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Learn to be a Travel Ninja with these Top Secret Travel Hacks

It’s no secret that travel can be expensive! That’s why I wrote a comprehensive post to share how I afford to travel. Like a “travel ninja”, using top secret tricks and expert hacks are a huge part of how I’m able to travel so frequently.

On this note, I recruited experts from the travel blogging industry to divulge their best travel hacks so you can learn to be a travel ninja too! Read on to find out these travel bloggers’ biggest hacks to getting ultra cheap and even FREE travel.

Travel Ninja Secrets and Hacks

travel ninja

Refundable Bookings

Melissa from SuitcaseAndHeels.com

My best, off the beaten path hack is about getting your hotel room for the lowest rate. Like flights, the cost of a hotel room can fluctuate over time. No one wants to book a room for $200 and later realize that they could’ve had it for $140 and sometimes it pays to keep an eye on it.

A few years ago I was planning a trip to New York with a friend and booked a refundable room at the Pod Hotel. For some reason, weeks later, I was back on the hotel’s website and noticed that the rate had dropped by $60/night. Since we were staying for 6 nights I immediately contacted the hotel and they adjusted the price after I asked if they could or if I should just cancel my reservation and rebook it at the lower rate instead. We were travelling on a budget and so that $360 + tax was much better spent on Broadway tickets, MetroCards, and black & white cookies. Many hotels are now offering a discounted non-refundable option so you’ll have to weigh that discount with the possibility of the rate dropping but it’s something to keep in mind.

You can also get refundable options with Booking.com and HotelsTonight.com (use this link to get $20 OFF your first booking with Hotels Tonight).

Home Exchange

Eniko from TravelHackerGirl.com

Home exchange is a great way to travel to different countries and stay there for free. The concept is really simple: you let other people stay in your house, while you go and stay in theirs. It probably seems crazy to some to let strangers into your home, but we’ve done over 10 exchanges and have only had good experiences. There are several websites where you can join the home exchange community.

A lot of the members have very luxurious houses, so if you are lucky you might end up staying at a place with a cool view, a giant swimming pool, a hot tub or right next to the ski lift. Some members have a lot of flexibility with dates as they offer their second home for exchange. You basically get a home away from home. In most cases, you are welcome to use the exchange partner’s bikes, kayaks, surfboards, toys, TV and whatever they have available for you. Having a kitchen in the house can save you lots, as you can prepare your own meals instead of eating out every day. There is also the possibility to exchange cars, which could even save you on car rental. Home exchange requires trust, but once you try it you will get hooked! I can’t remember the last time I paid for accommodation!

Barter Week

 Maria from 203challenges.com

Try Barter Week to barter a night (or a few) at a B&B for something you can do or bring. The initiative, until recently available only in Italy, has turned international in 2017 and spans all continents.
Each of the registered properties around the world has listed what it needs (gardening, new shiny photos, new books for its library are just a few things on the list) and while the official Barter Week is once a year in November, there are B&Bs and hotels that will happily barter your stay throughout the year.

Pet Sitting

Rosalie from RosalieGoes.co

One of the best travel hacks I’ve found is pet sitting. Most reputable websites charge both the sitter and owners a small fee to enrol, which includes a small background check, and then leave you to do matchmaking. If you can, it’s best to try to do a couple of local sitting experiences in order to gain references on the site. After that, you’re more likely to be accepted into more luxurious homes in far flung places – from cabins tucked into snow capped Canadian mountains to chateaus flanked by fields of lavender in the south of France.

If you do decide to do pet sitting during your travels, it’s important to remember to take it seriously, though. While you aren’t paying to stay at the person’s home, you aren’t exactly staying there for free either.

Taking care of their pet should be the priority of your stay, and your plans should include active communication with the owner. But, if you’re anything like me, you’ll love exploring your new city like a local with a pup to take on your morning walk!

Get 20% off Trusted House Sitters with this link

Cash Back Websites

Jemma from World Wide Shopping Guide

Accommodation is one of the biggest travel expenses, but you can easily save between 4 and 13% of the total bill by using cashback websites. It may not sound like a lot, but on a $250 hotel booking that could be a saving of nearly $33 – definitely worth it for the few minutes of work involved.

Hotel websites like booking.com and hotels.com usually pay other websites a commission in return for sending them customers. Instead of keeping all the commission, cashback websites like Topcashback (USA and UK), BeFrugal (US), and Quidco (UK) pass some of the money onto you. You can have the money paid directly into your account, or converted into vouchers for stores like Amazon. If you opt for vouchers, you typically get an additional bonus of between 2 and 10% of your cashback payout (sadly Amazon’s bonus is at the lower end of the scale).

