The Art of Travel Hacking – First Class Adventures on an Economy Budget (Part 2)
Whew! I am now back in America, folks, and fighting jet lag – but I really want to finish Part 2 of my Travel Hacking post before the chaos of the year begins.
In Part I, I spent quite a lot of time going over airlines and their various reward programs. Now it’s time to talk accommodations. Keep in mind, these are just my recommendations (I’m not being sponsored by any of these companies.)
1. Pick a hotel rewards program (and stick with it!)
Just like the airlines, hotels have programs that reward you with free nights when you rack up a certain number of points. I’m a member of the Starwood program, the Marriott program, and the Hilton program, but I’ve found through trial and error that Starwood tends to have the most flexibility, options for reward use, and availability. Most importantly for me, however, is Starwood’s website. It’s so much easier to use than the other hotel award sites and their customer service is impeccable.As soon as I know my destination, but before I’ve had time to work out flight details, I go ahead and book a room at several different Starwood hotels over different nights. When it gets closer to travel time and I’ve had a chance to confirm my flights and find out from locals the best area to stay in, then I cancel the rooms I no longer need (you can do this usually up to a day or two in advance at no charge.) This saves me a ton of money from incurring the steep fees of booking last minute, while still having the flexibility to make last minute changes.
2. Snag hot credit card hotel mileage offers –
See my post in Part I. There are credit cards for everything, kids. Just make sure to pay off the balance :-)
3. Get to know the international bargain travel websites –
For hotels, I recommend checking out Agoda.com. My travel hacking friend swears by it, and has managed to score awesome hotel deals that weren’t available on Expedia or Orbitz, or through the actual hotel, on Agoda.com.
4. For the Super Budget or Anti-Hotel Traveler –
There are various sites you can use that’ll get you a free room in a local’s house or apartment in exchange for English lessons or help around the house. Check our couchsurfing.org and servas.org for more information (the UK Times also recently wrote a nice little article about these sites.) Not guaranteed to be comfy, but certainly guaranteed to give you a unique experience!
Another option is doing a trade for trade, where you swap living arrangements with someone in another country, through a site like HomeExchange.com or SabbaticalHomes.com. If you have no problem with strangers being in your space, this is a great way to go!!
And finally, for local accommodations at any budgets (these places range from $19/night on up to $10,000/night, depending), check out Airbnb.com. This site has hundreds of listings of incredible, unique hotels/apartments/homes in faraway places. You might very well end up choosing a destination just based on what you find on the site!
That’s all I’ve got on accommodations for now. Stay tuned for Part 3, my personal favorite, on how to find unique travel experiences and make the most out of your time abroad.
Happy New Year everyone!