So, What Is Travel Hacking, Anyway?


I had a ton of ideas about what my first post for Columbus Mom’s Blog should be about.  But, nothing seemed quite right.  Then I realized I should probably start with a topic that is close to my heart.  My passion (other than my family, of course) is traveling.  But here’s the thing…I love traveling, but paying for it isn’t as much fun.  Thankfully, I discovered travel hacking!  I am going to answer the #1 question I get after someone learns my passion is travel hacking…”So, What Is Travel Hacking, Anyway?”

“So, What Is Travel Hacking, Anyway?”

When people hear that I am into travel hacking, they usually get a confused, somewhat concerned look on their face, like I just told them I’m raising unicorns in my backyard.  First, I really don’t love the term “travel hacking” – it can have a slightly negative connotation if you aren’t sure what it is.  Travel hacking simply means optimizing credit card points, hotel points and airline miles to travel for as cheaply as possible.

Once you collect enough points or miles, you can trade those in for free or discounted hotel rooms and flights.  The fastest way to collect tons of points and miles is to open reward credit cards with large sign up bonuses.  So, now I will answer the next question I get.

So, what is travel hacking, anyways?
My husband and I enjoyed a long weekend in Scottsdale, AZ thanks to travel hacking. Total cash cost for 2 roundtrip flights and 3 nights in a hotel was $22.40!

“What Does That Do To Your Credit Score?”

When people hear I open a lot of credit cards to get all of these points, their look of concern turns to panic as they ask, “What does that do to your credit score?!”  Well, if done right, it can actually raise your credit score.  Really.  Your credit score is determined by 6 main factors, one of which is credit utilization.  This is how much of your available credit you are using.  So, if you have a larger amount of credit available but are using the same amount, your utilization rate goes down which helps your credit score go up.

Opening a credit card is not license to go crazy shopping!  In order to be a successful travel hacker, you need to be responsible with your credit.  This means you must pay off your credit card bill in full on time every month with no exceptions.  If you tend to carry a balance or have bad habits when it comes to using credit, I do not recommend getting into travel hacking.  Any benefits you might be able to get will be outweighed by interest charges and increasing debt.  It’s also not a good idea to get into this hobby if you have plans to take out a major loan, like a mortgage, soon.

So, what is travel hacking, anyways?
As you can see, as long as you are responsible with your credit, opening lots of credit cards will NOT hurt your credit score. Mine has actually gone up!

“So, How Does It Work?”

After I have explained that I am not part of some underground travel cult, concern turns to curiosity and the next question I get is, “So, how does this all work?”.  Let’s say there is a credit card offer for 50,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in 3 months.  This card has a $0 introductory fee and is $95 per year after that.  I would apply for the card, then be sure to spend enough to meet the minimum ($3,000 in 3 months), then I would receive 50,000 bonus points to use toward hotels or flights (depending on what type of card it was).  Then I would move on to the next one and do it all again with a different card.

To do this I put everything on a credit card…I mean everything.  I have literally charged a penny.  There is no minimum I will not put on my credit card.  But, with that said, I don’t make charges just to make charges.  I’m not buying anything I don’t need just to get points.  There are plenty of things that you are paying for anyways that you can switch to a credit card for the extra points – groceries, restaurants, cell phone bill, Netflix, cable, internet, car repairs, lawn service, school supplies, kid’s lessons and classes, household needs (Target, anyone?).  It’s not about spending more – it’s about optimizing what and how you spend to get the most benefit! 

So, what is travel hacking, anyways? | Park Hyatt Chicago
We stayed 2 nights at the Park Hyatt Chicago for a total cost of $0.

“I’m In…Tell Me More!”

If you are interested in getting into more of the nitty-gritty details, check out the Beginner’s Guide on my blog,

While this all might sound too good to be true, it’s not.  However, it does take some time, organization and attention to detail.  This hobby is not for everyone – if you aren’t great with credit, lack attention to detail or have plans to take out a large loan in the near future – don’t start opening credit cards!  The benefits are not worth it if you aren’t in the right situation.

I am looking forward to sharing lots of travel and mom moments with you here on Columbus Mom’s Blog.  If you are a travel hacker, we would love to hear from you.  Tell us your best redemption or favorite travel story in the comments section below.


So, What is Travel Hacking, Anyways? | Have you heard of this term but have no idea what it means? We'll show you what travel hacking is show you why it's so cool!

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Katie Seemann
Katie is a travel obsessed stay at home mom. She grew up in Central Ohio, but moved to New York City after high school to study at the Fashion Institute of Technology to pursue her dream of being a fashion designer. Thankfully, dreams can change. After working in the fashion industry she realized it wasn't what she was looking for. So, she moved back to Columbus to be near family. While in New York, Katie met and married her husband, Jason. Katie is now mom to 4 year old Ellie. She and her husband love to travel... a lot. Her love of travel combined with her desire to stop her brain from turning to mommy mush inspired her to start her blog, This platform lets her share her own travels as well as tips about her hobby, "travel hacking", aka how to use points and miles to travel for (almost) free! While traveling, Katie and her husband love to explore cities by foot which is great since she has a mild obsession with her daily number of Fitbit steps! She also recently got her open water scuba diving certification so destinations near water are high on her list of travel musts! Katie loves palm trees, yoga, fat cats and is a sucker for anything lined in leopard print. She believes that leggings are pants and purple is the best color. Her ultimate goal is to live a simple, happy life...and to travel as much as possible! In addition to her blog, you can find Katie on Instagram (@zenlifeandtravel) and (@zencolumbus) Twitter (@zen_life_travel) and Pinterest (@zenlifetravel).


  1. We took 3 adults and 2 kids to London & Paris for three weeks last summer doing this! Business class flights and five star hotels! It takes effort for sure (my husband has a monster spreadsheet), but it’s totally worth it!

    • 3 weeks in Europe! That’s a great use of travel hacking skills!! I also have a monster spreadsheet : ) You are right – it does take effort but it’s totally worth it! Thanks for sharing.

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