Travel Hacking 101

Eddie Braverman's picture
Rank: The Pro | 21,180

mod (Andy) note: "Blast from the past - Best of Eddie" - This one is originally from December 2010. If there's an old post from Eddie you'd like to see up again shoot me a message.

"The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page." - St. Augustine

It's been a while since I've written a travel post, and I came across something yesterday that I had to let you guys know about. A buddy of mine sent me this article about a guy who is going to fly 35,000 miles, hit 4 continents, and visit 15 cities in 9 different countries all for $418. You read that right: $418. Total. Even better, he tells you exactly how he did it.

It's not well-known, but the fact is that round the world (RTW) travel is surprisingly affordable and flexible. In fact, you're not even held to scheduling constraints on an RTW ticket - if you need to change the date or time of your scheduled flight you can do so with no penalty (you can't change cities once you purchase the ticket, however). For those looking to spend the summer traveling, it's definitely worth looking into.

Travel hacking has become a popular practice for many. Maxing out frequent flyer programs and credit card offers to pay for airfare is now common. No one is better at this than Chris Guillebeau, and he's about to offer an alert service for those of you who want to be tipped off to travel hacking deals. For an excellent video teaching travel hacks, go HERE.

Anyway, I thought you guys could use the tips. Nothing broadens your world view like travel. Here's one other bit of travel advice from your Uncle Eddie: you can save a ton of dough if you're willing to be a pioneer. Here's what I mean.

My wife and I have traveled the world and enjoyed some of the plushest resorts because we're willing to be among the first to try them out and we have the flexibility to travel off-season. For example, we were one of the first guests of The Verandah in Antigua when they opened in November 2007. This place was unbelievable, and it was still under construction when we stayed there. It was all-inclusive (yup, that means free booze - an important consideration for me) and we spent a week there for $2,200 total, including airfare.

A week later we were off to Rome, where we stayed at the Hotel Artemide downtown for $100 a night and get this: they stocked the mini bar with free beer every morning. I could go on and on. We spent 10 days in Paris in early 2003 for $1,200 total (for both of us), including airfare because we were willing to travel at the drop of a hat.

So if you love to travel, learn the hacks. If you can fly around the world for less than $500, why wouldn't you? One of the best books written on the subject was actually written by a drinking buddy of mine, Rolf Potts. The book is Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel and you should check it out if you're the least bit interested in long-term travel. Rolf just completed a 6-week round the world trip with no luggage just to see if it could be done. Watch the videos if you want to laugh your ass off.

It's time to start planning for Pamplona in July guys. Don't let me be the only one running with the bulls this year. I'm telling you - it'll be one of the exclamation points in your life.

I'm gearing up for my trip back to New Orleans next week. Anyone have any exciting travel planned?

Comments (68)

Dec 10, 2010

hey does any 1 know is 4000 pennies will get past airport security? don't ask.

Dec 10, 2010
blastoise:

hey does any 1 know is 4000 pennies will get past airport security? don't ask.

Keep your goddamn money squirtz

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses - Henry Ford

Dec 10, 2010

This is some absurd shit. I had no idea.

Dec 10, 2010

Where's the sign up sheet for Pamplona? Count me in! My new goal is to acquire the frequent flier miles through these techniques. Too cool!

I'm heading to Machu Picchu in January. Any monkeys have advise for me? (Oops, asked too soon...it's at the top of Steve's Epic Quests)

A good friend will come and bail you out of jail...but a true friend will be sitting next to you saying, "Damn...that was fun!"

Dec 10, 2010
LetsGoSailing:

Where's the sign up sheet for Pamplona? Count me in! My new goal is to acquire the frequent flier miles through these techniques. Too cool!

I'm heading to Machu Picchu in January. Any monkeys have advise for me? (Oops, asked too soon...it's at the top of Steve's Epic Quests)

When I was still in college, my family and I traveled out to Machu Picchu. We didn't do the Inca Trail, but we did hike to the top of Huyana Picchu (the mountain in the background of all the photos). It's about 1000 feet and takes 90 minutes to climb. DON'T LOOK DOWN, and DON'T TRIP. That said, it's well worth the (kinda scary) hike. The Temple of the Moon is near the top and the view from the rock at the top of the mountain is breathtaking.

