Whenever I do anything, I usually try to make it epic, especially with traveling. I am very fortunate to be under 30 years young and have been to over 30 countries. The type of business I have had for the past 2 years has financially supported my annual international trips and has allowed me to come back and start working it again. I came up with the idea for my epic trip in my Brooklyn apartment in June 2012. I realized that I had a bunch of goals to accomplish before turning 30 (in 4 years) and felt a sense of urgency. One of my biggest travel goals was to visit all 7 continents. In 2012, I have been to 5 continents and felt an itch complete going to the other 2 (Antarctica and Australia).
After looking at my points and miles accounts, I realized I had enough to go to both continents. Sweet. I started planning it out. While planning, I had a crazy idea of going to all 7 continents in one trip. After researching, I knew it was possible with some extra planning and finesse. I then set the goal of going to all 7 continents and paying the least amount as possible.
I’m proud to say that I completed the goal of going to all 7 continents (11 countries) and only paid $240 in flight tickets. Here’s how:
Basic Travel Hacking Techniques
Disclaimer: This information is intended for entertainment purposes only. Do not rely on this article in making decisions about your own credit—you are responsible for your own actions. The successes described are the result of careful analysis of applicable terms and conditions, and the consequences of applying for credit.
Step 1 – Sign-up for miles and points programs
Sign-up for a few hotel and airline loyalty programs. There are many programs to choose from, but I recommend signing-up for just a few programs to start. You can always sign-up for more later on.
To stay organized, copy and paste your account number, username, and password into an Excel or Word document to help with Step 2.
Step 2 – Manage your miles online
I use AwardWallet.com to manage my miles. It is a free service, but with a small donation ($5 for 6 months) you get premium services such as alerts when your miles are expiring.
Simply sign-up for Awardwallet.com and enter in your username and passwords for your accounts from Step 1.
Step 3 – Credit card applying strategy (Don’t worry, I will talk about your credit score too)
The easiest way to collect miles and points without flying is through big credit-card bonuses. This means you would get around 50,000 points just for signing up for the credit and receive benefits as if you just purchased a BMW on your credit card. I have done this (not purchasing too many BMW’s) on over 20 credit cards and received enough miles to go anywhere in the world.
If you are not taking out a big loan in the next 2 years (equity, house, student, etc.) than apply for credit cards and build up a hotel point and air mile balance. If you are applying for a big loan in the next 2 years, than I would recommend very few or no credit card applications so as to ensure that you’re doing everything possible to get your loan.
When I apply for credit cards, I apply for 4-5 in one day. This is because the credit bureaus can’t see how many you apply for in one day. There is a higher chance of getting approved.
Since many of you reading are involved with business, put your business expenses on mile earning credit cards.
What about Credit?
This is the first question received whenever I talk about travel hacking. To be transparent, initially my credit score was 750. After 2 years and over 20 credit cards later, it’s now 789. After reading the small print about how credit works and using a systematic approach to opening and closing credit cards, my credit score has gone up. In short, it because I know what I’m doing. I have read the fine print and intricacies of how credit works. Oh yeah, I pay all of my credit card bills off every month. Debt is scarier to me than when my boat broke down at night in a river in Laos.
All of my flights to 11 countries were essentially free using points and miles, I just had to pay the unavoidable taxes. Of Course, I have had much experience with travel hacking to get such an epic trip. A trip to Europe or down to the Caribbean is much easier and attainable to a beginner.
Open mind and open schedule
After all the hard work was done to get a $12,000 trip down to $240, all that was left was to enjoy. Mindset is crucial in having a great trip. The only difference between an adventure and an ordeal is your attitude. That’s what I had to tell myself while on a 26 hour bus ride in Patagonia, Argentina. It is important to always appreciate mishaps and think of the alternative. If you have a short time to travel and some hiccup comes along, embrace it and be happy that you aren’t home stuck responding to emails.
Keep Expenses Down and Adventures High
There was a wide range of places I have slept during the 4 month trip. I ate room service at a fancy Hilton Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand and also slept on a rock hard bed in a $3 bed in Cambodia. It’s important to have a wide range of experiences to know what’s enjoyable or not. Contrast allows for more appreciation and preferences for the future. I’m not saying that everyone should go for the cheapest accommodation to have an adventure. It’s about making the most of each sleeping arrangement.
I have couch surfed in each country, not only because it was free, but because of the experiences that came with it. Couch Surfing allows for a foreigner to get a peek into a local’s life. Hotels and hostels are fun, but Couch Surfing allows for more of a culture exchange. I couch surfed with a Bedouin grandson of the guard who watches the Giza pyramids in Cairo, Egypt. He took me to the sun pyramid at midnight and we stayed in the desert until the sunrise where we meditated on a crystal platform.
WWOOFing (Willing Workers On Organic Farms) is cool. In a small town in Australia, I stayed with the 12 tribes of Israel and got to see what cult like living they had. I volunteered on their farm and got to participate in their rituals. I felt like I was on a National Geographic show.
As much of a Journey I was on, I decided to take an intense internal journey when I did a 10 day silent vipassana meditation. That means 10 days of no talking, no music, no reading, and no eye contact. It was one of the most intense and moving experiences of my life. After day 10, I wasn’t able to speak for a few hours and kept stuttering. Eventually I got my speech back but will never forget the lessons learned. I recommend it to anyone who wants to explore their subconscious mind. By the way, all the food, accommodation and universal wisdom are 10% free. Dhamma.org.
If you are reading this article, you either run a business or would like to. That means you want to expand your freedom and experience the best life has to offer. Travelling offers new perspective and new appreciations. I believe everyone should have the opportunity to travel. Travel Hacking democratizes travel and evens out the playing fields to allow everyone to see the world.
David owns and operates a vegan meal delivery service business in New York. When he isn’t chefing in the kitchen, he is travelling the world and exploring different cultures for cheap. You can read more of his travel stories at NapoleonStreisand.com.
Image Credit: www.travelmediakit.com