My Travel Hacking Story

Out of college, I signed up for my first credit card.  I had heard a little bit about credit card rewards and using your points for free travel, so I did some research and was approved for a Capital One MasterCard.  It gave me 1.25 points per dollar, nothing crazy but it didn't have an annual fee so that was good for me at the time.  I started using my credit card to pay for almost everything I could; groceries, gas for my car, shopping, and even small purchases like a $2 coffee.   

I knew it was easy for people to get into trouble with credit cards so I made sure to pay my bill multiple times a month.  This kept me accountable and ensured my bank account accurately reflected the money I was spending.  It took a while to accrue enough miles to use towards anything substantial, but when I did, it was pretty exciting!  I used points to pay for one round-trip ticket to Greece for our honeymoon.  If I remember correctly, the ticket was about $800.
Fast forward to Christmas 2012, and Blake and I had accumulated enough miles from Capital One and our Chase Freedom card to pay for 2 round-trip tickets to Thailand.  The retail value of those tickets was almost $1200 each.  We got back from our Thailand vacation and I was feeling super invigorated about travel.  I was also a bit sad because now we were starting back at zero with our miles.  I started researching other ways to quickly earn points and miles, and that's when I came across an article about "Travel Hacking".  

I learned that there are tons of people out there that are constantly finding ways to accumulate points/miles for free travel and upgrades.  It's a hobby, a lifestyle, and a game for many people who love to travel but can't afford expensive tickets and hotels all the time.  I started to read about the different strategies and officially became hooked. 

Over the past four years, Travel Hacking has become one of my hobbies.  It takes time and research to learn all the ins and outs about earning and spending miles for the best value possible.  I've spent hours watching videos, reading articles and even paid a monthly fee to become part of the Travel Hacking Cartel.  It's all been worth the time and small amount of money I've spent to reap the rewards.   

I've used miles to book 2 round-trip tickets to Thailand, 2 round-trip tickets to South Africa, 1 round-trip ticket to Georgia, 2 round-trip tickets to San Francisco, 1 round-trip ticket to Florida, 2 round-trip tickets to Denver and probably some others along the way.  I just got into hotel rewards a little over a year ago, but I have gotten 5 free nights so far, and still have 3 or 4 in the queue.  By the time Blake and I left for our round-the-world trip a couple months ago, we had accumulated around 350,000 miles/points.  This is equivalent to about 9-12 one way international flights, depending on your route.  Having these miles saved up is a big part of what has made this trip possible.  

Before diving in to travel hacking, you need to know some basics.  Move on to my next post to learn about Airline Alliances.