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The Basics of Travel Hacking for Newbies


Who doesn’t want free or almost free travel? No one I know, and especially not twenty-somethings with wanderlust and a very limited budget. Using points and reward programs for travel is nothing new, people have been doing it for a long time, but it’s easy as a twenty-something starting out to say “no that’s not for me” or “there’s no way I will every have enough points to go anywhere.”

I used to be the same way; my Airmiles balance creeps up so slowly you’d think it was frozen in time. Although I currently use my Airmiles only to get free movie nights out this year I finally started using Aeroplan points to get some seriously awesome deals on travel.

Now there are a lot of critics of the point system and there’s a lot of credit cards out there that offer different benefits and rewards so you need to look into each one individually and decide what’s best for you, and for pete’s sake never ever put more on your credit card than you can pay off during that billing cycle. But if used correctly, you can benefit from travel reward miles and help cross some destinations off that bucket list.

Now I am going to go over what I have done personally to help me (and my BF and friends) travel with the help of points and discounts because I am not an expert and I’m just speaking from personal experience. If you want more information on this topic, my  fellow GenTwenty writer Janine has some awesome articles on her personal blog My Pennies My Thoughts about travel, rewards, and points that are definitely worth reading through:

How to: Maximize you travel rewards 

3 things thursday: credit cards I’m lovin’

The Airmiles saga draws to a close 

So Over Airmiles & Aeroplan

Now for the longest time I had a very basic credit card that had a low interest rate but offered zero bonuses. This was silly, my card was paid off every month and I was for a while expensing relatively large sums each month through work. Thinking of all the points I could have earned but didn’t makes me more than a little sad.

So one day I upgraded. I switched to a TD Travel Visa that offered $250 in travel dollars for signing up. I really liked this card because of how easy it was to redeem points, the special Expedia for TD travel portal, and how quickly I seemed to accumulate points. Within two months of getting the card I had over $400 in travel dollars. This was quickly redeemed for a hotel in San Francisco and an awesome girl’s weekend away. I continued to use this card and redeem for a free hotel here and a discount on travel there until January of this year.

That is when TD partnered with Aeroplan and offered a new TD Aeroplan Visa, because the new Aeroplan card was offering a two-for-one flight deal (with restrictions and rules of course) 15,000 welcome points, and no fee for the first year I switched from my old card to this new one.

I also somehow convinced almost everyone I work with they should also sign up for the card – if only TD had a rewards program! However if you and a friend or significant other partner up and both have two-for-one flight deals you can plan multiple discounted trips.

About a month later I saw a post on YYC Deals, a local travel blog that only posts when there are really awesome flight deals – more on this later – about an AMEX card with 30,000 welcome points from Aeroplan with a referral program. I’d thought about having a second card provider before just in case of emergency or for when you’re travelling abroad if something happens and you need access to funds right away and decided to sign up. I also referred a few people which benefitted myself and them by giving each of us extra points.

So now I have accumulated an excess of Aeroplan points to help fuel my wanderlust or at least provide a break throughout the year. So what am I using these points for? Well I’ve booked and planned a few trips. Unfortunately you still need to pay those pesky taxes and fees although I have heard that American Airlines doesn’t charge them through Aeroplan, however I have yet to see that.

  • 2 for 1 flight deal to Portland for a girls weekend, direct flights each way, about $180 each or a discount of over 50% from what we would have paid without points
  • 2 for 1 flight to Vancouver to visit family (planned)
  • Trip to NYC on points, we paid $239 for two tickets which are usually about $500 each roundtrip which is a significant savings

There is a definite benefit for me currently to continue to collect and redeem points. Although the fees are annoying, once you’ve collected a certain number of points with Aeroplan and earn “distinction” status, you have access to more flights and I’ve found by being flexible, I can find relatively good flights for a high discount.

So this is how I have been fueling my wanderlust while not killing my budget. Travel is expensive even with these tips. I’m no expert but this is what is currently working for me, it’s important to always consider your personal situation and always pay off your credit card in full because no travel is worth damaging your credit score.

Do you have any travel hacking tips? Have you scored an awesome deal lately? Make me jealous and share your story in the comment section.

About the Author

Miranda Russell

Miranda has a Bachelor’s degree from Athabasca University and currently works in marketing. She enjoys playing with her fur baby--Maverick, traveling, and training for races. She hopes to one day manage a marketing or events department for a large company.

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