Lake Titicaca would be a great trip, too, but we just stuck to Cuzco, The Sacred Valley, and Lima.

In the Sacred Valley and around Machu Picchu, being able to speak Spanish is good; speaking Kechua is even better.

The accomodations in Aguas Calientes are a little primitive. Might not want to have a finicky girlfriend spend the night there- the "nice" hotel we stayed at had a plastic roof. Needless to say, it was tough for us to find the any aguas calientes there.

Dec 10, 2010

Great post. Lately, I've been thinking of doing the same thing. Take a year off and just go travel the world.

Taking off after the summer for a year, and then come back and finish off my degree / go through full time recruiting.

Dec 10, 2010

I'm starting to put stuff together for Pamplona now. I'll do a post about it soon. Looks like round trip airfare from JFK-PNA is right at $1,000 right now. That's leaving Wed July 6 and returning Mon July 11. Not asshole flights, either. You get to Pamplona at 10:30 am on Thursday, and your flight out leaves at 10:30 am on Monday. For those monkeys in the NYC area, anyway.

Dec 10, 2010

This is unendingly awesome. Just spent about 5 months living in Europe, did some travelling but was mostly planted in one capital. Had never been outside the US before, this was really the best experience I've ever had. Definitely getting in on some of those miles deals....

Dec 10, 2010

I am already planning for Pamplona

Dec 10, 2010

Couldn't agree more with the post. I was born in America, but I've been to (off the top of my head) canada, mexico, peru, ecuador, argentina, france, spain, italy, greece, germany, england, monaco, botswana, zambia, zimbabwe, south africa, morroco, holland, switzerland, russia, jamaica, antigua, sweden, norway, finland, turkey, japan, veitnam, thailand, dubai, and Taiwan ("and") China... And I actually live in China now.

some of that was on a budget, some of it wasn't... great experiences either way.

Dec 10, 2010

I will have to tell my stories about thrifty Dutch vacations at some point. After spending two years working, I finally decided to treat myself to a quick vacation. I spent a week in Key Largo for $1000, including airfare, food, hotel, and car rental (for a 24 year-old).

My extended family also has some crazy stories from the early days of the Green Tortoise Line:

http://www.greentortoise.com/adventures/alaska.loo...

Dec 10, 2010
IlliniProgrammer:

My extended family also has some crazy stories from the early days of the Green Tortoise Line:

http://www.greentortoise.com/adventures/alaska.loo...

That trip sounds awesome, dude. I've been to Alaska 3 times and can't get enough of the place. That might be one to consider when my boys get a little older.

Dec 10, 2010

I just made a mock itinerary for fun. This stuff SERIOUSLY makes me want to quit my job and take a year off...

Dec 10, 2010

I've got 150K+ American Airlines miles burning a hole in my pocket. I was going to wait until next year to use them because I have a few shorter trips planned this year (and got married and bought a house), but maybe a trip to Europe is in order this summer.

A fun week or so with the wife in Spain and an awesome weekend in Pamplona could be a great time.

twitter: @CorpFin_Guy

Dec 10, 2010

I was a Premier Executive (star alliance gold) on united airlines in tenth grade.

Dec 10, 2010

I have a 2 week italian get-a-way with the gf planned for the middle of May. Buddy of mine is living in Naples, but he has contacts in alot of the big cities...

Anyone have an "must-see" places while in italy or surrounding coutnries?

"Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish"

Dec 10, 2010
dmcd:

I have a 2 week italian get-a-way with the gf planned for the middle of May. Buddy of mine is living in Naples, but he has contacts in alot of the big cities...

Anyone have an "must-see" places while in italy or surrounding coutnries?

Florence and Lucca are musts. Lucca is fucking awesome. It's a city still surrounded by a protective wall. If you're an opera fan, it is also the birthplace of Puccini and you can see his house and the cafe still exists where he penned his operas.

Can't go wrong with Venice, Portofino and Cinque Terre. Go to the original Harry's Bar in Venice to say you were there. During the mortgage meltdown they gave Americans a 20% discount! Hahaha.

Enjoy!

