Top 10 Tips for Travel Hacking in 2024: Your Ultimate Guide for Cheaper Travel

My husband & I performed the ultimate travel hack 15 years ago when we bought into the Marriott Vacation Club program.

We’d bought one of these £97 weekend packages at a Marriott in Andalucia, provided we went to the talk sales pitch.

Little did we know we were about to be in exactly the right place at precisely the right time!

The lady who was pitching us was on her way out of the door of the company. In fact I’m pretty sure from memory we were her last clients on her last day of work. My husband is a fairly keen negotiator and we were far more interested in the associated ‘cheap deals’ website that came with the program, than owning a ‘slice’ of a holiday home.

For perhaps 4 hours or so, we pushed for the cheapest deal they had on the books and ended up buying a week in a hotel complex in Missouri, for a ridiculously low price!

Because it was a lock off, that turned neatly into two weeks and more importantly we got access to the deals site.

In the last 15 years we have both travelled and lived in, (yes I said lived in), the most beautiful Marriott hotels around the world for a fraction of the advertised prices.

Because we’ve been mobile, we’ve been able to take advantage of the most incredible deals and are looking forward to utilising it a lot more in the future.

I’ll talk more about this below with some great resources for you to find similar deals (even though Marriott has now moved to an expensive points system, there are still hacks to get the cheaper deals), but first let’s have a general chat about travel hacking and some of the cool tips and tricks to make travel cheaper!

A suitcase overflowing with souvenirs, a map with pins marking destinations, a passport filled with stamps, a laptop with travel booking sites open, and a stack of credit cards with travel rewards logos

Table of Contents

Understanding Travel Hacking

The term travel hacking is used interchangeably for both ‘hacks’ to make travelling easier and more comfortable, like taking a sleeping mask on long flights or using compression cubes, and, how to leverage various strategies to score discounted or free travel accommodation, such as flights and hotels.

This post is about the latter and the more you arm yourself with the right knowledge, the more significant your savings and your ability to travel more frequently or luxuriously.

Knowing how to optimize points and miles can lead to significant savings on airfare and accommodations. The process involves a combination of staying informed about the latest deals, using the right tools and resources, and understanding the fine print associated with travel rewards.

Beyond flights and hotels, travel hacking also extends to finding cost-effective transportation options and securing additional travel perks, all while ensuring your trips are safe and protected.

Basics of Travel Hacking

Here’s a quick overview of how to get started:

1. Sign up for airline and hotel loyalty programs

  • Airlines: Accumulate miles that can be redeemed for flights.
  • Hotels: Earn points for free nights and upgrades.

2. Credit Card Bonuses and Rewards

Use travel credit cards to your advantage.

  • Sign-up Bonuses: Some cards offer large bonuses after meeting initial spending requirements.
  • Reward Maximization: Earn multiple points per dollar/pound on travel-related purchases.

3. Error Fares and Flight Deals

Stay alert for pricing mistakes or special deals that can offer significant savings on flights.

4. Points and Miles Management

Keep track of your rewards to use them effectively before they expire. (This sounds easy, but is a full time job!)

Setting Travel Goals

Start by defining what you want from your travels. Are you dreaming of beachside resorts, or are bustling cities calling your name?

Knowing your travel goals will guide your hacking strategies towards the rewards that matter most to you;

  • Destination: Target loyalty programs and airlines that align with your desired locations.
  • Flexibility: Being flexible with travel dates can open up more opportunities for discounted travel.
  • Preferences: Decide on your balance between savings and comfort; whether that means direct flights, specific airlines, or hotel brands.

By clearly defining your travel goals, you will be able to focus your hacking tactics to achieve the most relevant and substantial benefits for your travels.

So with that being said, let’s dive into 10 Tips for Travel Hacking in 2024, plus my bonus section on leveraging vacation club ownership!

travel hacking tips infographic

1. Start With the Right Credit Card

Travel hacking via credit card rewards offers a powerful way to earn free flights, hotel stays, and more. To make the most of this strategy, it’s essential to choose the right cards, manage your credit score effectively, and maximize introductory offers.

The biggest challenge with this strategy is knowing which credit cards to choose, especially if you’re not from the US, like moi!

The US has the biggest selection of points based credit cards and most travel hacking advice is targeted at US citizens, however, I’m from the UK and my husband is Australian, so I’ll do my best to give you a global viewpoint!

