I’ve been a member of a couple of frequent flyer programs for as long as I can remember, including Hawaiian and United Airlines, Avis Rent A Car and a few others. If we’d take a long trip and find a better fare on a different airlines, we’d sign up for that airlines program, book it, and not think about it again. There was no real forethought about the value of the miles, concern if they were lost, or planning made to maximize them.
Last week I made a trip to LA for business. I took Hawaiian as they had a flight at a decent price that got into LA late in the day, and enabled me to get a good night’s sleep before the next day’s meeting. Flying United from Hawai‘i at a decent fare almost always means catching a red-eye that arrives in LA early AM, resulting in a red-eyed Keola at meetings later that morning. I am rarely able to sleep on airplanes.
I was booked at a Hilton hotel for the trip, and forgot to check my Hilton Honors status before leaving. I hadn’t used it for years, and apparently my account was purged from the system. Arriving at my room I found that they charged $14.95 a day for Internet. I can’t work without it, so out came the credit card, got online, and one of my first acts was to reestablish an HH membership. I noticed that Hilton provides free Internet for HH members who have Silver status, but clearly didn’t qualify. When I returned to Maui, I did an online search, and found a link that provide a free upgrade to HH Silver status. The site also mentioned a term I had heard before but didn’t think too much about – travel hacking.
Travel hackers take a systematic approach to maximizing the miles they earn and minimizing the amount they use while traveling. I was surprised to discover how many sites are dedicated to this endeavor, and the extent to which these folks will go to earn and save them. There are also some interesting sites that offer miles for filling out surveys online.
It seems that there are some folks out there who are as obsessive about this activity as some “extreme couponers” area, and I have to admit after a few ours I found myself wrapped up in it all. I got my HH Silver Status, joined a few airlines that are part of the three major frequent flyer alliance programs to make sure I don’t miss out on any opportunities, and started filling out some surveys. A few hours work netted a few thousand miles in my United account, though that includes a few “signup bonus” rewards that won’t be awarded again. Hopefully it will be worth it somewhere down the road. The other component of this activity is maximizing the miles you travel using at minimum cost in cash and FF miles. But I’ll worry about that part when I get the miles.
If any of my friends out there has any experience with this activity please feel free to drop me a note.