Don’t you wish your boss was as cool as mine? Technically, if your job includes traveling, you could take free trips too.
I’ve been interested in travel hacking for a number of years now, though I really haven’t done much to “hack” my accounts. All of my points have been earned by flying. Sure I may occasionally pay out of my own pocket to “double or triple” my rewards, but that’s a rare exception. For the most part, all of my points were accrued via paid work trips over the course of my career.
My friends and girlfriend have often enjoyed the fruits of my labor.
This year my girlfriend has a companion pass through Southwest airlines, meaning any trip I take, she can join me on it. The cost, four months in west Texas last year (I flew exclusively Southwest and paid an extra $20 each way to upgrade to Business Select, traveling back home every 2 weeks – approximately 8 round-trip flights). We’ve not taken as much advantage of it as I’d like, but three trips for free for both of us over the course of this year equates to well over $2500 in free vacations.
Several years ago I took a year long assignment in California as a Construction Manager for my firm. This was one of my best decisions, not just for the traveling rewards, but for the experience that I gleaned while directing work and interacting directly with the client. My reward for spending so much time on a plane and in a hotel? I earned a half-million Hilton Honors points and 60,000 miles on US Airways. This was good enough to get me two weeks worth of high-end hotels across Europe and a free upgrade to first-class on my flight back to the US from France!
There’s a lot to be said for being a loyal customer. If I hadn’t planned out my flights and hotels and made sure that I stayed / flew only with certain providers, then my rewards accounts wouldn’t look like this:
As you can see, loyalty definitely has its perks.
This next year, I’m planning to take a step into maximizing my rewards with some additional travel hacking via credit card applications. I plan on waiting until next January to start this process so that I earn at least one full year (and preferably two) of each preferred status. I’m looking at targeting a goal of a three week trip to Eastern Europe with the girlfriend that is totally paid for with points. My focus will be making sure that we’re flying first class both directions, and only staying at the top hotels in any city we travel to.
By my counts, this will take at least 200,000 US Airways Miles, and 1.2 million Hilton Honor Points.
I’ll be keeping you all up on my status, the things I’m doing to earn the points, and if / when I get to certain milestones. If you’d like to join me on my journey, I’d suggest you set your own goal, and start out by joining the Travel Hacking Cartel. The group was started by Chris Guillebeau, who has traveled to every country in the world, many of them using solely points. He has an awesome guarantee for the group, that you’ll get at least one free plane ticket every three months… FOUR FREE FLIGHTS A YEAR! You can get a trial membership for only $1.
In addition, if you have any other suggestions for things I should try, would like to share your story, or have your own personal goal… please let me know in the comments. I hope to see you in the air!