Getting Started: Your First Steps into Credit Card Rewards

  1. Understand Your Spending Habits: Before diving in, take a look at your regular expenses. This insight will help you choose a card that rewards you for where you’re already spending money, be it groceries, dining, travel, or gas.
  2. Credit Health Check: Your credit score plays a pivotal role in determining your eligibility for the best travel credit cards. Ensure your score is in good shape, and if it’s not, consider ways to improve it before applying.
  3. Set Your Travel Goals: Think about your travel aspirations. Are you eyeing domestic trips, or international exploration? Your destination preferences might influence which rewards programs and cards will serve you best.

What to Look for in a Travel Credit Card

  • Sign-up Bonuses: Often the quickest way to rack up points or miles, these bonuses can be incredibly lucrative. Look for cards offering a bonus that aligns with your spending ability and travel goals.
  • Rewards Rate: Pay attention to how many points or miles you’ll earn per dollar/pound spent. Higher rewards rates can accelerate your journey towards free travel.
  • Annual Fees: Weigh the cost of any annual fees against the benefits and rewards you’ll receive. In many cases, the perks easily justify the fee, but this calculation depends on your personal usage and needs.
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: If you’re setting sights abroad, a card that waives these fees can save you a significant amount over time.
  • Perks and Protections: From travel insurance to airport lounge access, the right perks can enhance your travel experience and provide valuable assistance on the road.
  • Flexibility in Redemption: Cards that offer versatile redemption options, including a wide array of travel partners, can provide more value and flexibility for your travels.

Essentials to Consider:

  • Meeting Spend Requirements: Welcome bonuses often require you to spend a certain amount within the first few months. Ensure this aligns with your budget and avoid unnecessary spending just to meet these thresholds.
  • Timing: Apply for cards when your upcoming expenses naturally align with the spend requirements, like during home renovations, holiday shopping, or planning a big trip.
  • Offer Tracking: Bonuses fluctuate throughout the year. Keeping an eye on various offers ensures you apply when the bonus is most beneficial.
  • Rewards Structure: Opt for cards that offer the most points or miles for the types of purchases you make most frequently. Whether it’s dining, groceries, travel, or gas, maximizing returns on your everyday spending is key.
  • Travel Partners: Versatility is crucial. Cards affiliated with broad networks of airlines and hotels provide more flexibility, allowing you to redeem points across a range of travel partners.

Managing Your Credit Score

  • Payment History: Always pay your bills on time to maintain an excellent credit score.
  • Credit Utilization Ratio: Keep your credit utilization low; aim to use under 30% of your available credit limit across all cards.
  • Length of Credit History: Consider the impact of new cards on your average account age; a longer credit history is more favorable.

Maximizing Welcome Bonuses

  • Meeting Spend Requirements: Ensure you can meet the minimum spend for welcome bonuses without overspending.
  • Timing: Apply for new credit cards when you can naturally meet the spending requirements, such as before making a large purchase.
  • Offer Tracking: Keep track of various card offers to strike when the bonus is at its peak.

Some Rewards Credit Cards by Country

Here’s a list of some cards that offer sign up bonuses, points or miles.

NB: Please note I am not recommending these cards, simply listing some options. Always do your own due diligence when selecting a card. Please also note offers change regularly so it’s important to check all details before applying.

United States

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: Known for its flexibility in point redemption and valuable sign-up bonus.
  • Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card: Offers a straightforward cash rewards program with a competitive sign-up bonus and no annual fee, making it a great choice for those who prefer cash back.
  • Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Simple, straightforward earning structure and a solid sign-up bonus.

United Kingdom

  • British Airways American Express® Premium Plus Card: Great for Avios collectors, offering a substantial bonus and rewards on purchases.
  • Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Credit Card: Ideal for Virgin Atlantic flyers, with a good sign-up bonus and rewards rate.
  • American Express® Preferred Rewards Gold Card: Offers a welcome bonus and points on all spending, with extra points for travel bookings.

Australia

  • Qantas Premier Platinum Card: High earn rate on Qantas purchases and a strong sign-up bonus.
  • Virgin Australia Velocity High Flyer Card: Earn Velocity points on everyday spend with a solid sign-up offer.
  • American Express® Qantas Ultimate Card: High Qantas points earn rate and a generous welcome bonus, plus travel credits.

Other Countries

  • Canada: TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite Card*: Earn Aeroplan points on everyday purchases with a good welcome bonus.
  • Singapore: Citi PremierMiles Visa Card: Offers Citi Miles for every dollar spent, which can be converted to a variety of airline miles, along with a sign-up bonus.

