Do you ever find yourself scrolling wondering how people are traveling all the time, or maybe they are staying in luxurious resorts and flying first class? AND you know for a fact they are not billionaires ..
Well rest assured – most of us are utilizing the same travel hacks that keep us traveling better and more often. We did not randomly win the lottery, although that would be nice.
Full transparency: I cannot even keep track anymore, but I have saved MILLIONS of dollars on luxury travel through a lot of these travel hacks that I am going to share. Some of them you may already know about, others may be new to you.
Some of the other travel hacks just help you travel better! They just make the travel experience easier and better.
So let’s get to it!
20+ Travel Hacks you NEED to know
1. Airline Loyalty
This is my number one travel hack when it comes to getting upgraded all the time and using airline miles to fly business/first class for pennies on the dollar.
Hear me out – often people just pick flights with the best times, best price or shortest layovers, and I completely understand that. I, too, look for that as well.
However, I am loyal to the airline I fly and their partner airlines 95% of the time. The only thing that could get me to book with someone else is a deal that is extremely low or my preferred airline and their partners don’t service an area.
I am very loyal to American Airlines and their partner airlines (such as Qatar, Air Tahiti Nui, British Airways, etc). When I fly with these airlines, I accumulate miles for future travel AND I collect points towards status.
I have very high status with AA, which affords me upgrades pretty consistently from coach to business, I get systemwide upgrades each year that I can use for upgrades on flights (these are great for longer flights to places like Australia), I get free checked luggage, if someone else is flying with me on the booked ticket, their status will mirror mine and get upgraded with me (based on availability), and so much more!
You do not have to be loyal to American Airlines – pick any airline and their network of carriers that work for you. American works for me for a couple reasons:
- They have a ton of flights daily to the places I travel most out of my home airport.
- Most of the American hubs where I switch planes/have layovers, have Centurion Lounges (more on this below) that I can use for free!
- They treat me really well. Whenever I have questions I message them on Twitter and they handle it immediately, and they have done this for years. This is available to anyone.
One of my biggest redemptions with American Airlines miles was getting TWO business/first class class tickets (mixed cabins of business and first classes) to the Maldives from Washington, D.C. and only having to pay about $550 total! I used airline miles to cover the rest. When I redeemed these miles, the flights were selling for over $26,000+! That is an incredible redemption – but also, people do this everyday. This is not new. Anyone can do this.
If you are interested in learning how to maximize points and miles, my friend Zach just released a book and its amazing. He teaches everything very thoroughly.
Moving forward, try and find an airline you want to stay loyal to that has what you are looking for. They are all different and it will depend on what your travel style is.
I can tell you firsthand that I became loyal to American Airlines out of convenience, not love. But over time, I learned to love them. Like many people, I had issues with them over the years – but I have had issues with tons of airlines. None of them are perfect.
2. Quit using debit and cash and GET A TRAVEL CREDIT CARD
I cannot stress this enough – if you are using a debit card or cash, you are not making your money work for you. Paying with cash and debit, you get nothing. If you get a travel credit card that makes sense for you and your goals, you are earning points with every single purchase, some more than others.
If travel is a priority, please research travel credit cards and find the one that makes the most sense for you.
My personal top three favorites:
Chase Sapphire Reserve – my ride or die card. this card gives out the best rewards, easiest to cash in points and has amazing transfer partners like Marriott. You can easily move your points there and use them for hotel stays.
This card carries an annual fee of $550, however – you get a $300 annual travel credit. So, that immediately brings it down to $250. If you travel a lot, this card accumulates points the fastest.
Just to give you an example: if you book hotels through the Chase portal, you get 10 X points! If I book a $10,000 hotel, I will get 100,000 points. That is valued on Chase at about $1200-1300 in free travel.
I have used points on this card to stay for free at places like: Bora Bora and Maui in luxury 5 star resorts!
Marriott Bonvoy – I keep this card because of my loyalty to Marriott and I get free nights with it every year.
American Express Platinum – hear me out on this one. I rarely use this card for anything and it has a near $700 annual fee. Which can seem very expensive. However, if you travel a lot like I do, the card pays for itself.
