When asked how to travel for free, I’ll be the first to raise my hands and say that it simply isn’t possible. Travel isn’t free, however it can come at a greatly reduced cost.
That said, there are certain aspects of “travel hacking” that come at no extra cost to you, translating into into completely free parts of travel. Notice I emphasized “parts” there; will you get your entire dream vacation to Hawaii paid off of this? No. But, you will have certain parts of that vacation free.
So, let’s take a look at some of the methods. It’s essential that these functions cover things you would normally do anyways.
Credit Card Sign Up Bonuses
Assuming you apply for a Barclaycard Arrival+ credit card and meet the minimum spending requirement on things you would have purchased anyways, you’ll earn 40,000 bonus miles, which, in it’s simplest form without any rebate, is worth $400 toward travel expenditures. If you have a $400 flight, then, that flight is completely free using this card. You didn’t spend anything extra to earn that $400 flight, since you were going to spend the minimum spending requirement on groceries – whether on groceries, clothing, car repairs, etc. In reality, this is actually a $440 bonus when you factor in your spend for the initial requirement. If there’s an annual fee on the card and it is free the first year, you may consider canceling it before the fee is due, too.
Shopping Portal Bonuses
Shopping through a shopping portal that earns a bonus at a certain merchant will earn you more than 1 point or mile per dollar spent. Assuming that point or mile can be converted into cash, you’ll earn money towards travel. The key here is to spend money through the shopping portal that you would have spent money anyways. Shopping for a new computer? No problem. But, instead of going to Best Buy to pick it up off of the shelf, buy it through a shopping portal to earn a bonus on the product you were going to buy anyways. You’re leaving money on the table if you don’t.
I prefer to earn my bonus points in a portal that earns miles and points that can be converted to cash, since there are many travel expenditures that simply can’t be covered by miles and points. After all, cash is king.
Mistakes and Bumps
If your flight is oversold, take a bump and earn a voucher. By being flexible by a few hours, you’re placed on a later flight, given meal vouchers, and usually, a pretty hefty voucher to be used later. That voucher covers all parts, including taxes and fees of your next ticket, if the cost of that ticket comes in at or below the value of the voucher.
If there’s a mistake, ask for a refund, whether it be at a hotel or airline. While I don’t make a practice of doing this on a regular basis or to hack the system, if something is genuinely wrong or something didn’t go as planned, and it’s the company’s fault, you’re probably due compensation, which can amount to some type of free travel. For example, I have two free nights at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas thanks to a mixup there on the part of the hotel. I’ll be able to check-in, avoid any resort fee, and enjoy two free nights “on the house.”
Share the Love
Spread the word about travel and the companies you value to your friends. For example, first time Uber users can earn a $20 free Uber ride just for being referred to by a friend. To make things better, that friend earns $20 too. Assuming you’ve got an Uber trip planned for under $20, which many are, you’ve got a completely free way to get across town. If you want to earn a free $20 ride on Uber, feel free to use my referral link here. You can find many companies willing to give you a credit towards their service, just for spreading the word. Your friends and family probably don’t know all of the tricks of the trade like you do, so simply by referring them to the services you use while you travel can reap big rewards. Then, they’ll be able to share the knowledge with other folks, too.
What other methods of “travel hacking” are free for you?
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