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Beginner’s Guide to Travel Hacking

Greetings from Ouagoudougou, winner of the “most awesome city name” contest and also my current stop on the week-long West Africa tour. I came in via Lufthansa, Royal Air Maroc, and Ethiopian Airlines... but more on that in a moment. I wanted to write a lengthy post outlining a few principles of what I call travel hacking. In short, travel hacking is all about seeing experiencing the world on a limited budget. I've been able to visit so many countries over the past decade not by being independently wealthy, but by learning to be creative.

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The Latest In Travel Hacking, “Volcanic Ash Karma” Edition

I lived in Seattle from 2006-2008 without a car, which worked well about 80% of the time. The other 20% of the time, I spent a lot of time waiting on street corners for the bus to arrive. It was frequently late, but once in a while, I'd get to the bus stop right when the bus was pulling up. My friends and I called this “good bus karma” which we ascribed to previous 40-minute waits when we had just missed it.

Last month during the British Airways strike, I walked around a deserted Heathrow airport terminal with departure signs reading CANCELLED. Meanwhile, my flight went out as planned, albeit on a chartered “EuroAtlantic” flight where the meal consisted of a paper bag filled with bananas (seriously) and half a bottle of one-euro red wine. I was grateful for the bananas, but mostly for the flight.

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The Latest in Travel Hacking

This is a story that involves a) a frustrating series of calls to Expedia, b) a way to repay Expedia's unhelpfulness by giving many of you $200, c) my attempts to order a total of $16,500 coins from the U.S. Mint, d) a Lasik eye exam in pursuit of Delta SkyMiles, and much more.

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Earn 430,000 Miles from the Best Current Travel Card Offers

Every year I earn well over one million Frequent Flyer miles and points. About 250,000 of them come through actual travel, but the rest come through travel hacking: the art of seeing the world on a budget.

One of the easiest ways to earn a lot of miles all at once is through credit card signup bonuses. When managed carefully (i.e., you pay your bills on time), there's no downside and you can keep the miles coming for a long time.

We've had a bunch of new offers recently, and it's been a while since I've done a roundup. This post contains the best current card offers. If getting each one, you'd earn 430,000 miles!

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How an Investment Banker Quit Her Job to Travel the World Solo

Kristin Addis seemingly had it all: lucrative banking job in sunny Southern California, and all the things that go with that life. Yet something was missing. The money and apparent professional success weren’t as fulfilling as they were supposed to be. So she saved up some money, quit her job, and bought a one-way ticket out of the country.

I was by myself on the side of the road, in the snow, in the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of China with my thumb up. I was there because I wanted to trek the surrounding mountains. They were rumored to be beautiful and didn't disappoint. I'd had a continuous run of luck prior to that getting around the country by taking rides, and decided to try hitchhiking from there back to Chengdu.

After about 20 bone-chilling minutes, a couple of guys picked me up and drove like mad men through the mountain passes. When we stopped for lunch, they ordered a feast that even six people couldn't finish, let alone three. One item was a famous steamed fish in the area—a fish with a strange bone in its head.

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7 Ways to Get Started Earning Points & Miles for Free Travel

Hey everyone! Lots of new people are reading the blog lately, and I’ve been getting a bunch of questions about some travel hacking basics.

Here are a few notes for everyone who’s just started.

I originally started travel hacking as a means to see the world without spending a lot of money. I didn’t have a lot of money, and I also had a long list of places to go. Over the next decade, I had countless adventures all enabled through the world of miles and points.

I could have seen the world without ever using Frequent Flyer miles, but it definitely would have been much more expensive, and probably a lot less fun.

Here are seven things you should do to get started.

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Hacking European Budget Airlines: Learn From An Expat’s Experience

When American expat Julie Smith moved to the UK, she imagined endless jaunts around Europe, weekends exploring foreign cities and spontaneous day trips to Paris. Faced with a limited budget and a need to get creative, she discovered the glorious world of budget airlines and has been a loyal fan ever since.

Ultra low fare airlines like Ryanair and Easyjet changed the landscape of flying in Europe when they were created in the 1990s. They introduced the lowest fares anyone had seen, especially compared to British Airways, Aer Lingus, and the other government subsidized airlines, advertising tickets for as low as £1 plus tax.

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Get 175,000 Points + $500 in Travel Rewards from Business Cards

Link: Enhanced Business Platinum Card

Link: Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business Card

Link: SimplyCash Plus Business Card ($500 Credit)

Once again, it’s raining points and miles—a bunch of new travel hacking offers have hit the market all at once, offering you the chance to earn up to 175,000 miles (or more depending on how you count it) and an additional $500.

