Travel Hacking pt 1: What is Travel Hacking?

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Traveling can be costly or even seem impossible, especially when you’re digging out of debt. Jessie and I both dreamed of traveling once we were out from under the burden of our debt. We talked about it often during our debt free journey. The places we’d go. The things we’d do. We always refer to it as “stampin the passport”.

$10 massages in Thailand, multiple country travel in Europe, whitewater rafting gorgeous rivers all over the US. It only felt like a dream since we were working furiously to slash expenses, and exterminate debt like termites eating a hole in our bank accounts.

Well, the day has come that we’ve become debt free, so it’s time to travel and live it up….Right?

Well, kinda. What we didn’t plan for were the seriously frugal habits matched with big goals of hitting financial independence we developed along the way. Traveling costs money. BIG MONEY in some cases. Yes we’re out of debt, but we’re not wealthy….yet. I don’t want to wait until I’m 50 to travel. I WANT IT NOW!!! That’s the consumer-minded way, right? Well how the heck can we have this now? (A “Rich Dad Poor Dad” technique)

The What

Travel hacking is using travel credit cards that offer some sort of travel rewards for using their cards. That’s the condensed version. A lot of travel cards offer a bonus such as “spend $3,000 in the first 3 months of account opening and get a bonus of 50,000 points.”

HEYYYOOO. Now you’re talking! I’ll explain the math later, but that equals roughly $750 in travel money. Am I telling you that you can get $795 (including the points from the $3,000 spent) in travel money just for using a credit card to pay for your every day expenses? That’s exactly right, and it’s really not hard or overly time consuming. Keep reading if you want to see what this looks like.

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The How

We were researching how we could travel free/as cheaply as possible, when we came across members of the FI community talking about “travel hacking”. As I’m reading and listening to what these people in the FIRE community are talking about, I’m thinking travel hacking, huh? Great… that’s just what we need…some complicated 30-step process to saving a few hundred dollars on a $2,000 trip. Yea, that’s cool and all, but I still need to come up with $1,700. BUT, these financial bloggers aren’t talking about saving a few hundred dollars on a $2,000 trip though, they’re talking saving $1,900 on a $2,000.

You got my attention. I’ll “drink the kool-aid” if I can take that same trip for 95% off.

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This AMAZING hack only works if you’re good with credit cards and paying the balance in full each month. If you find yourself carrying a balance each month, the interest will blow this idea into itty bitty pieces, and turn that $2,000 trip into a $7,000 trip really quickly. DON’T MAKE THAT MISTAKE. Get your credit card habits in control before trying this at home.

There are some great articles written that explain what travel hacking is in great detail. The boys over at ChooseFI do a great job in Their travel Rewards Series. The Mad Fientist has so great articles and tools available on his site too.

My goal here is not to inundate you with information regarding the details. The objective here is to show you that this is possible for anyone that can muster up an hour a month for the management of the credit cards and bill paying.

So if you’re interested in traveling the world for pennies on the dollar, keep reading this series. We’ve put together great information on how to do this including links to some articles and tools used by some of the best pioneers in the travel hacking space.

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