This circles back to my airline loyalty – one of the perks of the AMEX Platinum is access to the Centurion Lounges at various airports. American Airlines connects their flights in almost all of them in the USA, so I always have lounge access.
But more than that, I get a $200 hotel credit, a $200 airline credit, and hundreds of dollars in other perks, annually. The card PAYS FOR ITSELF. At the end of the year, I end up getting more from the card than I gave to it.
I would only recommend this card if you travel a lot and are in airports with their amazing lounges. This is the biggest perk in my opinion!
While all cards are different, you have to do the research to see which one(s) make the most sense for your travel, how much you spend, etc. Tons of people have several cards – just make sure to pay them off as you use them or those points and miles you are paying for.
3. Credit Card Sign-up Bonuses
I feel like this is such an untapped resource for those who don’t know about it – but rest assured, I am going to share.
The way this works is, some cards will give you a sign-up bonus if you get their card. However, not all deals are good deals.
Currently, my ride or die credit card is offering a 50,000 bonus point sign up. This is equivalent to $900 in travel in their portal OR you can transfer the points to one of their travel partners. In addition, you get a $300 travel credit that will hit your card as soon as you buy anything travel.
You will get this twice within the first 12 months of owning the card because the $300 annual credit comes in January every year.
My other favorite card that I use for hotels, is currently offering THREE FREE NIGHTS (valued up to 150K points total).
Both of these cards are my personal favorites for getting free/nearly free luxury hotel stays.
For a great airline sign-up bonus, American Airlines has a variety of cards, but this card currently has a 75,000 mile sign up bonus! Just to give you an idea of how lucrative these points are – you can usually get a one-way ticket in the Qsuites on Qatar Airways for 40,000 miles. 75K miles is almost a round trip ticket!! These seats are incredibly valuable.
Maybe you don’t want to fly that far. I see domestic flights starting around 12K points one way in economy. You can make these points stretch as far as you want.
Here is the real real on sign-up bonuses: a lot of people who travel hack, have TONS of credit cards and get them when these sign-up bonuses happen because they want to keep traveling more and better. And that is ok! Get whatever you want.
4. Credit Card Transfer Bonuses
I feel like this perk is also untapped by many.
My favorite card I mentioned above, the Chase Sapphire Reserve, has several transfer partners. You can transfer your points 1:1 at any time. However, sometimes the partners offer bonuses for transferring points.
The transfer bonus I always look for is the Marriott 1.5 transfer bonus. Say you have 200,000 points and transfer them to Marriott – you now have 300,000 Marriott points!
Here is my best redemption this year: I moved over a bunch of points to Marriott during the transfer bonus of 1.5 on the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Then, when I went to book with my Marriott points on their platform, you get a 5th night free when you use points. I got a 5 night luxury overwater villa at The Ritz-Carlton Maldives and my out of pocket expense is $1790! This is a $17,000+ stay. That $1790 that I had to pay also includes the boat transfer from the airport.
*If you read above about my airline points redemption for the business/first class flights to the Maldives with airline miles and paying $550 for those flights, you will see that I paid $2340 total for a luxury trip to the Maldives.
5. Hotel Loyalty Programs
These are 100% free to join and come with a caveat – you basically need to travel a lot in a calendar year AND remain loyal to the brand.
For example – Marriott has over 7,000+ hotels in their portfolio globally. If you travel a lot and only stay in Marriott branded properties, you can achieve a high status. This in turn gives you a bevy of perks depending on your status level.
But most importantly, you earn points to use on future stays when you book with Marriott!
Some of the things you will find in various hotel loyalty programs are: free Wi-Fi, daily breakfasts, room upgrades, the ability to accrue points faster the higher your status is, late check out, and so much more!
You are probably starting to notice a theme here – brand loyalty pays off.
6. FREE airline lounge access
There are a number of ways to acquire this, but here are my favorites:
With my Chase Sapphire Reserve card, I get Priority Pass as a perk of the card, which gets me into lounges all over the world, for free.
With my American Express Platinum card, I get access to Centurion Lounges in available airports AND if I am flying Delta, I can use their lounges on the same day of travel only.
Also, I get perks from my airline loyalty with American Airlines and one of the perks I selected with my status with Admirals Lounge Club Access.