Dec 10, 2010
tyrets:
dmcd:

I have a 2 week italian get-a-way with the gf planned for the middle of May. Buddy of mine is living in Naples, but he has contacts in alot of the big cities...

Anyone have an "must-see" places while in italy or surrounding coutnries?

Florence and Lucca are musts. Lucca is fucking awesome. It's a city still surrounded by a protective wall. If you're an opera fan, it is also the birthplace of Puccini and you can see his house and the cafe still exists where he penned his operas.

Can't go wrong with Venice, Portofino and Cinque Terre. Go to the original Harry's Bar in Venice to say you were there. During the mortgage meltdown they gave Americans a 20% discount! Hahaha.

Enjoy!

I went to Harrys in 2007 in Venice and I think a Scotch & Soda cost me some thing outrageous, like 20 Euros, which was almost $30 at the time.

Dec 10, 2010
dmcd:

I have a 2 week italian get-a-way with the gf planned for the middle of May. Buddy of mine is living in Naples, but he has contacts in alot of the big cities...

Anyone have an "must-see" places while in italy or surrounding coutnries?

While I was studying abroad last semester I as able to visit italy for 10 days. First off, Naples is not really a place you want to be hanging out with. Unreal pizza, unreal crime. That being said, there is so much to do around Naples so it would be fine if you did stay at your friends place. I'm not sure if your girlfriend would be too pleased with Naples, most girls aren't.

This is what I did in Italy. (This was created through a lot of research from everyone who was going on the trip, 10 in all)

  1. Fly into Genoa (1 day) - Why? because it was very close to the cinque terre
  2. Cinque Terre (2 days) - Why? Because its one of the coolest places I have been. 5 cities, hence cinque, strung together on the north-western italian coast. Google it, you will not be disappointed.
  3. Florence (2 days) - while on the way to florence we stopped in Piza for an hour to see the leaning tower. Thats all I recommend there to be honest. Florence is unreal. Make sure to grab a bottle of wine, some cheese, maybe a banana or two and head to the Michelangelo Piazza for a sunset. Pretty popular spot and one of the replica davids is up there.
  4. Naples, Capri, Mount Vesuvius, Pompeii (2 days) - Really cool area. I stayed in Naples with at a cheap hostel that was rated very highly. First day I was there I went to Capri which is an unreal island a hour of the coast of Naples/Sorrento. Take your girl friend to the famous "blue grotto". That will get her wet. The next day I went to Pompeii/ Mount Vesuvius. Definitely must sees. You could also check out Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast. Those are two hot spots down there.
  5. Rome (3 days) - self explanatory. Awesome, awesome place.

Let me know if you have any other questions. Italy is unreal.

Dec 10, 2010
cpops16:

First day I was there I went to Capri which is an unreal island a hour of the coast of Naples/Sorrento. Take your girl friend to the famous "blue grotto". That will get her wet.

I actually avoided Capri for this very reason. The locals I spoke to said that it was so beautiful that if you didn't spend at least a weekend there you were cheating yourself. Alas, I only had a day to do it so I took their advice and passed. Next time.

Dec 11, 2010
dmcd:

Anyone have an "must-see" places while in italy or surrounding coutnries?

Since youre going to Naples, be sure to take the short Ferry to Capri. Amazing, expensive, but since youre going with a girl, nothing more romantic.

Hotel is about (not hostels there) $100/nt but worth it for 1 nt... go the edge of the island 'Faro', you take a bus there and theres a lighthouse. All you see is ocean for around 270 degrees while youre at the tip. Sunset = win.

edit: this should give you an idea, though IMO picture doesnt do it justice:
http://image16.webshots.com/17/7/83/97/186678397yS...

Dec 10, 2010

dmcd,

Florence is pretty fantastic food-wise. Anywhere in Tuscany is awesome for food and wine. I wouldn't go out of my way to get to Pisa. Sure, the leaning tower is cool but once you've seen it the rest of the town is kinda meh. If you find yourself in the area and want to visit a really cool walled city go check out Lucca. In central Tuscany, San Gimignano is a must-see.

Rome speaks for itself, as does Venice and Naples.

Dec 10, 2010

I have 0 desire to travel outside of America to be honest...

