So who am I and why should you listen to me? Well, my name is Adam Miguèst; I’ve been to 30+ countries, and with a BA in Linguistics, I speak 9 languages and I travel full-time filming my Youtube channel, Arcane Travels, with nothing more than a DSLR camera and laptop to support myself.
I’ve been “around the block,” as the saying goes and this happens to be my first ever travel blog post. In this post, I’ll be sharing my best-kept secrets on how I’m able to afford to travel the world without a 9–5 job. I’m risking it all to share these secrets with you because if airlines or companies find out about how I’ve been gaming the system, they could change these policies overnight. So use my advice while you still can; buckle up and enjoy the ride.
1. Secret Flying
I’m giving you one of the best tips first…Secretflying.com
Secretflying.com is one of the best kept secrets in the travel game right now. What sets this site apart from other websites like Sky Scanner, Hopper, etc. is that they don’t just find you the best deals on the market, they find you deals that don’t even exist on the market! These deals are commonly referred to as “error fares.”
These error fares are rare and may only happen a couple times a year depending on where you live. So Secret Flying takes all the work out of finding these fares. More importantly, they not only link you to the website where you can book the error fare, they give you a list of dates that the error fare will work so you can chose when you want to travel without having to try a bunch of different date combinations to get the deal.
To give you an idea of how insanely cheap an error fare can be; I got a flight from New York to Tokyo a few years ago for just $330.60 (photo attached below) and the people who bought their tickets just an hour before me got theirs for about $151. With just a quick search today, the cheapest ticket I could find from New York to Tokyo was $1585. If you want these sort of fares, this is the place to go.
Lastly, the best part about this fare is that it allowed you to purposely book my a one-week layover in Europe. I chose a layover in Milan and Prague. Meaning I essentially got to go to Europe for free. I spent 4 days checking out Milan, Venice, etc. and then took a train to Prague, where I spent my last 3 days, before flying from Prague to Tokyo. The proof is below:
2) NEVER Travel with a Checked Bag…Use This Loophole Instead
Traveling with a checked bag is the easiest way to rack up hundreds of dollars of unnecessary fees if you’re on a multi-destination trip. And what most people don’t realize is that there’s a loophole that allows you to carry almost the same amount of stuff for free and without checking a bag at all. I call this trick “the personal item loophole.”
Almost all major airlines, not including the super low-budget ones of course, allow you one free carry-on bag AND one free personal item. A personal item is usually defined as a purse, a camera bag, a laptop pouch or a backpack. ALWAYS choose the backpack as your personal item.
What I do while traveling is bring the biggest carry-on rollaway bag I’m allowed to have and the most massive backpack I can find. Between those two bags, I usually have more stuff than would even be able to fit in a checked bag. It works 100% of the time for me on major airlines and has even worked a few times on low-cost carriers but obviously, it’s a bit more risky to do it there as you may be charged a fee.
3. Leverage Your Skills for Free Flights, Free Lodging or Extra Money
This is the one tip where how much it helps totally depends on the person but the idea is simple. Whatever you’re good at, find a way to either barter your skill with a company that can offer you free flights, lodging, etc. or use that skill to help you fund your travels.
For example, I leveraged my Youtube channel and videography skills to land a sponsorship with one of the best hotels in the world, The Four Seasons Hotel. In exchange for featuring Four Seasons at the beginning of my episode in Budapest, they gave me free housing in Budapest for the duration of my trip, saving me over $1000 on hotels. You can see the video below:
Compared to other major Youtubers, I don’t have huge following but the marketing executive I contacted at Four Seasons really liked the content of my page and my video editing skills, so she decided to sponsor my trip.
I’ve also gotten my flights paid for to Europe in exchange for photographing and video recording an event for a company. So the point is, anyone can do this, whether you’re a writer, photographer, animator, etc. There will always be someone in the world who will value your skill-set and be willing to trade for your service or pay you outright. You just have to take the time to research these people and email them. Super simple.
4. Open Every Travel Credit Card Possible…and Use This Loophole
Warning: Only do this if you think you have the self-control to not max out the credit card and pay it off at the end of every month!
Now that we got that out of the way; I know that opening a bunch of credit cards sounds bad for your credit score but depending on how you do it, it can actually be really good for your credit score but I’ll explain that more in depth later.