There is not an airport I have been to in years where I haven’t had access to a lounge. Granted, I have a lot of options working for me here, but – even if you just had Priority Pass – it comes with amazing lounges all over the world.
You really have to do your research on these credit cards that offer this and make sure it suits your travel style.
7. Book discounted vacations
Your first question is probably “but how do I find them?” No worries – I got you.
First and foremost, if you have been around for a while, you know I share deals on my social media channels hat are insanely good. But also, I have a weekly newsletter with the weeks BEST travel deals (and tips, etc). If you want to get my newsletter, I never send more than one email a week. You can sign up here.
My three favorite places to get unbelievable travel deals – and to places like Maldives, Bora Bora, Greece, Caribbean, etc:
VIP Traveler – 10000% LOVE this company so much. I have gotten a few of their deals and they are always luxury, amazing, exactly as described, and come with so many VIP perks – and at super low rates. I remember going to the Maldives on a luxury all-inclusive deal for under $3000 and in an overwater bungalow!
Costco Travel – this is where the absolute BEST Bora Bora deals will be found. No one else can compete.
TravelZoo – this company has been around forever. They do have great deals but the one thing I will warn you about is the constant emails. I get several a week – but this is also how you are able to find a good travel deal.
For amazing cruise deals, I always look at vacationstogo, they have a 90 day ticker which unloads cruises at rock bottom rates. You will often see cruises in there under $500!
Another company who often has cruises specials for $350 or less for a week is MSC Cruises.
8. Set up flight alerts for best price flights
I like to use Going (formerly Scotts Cheap Flights) and Airfarewatchdog to get notifications about cheap flights.
If you are flexible about where you want to travel and when, you could score big with error flight prices.
Let me tell you the story about my first trip to Bora Bora and the surrounding islands. I got a notification of a sale for a round trip flight on Delta from my home airport for $582! At the time, flights were hovering between $1500-3000+. That is an incredible deal. So I got it and made it work. I had several months to plan my trip.
9. Ask for an upgrade at the airport
The worst you can get is a “no.”
But often times, some flights will have unsold seats that they want to get rid of at a fraction of the cost. I have upgraded to business class for as low as $79 dollars one-way!
Purchasing these tickets outright from the beginning can be hundreds, if not thousands more.
Alternatively, keep a look out before your trip in the booking online and see if any upgrades are offered to you. You can often score really low upgrade fares this way. Especially on long haul flights.
10. Upgrade your room when you check into your hotel
This is one of my favorite ways to stay in suites for a fraction of the cost.
Now this travel hack will require a little bit of work on your end. When I book my travel, and it usually is not that far in advance, I look at all the rooms that are available for my dates. If I see high inventory, I book the lowest category room I would want to stay in and then ask to upgrade when I check in.
Here are my two favorite upgrades:
Four Seasons Bora Bora – I was staying in their lowest room category, an overwater bungalow with a beach view for five nights. This room was about $1600 a night upfront to purchase (prices vary throughout the year). When I checked in, the property was at less than 60% occupancy even though it was high season.
I asked to upgrade! They put me in their best overwater villa, The Otemanu Suite, for about $1000 a night. This room is usually over $8-10K+ per night if you book it on the website.
Doing some math here – I got to stay in the best suite at the resort, with unobstructed views of Mount Otemanu, for about $2600 a night. That is over 70% OFF! Oh, and I used my travel credit card to pay for it, which netted me 3 X points on all purchases there!
Four Seasons Anguilla – I booked this trip very last minute and saw that every room category was available. So I booked the cheapest room which was just over $800 a night. When I checked in, I upgraded to a Four Bedroom Villa for about $2000 a night. These rooms sell for over $8000+ per night in LOW SEASON. They get more and more expensive.
We ended up with a massive villa for about $2800 a night. About a 60% savings. You can read more about this room and score here.
11. Create content for travel brands
If you have been following me for any measure of time, you already know I work in the luxury travel space and work with brands on social media promotions and content.
