Travel Hack your Way to Budget Trips out of Canada

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With the cold Canadian winter upon us (you know, we all have to start preparing our igloos for the cold harsh Canadian winter, because that's what it is all aboot), it makes sense that we are all trying to find a way to escape the cold.  I have a bad case of the traveling blues mixed with an additional diagnosis of wanderlust.  Since I am a huge stickler for deals, free tickets, and deeply discounted trips, I started looking into travel hacking.

What Is Travel Hacking?

What is travel hacking you ask?  Well, travel hacking goes beyond the normal travel-lover behaviour of signing up for Aeroplan points.  It might even go beyond signing up for the Aeroplan Star Challenge and going to the gas station to gas up in $3 increments despite the disapproval from the gas attendants.  Errr…. okay… maybe not.

Travel hacking is a strategy where you can go anywhere in the world.  For almost free.  It all got started by Chris Gillebeau, who is amazing because he has been almost everywhere in the world, has traveled in business class on points, and has mastered the art of travel hacking.

In Canada, there are some avid travel hackers such as Matt Bailey, who is an entrepreneur and a Canadian travel hacker.  He was able to fly from Calgary to Austin, Texas for $65.  He just paid the taxes.

Yeah… it is that awesome.

How Do I Start Travel Hacking?

Travel Hack your Way to Budget Trips out of CanadaThere are numerous ways to start travel hacking.  First and foremost is to sign up for points on the flight programs and the strategically opt for the frequent flyer programs and airlines that you will be using most.  For instance, if you travel to Europe a lot compared to Asia, it might be a better idea to choose the frequent flyer program offered by British Airways instead of Asia Miles even though they are part of the same frequent flyer program.  Also, sign up for hotel rewards too.  Such as Marriott or Starwood Preferred Guest.

Related: What’s your Travel Style? Resort Relaxer or Exploring Adventurer?

Secondly, sign up for a travel credit card.  Opt for something that gives you a large number of bonus points.  Opt for something that is (if you can) free in the first year and remember to cancel before you are charged the $150+ subscription price.

Some credit cards in Canada that offer a healthy number of bonus points when you sign up for the credit card include:

  • Royal Bank of Canada Avion Visa– you get 15,000 points.  If you have a few RBC products (e.g. mortgage, bank account, investments) in the past, they offered the first year for free- not sure if this is the case now
  • Bank of Montreal World Elite Mastercard– you get 30,000 points (worth $300) when you first sign up and the first year is free
  • Capital One Aspire Travel Mastercard– 35,000 points (worth $350) upon first enrollment and 10,000 in anniversary points every year.  $120 annual fee per year.

Finally, strategize and join travel hacking forums.  Word is that you can travel and get free stopovers on Aeroplan points for free.  Meaning, you can travel to Miami from Toronto and stop over in Chicago for a few days for free.

Will It Affect my Credit Score?

If you open up credit cards in order to get travel points it may affect your credit score.  In my opinion, I don't really have the need to open up another mortgage, nor do I have the need to borrow money to lease or finance a car at the present moment.  As long as you pay off your credit cards on time, and you don't make too many new credit card applications on an annual basis, according to the Office of Consumer Affairs on how to improve your credit score, you should be fine.

Related: How to Travel the US & Canada on the Cheap

Another thing to consider is cancelling your tried and trusted credit cards.  Million Dollar Journey stated that you should probably think twice before cancelling an old credit card in good standing because it might affect your credit score negatively.

Can Travel Hacking Become and Addiction?

There are no guarantees whether the concept and strategies pertaining to travel hacking will begin to consume every waking hour of your life.  No guarantees whether it will increase or decrease your wanderlust and itch to travel.  Some people who try travel hacking become addicted, and some find the side effects too bothersome.

Personally, I haven't fully fully immersed myself in travel hacking yet.  If I had my way, I would somehow plan a 3-6 month trip around the world with points.  That would be my ultimate dream!

Readers, what's your favourite travel hack story?  Do you have any travel hacking tips to share?

 

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Young is a writer and former owner of Young and Thrifty and the main "twitter' behind Young and Thrifty's twitter account. She lives in Vancouver, BC and enjoys long walks on the beach, spending time with her anxious dog, and finding good deals. If you like what you read, consider signing up for email updates.

4 Comments

  1. BeachBoy on January 16, 2014 at 7:47 pm

    The aeroplan fees are getting insane… But there are ways around it.
    If you use your aeroplans miles for flights on other star alliance carriers, the fee is much less.
    For example, I am going to Prague and Milan in two weeks. I could not find anything under $465 fee leaving Saturday and $730 leaving Friday. Found out th e price difference was that I was paying huge German fees when the flight was passing in Frankfurt instead of Zurich… So one thing to check to reduce fees is where the stops are and you can tweak a lot with that… The fees are detailed on the website when you check itineraries but you have to dig a little to get to the details.

    So back to my trip… By calling the Call center I was able to get a series of flights and none on air Canada, all on Swiss or Lufthansa.

    Well for the same trip, the total fee was $200!!!! Even with an additional $30 booking fee its half price than booking online.

    Moral of the story: check your stops and even with $30 call center fee I might be cheaper to book on non-AC flights with your aeroplan…

    p.s. typed on my cellphone so don’t mind the errors and bad construction:)



  2. Amy on January 19, 2014 at 7:40 am

    I have heard of travelling almost free but didn’t realize I was actually taking part. It started with accepting a miles card offer from an airline I use often. Next thing I know is that I have enough miles to buy several tickets to anywhere in the world. So, I can confirm it works. Hotel points work as well. I have quite a few hotel points. The point to keep in mind about hotel points is that the points are similar wherever you use them. So, use them in expensive cities and pay for cheap hotels instead. For example, I used my points in Zurich where my hotel was charging $850 a night and paid cash of $120 in Budapest.



  3. Young on January 21, 2014 at 12:25 am

    @Beach Boy- Awesome thanks! Great thing to consider! P.S. We never mind your comments, they are awesome, even if there are cell phone typing errors!



  4. Matthew Bailey on November 28, 2016 at 8:08 pm

    Hey, thanks for featuring my story! I just came across this article on Google. It’s amazing what you can do with points when you know the “system”. I just flew first class on Emirates for $89!



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