Travel hackers are the people constantly chasing miles, rewards points, and elite status. They are looking for every possible way to game the system for as much free travel as they can. Most travel hacking is about using miles and rewards to get free flights or hotels.
However, for me, travel hacking is an idea. It’s a philosophy that says “I am going to bring costs as close to zero as possible.” Since only the die-hards (like myself) really want to spend hours and hours putting together mileage routes that might get them 100 extra miles or read the fine print to find a loophole they can exploit, I’ve put together this guide for the casual traveler who still wants to travel cheap. Below are a number of little tips that can drastically reduce the prices of all aspects of your trip:
How to Hack Your Flight
Since flights are usually the most expensive part of any trip, I thought I’d deal with this subject first. Finding a cheap flight is easier said than done these days. Routes and capacity have been cut and oil prices have risen. The combination of all three has lead to higher fares that are only going up. Flexibility is key to finding cheap flights, as deals are sometimes around for only a few hours. A day can mean the difference of hundreds of dollars. But if you need flights on a certain date, then you need to work the system a bit.
Let’s look at an example. Say I am flying from New York City to London. This is a popular route, and is served by a lot of airlines. I picked the date October 17th with a return date of October 27th.
Step 1: Use a site like Kayak as your baseline. They search multiple websites at once so you can see prices across the board. Moreover, I also like how they let you search a few days before and after your selected date. In the US, I also like Travelocity, but there are tons of good aggregators around the world.
Kayak returned these results for flying from New York to London:
Step 2: Cross check with other, more global aggregators like Skyscanner, or Momondo to see what they come up with. These two are my favorite as they tend to search a wider range of booking sites as well as discount airline carriers. I never book a flight without checking these sites first. (Two other good ones areMobissimo and Vayama.)
Step 3: Find the lowest fare and head to that airline’s website to see if it is less. Sometimes airlines price tickets less on their own websites than they do on aggregators as a way to entice people to book directly. As we see above, the lowest fare is $592.19 USD on a low-cost airline called Mandarin Airlines (actually, when you click the link it sends you to Astraeus Airline) with Iceland Express next at $676 USD. I couldn’t find a booking form on Astraeus (they are a charter operation partially owned by Iceland Air) but checking on the Iceland Express website, we see the price is the same:
Step 4: Next, check the airline’s foreign website to see if the price is cheaper in another currency. (i.e. britishairways.co.uk instead of britishairways.com) Depending on your currency, you might be able to take advantage of the exchange rate and book in another currency while getting charged in your own currency, thereby saving money. On our example, this doesn’t work because we are going from the United States to England and the English Pound is worth more than the US dollar.However, if we were going the reverse way, this would work. I’ve used this method when flying to New Zealand since their currency is worth less than the US currency. Recently, a bunch of people used a loophole where they could buy Iceland Air points in Krona and transfer those to Alaskan Airways, then use those points and end up with a first class ticket to Hawaii for $300 USD!