The Travel Hacks You Should Know (But Probably Don’t)


Travel hacking is often synonymous with credit card churn and gaming points and miles. I’m no stranger to those tactics but I’ve always been more interested in the nifty, devious ways to get what you want while on the road. Here’s the best of the best, tried true and tested.

I think it has to do something with the fact that I grew up surrounded by engineers and tinkerers which might have to do something with my obsession with travel hacking. At any rate, you won’t find any generic tricks here because there’s nothing I really hate more than generic advice.

This post originally appeared on Map Happy.

Sometimes it’s cheaper to travel internationally than domestically, even once you factor in airfare. That’s because if you’re coming from a country with a high cost of living–the U.S. is one–traveling in countries that have lower costs of living can be cheaper or the same price as traveling in the U.S. Even then, sometimes the differences are so dramatic that even a $700 airplane ticket can get absorbed in the savings. I’ll use Expatistan and the Big Mac Index to try to gauge costs when I’m budgeting for places I’ve never been before. I even ran the final numbers from actual trips I took to San Francisco and Colombia to compare the difference.

If you’ve bought a ticket, there’s a 24-hour get-out-of-jail-free card for pretty much all of the airlines (American is the exception to the rule for this but even they have their own version of it). If you’re flying United, there’s also a way to ninja hack it, extending the time period to 48 hours without having to pay a small fee to lock in airline prices.

Flights can have two different prices for the same ticket depending on the market it’s sold in. Blame it on foreign currencies. This sometimes leads to cheaper prices in one market, either due to currency fluctuation or controlled market pricing. It’s not extraordinarily hard to take advantage of this, either. In fact, sometimes it’s as easy as changing the regional website of an airline’s website.

British Airway is the best program for redeeming domestic flights. It sounds counterintuitive but if you want to stretch those miles as far as they can go (in the States at least), the best program is a frequent flyer program not even based in the U.S. That’s because unlike North American frequent flyer programs, British Airways uses a distance-based chart, often requiring way less miles to redeem a ticket than United or American.

Sometimes it’s cheaper to fly to your connection than your destination and then to ditch the final leg. This is called hidden-city ticketing and while I’ve never done it, I know people who have engaged in it. Be careful, because it could get you into a whole bunch of trouble, though it seems most airlines tend to target those that use and abuse it. The carriers highly discourage this, so use our guide to find tickets at your own risk! (For what it’s worth, we did have one reader who checked with…

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