Monthly Archives: May 2013

Beginner Guide to Travel Hacking Part 1

I wanted to update yall on my progress with Sensei Rick from the frugaltravelguy.com as I learn the travel hacking ways and also give you a few tips to help you travel hack your way into a free flight (or 3).

Today I took the plunge and applied for 4 travel credit cards (well technically 3, 1 I signed up for 2 days ago) based on Rick’s method.  I signed up for…

  1. Barclay’s US Airways Premier World MasterCard (35k miles after 1st purchase, $89 annual fee waived for first year)
  2. American Express Gold Delta SkyMiles Visa (30k miles when you spend $500 in 3 months, $95 annual fee waived for first year)
  3. Citi Platinum Select/AAdvantage Visa (30k miles when you spend $1k in 3 months, $95 annual fee waived for first year)
  4. Chase Priority Club Select Visa (80k points when you spend $1k in 3 months $49 annual fee waived for first year)

Sooo, basically, I need to (somehow) spend $2500 in 3 months to get 95k miles in various airline programs, 80k points in a hotel rewards program, and a whole host of other perks like priority boarding on Delta, US Airways, and American and 1st free checked bag on Delta and American…oh wait, that’s rent and utilities. DONE.

The tips that I found to be most recurring between travel hacking websites were these…

  1. Respect your credit!
  2. Take time out between your credit card churns…at least 3 months between each batch
  3. Keep your longest cards to help keep your credit stable
  4. Look for low spending requirements and high bonuses
  5. In a batch, only apply for one card per whatyacallit (i.e. one chase card, one barclays, one AmEx, etc.). Sorry, having a brain fart.
  6. Pick cards with points that you’ll actually use such as (I picked Priority Club card bc if i play it right, I could end up with 16 free nights of accommodation.)

That’s it for now because my eyes are crossing. Happy travels!

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Visions of Credit Card Bonuses dancing in my head…

Whoa, my head is spinning from all the information I’ve been learning about travel hacking.  The past several nights I’ve been staying up to 3, 4, 5am reading without even realizing how late it’s getting.  I just find this stuff so riveting!  I’ve sent a plea for help to Rick, the frugaltravelguy, and he has graciously agreed to get me started.  After adding up current prices for most of the flights I anticipate flying in the next 3 years, I am even more anxious to get started earning points, miles, and so, free flights.  Here’s a breakdown of the flights I plan on using and the lowest fare I could find for each using skyscanner. ***Note: I am not including any domestic flights within Australia (although I’m sure I will fly a few) because I have no idea where to start with those.

  1. Raleigh-Durham, USA to London = $466
  2. Rome to Barcelona = $38
  3. Lisbon to Marrakech = $109
  4. Marrakech to Melbourne = $955
  5. Melbourne to Auckland = $125
  6. Auckland to Hawaii = $523
  7. Hawaii to Ho Chi Minh City = $680
  8. Bali to Chile = $1155

Total = $4051

Not as bad as I was expecting, to be honest, but still not good.  As we all know, flight prices fluctuate wildly, so a year from now when I’m looking for a flight from Auckland to Hawaii, prices may have tripled by then….or the airline might be running a promotion and I can snag it for half.  You just never know.  

I’m hoping with Rick’s help I can get that total number much closer to 0, 😀  As dad always says, “Hope for the Best, Prepare for the worst”, so you better believe I have enough saved up for flights twice that expensive.

 

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Mo’ Morocco

Today, I realized something. Something that may have already occurred to many of you, but not to me. I realized I might actually be able to use this travel blog to get discounts on travel stuff in exchange for a review of the “stuff”.  Wow. Mind=blown. Now I know that this is probably not groundbreaking to a lot of you…it wouldn’t be to me either if I had any sort of business sense. But I don’t.  My skills lie in other areas…creativity, math, science, listening, compassion, reading, swimming, is stubbornness a skill? Anyway, you get the idea. I’m good at a lot of things, business not being one of them.  Maybe I could be good at business-y stuff, but I’ve never tried. So this whole “selling an idea” concept, which is basically what I’m trying to do with this blog, is brand new to me.  Every time I get a new follower on here, my mind is blown.  To me, a new follower means I have somehow been able to convince somebody that I am an expert in ecotourism and budget travel and that they should listen to what I have to say.  In reality, I’m sure their thought process leading up to hitting the follow button is somewhat less complex, but that’s how I think of it. 

