When I first learned about travel hacking it all sounded like a gimmick. Traveling the world for free? I didn’t think it was possible to do what all those “travel bloggers” were doing.

I was also scared to get involved for a year or two after learning about it because I feared it would hurt my credit score and having a bunch of credit cards surely wasn’t responsible.

I’ll admit it, I was wrong. We are just a normal family and I was shocked when I added up the dollars we earned our first full year of travel hacking.

It was more like a year and a half of travel hacking when you factor in points accumulation. Anyhow, I was able to earn a dollar for dollar raise of $4,515 because it was money that would have come directly from our pocket, but instead came from somewhere else.

I’m not going to say that anyone can do this because it is a lot to learn and I’ve explained this to many people and they often look at me like I have six heads.

Once you learn the basics of travel hacking and set up a simple system to stay on top of it, it really is possible to add thousands of dollars back into your pocket that you otherwise would have spent on traveling.

We took 16 flights and stayed in 4 hotels all without paying a dime of our own money (except for taxes and fees). That added up to be $4,415 in spending that we would have had to spend.

My wife is not a big traveler and so we didn’t take a bunch of lavish trips. Most of it was traveling back and forth between Texas and Utah with a few weekend getaways and one trip to Cancun, Mexico.

travel hacking

What is Travel Hacking?

Travel hacking simply means working within the existing rules set up by airlines, credit cards, and hotels, and using them to your advantage to earn free travel including flights, lodging, and other upgrades.

It’s actually pretty easy to earn free flights and lodging, it just takes a little bit of planning and prep.

The Companion Pass

When I first learned about the companion pass I thought, man you would have to take like a hundred flights to even qualify to take a companion for free with you on Southwest.

The Southwest Companion Pass is a pass that allows a Rapid Rewards member to add a second person (Companion) free of charge to any flight that they book with Southwest, as long as there is another seat available for purchase. The member just needs to pay the taxes and fees for the Companion.

travel hacking

Once again, I was wrong. The nice thing about the companion pass is you get it the entire year for which you qualify and the entire year after. So if you do it right, you’re able to have the companion pass for about 24 months. In our case, this was earning the companion pass the beginning of 2019 and having it last until December 2021.

Having the companion pass alone has saved us thousands of dollars.

The way we earned it was not through making 100 qualifying flights, instead, we did it through signing up for two credit cards. The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards®
Premier Business Credit Card. To qualify for the southwest companion pass you need to earn 110,000 Rapid Rewards points in one calendar year. By signing up for the Rapid Rewards Plus credit card which had a 50,000 RR bonus when you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months and the Premier Business credit card which had a 60,000 RR bonus when you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months we were able to meet the requirement of 110,000 RR points. We didn’t even have to spend extra money above the bonus to get the companion pass. It took us about three months to earn the bonus from each credit card and we really don’t spend that much money.

If you’re worried about spending that much money in such a short period of time you can do things like prepaying insurance policies, paying for tuition (in my case), or many other things.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred

Aside from the Companion Pass, having the Chase Sapphire Preferred is by far my favorite card.


I signed up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred, spent $4,000 in the first three months and earned 50,000. The nice thing about this card it the annual fee is waived the first year.

To keep track of everything that was going on and to stay organized. I created a spreadsheet below. I included things like the date opened, when I earned the bonus, what the annual fee was and if it was waived the first year, and a date to consider closing or downgrading. To avoid the fee the following year is all you have to do is call the credit card company a few weeks in advance and telling them you would like to downgrade to a no annual fee credit card. They say ok, and ship you a new credit card.

A few of the cards, including the Chase Sapphire Preferred, is worth paying the annual fee because of the benefits that come from using the card throughout the year.

Some of the benefits include:

Here’s a break down of the exact cards we signed up for and the points earned from each one.

As I delved deeper into the world of travel hacking, I discovered that it was indeed a legitimate and effective strategy for making travel more affordable and accessible. Through careful research, strategic planning, and utilizing the benefits of travel rewards programs, I realized that anyone could take advantage of these opportunities.

Travel hacking is not about cheating the system or engaging in unethical practices. It’s about understanding how airlines, hotels, and credit card companies operate their loyalty programs and leveraging them to our advantage. By maximizing credit card rewards, earning airline miles, and utilizing hotel loyalty programs, we can unlock incredible travel experiences that were once considered out of reach.

The key to successful travel hacking lies in being knowledgeable, organized, and proactive. It requires staying up to date with the latest offers, understanding the redemption options, and planning ahead to make the most of our rewards. Additionally, it’s important to manage our credit responsibly, pay off balances in full, and avoid unnecessary debt.

By adopting a travel hacking mindset, we can transform our travel experiences and explore the world in ways we never thought possible. Whether it’s scoring free flights to exotic destinations, enjoying luxurious hotel stays, or experiencing unique cultural encounters, travel hacking opens doors to incredible adventures while keeping our wallets happy.

So, if you’ve ever dreamed of traveling the world without breaking the bank, I encourage you to dive into the world of travel hacking. Arm yourself with knowledge, seek advice from experienced travel hackers, and embark on a journey of exploration and discovery. With dedication and a strategic approach, you too can unlock the secrets of travel hacking and make your travel dreams a reality. Bon voyage!

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