Remember, the key to travel hacking is not just the accumulation of points but also understanding how to redeem them effectively. Each card has its own set of benefits and restrictions, so it’s crucial to pick the one that aligns best with your travel patterns and goals.

Here’s a useful video that gives an overview of how it all works. He prefaces that it’s for US only, but it’s actually a handy overview no matter what country you’re from.

2. Join & Maximize Airline Loyalty Programs

Airline loyalty programs can be your golden ticket to more affordable and enjoyable travel experiences. At their core, these programs reward you for your loyalty to an airline with points or miles, which you can then redeem for flights, upgrades, and other travel-related perks. Here’s a breakdown to help you get started:

What Are Airline Miles?

Think of airline miles as currency earned within an airline’s loyalty program. Just as you earn money by working, you earn miles by flying or through other activities linked to the airline, such as spending on a co-branded credit card. These miles can then be “spent” on booking flights, class upgrades, or even products and services depending on the airline’s specific program.

Understanding & Choosing the Right Airline Alliances

The world of air travel is interconnected through global alliances which are groups of airlines that work together to offer passengers a seamless travel experience, even when flying with different airlines.

The three major alliances are Star Alliance, SkyTeam, and Oneworld. By being a member of an airline’s loyalty program, your earned miles and status benefits can extend across all airlines in the same alliance. This means more opportunities to earn and redeem miles and access to a broader network of destinations.

  • Select Consistently: Commit to one alliance to accumulate points faster. By choosing to fly predominantly with airlines in one alliance, you accumulate miles across multiple carriers, which can increase your reward options. Look for the alliance whose airlines fly most often to your frequent destinations.
  • Credit Where It Counts: Make sure your flown miles are credited to your frequent flyer program. Not all fare classes earn the same mileage, so book tickets that favor mile accumulation.

Achieving and Utilizing Elite Status

As you accumulate miles, you can also achieve different levels of elite status within the loyalty program. Each tier comes with its own set of benefits, such as priority boarding, free checked bags, lounge access, and more. The higher your status, the more valuable the perks.

These benefits not only make your travel more comfortable but can also enhance the overall value you get from your miles.

  • Understand Tiers: Familiarize yourself with the tiers of elite status and the benefits each level provides. Perks can include free upgrades, lounge access, and increased points earning rates.
  • Strategic Mileage Runs: If you’re close to reaching a higher elite status, consider a mileage run – a short, inexpensive trip designed solely to garner enough miles to maintain or upgrade your status.

Maximizing Value

To truly maximize the value from airline loyalty programs, consider the following:

  • Fly with Alliance Partners: Stick to airlines within the same alliance to concentrate your mile earnings and status benefits. This strategic approach can accelerate your path to valuable rewards and elite status perks.
  • Understand Redemption Options: Familiarize yourself with how your preferred airline’s program allows you to spend miles. Some programs offer great value on international business or first-class redemptions, while others might have sweet spots for domestic flights.
  • Stay Informed: Airline programs can change, so keeping up-to-date with the latest program terms, conditions, and opportunities for earning and redeeming miles can help you make the most of your membership.

Here is a useful video, explaining airline programs and miles.

3. Optimize Points and Miles

Accumulating and leveraging points and miles can significantly lower travel expenses. This section provides targeted strategies to help you maximize your rewards through airline loyalty programs.

Understanding Points Systems

Different airlines have varying points systems, each with its unique value proposition. For example, American Airlines Advantage points may have different redemption values compared to Delta SkyMiles. To capitalize on these systems, track the conversion rates from points to miles and determine which airlines offer the most lucrative conversion rates for your travel habits.

  • Conversion Rates: Understand how many points equal a mile and the minimum threshold for redemption.
  • Partnerships: Look for airline partnerships that allow you to earn points on one airline and redeem on another, expanding your travel options.

Best Practices for Earning Miles

Maximizing your miles is foundational to travel hacking. Here are several ways to earn more miles effectively:

  1. Credit Cards: Sign up for credit cards affiliated with airlines to earn sign-up bonuses and additional miles for every dollar spent.
  2. Everyday Purchases: Link your debit or credit card with airline dining programs to earn miles for every meal.
  3. Special Promotions: Stay informed about promotions from airlines which often yield extra miles.

Focus on credit cards that offer high earning rates on categories you frequently spend in, such as groceries or gas.

Redeeming Rewards for Maximum Value

Redeeming miles for flights can offer more value compared to other rewards. To get the most from your miles:

  • Advance Planning: Book reward flights as far ahead as possible, as airlines typically release a limited number of seats for award bookings.
  • Off-Peak Travel: Redeem miles for travel during off-peak periods when airlines require fewer miles for flights.

