What is Travel Hacking? How Can I Do It?

January 29, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The term “hacking” has evolved from its use as a term that means breaking into a computer, and now means any shortcut or method of improving a function. The term “life hack” has been around for a few years, and there are entire websites devoted to finding life’s little shortcuts.

Needless to say, “travel hacking” is now also a field of pursuit, and there are any number of travel hacks you can do to make trips cheaper, easier, longer, and more comfortable.

In an October 2014 article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune travel section, Colleen Kelly discusses the art of travel hacking, and how she dabbled with it to earn free airfare and hotel nights.

Credit cards Français : Cartes de crédit Itali...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In this context, travel hacking is a way of being clever with credit cards in order to shave money off planned trips. Kelly researches trips well ahead of time, decides where to stay and how to travel, and then she and her husband apply for new credit cards that will allow them to travel more cheaply by reaping credit card rewards.

She advises that you apply for cards very purposefully because there are generally spending limits you need to meet in order to receive the benefits you’re seeking (for instance, you may need to spend at least $1,000 on each card to get your points). And you want to make sure those benefits apply to the trip you want to take.

For example, Kelly and her family of four were able to score hotel rooms in New York City for $40 a night with the help of International Hotel Group (IHG) Rewards Club cards.

You should be careful when applying for and canceling credit cards though, as this activity could negatively affect your credit score. You need some good credit to begin with, just to qualify for the credit card offers, but you could see a drop if you get, and cancel, too many cards in a short time.

Also be aware of the amount of work needed to reap the rewards. Be mindful of the time it takes to follow through with the tracking needed to make sure you hit the spending limit. It may just be cheaper and easier to pay the full price.

If you have serious travel goals and a less generous income, this type of hacking can be very much worth your while. But make sure you make an informed decision. Just because something is touted as a “hack” doesn’t mean it’s for everybody.

What are some of your travel hacks? Share them with us on our Facebook page or in the comments below.

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