Often people seem positively stumped by the amount of travel we do. “How can you afford to travel so much,” they ask. “Don’t you have jobs?”
TL;DR: we travel on a budget, taking advantage of deals, promotions, and occasional press trips/travel writer perks. We’ve saved thousands of dollars over the years by “travel hacking”. And yes, we both juggle multiple jobs — in true millennial form!
Of course, if you really want to know the answers to these questions, it’s a wee bit more complicated than that. In this post, we’ll outline some specific strategies we use to take advantage of cheap (and even free) travel. Happy hacking!
Credit Card Bonuses
This is our #1 travel hack: earning and burning credit card sign-up bonuses. But first, a word of warning. This method is not for the financially irresponsible! We suggest only applying for new credit cards if you have very good or excellent credit. And be sure to pay them off in full each month to avoid paying interest. For a primer on credit card hacking, check out NerdWallet’s Credit Cards 101.
Here are a few credit cards that we use and recommend. While there are bigger bonuses to be had from other cards, these four are a great place to start. Best of all: none of these cards charge annual fees, and if you sign up through our links we’ll both get a bonus!
This one’s great for beginner travel hackers. You only have to spend $500 in 3 months to get a $150 cash back bonus. Plus, you can get 5% back on rotating categories like gas stations and grocery stores.
Why we like it:
Chase Freedom Unlimited
Basically the same as the Freedom, but it offers unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase (instead of the whole rotating categories thing).
Why we like it:
This one is just like the Chase Freedom in that you earn 5% cash back in rotating categories. And while the sign-up bonus is smaller, Discover matches all the cash-back earned in your first year.
Hilton Honors American Express
What can you do with 65k Hilton points? Spend them all in one spot for a super swanky hotel night, or stretch them out for a couple nights at different properties. As of August 2018, The Points Guy (a travel hacker far more experienced than we) values 65k Hilton points at $390. Not too shabby!
Why we like it:
Example: you could book a King Studio Suite at the Home2 Suites by Hilton Bellingham for 30,000 points a night. Why not spend two free nights checking out Bellingham’s awesome trails and ales scene?!
Saving on Hotels and Vacation Rentals
Booking.com: $15 back on each stay
When it comes to booking hotels, we prefer Booking.com — a site we’ve been using for years. They typically have some of the best deals around, and if you book with them often enough you’ll achieve “Genius” status for even deeper discounts. Use our referral link for $15 off any booking! There doesn’t appear to be a limit on this, either — you can use it more than once.
Airbnb: $40 in travel credit on your first stay
Most people have probably stayed in an Airbnb by now (it’s 2018!) But if you haven’t, staying in someone’s home is a great alternative to hotels that can be much more affordable. We always check hotel booking sites and Airbnb before making a decision on where to stay. Get $40 off your first stay with the link above.
Trusted Housesitters: 20% off your membership
This may seem a little out of left field. But did you know that we both have worked as professional cat sitters? We love cats, and it turns out that caring for pets can be a great way to travel on a budget. By using a service like Trusted Housesitters, you can sign up as a pet sitter and accept sits (free lodging) around the world. And it’s not just for cats — you can filter by pet type (dogs, chickens, reptiles, you name it) and location. It’s pretty pawsome.
Uber: $5 off your first ride
Lyft: $5 off your first ride
You’re in a new city, you don’t have a car, and you need to get around. You could take the bus or metro, sure, but sometimes those options don’t get you to where you need to go very efficiently. This is where rideshares shine. Services like Uber and Lyft make it easy to get from one place to another relatively cheaply. If you’re not already using these apps, sign up here for a bonus!
Saving on other services
Google Project Fi: $20 Fi credit
When it comes to phone service, there are a lot of options out there these days. Brandon had Verizon for years before recently switching to Google Project Fi. This plan is great if you don’t use a ton of data, as you only pay for what you use. Bills have been significantly smaller than they were with Verizon, with comparable coverage and a few extra perks. The biggest one? International coverage! Project Fi comes with free international texting, and data costs the same as it would at home. We love being able to navigate around BC without paying exorbitant overage fees! Sign up here to get $20 Fi credit.
QB Self-Employed: 50% off for 12 months
Ok, so this has very little to do with beer travel (unless you manage to make money from it). But if you happen to own a small business, you’re likely in need of some solid accounting software. We use Quickbooks Self-Employed to track everything from transactions to mileage. Sign up through our link to save 50% for 12 months!
Square: Free processing on up to $1,000 in credit card transactions for the first 180 days
Finally, here’s another option for small biz owners. If you’d like to accept credit card payments on your phone or tablet, Square is the industry standard. We use it when selling our book at events and can’t recommend it enough! Speaking of our book, this seems like a good spot for one more shameless plug...
Note: this post contains affiliate links galore! As always, all opinions are our own.