By booking strategically, you ensure that you’re harnessing the full potential of your accumulated miles for either free flights or upgrades.

4. Use Shopping Portals and Dining Programs

Transforming everyday spending into travel rewards is not just limited to using credit cards; shopping portals and dining programs linked to airline loyalty schemes can significantly amplify your points balance.

Here’s how to make the most of these opportunities:

What Are Shopping Portals?

Shopping portals are online platforms that partner with hundreds of retailers to offer you additional points or miles for every dollar you spend. Instead of directly visiting a retailer’s website, you access the retailer through the airline’s shopping portal.

The process is simple: log in with your airline loyalty account, click through to the retailer’s site from the portal, and shop as you normally would. The extra points you earn will be automatically credited to your loyalty account.

Maximizing Points with Shopping Portals:

  • Compare Rates: Before making a purchase, compare the points-per-dollar offers across different airline shopping portals to ensure you’re getting the best deal.
  • Look for Special Promotions: Shopping portals often run promotions that provide bonus points for meeting certain spending thresholds or during specific periods.
  • Use a Rewards Credit Card: Pay with a rewards credit card to earn points both from the card and the shopping portal, effectively double-dipping on rewards.

Dining Programs: A Tasty Way to Earn More

Airline dining programs are another underutilized gem in the travel hacking world. By registering your credit or debit card with an airline’s dining program, you automatically earn extra points or miles every time you dine at participating restaurants, bars, and clubs. There’s no need to show a membership card or mention the program; just pay with your registered card, and the points will follow.

Tips for Earning Through Dining Programs:

  • Sign Up for Multiple Programs: If multiple programs appeal to you, consider registering different cards with different programs to diversify your earnings.
  • Stay Informed About Participating Locations: Keep an eye on the program’s directory of restaurants to discover new places or identify dining spots you already frequent that can earn you extra points.
  • Look Out for Bonuses: Many dining programs offer sign-up or first-dine bonuses, providing a substantial points boost right from the start.

By integrating shopping portals and dining programs into your routine, your everyday purchases, whether you’re updating your wardrobe or enjoying a meal out, can steadily fill your travel rewards kitty.

aadvantage shopping portal

5. Secure Travel Rewards and Perks

Maximizing the value of travel rewards and perks can significantly enhance your travel experience. Here’s some advice on obtaining airport lounge access and making the most of frequent flyer perks.

Gaining Access to Airport Lounges

To secure access to airport lounges, consider the following:

  • Credit Cards: Apply for credit cards that offer complimentary lounge access as a benefit. Many premium cards include memberships to lounge networks like Priority Pass or access to their exclusive lounges.
  • Frequent Flyer Programs: Attain elite status within airline frequent flyer programs. Elite tiers often grant free lounge access when flying with the airline or its partners.
  • One-Time Passes: Look for one-time lounge passes, which can be obtained via frequent flyer program rewards or as a perk with certain travel credit cards.

Navigating Frequent Flyer Perks

To make the most of frequent flyer perks and enjoy benefits like first-class seat upgrades, adhere to these strategic approaches:

  • Loyalty: Focus on building status with one airline’s loyalty program. This can result in higher chances of complimentary upgrades to a first-class flight.
  • Understand Benefits: Read the terms and conditions of your frequent flyer program to fully understand how to claim and utilize your perks.
  • Mileage Runs: If close to reaching the next status tier that offers significantly better perks, consider mileage runs—flights taken solely to accumulate enough miles to maintain or upgrade your frequent flyer status.

Remember, airlines continually change their rewards structures, so stay informed on the latest developments to get the most out of your travel rewards and perks.

6. Strategically Book for Lower Costs

Mastering the art of booking can lead to significant savings on travel. By understanding the best time to book flights and the tools at your disposal for securing economical stays, you can trim your travel expenses without compromising on the experience.

Advanced Booking Techniques

To secure the best rates, timing is everything. Airlines often have a sweet spot for booking tickets—typically 2-3 months before domestic travel and 5-6 months prior for international trips. Stay vigilant for airline fare sales and last-minute deals, particularly during off-peak seasons when prices are slashed.

  • Monitor fare prediction tools like Google Flights which offer insights on whether to book now or wait for a price drop.
  • Consider flexible date searches to find the cheapest travel days.
  • Set fare alerts on multiple travel platforms to receive notifications of price reductions.

Finding Cheap Flights

Cheap flights don’t require sacrificing quality or convenience if you know where to look. Use aggregator sites like Skyscanner and Kayak that compare prices across multiple airlines, providing a comprehensive view of the lowest available fares.

