few stipulations to be able to receive this credit card and reward points. One must have good credit, be a new cardmember, and spend $2,000 in the first three months upon opening the credit card account.

 Now, I know what you’re thinking. “$2,000?! That’s a lot of money!” You’re right. It is. But there are easy ways to reach that milestone without going into debt. I was able to reach $2,000 about one month before the deadline. I paid my rent, utilities, gas, and food all on my Southwest credit card. As soon as I charged any payment to that card, I transferred the amount from my main checking account to a secondary account so that I would not lose track of my spending. When the bill was due, I simply paid my credit card statement with my secondary checking account. I did not incur any added debt because I was able to maintain the funds needed to pay off the credit card via the aforementioned secondary account.

 2. Hacked travel equals a happy wallet.

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The picture above shows an example of what a normal flyer would pay to fly from Dallas Love Field to Denver, Colorado on Thursday, April 24th, returning Saturday, April 26th, booking three months in advance – $158 – and that’s using the cheapest option possible, the “Wanna Get Away” airfare. The “Wanna Get Away” option is actually not a bad deal. It is your guaranteed cheapest option when flying with Southwest. To make sure you get a good seat, you have the option to check-in for your flight early via their mobile application or online.

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The picture above shows an example of what a Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® member pays total for their flight using points earned. In this example here, I will be using 7,144 points, which is amazing. There are still government fees associated with all airfare, but as you can see, I’ll only be paying $5.00 for this flight.

The key to affordable travel can be summed up in a three simple points.

1. Take advantage of rewards programs.

There are so many rewards programs out there such as Southwest, British Airways, American Airlines, and many more. Do your research on these programs, their partnerships, and find out which one works best for you and your travel needs.

2. Book early & strategically.

Booking early should be common knowledge. The further out you can plan your travel and book it, the cheaper your flight will be. There's also rumor that airlines release cheapest flight deals on Wednesday mornings. It sure doesn't hurt to check then - could save you a dollar or two.

3. Research, research, research.

If you're not using a rewards program, do your research! There are many travel booking websites that say they will guarantee the cheapest flight, but from what I have found (and also extensive research on the behalf of many travel bloggers) is that more than half the time, booking through the airline’s official website can be a more affordable option.

I earned 100,000 rewards miles (Avios and points) in less than 3 months. So can you.

What rewards program do you use? Has it been effective for you? Share in the comments below!

Photo from: flightonabudget.com