When Boris Mordkovich started a company that produced electric bikes in Asia a few years back, he was young and strapped for cash, so he had to find inventive ways to visit suppliers. His experiments with travel hacking spawned his new venture Travel Masters Academy, which offers classes in Boston and online that make use of existing but often little-understood programs set up by airlines, hotels and other organizations that allow would-be globetrotters to travel on the cheap. Very cheap. “The goal is to enable all of our students to fly to at least two vacations, anywhere in the world, every year for less than $100 per flight,” he says. We tapped him for a few pointers.
Actually, no. Up until about eight or nine years ago, I haven’t really traveled much at all. My first eye-opening adventure was my first major trip to South America for a few weeks, in 2006 or so. I remember coming back from Chile thinking how nervous I was about the trip before I went, and how easy everything turned out once I was actually there. So, if it was so simple to travel there, then perhaps it can be just as easy to travel anywhere else in the world.
be honest, the demographic is really varied—all ages, all backgrounds, all income levels. Some folks are older and are looking for ways to travel more during their retirement. Others are looking to save money for a particular trip that they’ve been dreaming about for years. And some are students or young professionals who just want to see the world more. It’s not even so much about the money as it is about the freedom that it gives you. Imagine being able to go anywhere you want in the world, every single year, without worrying how much it’s going to cost you. It’s a very freeing feeling.
Yep. Here are the ones that I use all the time myself!
1. American Airlines offers a special off-peak frequent flyer award chart where you can fly to Europe for seven months out of the year using just 40,000 American Airline miles. You can get 50,000 miles by opening up a single credit card, which will get you a free roundtrip flight from anywhere in the U.S. to anywhere in Europe.
2. British Airways only charges 4,500 frequent flier miles for any flight under 650 miles on their own airline or any one of their partners, which includes U.S. Airways, American Airlines and a bunch of other international airlines. If you open up their standard credit card that gives you 50,000 British Airway miles, that will get you 11 free short-haul flights (under 650 miles) in the U.S. with a single credit card.
3. When you book an international award ticket with many airlines, they allow you a free stopover for up to 364 days! And the stop doesn’t even have to be on the way! This means that you can fly to Asia with a free stopover in Europe for a week or fly to Italy and make a stop in London for a few days at no extra charge. It’s a great way to get even more out of your frequent flier miles!
Best travel deal you’ve ever swung? One of the best deals was about a year ago when I flew to China for a week for work and then on the way back was able to get a free one-week stopover in Africa in Ethiopia. Because the airline allowed a free stopover for up to 364 days and didn’t actually care where it was—who said it has to be logical?—I was able to visit two continents for the cost of a single award flight. The total cost was 70,000 frequent flier miles and $120 in taxes and fees.
Favorite place you’ve ever visited? That’s a hard question because what often make a place your favorite is not the place itself, but the experiences you have there. Some of the best experiences I’ve ever had were in Africa, during our five month road trip across the continent, and they were usually associated with times when our 30-year-old Land Rover would break down and create a mini-adventure where we’d have to figure out how to get back on the road. Aside from that, I always encourage people to visit Asia – places like China, Uzbekistan and India incredible places and have so much to offer. The best part is that they are all fairly inexpensive to travel through!
Dream vacation spot you’ve yet to visit? About a year or two ago, I heard about a little island called Socotra, located between Africa and the Middle East. The island is so far removed from the rest of the world that it has a lot of incredible nature that is not found anywhere else. I’m hoping to be able to make it there in the next year or two!
One final tip for traveling on the cheap? I’m a huge fan of using Airbnb.com. I’ve had some incredible experiences, from a houseboat in LA to a jungle house in Hawaii. Ask the host if they can offer you a 20 percent discount—I found that in more than half of the instances, they’ll say yes!