  • Check low-cost carriers for budget-friendly options, but be mindful of added fees.
  • Use incognito browsing mode when searching for flights to prevent dynamic pricing increases based on your search history. (I’m not convinced this makes much of a difference, but it’s worth a try!)

Scoring Affordable Accommodation

Minimize accommodation costs without compromising comfort by exploring various booking platforms. Airbnb and Booking.com can offer competitive rates for rooms, apartments, and even entire homes.

  • Airbnb: Ideal for both short and long stays, with options often cheaper than hotels. Look for superhost listings for reliable quality.
  • Booking.com: Offers a wide assortment of lodgings, from budget to luxury, often with free cancellation options.
  • Utilize map view to find accommodation in less expensive neighborhoods that are still accessible to your destinations.
  • Join loyalty programs or take advantage of credit card partnerships for additional discounts and perks.

Please note, many times if you go to a hotel you’ve seen on booking.com and negotiate with them on the spot, you may get a cheaper rate (depending on how busy it is at the time).

google flights showing all flights in area

7. Hotel Hacks and Accommodation Tips

Elevate your travel experiences by smartly utilizing hotel loyalty programs and exploring a range of accommodation options to suit your preferences and budget.

Getting the Most from Hotel Rewards

Earning and Using Hotel Points:

  • Consistency is Key: Stick to the same hotel brand to accumulate points more quickly. For example, frequent stays at Hilton properties boost your Hilton Honors points, while staying at Marriott hotels increases your Marriott Bonvoy points.
  • Leverage Credit Cards: Consider hotel-branded credit cards, like those offered by Hilton, which can accelerate your path to elite status and multiply your points on everyday purchases.
  • Promotional Bonuses: Keep an eye out for promotions within your loyalty program, such as Marriott Bonvoy’s bonus events, to fast-track your points accumulation.

Maximizing Loyalty Program Benefits:

Members of hotel loyalty programs enjoy a variety of perks, including:

  • Priority Service: Enjoy the convenience of early check-in and late checkout.
  • Room Upgrades: Qualify for complimentary upgrades to enhance your stay.
  • Exclusive Access: Gain entry to private lounges for a more luxurious experience.
  • Connectivity: Stay connected with complimentary Wi-Fi access.
  • Member Rates: Access special rates exclusive to loyalty program members.

Optimization Tips:

  • Direct Booking: Always book through the hotel’s official website or app to ensure you earn points and qualify for any available loyalty benefits.
  • Focus Your Efforts: While it’s good to have options, concentrating your stays with one or two brands can expedite your journey to elite status, unlocking more valuable perks.

Exploring Alternative Accommodation Options

Beyond traditional hotels, consider other types of lodgings for a potentially more unique and value-rich experience:

  • Diverse Choices with IHG One Rewards: IHG’s portfolio offers a wide range of accommodations from budget-friendly to luxury options, catering to various preferences and enabling you to earn points across different types of stays.
  • Boutique Inns and Vacation Rentals: For a more personalized touch, boutique inns offer charm and uniqueness, while vacation rentals can provide the comfort and convenience of home.

Making the Most of Alternatives:

  • Stay Informed: Subscribe to newsletters from your preferred accommodation providers to receive updates on special deals and last-minute offers.
  • Loyalty Benefits: Join loyalty programs for non-traditional accommodations, as many now offer rewarding points systems, echoing the benefits of traditional hotel loyalty programs.

Always read the fine print when booking flights, hotels, and rental cars to avoid hidden fees. Use credit cards with no foreign transaction fees to save money on purchases abroad.

By adopting these hotel hacks and considering a broader spectrum of accommodation options, you can significantly enhance your travel experience, making every stay more rewarding and tailored to your travel style.

booking.com home page

8. Minimize Travel Expenses

Smart travel hacking in 2024 means streamlining your budget and cutting down on extra costs, so your travels are both economical and enjoyable.

Avoiding Hidden Fees

Airlines: Look for baggage fees, seat selection charges, and meal costs.

  • Pack light to use carry-on luggage and avoid checked baggage fees.
  • Bring your own snacks to bypass paying for in-flight meals.

Hotels: Extra charges can include Wi-Fi, resort fees, and parking.

  • Confirm what’s included in your room rate before booking.

Car Rentals: Additional driver fees and insurance can add up.

