The Starter’s Guide to Canadian Travel Hacking Part 1: Flights
Canadian travel hacking is great. Not as good as the Americans but still great. That’s because we have the second best travel hacking opportunity in the whole wide world!
Why should you travel hack? Do you want to see the world? Do you love getting travel deals? Want to increase the frequency that you travel every year?
Regardless of reason, with travel hacking, you can double, triple or quadruple the amount of travel you do per year! How does that sound?
That sounds pretty good but what exactly is travel hacking?
That’s a good question and here is the answer: travel hacking is utilizing every loop hole in the system to help you save tons of money on travel. Many of the travel hacking tricks are unconventional which is actually a good thing. If everyone travel hacked, it wouldn’t be as lucrative as it is today. So don’t worry if most people don’t do it or are suspicious of doing it. It’s not for everyone. It’s for people who will do whatever it takes to travel more often.
How I got started on travel hacking
Let me tell you a quick story on how I got started on travel hacking. Back in September 2014, I just paid off my student loan and started a business. When Karen (my girlfriend) and myself first stared dating, I promised her that I would take her to Harry Potter Land one day. We just came back from a short road trip between Las Vegas and Bryce Canyon National Park and we were both flat broke.
While hanging out with my friend, I told him how much money Karen and myself saved since we took a budget airline. He laughed at me and said he went to Asia for $90. I was shocked. He then taught me about his travel hacking tricks.
Long story short, Karen and myself started using the travel hacking techniques and by December 2014, we were able to fly round trip to Florida from Vancouver for merely $140! We also did a 5-day Caribbean cruise for $270 per person including tax and stayed at a Marriott Hotel for free. I fulfilled my promise to her despite being flat broke!
All Smiles at Harry Potter Land
Learn how you can do it:
Canadian Travel Hacking Topics:
Travel Hacking Flights
The Cheap Way
The cheap way to book your flights would be to use flight aggregate sites such as these two:
If your flight date is flexible, you can certainly find some deals below average price to save you some money money.
The problem is, it might take you awhile to find those really awesome deals. Which leads us to…
The Cheaper Way
The cheaper way to book your flights would be to use websites that focuses on flight deals. They are:
They often have cheap deals, mistake fares, and last minute flights.
You can also find hidden city ticketing at: https://skiplagged.com/
Hidden city ticketing means you fly to a specific destination but you get off the airport at your stop over. Here’s a scenario: you live in Toronto and you want to fly to LA. The ticket to LA, for some reason, is more expensive than flying to Honolulu. What you then do is use the skiplagged.com and fly to Honolulu instead. On the way to Honolulu, your flight will have a stopover at LA. You will then leave the airport at LA instead of taking the connecting flight to Honolulu. This is what hidden city ticketing means and it’s a great way to save money on airfare. Keep in mind that this method is frowned upon by airlines; nonetheless, it is completely legal and there’s nothing stopping you from using this strategy.
Another excellent way to travel for cheap is to use budget airlines. For example, you can get an Air Asia pass and fly around Asia for really cheap.
Here is a list of some of the more useful budget airlines to use world wide:
- Allegiant Air – Western United States
- Ryanair – Europe
- Easyjet – Europe
- Jetstar Airways – Australia
- Air Asia – Southeast Asia
- Viva Colombia – South and Central America
Here is the link to the rest of the budget airlines worldwide.
The problem with budget airlines is that they are limited to a specific region in the world. For example, Allegiant Air is strictly for Western United States. I can’t use Allegiant to fly overseas.
This is when the cheapest method of travel comes in…
The Cheapest Way
The single best way to Canadian Travel Hacking is to use frequent flyer points.
I recently booked a flight using Aeroplan from Vancouver to Tel Aviv, Israel. After taking advantage of Aeroplan routes that charge lower carrier fee, and spending 40,000 Aeroplan miles, cost of the flight is merely $73.53.
After doing a quick search on Skyscanner, the cost of the exact same flight is $1,046.04. That is over $900 more than what I paid!
The Slow Way and Faster Way to Earn Frequent Flyer Miles
The slow way to earn frequent flyer miles is the traditional way.
In the traditional way, you earn points by spending money. Typically, for every dollar you spend, you will earn 1 mile. For example, it cost 45,000 Aeroplan miles to fly to Hawaii. Traditionally, you need to spend $45,000 to get 45,000 miles.
Some people are more strategic and will take advantage of points multipliers that comes with certain credit cards. For example, with the TD Aeroplan Infinite VISA, you can earn double the points when buying groceries. That means if you run all your grocery bill onto your TD Aeroplan Infinite VISA, you can double the speed when earning frequent flyer miles. This strategy is not bad and I do encourage you to maximize the points you earn. But as you can already guess, there is a much faster way to earn miles.
