Do you think and act like a successful travel hacker?
It’s easy to look at an article written by a travel hacking superstar and marvel at a crazy round-the-world trip. You know, the person stopped in 10 countries and barely made a dent in their miles and points balances. The articles usually show fancy maps with arcs hopping from one place to the next. I admit it. When I look at those maps, my eyes widen with the possibilities, too.
But, thinking and acting like a successful travel hacker really boils down to 3 things. Underneath all those beautiful itineraries mapped out are the basics. Behind all the travel photos of mountain tops, beautiful beaches, and street food stalls, the successful travel hacker is employing the same 3 things anyone can do.
In this post, you won’t find complex itineraries or fancy map routings. Instead, you’ll see really basic award booking examples with the 3 things to help you think and act like a successful travel hacker.
How to Think and Act Like a Successful Travel Hacker
1. British Airways uses a distance-based award chart. The number of miles needed to redeem for an award flight is based on the number of miles you fly. In some cases, this is a not-so-good deal, and even more so when you factor in British Airway’s high fees and taxes.
It’s not all bad news, though! In fact, there are some fantastic British Airways sweet spots. For example, you can fly from Boston to Dublin for just 13k British Airways Avios each way because it falls within the 2,001-3,000 miles-flown award tier. Consider that United would charge 30k miles and American Airlines between 22.5k-30k!
How to Book:
Remember the importance of Airline Alliances and Airline Partners? British Airways has a non-alliance partnership with Aer Lingus. That means you can use BA Avios to book Aer Lingus flights. However, Aer Lingus doesn’t have a user-friendly website for searching flights and British Airways doesn’t show Aer Lingus flights. Argh!
United has a much more user-friendly flight search tool and also partners with Aer Lingus. Go to United’s website. Search for flights from Boston-Dublin. Look for nonstop flights operated by Aer Lingus. Once you have found the flights, write down all flight information. Call British Airways and feed the Aer Lingus flights to the agent to book.
Successful Travel Hacker Tip #1
13k Avios from Boston to Dublin is a steal, of course! A successful travel hacker pieces together awards and thinks flexibly.
What if you booked a one-way from Boston to Dublin just to get to Europe because that’s all you could find? From there, why not use Momondo to find a cheap flight or book an award flight to another city if Dublin wasn’t your planned destination? How does 13k Avios to Dublin + cheap (award) flight to Prague or Budapest sound?
Not in Boston or a northeastern city like New York, Hartford, or Philadelphia? Use the Southwest Companion Pass, take advantage of American Airlines short-haul awards, or find a cheap fare to “position” yourself in Boston.
Need to modify your dates or even book in a completely different month to find the award you need? Isn’t it worth it to be flexible and piece together award itineraries for a great deal to Europe?
2. An award ticket to Hawaii from the east coast can feel like looking for a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It’s even more so when you’re trying to get the best value from your miles.
Let’s use United as an example.
United tends to have decent award availability, but using United miles for United flights is not the best use of your miles for Hawaii award flights. You’ll want to use alliance partners instead. Singapore Airlines is a StarAlliance partner with United and charges less for those United flights than United does.
How to Book:
Search for award flights to Hawaii on United’s website. Make sure the flight(s) are operated/flown by United. Look for dates that need 22.5k United miles each way for an economy ticket and 40k each way for first class.
Note the flight dates and times. Then, go over to the Singapore Airlines website. Search for those same flights and proceed with your booking. Using Singapore Airlines, the exact same United flights will cost 17.5k and 30k KrisFlyer miles each way respectively.
Singapore is also a transfer partner with Chase, American Express, Citibank, and Marriott, making Singapore KrisFlyer miles easy to earn. Remember, don’t transfer any points until you’ve found the space you need.
Successful Travel Hacker Tip #2
A successful travel hacker learns and makes the most of airline partnerships. Hawaii award flights are trickier than some other awards to find and book for maximum value, but they’re not impossible either.
Be willing to learn all your options and take stock of which miles and points you have and need to book this award. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all there is to learn, start with the Chase transfer partners and learn a little about each partner, one-at-a-time. Combine this with being flexible and considering one-ways as mentioned above and you increase your chances of success.
3. Delta ditched their award charts. American Airlines devalued their award chart. United is moving to a dynamic award pricing model. The point is, when changes happen, a successful travel hacker learns how to manage them.
First, as you start with miles and points, you’re likely to have rewards with 1 or 2 programs, like Chase Ultimate Rewards or Southwest Rapid Reward points. These first points earnings should be directly in line with your most immediate travel goals.
As you continue, you’ll want to diversify your miles and points portfolio. This leaves you less exposed when changes happen.
But perhaps most importantly, you want to use those miles and points! Don’t hoard or let them hang around in your account. You don’t want them to devalue while you’re waiting for that perfect moment or because you’re not sure the award you see is the best to book.
Successful Travel Hacker Tip #3
You don’t become a successful travel hacker by accident. Travel hacking takes some work and effort. You have to learn how to start and then continue to learn. Award chart changes happen. You need to understand the changes, know how to reduce the negative impact on your miles and points balances, and make gains from new benefits.
- What are your questions about your award travel bookings? Are you piecing together your plans, being flexible, and doing your research?
- Pin the call out pin for this post from above. Visit my Pinterest travel hacking board.
- Let’s discuss! Visit the Facebook Group to participate in this week’s conversation and polls.
Do you think and act like a successful travel hacker?
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