  • Use your credit card’s rental insurance if it offers sufficient coverage.
  • Use a service like reducemyexcess.co.uk to reduce rental insurance costs significantly

Traveling on a Budget

Make your money stretch further by opting for affordable accommodation and strategic travel decisions.

Accommodation Choices: Hostels, vacation rentals, and budget hotels can provide affordable places to stay.

  • Hostels: Great way to meet other travelers and often include free breakfast.
  • Vacation Rentals: Can be cheaper than hotels when split with a group.

Transportation: Consider using public transport, ride-sharing, or walking.

  • Public Transit: Cost-effective and offers a local experience.
  • Ride-Sharing: Split costs with fellow travelers heading the same way.

Meals: Eating out at tourist spots can be expensive, so…

  • Local Markets: Purchase fresh ingredients for a fraction of the price.
  • Street Food: Often delicious and much cheaper than restaurants.

By focusing on these strategies, you can significantly trim down your travel expenses.

hostelworld home page

9. Explore Transportation Options

When travel hacking, understanding how to navigate transportation options can save you both time and money. Whether you decide to rent a car or use public transit, knowing how to find the best deals and travel efficiently will enhance your travel experience.

Car Rental Deals

Finding affordable car rental deals is pivotal for convenient and budget-friendly travel. First, join loyalty programs from prominent car rental companies to get access to members-only discounts. Next, look for coupon codes and promotions online. Sites like AutoSlash or DiscoverCars can track your rental reservations and notify you if a lower price becomes available.

Additionally, consider your credit card benefits. Some cards offer rental insurance and additional discounts when booking with affiliated partners. Here is how to get the most noteworthy deals:

  1. Compare prices using aggregator sites such as Kayak or Expedia.
  2. Book in advance to lock in lower rates.
  3. Avoid airport rentals if possible, as they often include higher fees.
  4. Opt for economy cars which are usually cheaper and save on gas.

Public Transportation Tips

Leveraging public transportation can be both cost-effective and immersive. To best utilize public transit:

  • Research your destination’s public transportation system ahead of time for a smoother experience.
  • Purchase tourist passes or cards that offer unlimited travel within a set period, often at a reduced rate.
  • Download relevant apps such as Citymapper or Google Maps for real-time transit schedules and route planning.
  • Ask locals for advice on the best routes and ticket options to avoid common tourist pitfalls.

Campervan & Cruise Relocations

Campervan and cruise relocations offer a unique and cost-effective way to travel, catering to those with flexible schedules and an adventurous spirit. These relocations occur when rental companies or cruise lines need to move vehicles or ships from one location to another and offer heavily discounted rates to travelers willing to make the trip within a specified timeframe.

How to Leverage Campervan and Cruise Relocations:

  • Stay Flexible: The key to capitalizing on these deals is flexibility in your travel dates and destinations. Relocation opportunities are often announced last minute and require quick action.
  • Plan Your Route: For campervan relocations, map out your journey considering the drop-off deadline and any must-see stops along the way. For cruises, check the ports of call and any inclusive activities.
  • Check What’s Included: Understand what’s covered in the relocation deal. Campervans may include a mileage allowance and basic amenities, while cruises might cover meals and onboard entertainment.
  • Sign Up for Alerts: Many companies offer notification services for relocation deals. Signing up can give you a head start on the best offers available.

For campervan relocations, a couple of popular companies known for offering such deals include:

  • Jucy Rentals: Known for their distinctive green and purple campervans, Jucy often has relocation deals in countries like the USA, Australia, and New Zealand.
  • Apollo Campervans: Apollo provides a wide range of campervans and motorhomes and frequently offers relocation specials in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the USA.

For cruise relocations, deals can be a bit harder to pinpoint as they’re often subject to specific scheduling needs, but you can keep an eye on:

  • Cruise Critic: While not a cruise line itself, Cruise Critic is a valuable resource for finding repositioning cruise deals across various lines.
  • RepositionCruises.com: This website specializes in listing repositioning cruise deals, which includes relocation cruises, from a variety of cruise lines.

It’s always a good idea to check these companies’ official websites or sign up for their newsletters to get the latest information on relocation deals.

By embracing these transportation strategies, you’ll be better positioned to maximize your travel efficiency and minimize expenses.

travel hacking - parked van

10. Use Travel Tools and Resources

Utilizing the right tools and resources can significantly enhance your trip planning and overall travel experience. Stay informed with the latest platforms designed to make your journeys more affordable and efficient.