Dec 10, 2010
<span class=keyword_link><a href=//www.wallstreetoasis.com/company/sac-capital rel=nofollow>SAC</a></span>:

I have 0 desire to travel outside of America to be honest...

I said that too once upon a time. Then my parents forced me to study abroad and I've gone back abroad ever since every chance I get..

Dec 10, 2010
<span class=keyword_link><a href=//www.wallstreetoasis.com/company/sac-capital rel=nofollow>SAC</a></span>:

I have 0 desire to travel outside of America to be honest...

Nothing personal, but this is a large part of the problem America has with world diplomacy today. Two-thirds of the diplomats sent to establish a new government in Iraq had to apply for their first passport in order to go. Now, what the fuck do you know about the world if you've never even left the U.S.? (that's not directed at you, SAC, but at the State Dept who was stupid enough to send these idiots abroad)

I've never understood the desire to never leave home, but the fact is a large percentage of Americans die within a 50-mile radius of where they were born. So there you have it.

Dec 9, 2012
<span class='keyword_link'><a href=//www.wallstreetoasis.com/company/sac-capital>SAC</a></span>:

I have 0 desire to travel outside of America to be honest...

That's just bizarre for an educated person...hope you're trolling for america's sake

Dec 10, 2010

My new job starts in January. I am going to book the airline ticket next week and visit Shanghai, Hong Kong, Macau, and finally Singapore.

Best Response
Dec 9, 2012

If you want to minimize the effect of jet lag/ time zone changes, there's a great trick that has saved me quite a few times. Let's say you just arrived in Heathrow and it's 8am. You want to set your body clock to wake up early the next day. This is what you do:

  1. Choose the time you want to wake up. Let's say we choose 7am.
  2. For 16 hours before 7am the next day, do not eat or drink anything except for a little water. Meaning, have a breakfast and maybe an early lunch, but do not eat or drink anything past 3pm today.
  3. Go to bed about 6-8 hours before you want to wake up, and obviously set your alarm.
  4. Wake up at 7am, feeling probably way better than you thought you would, albeit a bit hungry. Reward yourself with a good breakfast.

This method works by tricking your body into a temporary "starvation mode", which restarts your body clock and gets you waking up approximately 16 hours after your last meal in order to go hunting for food.

    • 7
Dec 9, 2012

Not bad. You can also just use melatonin.

Dec 9, 2012
Red Power Ranger:

If you want to minimize the effect of jet lag/ time zone changes, there's a great trick that has saved me quite a few times. Let's say you just arrived in Heathrow and it's 8am. You want to set your body clock to wake up early the next day. This is what you do:

  1. Choose the time you want to wake up. Let's say we choose 7am.
  2. For 16 hours before 7am the next day, do not eat or drink anything except for a little water. Meaning, have a breakfast and maybe an early lunch, but do not eat or drink anything past 3pm today.
  3. Go to bed about 6-8 hours before you want to wake up, and obviously set your alarm.
  4. Wake up at 7am, feeling probably way better than you thought you would, albeit a bit hungry. Reward yourself with a good breakfast.

This method works by tricking your body into a temporary "starvation mode", which restarts your body clock and gets you waking up approximately 16 hours after your last meal in order to go hunting for food.

Your body doesn't go into "starvation mode" just by not eating for 16 hours. That would be like saying those who celebrate Ramadan go into starvation mode every time they fast. That being said, interesting tactic. I have the gift of being able to pass the fuck out on planes so I always go redeye.

Dec 9, 2012

Trying using Skiplagged for airplane tickets. It's an under-the-radar site that allows you to use the hidden city trick to sometimes get lower prices for tickets than you can find on any other site.

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Dec 9, 2012

Young wolf where do you reside?

Dec 9, 2012

i'm currently residing in melbourne

Dec 9, 2012

Number 3 is also great for shopping in countries where you get sales taxes rebated if you're from a foreign country. Definitely has saved me a few hundred on my travels.

Dec 9, 2012

If you're staying in a Marriott hotel, search for room rate codes on Flyertalk.com. Many times I have booked a room with a code that gives you a free ticket to some sporting event or theme park, or a $25 gift card to a restaurant or shopping center.

