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The Ultimate Travel Superpower

I used to write a lot about travel hacking, the creative use of frequent flyer miles and points to see the world. For a while I even had a business that recommended the best cards and opportunities.

I still keep up with the industry and earn lots of points, but it’s less of an obsession for me these days. Partly I’m just traveling less than I was, and otherwise exploring other topics.

But there’s one other reason why I think about it less than I used to: it’s because more than any other strategy, the best travel hack is to be able to go anywhere, anytime.

Just think about it: if you were able to travel on a whim, a whole world of possibilities would be open to you—literally!

So how do you achieve this miraculous power, short of having infinite money and a private jet at your disposal?

Good news: it’s not impossible, and really not that difficult. Accomplishing the goal of “travel superpowers” consists of making improvements in two areas, one entirely practical and one mostly about your mindset.

The Practical: You Need a Diversified Portfolio of Miles and Points

Simply put, you want to be able to book a free plane ticket whenever you need it. Technically, it’s more like “nearly-free,” since you have to pay for taxes and surcharges on an awards ticket, but still.

This doesn’t mean you’ll book a new free / nearly-free ticket every day—it just means that you can.

The diversified portfolio is key. You don’t want to earn miles with only one carrier: you want options! Earning points in a flexible spending program, like Chase Ultimate Rewards or American Express Membership Rewards, allows you to keep them in those accounts and transfer them to travel partners whenever you’re ready to book something.

Like I said, I used to be super obsessed with these things. I’d earn a couple of million miles a year across all programs, mostly through bonuses and promotions. These days, I pay far less attention to it, but I still jump on enough opportunities to earn 500,000+ miles and points a year on average. Over time, I found the bigger problem to be putting all the points to good use!

For most of my domestic (US) flying these days, I’m on Alaska Airlines. It’s great for the west coast, less so for anywhere else, so mostly I earn miles with Alaska and redeem them for partner travel to more exciting destinations.

By having miles and points in many different accounts, you can think about any potential trip in terms of what would be best, not just what you normally do. This can make a big difference in opening up your travel superpower.

(And of course, you don’t need to use miles and points for every trip. You can also just get better at booking paid flights, which is another important skill.)

The Mindset: You Need to Think Differently About Travel

Mostly, you need to decide: if there’s something I want to do, I should just do it. And when it comes to travel: if there’s somewhere I want to go, I should just go.

Once you’ve done the logistical legwork, you have the miles or points. On any particular day that you want to travel, you’re able to book a free ticket.

If there isn’t a good award ticket option, then you buy it with cash. Sure, this means you might not be able to buy something else, but life is all about these choices.

When I went to Vietnam for my birthday last year, I didn’t know where I was going until a week before the trip. I finally decided by looking at award availability on an airline I wanted to fly, then choosing the destination from there.

Of course, you could do it the other way as well: decide where you want to go and then find a way to get there. The point is to start with the assumption that if you want to go somewhere (and soon!), there’s a way to make it happen. You just need to, well, do it.

Again, mindset is important. It’s super easy to get stuck on this, as you’ll see in the next section.

A Few Limitations

As powerful as this ultimate travel superpower is, it does come with a few limitations. For example, “fast travel,” where you simply warp to a new city or country of your choosing, is still only possible in video games. Alas! Someone should work on that.

When traveling on a whim, you still have to deal with connecting flights, layovers, delays, and so on. But those are hardly the worst things in the world, especially compared to the ability to go anywhere, anytime.

A much more difficult problem is that the ultimate travel superpower doesn’t make decisions for you.

In fact, you could argue that it makes some decisions more difficult. Once you can go anywhere, you might find yourself going nowhere.

More than any other reason, this is why people who are otherwise well-off (and have the means to travel) end up getting stuck. They fall into patterns of over-planning and putting off experiences into the future that could easily be available to them much sooner.

Still, unlocking the overall superpower is something to celebrate!

So here’s a tip. If you’d like to cultivate this superpower, it helps to approach it from both tracks, the practical and the mindset. Practically speaking, you need to build up that portfolio. In terms of mindset, you need to nudge yourself forward.

Onwards. 🙂