Online Tools for Travel Hacking

  1. AwardWallet: Keeps track of your reward programs, including frequent flyer miles, hotel and credit card points. It notifies you before points expire and helps manage multiple accounts in one place.
  2. ExpertFlyer: Offers detailed information on flight availability, award and upgrade availability, and seat maps. Great for those looking to optimize their flight bookings and seat selections.
  3. Google Flights: An intuitive and powerful tool for finding the best flight options. Its flexible search capabilities allow you to compare prices across different airlines and dates easily.
  4. The Points Guy (TPG) App: Provides personalized recommendations and strategies to maximize your points and miles. It includes news, deals, and guides on travel rewards programs and credit cards.
  5. Cashback Monitor: A comparison tool for cashback rates, points, and miles earning rates across various shopping portals. Ideal for ensuring you get the best rewards on your online purchases.
  6. SeatGuru: Offers detailed airplane seat maps, reviews, and advice. It’s invaluable for choosing the best seats and knowing what to expect from your flight experience.
  7. Rome2Rio: Displays multiple transportation options between destinations, including flights, trains, buses, ferries, and driving routes. It’s great for planning complex itineraries and finding alternative travel methods.
  8. HotelTonight: Specializes in last-minute hotel deals, often at significant discounts. Perfect for spontaneous travel or filling gaps in your itinerary.
  9. Points.com: Allows you to manage, trade, and redeem your loyalty points and miles from various loyalty programs. It’s also useful for purchasing points to top off your account when you’re close to a redemption.
  10. Skyscanner: A comprehensive flight search engine that compares prices across airlines and online travel agencies. It also offers “everywhere” searches for those open to inspiration.
  11. Booking.com: Offers extensive listings for accommodations worldwide, from hotels to vacation rentals, with user reviews to help inform your choices.
  12. Viator.com: A TripAdvisor company providing a wide array of tours and activities. Great for booking unique local experiences and excursions.
  13. GetYourGuide.com: Similar to Viator, it offers a vast selection of tours and activities around the globe, often with skip-the-line options for major attractions.
  14. TripIt: Automatically creates a master travel itinerary from your travel confirmation emails, which you can access even offline. Great for keeping all your travel plans in one place.
  15. Google Trips (integrated into Google Maps): Helps organize your travel itinerary based on your Gmail travel confirmations, making it easy to navigate your plans and find things to do.
  16. BlaBlaCar: A unique long-distance carpooling service that connects drivers with empty seats to passengers going the same way. It’s especially popular in Europe and offers an affordable and social travel option.

Travel smarter by integrating these indispensable tools and apps into your travel hacking repertoire. They can lead to substantial savings and a stress-free travel experience.

awardwallet for travel hacking

Bonus! Becoming a Savvy Marriott Vacation Club Owner

As I said at the start of this post, undoubtedly our biggest travel hack to date was in becoming a Marriott Vacation Club owner at the start of our journey. But while the Marriott Vacation Club offers an array of luxurious destinations and the allure of owning a piece of paradise, the traditional route of buying points can be quite an investment.

However, for those in the know, there’s a more cost-effective way to tap into the world of vacation ownership involving purchasing weeks or lock-offs from current owners looking to sell.

The Insider’s Route to Vacation Ownership

This approach involves a bit of savvy and research but can lead to incredible deals that offer the same benefits as traditional ownership, without the hefty price tag. Here’s how to navigate this lesser-known path:

  • Research Online Marketplaces: Websites like RedWeek, Timeshare Users Group (TUG), and MyResortNetwork are platforms where current timeshare owners list their weeks or lock-off units for sale. These can often be found at a fraction of the cost compared to buying directly from the resort.
  • Understand What You’re Buying: When purchasing a timeshare resale, you’re buying the right to use a specific unit at a specific time each year, or in the case of a lock-off unit, potentially splitting it into two separate stays. Ensure you understand the terms, such as fixed vs. floating weeks and the usage rights.
  • Consider Transfer Fees and Annual Dues: While the initial purchase price might be a steal, be sure to account for any transfer fees and the annual maintenance dues you’ll be responsible for as an owner.
  • Negotiate Directly with Sellers: Much like our own experience, negotiation can lead to even better deals. Don’t be afraid to negotiate the price with sellers, especially if their listing has been active for a while.

