I’ve spoken up in the past about how I define travel hacking, and it got me thinking about the approaches other people take to saving money on travel. What I found surprised me: some people use miles and points for free travel, some use them with cash to make luxury travel more affordable, and some don’t use miles at all. This interview series was intentionally left open-ended to allow people to share what’s really on their minds. ~Scottrick
Fellow bloggers, Chris and JD of Do It For The Points, share their approach to travel with us today.
The old maxim that you heard over and over again if you ever took a class in economics is, “There’s No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.” In the end there is always a cost to almost any part of life, but that cost isn’t always a bad cost.
The same applies to this hobby…if you stay around long enough you will see tweets and titles that claim you can “fly for free” “travel to paradise in style, for free,” and all of the sudden you dream of that beach in with your plunge pool, or that trip to a continent, a country, a city you’ve never been to and you think…for FREE, even better!
Let’s just get this out of the way…you can write it over and over again, but there is no such thing a free travel. There is always a cost to this hobby, it can be a monetary cost, a time cost, a sanity cost or some similar investment that means the end result is no longer free.
But that doesn’t always mean it’s not worth that cost. The truth of this hobby is that we do things that make that aspirational trip even closer to our means. We don’t have to be that guy with millions of dollars to access the seats at the front of the plane. Normally we pay for around 75% of our travel, most of it is on cheap fares to places we want to visit. But we get miles out of it that fund later trips in the front of the plane and for us, that’s the best part! For some people in this hobby, they don’t even care about the front of the plane, they just care about getting to a place they’ve always wanted to go and earning miles can open that door.
This “hacking” to make the “trip of a lifetime” a regular occurrence is something that only people in our hobby will understand and your friends will most likely grow to love and understand themselves, or just tell you to be quiet after you’ve talked about the latest credit card sign up bonus or popular tourist spot.
Our strategy at Do It For the Points is to focus on our goal destination or trip. We pick places that interest us and we work backwards to earn the points for the trip. After picking the destination and time frame, we then figure out which airlines fly to that destination and which chains have hotels there. We also reach out to people in the frequent traveler community to see if they have recommendations on the trip, you can always get good information by asking for help and suggestions. Plus, it helps you meet more people in the community and learn from everyone! Our plans may deviate a little from where we started based on recommendations, but having the goal and working backwards to fill in the details is what works best for us.
From there, we focus on earning points and free nights with that particular airline/hotel chain through signing up for their credit cards or taking advantage of promotions that get us to our goal. No reason to sign-up for an American Airline credit card if American does not fly to your goal destination. By focusing earning points on particular airlines/hotels, one reduces your risk of holding onto a bunch of points and finding them useless toward future trips. Our motto…find a trip, do your research, earn and burn.
For example, our latest set of trips were born out of this idea. JD wanted to go somewhere for the holidays and settled on Asia. After settling on Tokyo he looked on what he wanted to try, in this case flights over on a Star Alliance set of carriers and oneworld carriers on the way back. For Chris he knew that he wanted to fly to the UK on United and back on Lufthansa. With both of our goals in mind we found the best strategy to get the points we needed, kept an eye on availability and burned the points as soon as we found it.
The key is to maintain your head, and not get in over your head. It’s something that that both of us have done before. Really sit down and figure out what aspects of this game are important to you. Are you someone that would much rather be at 30,000 ft. traveling across the country for the heck of it? Do you have a “dream” trip that you want to go on? Do you travel for business and get to keep your miles? These are all questions that you have to ask yourself as you formulate your own travel strategy. Now…what’s your next travel goal?
Interested in learning more about this “work backward” approach? Learn more from Chris and JD by reading Do It For The Points.