Credit Card Sign Up Bonuses
Taking advantage of credit card signup bonuses is the single fastest way to earn frequent flyer miles. (Aeroplan will be your go-to frequent flyer program in Canada)
Here’s an example:
You want to fly to Hawaii. You check the Aeroplan rewards chart to see how many miles you need:
Looks like you need 45,000 miles to fly to Hawaii. The quickest way to get that 45,000 miles is to signup for credit cards with enough welcome bonus to earn you those points.
Here is an example of how to use a credit card to give you enough points to travel to Hawaii:
American Express Business Gold – 40,000 signup bonus after spending $5000 within the first 90 days of getting the card.
Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with American Express or any other credit card companies. The American Express website has their own link where you can earn 30,000 signup bonus.
Meeting the minimum spend requirement will give you a total of 45,000 Aeroplan miles (40,000 welcome bonus + $5000 spent)! (You must manually transfer your American Express points to Aeroplan. The conversion rate is 1:1)
If you want to travel elsewhere, no problem, simply check the rewards chart above to determine how many points you need. Then, use this list of current travel hacking credit cards (*edit* – this is now outdated but it gives you an idea how to get more miles in the future) as reference to help you earn those points.
If you are curious to see how credit card signups will affect your credit score, feel free to read this blog post. The linked article is a guide on how to keep your credit score healthy as you travel hack your way to all your dream destinations.
After earning the points you need, it’s time to book your flight.
Booking Aeroplan Flights
When booking your Aeroplan flight, there are three options to choose from:
- Round trip
- One way
Most people will select round trip; however, make sure you don’t overlook the benefits of One-Way and Multi-City. Sometimes One-Way is cheaper if you use it to avoid carriers that force you to pay carrier surcharge.
You’ll want to maximize your savings and pay as little carrier fee as possible. To do that, simply book with a carrier with little to no carrier fee (previously called fuel surcharge)
List of Aeroplan carriers that doesn’t charge carrier fees:
- Air China
- Avianca Airlines
- Brussels Airlines
- Egypt Air
- EVA Airways
- Ethiopian Airlines
- Scandinavian Airlines
- Singapore Airlines
- Swiss Airlines
- Turkish Airlines
- United Airlines
List of Aeroplan carriers that charge very low carrier fees:
- Polish Airlines
- South African Airways
- Thai Airways
- Croatia Airlines
List of Aeroplan carriers that charge high carrier fees:
- Air Canada
- Adria Airways
- All Nippon Airlines
- Asiana Airlines
- Austrian Airlines
- TAP Portugal
Here are some screenshots to illustrate the difference between booking a flight with an airline that charges a carrier fee versus an airline that doesn’t charge a carrier fee:
Airline with Carrier Fee
Air Canada is a flight that typically has a carrier fee. The cost of the flight from Vancouver to Sydney, Australia is $430.01.
Now lets see how much it cost when you book a flight with an airline that does not charge a carrier fee:
Airline with No Carrier Fee
United Airlines is one of the airlines that doesn’t charge a carrier fee. The cost of the flight from Vancouver to Syndey, Australia is only $103.91! That’s over $300 cheaper than booking with Air Canada!
Exception to the Rule
Is there an exception to the carrier fee rule? You bet there is! I recently discovered that you can in fact take a flight with an airline with a carrier fee and have the fees you pay be significantly reduced or eliminated.
- Any flight leaving outbound from Japan, Brazil, Australia and Hong Kong will not charge you any carrier fee. This is the perfect opportunity to do a One-Way booking.
- Book a flight overseas with the dominant airline being the one that doesn’t charge a carrier fee. For example, using my recently booked flight from Vancouver to Israel, I only paid $73.53 despite the flight having an Air Canada in the itinerary. The reason the carrier fee was significantly reduced was because the Airline that crossed the Atlantic ocean is Turkish Airways and not Air Canada. (Make sure the airplane crossing the Pacific or Atlantic ocean is one with no or very little carrier fee)
Travel Hacking Flights Conclusion
In this article, we came to the conclusion that travel hacking is the best way to save money on travel. Even if you are the casual traveler, you can reap the benefits of travel hacking by simply getting three new credit cards per year. That’s roughly 80,000 miles.
Let’s say you budget $2000 per year on buying airfare. With travel hacking, you can easily double, triple, quadruple the amount of traveling you will be able to do. Instead of spending that $2000 on one overseas ticket. You can get three credit cards, earn 80,000 miles and spend around $100-$200 for one round trip flight.
You can then use the remaining $1800 on the other cheap flying methods such as using budget airlines or getting flight deals from the other websites.
Let’s say you find a flight to Asia from Flyfork.com for $700. Then you take Allegiant Air to Las Vegas for $150. That still leaves you with $950 and you’ve flown three times already!
In part 2 of the Starter’s Guide to Canadian Travel Hacking, I will be covering accommodations.
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