Anyway, yea, Morocco.  My point, if I even had one, is that I might be able to negotiate a lower rate on something (say, a tour to Morocco) if I include a review of the company on my blog.  Let me just say though, I will never push a company or product that I don’t fully believe in. Yes, it would be nice to get a discount, but NOT at the expense of lying to or misleading my readers. One of my goals with this blog is to be completely transparent about my travel.  

Hopefully, I will find a Moroccan tour that is everything I want it to be for the price I need it to be.  If anyone knows of a 14 day tour that covers Marrakech, Casablanca, Fes, Meknes, Essaouira, a Saharan camel trek, a stay at a Berber camp, and a jaunt through the Atlas Mountains for under $1200 US including meals, accommodation, transport, and activities, please let me know.

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Travel Hack

Yesterday, I spent most of the night reading up on travel hacking via points/miles which you can acquire in the slow, respectable way (just when you buy something or take a flight) or through the slightly sneaky way of credit card churning.  Well, since I’ve been trying to keep my spending to a minimum, credit card churning it is.  

Here’s a quick overview of what I learned from frugaltravelguy.com, thepointsguy.comextrapackofpeanuts.com, flyertalk.com, boardingarea.com, millionmilesecrets.com, etc.

  1. First, credit is a valuable asset…don’t squander it!  This is an important rule, that all of the above travel hackers live by.  You never NEVER want to put your credit in serious jeopardy for a few measly points.
  2. Be creative…go beyond flying to earn miles, or staying at a hotel to earn points.  There are ways you can earn points/miles out there for free (just require a little time)
  3. Make sure you are earning miles/points that you will actually be able to use.  For instance, if you aren’t planning on going to Europe, getting points you could use on RyanAir (though I don’t think RyanAir even has a points system, so this is completely hypothetical) would be a waste of your time.  Acquiring a bunch of American Airlines points, however, would be useful even if you usually fly British Airways, because they are affiliates.
  4. This will take time to get the hang of so don’t get impatient.

Yes, those are very general and no, they don’t tell you how you can go earn a million points right off the bat, but hey, I’m new to this too!  My advice if this is something you want to pursue, read through the websites of the guys I listed above and find your own gurus (and then tell me the website address so i can learn too 🙂 )

Before I go, another (i think) great resource to get you in the travel hacking game is the Travel Hacking Cartel. Yes, it costs money, but you can do a 14 day trial for a dollar, something I definitely plan on taking advantage of once work calms down and I have the time.  

’til next time!

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Habla espanol? No, I don’t.

Today was the day I was going to finally put my Rosetta Stone Spanish CDs to good use in preparation for my travels.  I had the focus, the motivation, the TIME…yes today, was the day I was going to start using them…or at least, I would be using them if I hadn’t been locked in a system update cycle of death for the past THREE AND A HALF HOURS. Now, as far as I can tell, I’m nowhere closer to being able to actually use my Rosetta Stone.  The good people at Rosetta Stone, whom I have tried to live chat with >10 times (their connection keeps failing, not mine…it’s not like they work for tech support and should be able to fix that issue…oh, wait.) and have now resorted to emailing, tell me that my problem is not with their software (even though it is), it’s with my computer’s operating system. According to them, upgrading from Leopard to Snow Leopard (I have a Mac OS X version 10.5.8) would fix it.  The problem? This costs money, may cause me to lose data, and is no guarantee that it would actually fix it.  Color me beyond frustrated.  Thankfully, I have a computer-genius brother whom I’m going to whine to until he fixes it for me :-D.  Sometimes it’s good being the youngest.