You may be thinking this is not for you – but let me tell you why it just may be. It is easier now than ever before to get into the travel industry and there is a need for all types of creators. And if you are thinking you don’t look like the typical influencer – neither do I! In fact – I am not even in any of my content~
Here is where things get really fun – Instagram is my favorite platform but you can use any social media platform you want. I use them all, technically – but it is not required. I have been working in travel for 8 years now and in the last two years, I have started several channels that are over 200K, 450K, a million+ followers – and so on. Anyone can do this.
You do not have to do this full time either. A lot of people do this on the side to get free travel experiences – and I don’t blame them. But if you want to get paid – you should. I pull multiple six figures in this career AND travel to some of the most incredible place in the world because of it.
Whether I post about places online, create photos and/or videos for the brands to use, write about the trip, make affiliate sales, etc – there are so many ways to monetize this industry!
If you are really interested in this line of work – I have an e-book that teaches everything. Please only get this if you TRULY want this lifestyle part time or full time. Doesn’t matter if you travel solo, as a couple, as a family, etc – the travel industry needs everyone of all races and backgrounds.
Just to give you a few ideas of the things this career has afforded me:
- My best friend and I have been on over $500,000+ worth of luxury trips all over the world
- The most expensive trip to date was valued at about $35K in Europe
- I always get to bring someone with me – so my family and friends are well traveled and get to experience the world with me
- I work when I want to. I say yes or no to whatever I want
Just a thought if you want to travel more!
12. Take a seasonal job
This will not work for everyone. I started doing this when I turned 18. I knew I wanted to travel but didn’t quite have the means to do it. So, I started taking seasonal jobs all over the USA.
Seasonal work is typically just that, there for a season. Can be winter or summer, usually. Then it ends. Most places provide housing for you to live at for a small fee, some are even free!
The best part – you get to live and work in cool destinations for a few months out of the year. And a lot of the people I would meet, they would do both seasons in different destinations (summers IN Mackinac Island and winters at ski resorts in Colorado) with a couples months off a year – and they would travel during those months!
You will meet so many incredible people that usually share the same passions of wanting to travel.
But again, my favorite part was being able to live in these destinations, some I would never be able to afford to otherwise, and fully experience them for a few months.
Seasonal work was arguably one of my favorite times in life.
I like to look on CoolWorks for open jobs!
13. Get TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry
It is easier to just get global entry as it includes TSA pre-check.
However, if you don’t travel internationally a lot, it may make sense to just skip it and get TSA pre-check. Having TSA pre-check allows you special lines at TSA in the USA where you don’t have to unpack your luggage and it is ALWAYS shorter than the regular security line. I rarely see many people in it.
With global entry, you get TSA pre-check AND when you return to the USA from foreign destinations, you get your own line at immigration to go through, which usually does not have a ton of people in it. You don’t have to wait with the masses.
Bonus – many travel credit cards offer this for free as a perk to having their card!
14. Download Mobile Passport Control
I live and die by this app. This is like global entry but without the fee and it is not accepted at every airport.
The way this app works, and it is run by Homeland Security – is when you return home to the USA on a flight from a foreign destination, you answer the few questions about your trip and the standard questions you would answer on the computer in the immigration line.
You get your OWN LINE. There is never anyone in it. I can’t stress how many time I am the only person using this. I don’t know how this is possible because I have been talking about it for years. It is not new.
I can get through immigration in under 5 minutes almost every time I come home – in an airport that accepts it.
15. Sign up for AARP
I know what you’re thinking “am I old enough?” Why yes, yes you are. ANYONE can sign up for AARP!
So what is the big deal, anyway? AARAP has TONS of travel discounts on hotels, resorts, car rentals, cruises, etc. Even restaurants, gas, groceries – you name it.
You do have to pay a small annual fee (about $12) to be a member, so I highly recommend taking a look online at what they offer and seeing if it makes sense for you.
16. Get rock bottom deals on cruises
I discovered this website probably a decade or more ago. Its called Vacationstogo – and they have a “90 day ticker” for cruise sales. Some are up to 90% OFF! You can find some incredible cruise trips for just a couple hundred dollars or more.
Never pay full price unless there is no other option. But I ALWAYS look here first when I am planning a cruise within a 90 day window or looking for a last minute trip.
You can find luxury cruises or regular cruises for deeply discounted rates. Definitely don’t sleep on this – it is free to use!