It's even better if you're booking on the company dime and they aren't too strict on what type of rate you book, because then you get a little extra for yourself in that room package without having to pay much more out of your own pocket to go do something fun.

    • 1
Dec 9, 2012

burn CDs and then return them

Dec 9, 2012

I have done this a bunch of times with success:

I have a suitcase that is larger than the TSA carry-on requirement, but not full suitcase size (strange tweener size). So anytime I want to check it for free I just bring in through security with me and then at the gate it will get flagged 9/10 times. They check it for free at the gate and in the 1/10 times they miss it, I just throw it in the overhead.

    • 1
Dec 9, 2012
adapt or die:

I have done this a bunch of times with success:

I have a suitcase that is larger than the TSA carry-on requirement, but not full suitcase size (strange tweener size). So anytime I want to check it for free I just bring in through security with me and then at the gate it will get flagged 9/10 times. They check it for free at the gate and in the 1/10 times they miss it, I just throw it in the overhead.

Rimowa by chance?

Dec 9, 2012

Get the Tripcase app.

It allows you to simply forward your reservation confirmation for flights and hotels and most importantly sends immediate updates regarding delays and gate changes.

The app is much quicker than any airline updates you might have turned on to alert you of changes.

    • 1
Dec 9, 2012
dreamchaser24:

Get the Tripcase app.

It allows you to simply forward your reservation confirmation for flights and hotels and most importantly sends immediate updates regarding delays and gate changes.

The app is much quicker than any airline updates you might have turned on to alert you of changes.

That's actually a great tip. I didn't know about the app but tried it now and it's outstanding.

Dec 9, 2012
  1. Skip Google translate, use Microsoft Translator. You can download entire languages and translate pictures (ie a picture of a menu for example).
Dec 9, 2012
N0DuckingWay:
  1. Skip Google translate, use Microsoft Translator. You can download entire languages and translate pictures (ie a picture of a menu for example).

Have you ever tried iTranslator?

Dec 9, 2012
  1. Any reading that needs to be done can be done on a Kindle. Saves your eyes and weight in your bag.
  2. Those travel storage bags actually do save space.
  3. Throw socks into dress shoes instead of using those savers.

"Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face."

    • 1
Dec 9, 2012

My #1 travel tip is that most large hotels have bathrooms somewhere in the lobby that are open (but sometimes hidden) to the public if you're in a pinch.

    • 1
Dec 9, 2012

I had a colleague who never went #2 in our building he would walk to the hotel down the street.

Dec 9, 2012

Best "Travel Hack"

Fill a Quart Bag with 5-6 Nips of alcohol(I prefer scotch). When you board the plane open the bag and commence imbibing. You saved yourself $40-$50 bucks, flight attendants also recognize you as a seasoned flying veteran and will give you better service.

That last sentence may not be true.

Dec 9, 2012

Holy fuck -- is "travel hack" just a euphemism for "common sense"?

Bring a pen? Use Google Translate? Buy a Kindle to save weight vs. books? Is this what passes for advice these days?

Dec 9, 2012

Ah cmon. You picked the obvious examples. There were good posts, too

Dec 9, 2012

how about slip the hot flight attendant 100 bucks and ask her to get a "drink" at HER hotel. worst case you get superb service and maybe a handy in the crew area. i never get jet lagged after a good shagging.

Dec 9, 2012

If you pack a suit / dress shirts, use a business travel case (Travel Pro is the best brand) that has the hook for the hangers. As soon as you arrive at your hotel, take the suit/shirts out and hang them next to the shower. Turn that shit on at maximum temperature and close the bathroom door. Leave on for 20 minutes and any wrinkles will be gone.

You may want to shave while you do this, and you will find that the bathroom mirror gets foggy. Before it does, wipe the mirror with a thin layer of soap / soapy water - the soap prevents the fog from appearing in the mirror.

Soap can also be used as a replacement for shaving cream if you forget yours.

If you bring your own booze onto the plane, don't let the flight attendants see you pour it as it's against FAA regulations for you to serve yourself. Don't ask for a cup of ice as that is an obvious tip off. Ask for a cup of ice water, drink the water, then pour your scotch over the remaining ice when no one is watching.

Buy yourself some noise-cancelling headphones. Seriously.