Earning cashback is simple. Once you’ve chosen the hotel that you want to book, and the site that you want to book it through, simply log into your cashback account and search for the booking website. Next, click to visit the booking website and your visit will be tracked. You’ll then typically get an email within a day, informing you that your cashback is pending. After that it can take anything from a few days to a few months for your cashback to be eligible for payout.

Read my full guide to using EBATES cash back

Skipped Lagged

Addie from TravlingMrs.com

Last year I wanted to take a trip to Seattle to visit a friend, but I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to go because ticket prices were expensive. Thankfully, because of Skip Lagged, I was able to save $90 and take the trip! Skip Lagged is a free service that helps you find the lowest possible airfare by searching not only where you want to go, but any flights that have a connection in the city you want to go. They do all the research for you with the click of a button. You might here this referred to as ‘hidden city ticketing’ or ‘point beyond ticketing’.

For example, a flight from A to B might be $300, but a flight from A to C that stops in B is only $200. You book flight A to C to save money and just miss the connection from B to C. While this is not illegal, airlines don’t like this practice and it might violate their T&C, so I wouldn’t tell the airline attendant at check-in that you aren’t really going to the destination on your ticket, and I would buy a one-way fare.

Get FREE Hotels with Credit Card Hacking

Mona from Mona Corona

Applying for the Chase IHG credit card will give you 1 free night at an IHG hotel (InterContinental, Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza etc.) after spending $1000 in the first 3 months of opening the card, AND will give you Platinum status at IHG hotels. Here is the real hack: don’t waste your free night on a Holiday Inn stay – go BIG! I used mine to book a standard room at the InterContinental Moana in Bora Bora, and due to my platinum status I was upgraded to an over-water Bungalow for free ($700 value!) Traveling with someone? Have them sign up too for a total of 2 free nights!

Read more about how Mona used credit card hacks to fly to Bora Bora for FREE.

Use Skyscanner to Book Cheap Flights

ME! The Pink Backpack

Have you ever wanted to spin a globe, close your eyes and travel to the place where your fingertip lands? Or maybe you have dreamed of showing up to an airport and flying to the destination with the cheapest ticket? Skyscanner is sort of like the virtual version of this, except I’m willing to bet it’s also way cheaper! I love Skyscanner because you have the ultimate flexibility to choose a destination based on your budget through the ‘everywhere’ tab and ‘Map’ search functions.

Bonus Tip: I always purchase my flights with a cash-back credit card and all money reimbursed from my purchases goes straight to my travel fund. Keep reading below for more info

Read my full guide to using SkyScanner Now!

Get FREE Flights with Credit Card Hacking

ME! The Pink Backpack

I’m a huge fan of credit card hacking because who doesn’t love to get cash back or travel freebies from purchases you would make regardless?

I personally use the American Express Simply Cash Preferred card, which was ranked by Rewards Canada as the #1 cashback card for 2017. The card has an annual fee of 99$, but I justify this amount because it offers such complimentary travel insurance (essentially for 99% per year you get flight & baggage delay insurance, lost or stolen baggage insurance, emergency medical insurance and car rental theft/damage insurance).

With this card you receive 5% cash back on purchases within the first 6 months, and after this it drops down to 2%. I use it to book all of my flights and hotels so I am insured on those bookings, and the reap the cash back. If you pair it with a cash back portal, like one of the suggestions above (I use EBATES — get 5$ off here if you want to try it) you can get even more cash back.

Related | How I Hacked a FREE Flight to Iceland 

BONUS: Start a Travel Blog

ME! The Pink Backpack

Starting a travel blog is one of the biggest ways I can afford to travel! Not will blogging connect you with others in the travel industry to share information and resources to travel smarter and more economically, but once you are established you could potentially get paid to travel! While blogging is a TON of work and getting paid will not happen over night, it is possible to earn income through a travel blog.

If you’ve been thinking about starting a blog, it’s not too late. I recommend reading my post on how to get started in just 4 steps, or register your site for as low as $1.99/month.

Looking for more travel hack tips to save time and money? Check out this resource.

Whats your favourite travel hack? 

Let me know in the comments below!

Like it? PIN it!

travel ninja

You might also find these helpful:

How I hacked a $800 flight for $80

How I hacked a FREE flight to Iceland

How I afford to travel while doing a PhD

How to start a blog in 5 easy steps

How to use Skyscanner to find CHEAP flights

How I use EBATES to save for travel

How students can travel for FREE in 6 Ways

The 7 craziest things I’ve done to afford travel

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This goes towards the cost of maintaining this ad-free website and creating free content for readers like you!

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Kristin said:
I've never heard of Skip Lagged but will definitely be checking it out now!
December 18, 2017 at 12:45 pm
Sandy said:
Great tips! Thanks for sharing <3
December 17, 2017 at 12:43 am