Top travel hacking ideas you haven’t considered

The ever-increasing popularity of travel hacking means most serious travelers have at least one travel-related credit card in their wallet. You already know how to travel hack with rewards credit cards (covered last month). However, there are lesser-known travel hacking ideas to consider. This month we look at four of them.

The Tuscan countryside outside of Volterra, Italy.
Volterra, Italy

Earn Miles by Shopping

The Mileage Mall

All the major frequent traveler programs (both U.S. and international) have a mileage mall where you can load up on a large amount of miles and points for your online purchases. If you do any online shopping, you should be going through a mileage mall to maximize your benefits. To capitalize on this travel hack, you simply log on to your favorite travel loyalty program website and look for the mileage mall. Most airlines or hotels typically have it in the “Earn Miles” or “Earn Points” navigation tab. Like a traditional mall, it is filled with stores. You simply visit a merchant’s storefront in the mileage mall and start shopping! You’ll earn 2-5 miles/points per dollar spent. We’ve been doing this for years and every time a box arrives at our door, we’re one step closer to our next vacation!

Eat Your Way Around the World

Travel hacking by dining

Who doesn’t love to eat? And you can eat your way to free travel! There are two ways to use this dining hack. The first is to enroll in one of the airline dining programs. All the airlines have dining programs. You enroll in the program, register your credit cards, and then eat at qualified restaurants. You’ll earn 5 airline miles per dollar with your purchase.

The second dining hack is Open Table – the global restaurant reservations system. With Open Table, you make reservations at restaurants and then you earn points for dining. The points can be redeemed for gift certificates which can be used to pay for meals. We both do a lot of entertaining for our jobs and we always make our reservations with Open Table, then we use the rewards certificates on our vacations. This often allows us to eat at nicer places than we would otherwise pay for.

One of the best travel hacking ideas we've uncovered are the airline dining programs - you earn large mileage bonuses for eating at select restaurants.
Earning airline miles while eating

Let’s Go Parking!

Many airport parking companies have entered the loyalty game and now offer programs. These programs typically take two flavors. In the first version of these programs, you earn loyalty points valid for free parking at their facility. This can be a valuable hack if you do any business travel where you can get your employer to pay for days while you accumulate the reward, which you use on your personal vacations. Airport parking can be costly and this can effectively eliminate this expense. In the second version of these programs, you earn airline miles in your favorite airline frequent flyer program. Companies like PreFlight, Thrifty and other parking companies allow you to earn miles with American Airlines, United, Delta and others.

One of the commonly overlooked travel hacking ideas is airport parking.  Many airport parking companies allow you to earn either free days or airline miles, which reduces your travel costs.
Airport parking is a travel hack often overlooked

Spend Money That Isn’t Yours

This hack has huge rewards, but needs to be done carefully. I recently sat next to a woman on a long-haul flight who was traveling on miles. She had a unique strategy. She was an office manager and she charged all her company’s supplies on her personal credit card, earning airline miles and then got her company to reimburse her. She wasn’t violating any company policy and her bosses knew – and she hadn’t paid for an airline ticket in over five years. As she said this, it reminded me that I had done something similar several years ago. If this hack can work for you, you can accumulate a huge number of points or miles and will have spent $0 of your own money to get there.


Next month, we’ll talk about the topic of “manufactured spending” – earning miles on loan from your credit card.

19 thoughts on “Top travel hacking ideas you haven’t considered

  1. Great stuff. Another thing I’ve seen floating around lately is using Bing Rewards. Apparently you can earn travel miles just by searching through them, once you set up an account and register.

    It’s amazing the stuff you can earn just by tweaking your lifestyle slightly. It’s not even sacrificing things, it’s just learning the system and making some tweaks accordingly.

  2. That’s funny I already use all those techniques but I didn’t think those are hacking – just maximizing my credit card for miles really

  3. The last one about the lady putting everything on her personal credit card then her company reimbursing her is insane! although it probably depends on the company size, for a large multinational company that may not work. but good for her for finding such a great strategy!

  4. Great and very useful information. I’m going to check on the Diner programs today! Thanks for sharing.

  5. Quite a few unique hacks here … I really need to ramp up my efforts to collect miles, as I haven’t really done it in a while!

  6. Out of curiosity, have you ever quantified how much time it takes to set these up (researching, planning, redeeming, ensuring things get paid off or don’t expireetc.)? I love the techniques and ideas, but for so many travel-related things, you’ve got to think ROI… Might be a future post in that…

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