There's been some confusion about all these AmEx offers, so I thought I’d break down the most attractive ones and also clarify something. Let’s start with the clarification: these are marketed as business card offers, but if you’re eligible for U.S. credit cards, you’re probably eligible to get at least one of these.

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“Freedom is the ability to travel”: Creating Multiple Sources of Income as a Millennial

evan3 Evan Tarver is a location-independent entrepreneur who, through multiple income streams and careful business growth, has the freedom to travel nationally and internationally. Right now he’s in Austin, but who knows where he’ll be next month!

Fresh out of college, I tossed aside a degree in Finance and Economics to take a retail management job with Target because it paid well (mistake!). Well, you guessed it, my happiness quickly waned and I decided to pull up roots, quit my job, and travel Europe until my bank account ran dry. And so I did, traveling to more than 7 countries and maxing out my last credit card to change flights from Geneva to Paris to make it home in one piece.

These days I'm a San Francisco-based millennial-entrepreneur who faces constant success and failure. I’m passionate about both writing and entrepreneurship for the collective freedom they afford. While a lot of my contemporaries in Silicon Valley are caught up in the "scale or die mentality," I focus on building my businesses very carefully so that they give me the freedom I covet. For me, freedom is the ability to travel.

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How 2 People Traveled for a Year on $20,000

At first glance Evo Terra and Sheila Dee’s story might seem a lot like many other empty nesters who sold everything to travel around the world. But most weren’t kicked out of their home state by a doctor—and most eventually return. These two are still going!

After 17 years of living in Arizona, Sheila's doctor told us to leave—the quicker, the better. The dry, dusty atmosphere was quite literally killing her. So two months later, we found ourselves on a plane bound for Europe, chasing high-humidity environments and seeing what living as travelers and expats is like around the world.

Prior to this trip, we hadn't done all that much traveling, except for the standard up-to-Canada and down-to-Mexico trips most people from the U.S. make every year or so. Because there's something extra motivating when a doctor orders you to get out, we decided to really go for it and try out a few other continents!

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Will Travel For Food: One Man’s Journey to Rediscover a Lost Love

After ten years in the restaurant industry, Drew Seaman had lost his passion for food. With the long hours, he also barely saw his wife. When the opportunity to move to London presented itself, they both jumped at the chance to remake their lives.

When Julie called me about the offer to move to London (yes, she called, because we so rarely had time for conversations in person), I was immediately on board. For someone who is risk averse, that was a big step. But I understood that without a major ‘reason to leave,’ inertia and fear of the unknown would carry me towards a future I knew I didn’t want.

Walking into the office and resigning without an idea of my next move was terrifying. But, resigning because I was literally moving out of the country, well, that seemed easy.

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The 12 Most Common Questions I Get About Traveling the World (Part III)

I’m no longer going to every country in the world (mission accomplished), but I’m still traveling at least 200,000 miles a year.

As such, I get a lot of questions over and over, both from people who want to travel far and wide and those who just want to learn a few things to make their lives easier.

This series of three posts provides some attempted As to the Qs.

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The 12 Most Common Questions I Get About Traveling the World (Part I)

I’m no longer going to every country in the world (mission accomplished), but I’m still traveling at least 200,000 miles a year.

As such, I get a lot of questions over and over, both from people who want to travel far and wide and those who just want to learn a few things to make their lives easier.

This series of three posts provides some attempted As to the Qs.

How did you get the idea to go everywhere?

I remember it very clearly: I was on a ferry from Hong Kong to Macau, during my first big independent trip after ending a four-year volunteer commitment in West Africa. I had two weeks until my graduate program started in Seattle, so I went to Asia.

I’d been working on my initial goal of visiting 100 countries for a while. But on that ferry, I suddenly started thinking about a much bigger goal: every country in the world, no exceptions.

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“Traveling Taught Me How to Be a Parent”: On the Road with Christine Gilbert

DSC00393 Several years ago, Christine Gilbert packed up the kids and hit the road. She and her family have been roaming the world ever since.

I’m a writer and photographer who was trapped for years in the Ann Taylor-clad body of a corporate manager, until one day I did something completely ordinary but unexpected. I quit a very nice job and convinced my husband that we were moving overseas.

Since then we’ve reinvented our careers and lives as something between wandering creatives and ill-equipped adventurers. We have two very American kids who have never lived in the US. Instead, they’ve grown up speaking Spanish and English (plus many other languages along the way) and sincerely believe that “America” is the place we go to get new iPads when they break (which is true, actually).

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