And get yourself the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. Use it to buy Global Entry, which also gives you automatic TSA Pre-Check, and Chase will reimburse you. You also get 3x points on dining and travel and it comes with 100,000 bonus points if you spend a minimum amount in the first couple of months ($4k in 3 months, maybe?). All the points you earn can be transferred 1:1 into United miles, hotel points, car rental points, etc. It's only $150 a year net of the annual travel credit of $300.

Also, if you fly for work, always use the same airline. Once you have status, your life becomes much better. For example access to airport lounges, free economy plus seating for yourself up to 10 friends on your reservation (at United 1K status), and you earn more miles through status multipliers. The upgrades are also nice once you figure out how to use them.

    • 2
Dec 10, 2010

It's not the desire to never leave home - it's the lack of desire to leave home.

Fact is that the US is one of the few countries in the world where most people can drive in a 1000 mile radius of them and find people who largely share the same culture and language (excluding the Southwest and excepting the Quebecois). You don't get that anywhere else.

Dec 10, 2010

You have some great places in the US but there is so much more to see.. get out and explore the world! It's the best thing to spend your time and money on. Most people get that only once they are old and retired. It's just much better to travel while you are still young and when you don't only enjoy culture and coutryside, but also nightlife, women etc.

My plan is to travel SE-Asia and Australia next year.. doing some surfing, diving, trekking..

Btw I moved to Milan a few months ago (doing an MSF). Awsome place. Not that beautiful, but great nightlife, food and general lifestyle. Go check out the tuscany region (florence, pisa, siena, lucca etc), dont miss Rome. This stuff is all very touristy though, but it's the best you can do in 2 weeks. In summer I would better recommend you to the South and spend some time on the islands..

Has anyone ever heard of off & away? Can you really make some good deals there?

http://www.offandaway.com/

Dec 10, 2010

Illini, thanks for the Machu Picchu advise! I'll be sending the girlfriend to New York while I go to Peru, so I will need "cheap" accommodations, lol! Plastic roof beats no roof!

BTW, I checked out buying $1 coins from the US Mint to boost credit card miles...the Mint has caught on, and will only send $1,000 every 10 days...any other creative ideas??

A good friend will come and bail you out of jail...but a true friend will be sitting next to you saying, "Damn...that was fun!"

Dec 15, 2010
LetsGoSailing:

BTW, I checked out buying $1 coins from the US Mint to boost credit card miles...the Mint has caught on, and will only send $1,000 every 10 days...any other creative ideas??

FREE standard shipping? That's like a cash advance with zero fees! you sir are a genius!

More is good, all is better

Dec 9, 2012
LetsGoSailing:

BTW, I checked out buying $1 coins from the US Mint to boost credit card miles...the Mint has caught on, and will only send $1,000 every 10 days...any other creative ideas??

I don't know how well this would work, especially today, but I always wondered if you could deposit via credit card onto an online poker site or something similar and then when it clears or whatever, request a withdrawal via check. Risk factors would probably include liquidity of the site and personal constraint, but I think it could work. When I used to play though, I made my initial deposit with a credit card and got the standard points for it and everything and was able to withdrawal checks, but again, things are a lot harder now.

Dec 10, 2010

I stayed in Pamplona a couple nights (sleeping in parks like you're supposed to) and did the run two days. Dodged a bull by about a hair in the stadium and pushed off its rump as I was dodging out of the way. Honestly one of the few experiences that lives up to all the hype and more. Every moment of every day there is still as vivid as the morning after. For those of you going, drink some Don Simon, party with the local Basques, and don't take no for an answer when they try and clear the streets before the run. You'll never forget it and it's worth every Skymile/penny.

"The only point in making money is so you can tell some big shot where to go."
-Bogie

Dec 10, 2010

In case anyone wants to see the actual article: http://gizmodo.com/5710654/how-to-fly-35000-miles-...

Dec 10, 2010

Edmundo is right, i was on a cruise and only had one day to explore Capris which was mostly spent on the terrible ferry. All in all it was a beautiful place though, Santorini (Greek Isle) is the most beautiful place i have ever seen but nightlife was very limited.

Dec 11, 2010
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Dec 15, 2010
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More is good, all is better