Posted by : Ruby Escalona Sunday, January 18, 2015

Travel Hacking - loosely defined within the US as to travel very cheaply through the use of points and miles. So, you may be wondering how I get to travel to these destinations for not a lot of money.

You have to note that:
 1) I have a 9-5 job, just like most people in the world, and I make a substantial living off it. No, I'm not rich, but I try to spend my money wisely and pinch every penny (I am a couponer and a travel hacker)
2) I am currently based in the USA. While some of these tips may not directly affect the countries you live in, you can always try to find variations of it in your country. It may not be as generous as the ones we enjoy in the US, but a little bit goes a long way, nonetheless.
3) And no, this does not include sponsored trips. I did not reach out to any companies, nothing. Everything is mostly organized by me and my boyfriend, using points and miles.

Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Louisiana

And, back to the story:
So, when I went back home to Manila from Jacksonville, FL (I promised my mum I'll go back home at least once a year), one thing that stopped me was the airfare. Living in a not so hub airport in Florida can suck - it can drive airfares up by around $300+ (13,500 Philippine Pesos) just by flying from JAX to another airport hub. So, to make it simple, the retail price of a plane ticket JAX-MNL and vice versa is roughly around $1300-$1400, but I cut down my flight expenses to $56 & 80,000 United points round trip. Here's how:

1) Credit Card signup bonuses -  In the US, before they give you credit cards, you need to have a credit score. My boyfriend had a higher credit score than I did so he signed up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card (at the time there was a 40,000 bonus for a $3,000 spend in 3 months) and added me as an authorized user. That rocked up my credit score higher and we reached the spending requirement and got the 40,000 points. Yay! For those wondering how we reached the spending requirement, it was easy: rent payments. The apartment we live in accepts credit cards for rent payments and it's an easy $1275 + water & trash every month.

2) Mistake fares - did you know that the fares you see are manually inputted by people? Well, that or some serious IT screw up would happen that would drop a 0 in the original fare or upload a different number altogether in the published rate. Mistake fares are mistakes. Once you see one, book it!! You may earn frequent flyer miles for those trips flown too. While hotel mistake fares also happen, it does not happen as often as airlines. If it does & you also happen to go to that destination at the dates you need, then book it! If these companies cancel your tickets then at least you tried, right? Mostly they do, anyway.

3) Promo fares - offering low deals on flights. Some low cost carriers like Cebu pacific or AirAsia have crazy 0 base fares and you just pay for taxes and fees. Most of my solo trips to Asia 1-2 years ago was only $60 or less roundtrip on budget carriers. You can also

4) Sign up for loyalty programs - Every major hotel chain or airline has points (except for some budget carriers). When you do fly and pay money for it (even mistake fares), you can get miles which you can keep & use for other trips. Every little bit helps, right? Sometimes signing up itself gives you bonus points!

5) Credit card category bonuses - In the US, you can get as many as 5x the points for every $1 spent on certain rotating categories every month, maximum of $1500. This enables us to bulk up our reserve stash of transferable points or cash back (cash back is definitely useful. I use the Discover cash back that we earn for CVS gift cards, a store we go to a lot for deals. It may not be travel related but at least we save on household & grocery expense, and as I said, every little bit counts)

And that, is you I travel for free (well, mostly). If you have any questions, you can email me at the contact form on the side. You can also read more about where we are going this 2015 for cheap in this post.

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