by Chris Guillebeau, September 29, 2010 11:59 AM
Welcome back to the week of unconventional ideas. Yesterday
we looked at higher education, but forget about that for now. Let's say you want to see the world, or at least more of it. You have three options:
- Spend a lot of money
- Complain about the high cost of travel — and stay home
- Find a way to travel wherever you want without spending a lot of money
I vote for number three, and that's what travel hacking is all about — how to head out in the world on a limited budget. Here are a few tips and tactics to get you started.
- If you're looking for lodging and hotel prices are high, check Hostels.com for a large database of guesthouses and smaller establishments. In addition to dorms, many of the properties offer private rooms with breakfast and internet access. If you're up for company, you can also stay for free thanks to Couchsurfing.com.
- As mentioned yesterday, Round-the-World tickets can be a great option for extended travel. The booking process takes some time to navigate, but if you travel extensively, it's well worth your time to study up. My tickets are usually booked through the OneWorld or Star Alliance airline families.
- Once you earn elite status with one airline, you can request a "status match" from several others to become a high-flyer on every major airline alliance. (Just be careful, because some airlines only allow one status match per lifetime.)
- If you're stumped with a travel dilemma, visit the forums at FlyerTalk.com. Some of the experts on these boards are even more experienced than me, and if you ask nicely, several will offer free advice on your itinerary or travel issue.
- Priceline.com can be a good source for discounted hotels (it's not usually worth it for plane tickets), but the company has an advantage on consumers by not disclosing the minimum successful bids. To negate this advantage, use Google to search for "Priceline winning hotel bids" to find several sites that list the hidden information. I've used this strategy to stay at the Brussels Marriott for $60 (usually $240), the Prague Sheraton for $45 (usually $195), and many other nice hotels all over the world.
- If transatlantic airfare is pricey, look for a repositioning cruise. These cruises take places twice a year as cruise lines move their ships from the Mediterranean to the U.S. (A smaller number also go from Alaska to East Asia, and from California to Florida via the Panama Canal.)
- Without a lot of effort, most people can easily earn at least 25,000 miles a year without changing any of their spending habits. That's enough for one free ticket — and for those who are up for it, you can spend more time on it and earn up to 100,000 miles without much difficulty.
- When redeeming Frequent Flyer miles, you can request awards on partner airlines, and the value is often better than on the domestic carrier. I've used partner awards to go to Mongolia (Korean Airlines, booked with Delta SkyMiles), Kuwait (Qatar Airways, booked with American Express points), and several others.
If these things don't work for you, you can also save $2 a day to go anywhere in less than two years (probably much sooner).
Happy travel hacking! I hope to see you from the road somewhere, but first, I'll see you again here tomorrow.