When you can travel for nearly free, you have a lot more freedom than when you’re stuck at home. Even if there’s just one place in the world that you’d like to visit, travel hacking with Frequent Flyer miles can get you there within a year.
I was recently introduced to the world of “travel hacking” while doing research for my article on how to search for super cheap flights. Upon discovering this phenomenon I spent the entire day Googling different travel hacking blogs, completely fascinated, and trying to understand how this whole thing worked. Countless people were claiming to be getting all their flights for free, while also flying business class and taking several trips per year.
Sound too good to be true?
Well, yeah, it kinda is. And it’s not. I’ll explain this in a bit.
Anyway, it seems one of the experts on this stuff is Chris Guillebeau, who claims to have been travel hacking and taking free flights around the world for years, and you know what? I don’t doubt him for a second. In fact, you might recall I reviewed his NY Times bestseller The $100 Startup a couple of months back which I thoroughly enjoyed. There are several travel hacking books out there, but since I know Guillebeau writes quality stuff I decided to purchase his one to see how legit this travel hacking business really is.
Chris Guillebeau has made a living out finding rather unconventional ways to do things and then writing books about them (which, as far as I can see, are all worth their weight in gold). This is my second book of his that I’ve bought and there will probably be a third. As for his credentials for this one, he’s definitely qualified – Guillebeau has visited every country in the world (crazy, right?) and claims to have done a lot of it by flying for free through the travel hacking strategies outlined in his book.
What’s it about?
Obviously I can’t divulge too much of the content here, but earning your frequent flyer miles is a combination of three distinct avenues:
- On-the-ground promotions
- Credit card spending and bonuses
Guillebeau outlines all the different strategies you can use to rack up frequent flyer miles through the above, any many of them are quite clever – things I would’ve never thought of. In fact, he claims that he and some of his readers have racked up over 200,000 miles without ever getting on a plane.
He also discusses the best ways to spend your miles, which is apparently very important. Most people I know, especially my Mum, simply think, “I’ve got a bunch of frequent flyer miles so I’ll just use them as soon as possible, better than just leaving them sitting around, right?”
Well actually, no. That’s very, very wrong. A big part of getting the most out of a frequent flyer program is knowing exactly how and when to use the miles – sometimes it’s better to just pay for the flight, and Guillebeau discusses this part of the game in detail.
What I liked
For an e-book, it’s beautifully designed and very easy to read. Too many e-books these days are just pdf prints of a Microsoft Word document, and I often struggle to get through them.
As for the content, there’s a lot to digest. He’s definitely covered every aspect of his strategy in detail, from picking your program, earning the points, to finally finding and redeeming the award ticket that you want.
Guillebeau has also thrown a lot of little tips in there that could only come from someone who’s flown as much as he has; for example, he tells us that airlines open up award seat bookings 330 days before the flight, so if you call that day you’ll almost certainly get the seat you want. I mean, who else would know stuff like that? And there’s many more golden nuggets of advice like that throughout the book.
Lastly, there’s the guarantee. If you haven’t earned 25,000 points (enough for a free domestic plane ticket) within the first 3 months, you’ll get a refund. When you think about it, that actually means you should be getting 4 free plane tickets a year or the book is free. I love authors who put their money where their mouth is.
What I didn’t like
There’s actually a few things. Most of the information contained in the book is available online for free. Like I said earlier, I spent a large number of hours scouring through blogs and forums reading about this stuff – so a lot of the information in the book I had already come across. That being said, it is definitely much easier to buy the book and spend an hour reading it rather than spending 24 hours clicking through random pages on the internet.
The biggest disappointment with the book was that, in my opinion, the advice is 75-80% exclusive to US/Canada/UK readers. I actually checked with Chris before I purchased it whether it would be any use for a New Zealander to read, and he assured me it was and that the guarantee still applied. However I found many of the strategies were not effective or non existent down here in my tiny country. Will I be able to earn enough points for a free flight? Maybe. And I’m told that even if I love the book but don’t get my free flight, he’ll refund the money anyway. I definitely appreciate that. But my advice would be to manage your expectations if you’re not from the above mentioned countries.
On the other hand, if you are from the US this book is a goldmine! (and to a lesser extent the UK, Canada and maybe Australia). I’ve no doubt you’ll be able to grab several free international business class flights, and that’s not an exaggeration. The airline rewards environment is far more competitive in your countries which obviously means better deals and better opportunities. As for the rest of us, well, I guess we’ll just have to watch in envy.
Lastly, at $47, it’s a little steep – actually the most expensive e-book I’ve ever bought. Of course, if you get the promised free flight it’ll be worth it, and if you don’t you’ll get your money back anyway. So it kinda works out in the end.
You should read this if…
- You want to travel more and money is an issue.
- You have spare time to spend managing your points (the strategies in this book take time to manage, not a lot of time, but a fair amount).
- You fly a lot (if you’re already a frequent flyer and don’t know how to work the system you could really be missing out on a lot of free travel).
- You’re from the US, UK or Canada (if you’re not from these countries you could still buy the book, there’s still valuable info in it and the guarantee still applies).
- You enjoy beating the system.
Bren rates it:
If you’re from the USA – 9/10
If you’re from Canada or the UK (maybe Australia) – 7.5/10
New Zealand – 4/10
Rest of the world – Don’t know, will depend on your country. Best to email and ask!
If you’re interested and want to read more about Frequent Flyer master you can visit the official page here.