17. Book a flight with a long layover
This is the best way to get two trips in one. This works well on international flights, especially.
For example, my favorite airline, Qatar Airways, has a stopover program where you can stopover in Doha on your way to wherever, and you can stay 1-4 nights. They offer luxury hotels starting at $20 a night!
I spent a week in Doha at the end of 2021 and you can easily see the city in 24-48 hours. All the main attractions anyway!
Even if you do not want to do a stopover program, you can still book your flights with long layovers 10+ hours and just leave the airport and explore. Just make sure you have enough time to go back through security and immigration if need be.
18. Book one-way flights
About 40% of the time, it makes sense to book two one-way flights instead of a round-trip flight.
Doing this does not impact either flight as they are completely separate. The reason I say to do this is that often when looking at flights, I use Google Flights, if you were to book a round trip flight and select United for your outgoing flight, it will only show options for United on the return.
There may not be desirable flights both ways or the tickets may be sky high.
Always check both ways – check for round-trip and one-way tickets. This may mean you are flying different airlines, but it does not matter.
I only do this when there is a substantial savings. If I am savings hundreds of dollars – I will do this versus flying within my airline network. Because money is money.
19. Travel during the off-season or shoulder months
What drives most of the cost in travel is weather and occupancy rates.
If you are willing to be flexible and travel right between high and low season or during the low season, you can score some incredible deals on flights, hotels, and more!
You do run the risk of bad weather, so make sure and check what you are up against. It is called the “off season” for a reason.
But truth be told – weather is not perfect anywhere even in the high seasons.
Just to give you an example: Bora Bora during the high season with flights and an overwater villa can start around $15k-50K+. If you are willing to grab a deal during the shoulder season or off season, you can actually find package deals with Costco Travel under $5K, many with flights and meals.
I personally travel during the off season and shoulder season, a lot. I know what I am up against and it is worth it to me. The rain is just rain. Have a contingency plan for things to do in case of bad weather and always get travel insurance.
20. Find the perfect seat on every flight
Ever end up on a flight and the seat doesn’t recline? Or maybe there is no window?
I can solve that problem – use Seatguru to see every single seat on your plane and what they do and don’t offer. Never end up in that situation again.
This goes back to traveling “better.” You are not going to be happy if you fly a long flight that doesn’t recline or if you really wanted a window (like me) and there isn’t one. You will feel trapped.
21. Book your flights in private/incognito mode
Once you start looking for trips, cookies start tracking and you will see prices go up. To avoid this, open a private browser to book. This should get you lower rates if you have been browsing for a while and your browser thinks you are going to book.
22. Grab a taxi at departures, not arrivals
Looking to save time at busy airports? Grab your taxi at the departures area, not the arrivals. People are being dropped off constantly by taxis and they are available every moment someone gets out of their car.
Some airports I have waited 30-60 minutes in arrivals for taxis due to so many people waiting.
Save your time, and get your trip started right away.
23. Eat first, sleep first on long-haul flights
If you need to sleep relatively quickly after boarding a long-haul flight, select a special meal in advance of your trip in your booking.
These meals are made for dietary restrictions, allergies, etc. If you have no restrictions, you can still request one.
If you are not picky, there are usually options like: vegetarian, gluten free, kosher, sometimes vegan and others.
People with special meal requests almost always get served first, then they start serving the rest of the plane. You could eat and be asleep before the meal service really gets started.
24. Skip the line tour tickets
This is my number one hack for traveling better. If you don’t want to waste your time at attractions with long wait times, buy skip the line tickets!
These are not an option everywhere, but popular in places with high tourism. Like Rome, Italy. You can do Rome in a day with the right tours or skip the line tickets. Don’t spend your time waiting hours to get into some where when you could be seeing and doing more things.
I promise, these make ALL THE DIFFERENCE. I use getyourguide to book all my tours.
25. Keep local currency on you when traveling
I see people constantly being taken advantage of in situations where they have USD but not local currency. Most places that do not accept credit cards, will always have the prices listed in the local currency.
If you don’t have the local currency – they decide the price. Sometimes it will be more than what you would have paid in local currency.
Best to always keep some local currency on you.
Pro tip – some banks are able to get your currency from certain places before your trip if you bank there. You can always ask!
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