Leveraging Your Ownership

Once you’ve secured your slice of vacation heaven, the real fun begins. Here’s how to make the most of your new Marriott Vacation Club ownership:

  • Explore Exchange Programs: If your purchase includes membership in exchange programs like Interval International, you have the flexibility to trade your week for time at other resorts worldwide, opening up a plethora of travel possibilities. (This is our secret sauce to cheaper travel at the most amazing hotels around the world!)
  • Stay Alert for Last-Minute Deals: As owners, you’ll have access to exclusive last-minute deals within the Marriott Vacation Club network, allowing for spontaneous getaways at a fraction of the cost.
  • Rent Out Unused Weeks: If you’re unable to use your week in a given year, consider renting it out to recoup your costs. Platforms that facilitate timeshare rentals can connect you with eager vacationers.

By exploring the resale market for Marriott Vacation Club weeks or lock-offs, you can unlock the door to affordable luxury travel. It’s a path less trodden but one that can lead to significant savings and unforgettable travel experiences, just as we’ve discovered over the last 15 years.

Ensuring Protection and Safety

A traveler packs a secure, padlocked suitcase, uses a digital wallet, and researches safe accommodations online

When embarking on your travel adventures, prioritizing your protection and safety is crucial. Here are steps you should take to safeguard your journey:

Travel Insurance: Always purchase travel insurance before departing. Make sure it covers trip cancelations, medical emergencies, and lost luggage. Carefully review the policy to ensure it matches your travel needs. Look for 24/7 emergency assistance as part of the package.

Health Precautions: Check for any vaccinations required for your destination. Keep a digital copy of your vaccination record and a small, personal first-aid kit.

Essential DocumentsKeep Them Safe
PassportUse a neck wallet or money belt.
VisaEmail yourselves copies.
ItineraryStore digital copies on your phone and cloud.

Emergency Contacts: Memorize the contact information for your country’s embassy or consulate. Store local emergency numbers in your phone.

Regular Check-Ins: Plan regular check-ins with someone back home. Share your itinerary and stay consistent with communication.

Money Management: Inform your bank of your travel plans to avoid fraud alerts on your account. Carry a backup credit card and a small amount of local currency.

Understand local laws and customs to avoid inadvertent offense or legal trouble. Respect local communities, and stay informed about the social and political climate of your destination. Prioritize your health and well-being, and remain vigilant about personal safety, especially in crowded or unfamiliar places. Your vigilance is the key to a secure and enjoyable travel experience.

Travel Hacking in 2024 – Summary

And there you have it, 10 top travel hacking strategies that can help you explore the globe without breaking the bank. Whether you’re leveraging credit card rewards, making the most of airline loyalty programs, or uncovering hidden hotel gems, each tip brings you one step closer to your next adventure.

It’s a lot of work to keep track of everything and to ensure you’re planning smartly and staying informed. But if you’re willing to invest the time to learn all the strategies, you could save yourself a LOT of money and travel in more comfort and style!

Now that you’re armed with these strategies, the world is yours to discover. Happy travels!

Travel Hacking in 2024: Frequently Asked Questions

In 2024, travel hacking continues to provide opportunities to save money and enhance your travel experiences. Below you’ll find answers to some of the most common questions that can help you navigate the realm of points, miles, and travel savings more effectively.

What are the best strategies for earning points and miles in 2024?

Earning points and miles in 2024 is highly efficient when you target credit card sign-up bonuses, utilize online shopping portals, and participate in dining rewards programs. Align your daily spending with credit cards that offer the highest rewards for categories like groceries, dining, and travel.

How can beginners start travel hacking effectively?

If you’re new to travel hacking, start by signing up for loyalty programs with airlines and hotels where you frequently travel. Acquire a travel rewards credit card with a low entry barrier and high earning potential to start accumulating points through your everyday purchases.

What are the top travel hacker apps and tools available this year?

For travel hacking in 2024, consider apps and tools like AwardWallet to track your points and miles, Skyscanner for comparing flight prices, and HotelTonight for last-minute hotel deals. These apps streamline the process of managing rewards and finding the best deals.

What are the most effective ways to find and book cheap flights?

To find and book cheap flights, be flexible with your travel dates and use fare comparison websites like Google Flights or Kayak. Set up fare alerts, book in advance when possible, and consider booking at the best times, typically mid-week and outside of peak hours.

How can travelers maximize rewards with travel hacking credit cards?

Maximize rewards by choosing credit cards that align with your travel habits, such as those offering generous miles for airline purchases or free hotel stays. Pay attention to spending categories that earn bonus points and use the card for all eligible transactions to boost your points balance.

What are the key tips for efficient packing and minimizing luggage fees?

Pack efficiently by using compression bags or packing cubes and wear your bulkiest items on the plane to save space. Avoid luggage fees by learning airline baggage policies, using a carry-on for short trips, and consider applying for a travel credit card that offers free checked bags as a benefit.


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