Travel hacking is very popular in America, but is it possible to travel hack when you live in the UK??
Can you travel hack in the UK?
You may have come across the term travel hacking before. If you are not sure what it means, it’s basically being able to travel for free (or very nearly free) by taking advantage of travel loyalty points and programes such as air miles.
Travel hacking is VERY popular in America and there are many blogs dedicated to this particular subject. Instagram is full of influencers sharing photos from the first class cabin of the plane with the caption ‘this flight cost me $2!’
But what about us UK bound residents? Is it possible to travel hack in the UK?
The bad news…..
Travel hacking is nowhere near as easy in the UK compared to the USA for a few reasons:
- Americans can typically fly more often Almost all of travel hacking is centred around accumulating air miles and then using them to fly for free. Americans are more likely to rock up frequent flyer miles because they are more likely to fly in their daily lives. It’s not uncommon for Americans to commute to work by plane or visit family on the other side of the country via plane. More flying equals more air miles.
- Taxes make free flying impossible Thanks to the UK government, travel hacking is less financially advantageous in the UK compared to the USA because of the taxes imposed on flights. Even if you are able to use air miles to pay for a flight, you won’t be able to use them to pay the ‘tax’ part of the flight (often a big chunk of the price!) so flying for free is not going to happen.
- Almost all travel hacking involves credit cards Go to any USA based travel hacking blog and the focus will almost solely be on credit cards. Credit cards in the USA will often give very generous air mile bonuses for new sign-ups and minimum spends. The same is not really true in the UK.
The good news….
It is possible to travel hack in the UK, it’s just more of a marathon then a sprint.
I, like most people love a freebie, and I love travel, so travel hacking appeals to me. For me, travel hacking is something that quietly takes place in the background of my life, slowly (OK, very slowly) gathering up points that I will one day use.
So how can you travel hack in the UK?
The first thing to do is to sign-up with a loyalty program. I recommend AVIOS, which is the air miles programme used by British Airways.
You should also sign-up to the British Airways Executive Club. Add all members of your family to the program-even children can collect air miles!
Collecting air miles in the UK
Once you have signed up for the AVIOS program your next aim is to collect as many avios points as possible. There are some simple ways to do this:
- Sign-up for a Tesco clubcard if you don’t already have. You can convert clubcard points to avios points. 250 clubcard points gets you 600 avios points. If Tesco is your main supermarket then over time this will add up.
- Join the Rewards for Thoughts website. You will get 600 avios points for signing-up and between 25-50 points for completing each survey.
- Use the avios shopping portal whenever you make online purchases. There are lots of retailers on there and you can earn between 1-8 avios points for every pound spent.
- Fly with avios program airlines. Remember that the whole point of airlines giving away air miles is to reward loyalty! If you are flying somewhere and there is not much difference in the price then opt for the airline where you will earn air miles.
Important note: As mentioned above, travel hacking in the USA revolves around using credit cards. Although the idea is to put a lot of purchases onto a card but pay it off before it earns interest, I won’t personally be recommending this as a way to earn air miles. Firstly, there are very few ways of doing this in the UK anyway, secondly, we are less likely to use credit cards for regular, day-to-day expenses than in the USA and thirdly, I don’t think it’s worth the financial risk of constantly applying for and swapping credit cards.
Travel hacking in the UK may be a long slog, but I don’t think it’s a particularly painful one and if you will be making certain purchases anyway, it does not take much effort to ensure you earn avios points whilst doing so. Our family accounting is nearing 3000 avois points and I’ve not been doing this for long!
What to do with your avios points
A final word about how to use your avios points for the maximum benefit, which is an important part of travel hacking.
The good thing about travel hacking in the UK is that we live near a number of countries that are only a short flight away-thereby using less points to get to them.
Your initial thought might be to use your avios points to pay for a flight in economy class because you would need less points to pay for a seat.
Do some research first. Because of the taxes added to flights you can often get better value for money (or points in this case) by opting to use your points for a business class seat rather than an economy seat.
My ultimate goal is to have enough points for myself and my other half to fly business class to New York.
Think that might take a while…
If you liked this post then you might want to check out how to plan a self-catering holiday!
I hope you found this guide to travel hacking in the UK useful! If you have any travel hacking tips of your own then do share them in the comments. Remember to share this post before you leave to help others with their travels!