The point here is that credit card companies will give you free money and/or free airline miles just for using their card. Usually this means hitting a minimum. For example, if you spend $2000 in one month, the credit card company may give you 50,000 bonus miles, which is essentially worth $500 in free flights.
Now some of you may be thinking, I don’t have $2000 laying around to hit that threshold. But here is a loophole I’ve used… A lot of people are now allowed to pay their rent, car payments, etc. with their credit card. Yes, you may incur a fee but that fee will be negated by the travel reward. For example, if you pay your $2000 rent on a credit card, the realty company may charge you a 2% fee, which would be $40 in this case. Even though you paid $40 extra to pay your rent, you will now receive $500 worth of free flights, or $460 worth after you subtract the fees.
And back to credit score; if you space out applying for these credit cards and only do it every 4–6 months, then the negative effects of inquires to your credit score will be minimal. And actually, in most cases, because you’ve been approved for more and more credit and you’re paying your card off on time each month, then your credit score will rise exponentially.
Below, I’ve linked to a list of the credit cards with the best Travel Rewards in the industry. I personally have the Chase Sapphire Card, the AAdvantage Citibank Card and the Capital One Venture Card and I love them all. But read up on their pros and cons and decide for yourself:
5) Get Out of Your Comfort Zone, Befriend Locals While Traveling and Foreigners While Home
This tip means making a major life-change for some people because it’s hard to put yourself out there, it’s hard to break away from the comfort of your friend group and it’s hard to make new friends from different places, especially if there is a language barrier. But the pros of doing this far outweigh the cons.
For example, while at an event in my hometown of Chicago, I overheard a group of people speaking Swedish. I could have easily stayed with my friend group and played it safe. Instead, I followed my gut and went over to the group and introduced myself. I told them I was interested in Scandinavian culture and spoke some broken Swedish to them and they ended up being super nice and super inviting. We ended up hanging out together for the whole night and to this day, they are still great friends of mine.
In the time since meeting them, I had the good fortune to visit Stockholm, Sweden where they’re from. They all took the time out of their day to take me around the city, to show me the great local nightlife spots (not the expensive tourist traps) and even offered to host me for free. Having my new friends show me around Sweden made it one of my best trips to date and all of this was possible because I made the decision to go out of my comfort zone and meet new friends from a foreign land.
This same ideology should be used while traveling. For example, if you’re studying abroad or on a trip with friends from your own country. Don’t stay comfortable and only hang out with the friends you already know. Put yourself out there and make friends with the locals of the country you’re in. This is the best way to learn about the culture and having a friend from the country you’re in will help you not fall into tourist traps and paying a ton of money for things locals know how to get for cheap.
Below is a photo of my Swedish friends and I:
And finally, one of the most useful resources for traveling for cheap or free is Couchsurfing.com
This site is like if you mixed Facebook with Airbnb, here’s why:
Essentially, you make a profile with photos and information about yourself, like Facebook, to show people why you’d be a good and/or interesting person to host. Then, you browse a list of open homes in the city you’ll be visiting, to see which you’d like to stay in the most; like Airbnb.
After that, you message the different homeowners and put in requests to stay with them. Now the pro-tip to using this site and getting a free place to stay is that you don’t just want to send a bunch of requests saying “Need a place to stay.” In the summer months, homeowners are inundated with requests to stay at their place. So you want to really sell yourself and your best attributes; explain why hosting you over other travelers will be more fun and interesting for the homeowner.
Also, take the time to read the homeowner’s profile to see if you have any common interests with them or if you could make a gesture they would appreciate. For example, if the host says they enjoy a good beer, offer to buy them a 6-pack of nice, craft beer. Or if they like Thaï food, offer to treat them to dinner at a Thaï restaurant. In both cases, the amount you pay for beer or food will be far less than if you had to pay for a hotel room.
In conclusion; I’d like to make clear that I’m not sponsored by Secret Flying Couchsurfing, Nerd Wallet, etc. Every website or company I mentioned in this article, I mentioned because I use them myself and have gotten benefits from using their services.
And I know if you follow the tips above, you’ll save hundreds, maybe even thousands, depending on how much you travel and if you catch the right error fares.
Thanks for reading. For any questions on this article, feel free to contact me at:
Originally published at medium.com