Travel hacking has become a common buzzword and a trend in the travel industry, but what is it really? If you have read at least a little bit on the subject you probably know it is mainly about earning flyer miles. It can however be much more than that, such as leveraging currency, use of discounts or the way you are arranging your accommodation. In this article, I will mainly cover the basics of airfare comparison and earning frequent flyer miles as a beginner.
Price Comparison and Airfare Search Engines
Today I wouldn’t really consider this a hack, as I assume that this is how most people find their flights nowadays. I recommend that you search for your flight on ITA Matrix, a site recently acquired by Google, which is where pretty much where every other airfare search engine gets their information (if you’re in the US, Google Flights might be a better option).
This is where every flight should start. You can’t book on the the ITA Matrix site, but that is where sites like Kayak, Skyscanner, Momondo and Hipmunk get in the picture. Now you just got to find a site which matches the price you found, if you can’t find it your local travel agent could help you out.
Check the Discount Airlines
Not all discount airlines have their tickets on the airfare search engines mentioned above so you should look up the airlines servicing the area or route you’re traveling. In Europe, RyanAir was the pioneer followed by easyJet. AirAsia is also a big player in, you guessed it, Asia. However the concept came from Southwest Airlines in the US. Today a wave of discount airlines have emerged and there are plenty to choose from. To mention all of these would take forever, luckily Wikipedia has a pretty updated list worth visiting.
Earn Frequent Flyer Miles or Points
Getting to know the ins and outs of frequent flyer miles is a big step but it basically comes down to earning a lot of miles through your flying as well as other ways to gain miles. So if you’re not signed up for a frequent flyer program, I recommend that you start looking for one now. Almost every commercial airline in the world has a program like this in one way or another.
What you then need to look for is a way to gain miles without flying. There are two main travel hacker methods for this, either credit card churning or sticking to a card which also earns you miles, or both. Credit card churning involves finding different credit cards with sign-up bonuses such as airline miles, then use the card enough to earn the miles and cancel it within the first year to avoid fees. If this is not for you, you could just stick to a credit card which co-operates with your preferred airline, in many cases the airline itself issues credit cards.
If you are getting really serious there is also further options worth exploring. Some choose to buy flyer miles at lower prices which are then used to pay for your trip. This has however been criticized as being mainly for those who travel business or first class. Mileage runs are another thing starting to become common and there are many ways to do it but it is basically about adjusting routes or flying for the sake of earning points. Not to mention all the benefits you can gain from moving up in the frequent flyer classes.
If you are an avid traveler and you are able to fly a lot, it might be worth looking into the subject further. Many travelers are today using these methods to be able to get further for less. It is of course very important that you are responsible with credit cards and you pay your bills as soon as possible if you decide to go down the lane of credit cards.
Did we miss something or do you have your own tips and tricks to share? Let us know in the comment section below.