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A hairy decision…

Ok, I’ve bought the backpack, picked out the clothes, narrowed down (almost) the shoes. I’m really only left with one major style decision….short hair or long? Guys may be rolling their eyes right now (or maybe not given the common-ness of long hair on guys nowadays), but it really is an important decision.  I’ve worn it in a myriad of styles over the years from about 2 inches long in a pixie-ish cut to loooooong layers reaching past my hips.  I’m blessed (or cursed, depending on how I want to wear it) with incredibly thick, fast-growing hair that tends to be stick-straight on the top layers and downright wavy underneath.  Any hairstyle I choose has usually grown out within 2 weeks.  Just to be clear, when I say thick, I mean that I get debilitating headaches if my hair is shoulder-length or longer and I haven’t had it thinned out in a while.  I routinely break hair elastics with the weight of my hair.  When I say it grows quickly, I mean that I have the fastest growing hair of anyone I have ever met.  For example, at the beginning of April, I chopped off my hair to about the bottom of my ears. Now, not even 2 months later, it brushes the top of my shoulders and I can pull it back into a ponytail. It’s ridiculous. 

My dilemna is whether to let it keep growing or chop it off again right before I leave.  I guess it’s not that big of a deal, since it’ll be ponytail-length by the time I reach Australia if I choose to cut it again, but seeing how Western Europe is (at least in this shabby American’s eyes) a very posh region of the world, I’d like to make my hair look at least acceptable with minimum tools during my time there. 

So, as I do with every important decision in my life, I made a pro and con list.

Pro-cutting

  1. I can start the Europe leg with a posh new hairstyle
  2. I’ll use less shampoo and conditioner and save a little money
  3. I’ll feel like it’s a fresh start for my hair, as well as my life
  4. I can finger comb it instead of using a real brush 🙂

Con-cutting

  1. I won’t know how to style it
  2. I won’t be able to wear it in my favorite style, the ponytail
  3. It will probably grow out in a somewhat awkward fashion
  4. It will be in my face due to my non-headband-fitting head and big forehead

I realize that this hypothetical haircut is a solid 3 months away, but this is what’s keeping me awake at night right now :-/

 

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So tired, must sleep…no, NO, Must WRITE!! This is

So tired, must sleep…no, NO, Must WRITE!!

This is exactly what my thought process was tonight as I crawled into bed after working a 9 hour catering shift…I guess I’m not completely recovered from my bronchitis and upper respiratory infection yet.  On the plus side, 9 hours means $135 towards traveling 🙂 plus we each got a $22 tip…woot! Normally, I’d stick that tip into my travel fund as well, but damn it, I haven’t gone out and done something fun in QUITE a while so I think that’s going towards next weekend instead.

Anyway, back to traveling, I found out some very important information this weekend as I tried to reorganize the France portion of my trip to cut down on costs without cutting down on fun.  What I learned is…are you ready for this?…companies are out to make a profit. Ok, ok, not exactly groundbreaking, so let’s just say that fact was reiterated by some information I gained.  I was perusing http://www.seat61.com’s website, trying to get an idea of what the trains I want to take in France will cost me, when I stumbled upon a portion of his website explaining why you should never claim USA as your home country on Rail Europe.  His reasoning was that the company blatantly overcharges Americans for train tickets on the presumption that they won’t know any different.  I did a little test looking up tickets under the US version of Rail Europe and the french version and HOLY SHIT.  It was not just a difference of a few dollars…more like double or more for the same train. I guess I shouldn’t be so naive, but come on! That is just not right!  Here is the link to the article for those who want to avoid being fleeced by the train companies in France.

Ok, I’ve shared my wisdom, now I must sleeeeeep. I’ve got an 8 hour catering event tomorrow, and I really should shower beforehand, so yea, gnight!

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