Personal Finance

Travel Hack your Way to Budget Trips out of Canada

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With the cold Canadian winter upon us (you know, we all have to start preparing our igloos for the cold harsh Canadian winter because that’s what it is all about), it makes sense that we are all trying to find a way to escape the cold. I have a bad case of the traveling blues mixed with an additional diagnosis of wanderlust. Since I am a huge stickler for deals, free tickets, and deeply discounted trips, I started looking into travel hacking.

What Is Travel Hacking?

What is travel hacking you ask? Well, travel hacking goes beyond the normal travel-lover behaviour of signing up for Aeroplan points. It might even go beyond signing up for the Aeroplan Star Challenge and going to the gas station to gas up in $3 increments despite the disapproval from the gas attendants. Errr…. okay… maybe not.

Travel hacking is a strategy where you can go anywhere in the world. For almost free. It all got started by Chris Guillebeau, who is amazing because he has been almost everywhere in the world, has traveled in business class on points, and has mastered the art of travel hacking.

In Canada, there are some avid travel hackers such as Matt Bailey, who is an entrepreneur and a Canadian travel hacker. He was able to fly from Calgary to Austin, Texas for $65. He just paid the taxes.

Yeah… it is that awesome.

How Do I Start Travel Hacking?

There are numerous ways to start travel hacking. First and foremost is to sign up for points on the flight programs and strategically opt for the frequent flyer programs and airlines that you will be using most. For instance, if you travel to Europe a lot compared to Asia, it might be a better idea to choose the frequent flyer program offered by British Airways instead of Asia Miles even though they are part of the same frequent flyer program. Also, sign up for hotel rewards too. Such as Marriott or Starwood Preferred Guest.

Related: 8 Best Travel Credit Cards in Canada

Secondly, sign up for a travel credit card. Opt for something that gives you a large number of bonus points. Opt for something that is (if you can) free in the first year and remember to cancel before you are charged the $150+ subscription price.

Some credit cards in Canada that offer a healthy number of bonus points when you sign up for the credit card include:

  • Royal Bank of Canada Avion Visa– you get 15,000 points. If you have a few RBC products (e.g. mortgage, bank account, investments) in the past, they offered the first year for free- not sure if this is the case now
  • Bank of Montreal World Elite Mastercard– you get 30,000 points (worth $300) when you first sign up and the first year is free

Finally, strategize and join travel hacking forums. Word is that you can travel and get free stopovers on Aeroplan points for free. Meaning, that you can travel to Miami from Toronto and stop over in Chicago for a few days for free.

Will It Affect my Credit Score?

If you open up credit cards in order to get travel points it may affect your credit score. In my opinion, I don’t really have the need to open up another mortgage, nor do I have the need to borrow money to lease or finance a car at the present moment. As long as you pay off your credit cards on time, and you don’t make too many new credit card applications on an annual basis, according to the Office of Consumer Affairs on how to improve your credit score, you should be fine.

Related: Worst Credit Card Mistakes and How They Can Affect Your Credit Score

Another thing to consider is cancelling your tried and trusted credit cards. Million Dollar Journey stated that you should probably think twice before cancelling an old credit card in good standing because it might affect your credit score negatively.

Can Travel Hacking Become an Addiction?

There are no guarantees whether the concept and strategies pertaining to travel hacking will begin to consume every waking hour of your life. No guarantees whether it will increase or decrease your wanderlust and itch to travel. Some people who try travel hacking become addicted, and some find the side effects too bothersome.

Personally, I haven’t fully immersed myself in travel hacking yet. If I had my way, I would somehow plan a 3-6 month trip around the world with points. That would be my ultimate dream!

Readers, what’s your favourite travel hack story? Do you have any travel hacking tips to share?


Young is a writer and former owner of Young and Thrifty. She lives in Vancouver, BC and enjoys long walks on the beach, spending time with her anxious dog, and finding good deals.

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