Exp. 10: Travel Hacking for Canadian Baby Boomers: The ABCs

[Previous post in this thread: Travel Hacking for Canadian Baby Boomers (1)]

While not exhaustive, the following list covers some of the basics you need to consider when you engage in “Travel Hacking.” I will attempt to provide more detail regarding some of these points in future blog posts.

  • First decide if “Travel Hacking” is for you.
  • Decide what your travel goals are. The strategies to go to Disneyland with the grandchildren during a holiday season would be very different than going on a multi-city Asian tour in shoulder season or a monthly domestic round trip to see loved ones.
  • Open up accounts with the major loyalty programs of interest to you (e.g. Aeroplan, Air Miles, IHG Rewards, Marriott Rewards, Ritz-Carleton Rewards, Hertz).
  • Obtain an online mileage manager (e.g., Award Wallet, Usingmiles, Tripit) to keep track of your balances and status.
  • Find out what your credit rating is (Equifax, Transunion). Tip: you can use these services for free by applying special offers / free trial periods. Just make sure to cancel before you are charged a fee.
  • Choose the right credit cards to meet your travel goals and financial means.
    • Don’t take on more than you can financially manage (e.g., don’t take on cards if you cannot meet the minimum spend requirements to earn the points; don’t take on credit cards that you can not pay off at the end of the month).
    • Only sign up with credit cards that will give you a bonus you will use (for example if you will never fly Delta, then collecting Delta points would not be worth the effort).
    • Not all credit cards are created equal. Read the fine print. Carefully. When purchasing/obtaining a credit card you are also investing in the “complimentary” extras such as insurance and lounge access. Decide if you want these extras, and if so, determine if a particular card is the best way to obtain these extras.
    • Minimize the number of programs you are registered in (e.g., if you are primarily going to use Aeroplan, Air Miles points may not be your best strategy).
    • Not all points are “valued” the same – do your homework
  • Once you have the cards, sign up for the services they offer that you will use (e.g., dining programs, entertainment services).
  • Use your credit cards strategically to meet your travel goals.
    • Once you have the right cards, you want to do everything you can to put all your spending on them. If you need to reach the minimum spend required for the signup bonus, or if you just want to earn more miles and points for an award, here are a few strategies: prepay expenses whenever possible, buy gift cards (especially when you can earn extra miles for them), manufacture spend (where you essentially spend money without spending money by purchasing debit cards, depositing the funds back into your bank account and paying off the charge).
    • All purchases not matter how small are to be made with credit cards.
    • Keep your points and miles active (or you will loose them).
    • Make sure you cancel every credit card before the next annual cycle kicks in (to avoid paying a renewal fee and even worse not collecting a sign up bonus).
  • Invest time in learning about how to build up points quickly – for example
    • Shop online via milage malls which will link you to the retailer’s website. The advantage of doing this is you automatically get points for every dollar you spend. (e.g., Aeroplan estore)
  • Familiarize yourself with travel tips & tricks and deals on travel blog sites (e.g., Boarding Area, The Points Guy) and travel forums (e.g., Flyertalk, Milepoint if you can ignore the rather un-Canadian [aggressively nasty and rude] approach to community these forums offer).
  • Once you get “elite status” with one airline, ask other airlines to match it.
  • Redeem points and miles strategically, for example:
    • Have a general idea of the value of your points.
    • Redeem for high-value experiences (experiences that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to have).
    • Book flights on airlines that don’t have fuel surcharge.
    • Travel in shoulder season.
    • Sometimes your best reward is actually the Upgrade.
    • Look for mistake fares (sometimes an airline or hotel makes a mistake and prices tickets way too low. The mistake fare usually lasts only a brief period of time before being corrected. Most of the time (though not always) the airline or hotel will honor the mistakenly low rate for those who booked during the glitch).
  • Pay attention to internet information management.
    • Airlines use cookies to track your searches, which can result in raising the price you see. To get around this, change your internet settings from ‘public’ to ‘private’ browsing.


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