I feel like more than anything I need to just set the record strait & explain exactly how I spent 90+ days of 2016 traveling because this is a question I get asked all the time. Yes, I could be spending A LOT of money but even if I was the richest bitch in town I would still stick to my travel hacker ways. Isn't there a saying about how the rich stay rich? But I'm not "rich", I'm just smart & I have a system.

First thing... I own my business and work from home so there are some obvious perks that make it easier for me to hop on a plane when I want to. Other than that, there is NO reason these other strategic moves wouldn't work for everyone!

The theme here is MILES MILES MILES... you'll fully understand at the end.

1. I'll start with the obvious - get an airline credit card. This is the quick and easy way, because you need MILES. Each airline has a mileage program that allows you to accumulate reward miles that you can use to book a flight with. The more miles you fly, the more miles you earn. The more money you spend on your airline credit card, the more miles you earn. There are many ways you can build your airline miles and I do mine by frequent travel. If you don't have the time to travel a lot, the only way to achieve this is with a credit card. It's one or the other or both for best results!

When you open one up they give you like 20-50k miles just for enrolling and then they give you additional miles based on purchases. My old apartment building allowed me to pay my rent online with a credit card for a $50 fee. Was the $50 fee worth it? Um YES... I earned MAJOR miles right there.

Also, if you have a credit card the airline will give you lounge benefits so you don't have to hang out in the stinky airport with everyone else. You get free food, drinks &, in some airports, a bed & shower to refresh.

REALLY IMPORTANT - choose an airline & credit card very carefully. You have to choose one airline you would fly the most. Don't just pick any, do your research. For example, I went with American Airlines because they fly all over the world & have affiliates all over the world. The credit card is amazing, the club benefits are great, they are so good to me when I fly with Penny & Sergio flies 90% of the time with them and since we travel together we need to be on the same program. This brings me to #2...

2. Pick an airline and DO NOT deviate - When I say do not deviate, I mean it. It takes A LOT of traveling and spending on a credit card to accumulate the miles you need. Unless you are Sergio who flies to Europe and South America once a week, you won't / can't accumulate the mileage you need to reap the benefits if you're flying multiple airlines only a few times per year. It just can't work. For example, a Delta flight might be $300 and the American Airlines flight might be $500 but I know I am going to get a few thousand miles in my AA arsenal to use on my next trip. So, I go with the more expensive flight because it's going into my AA piggy bank and it will pay off later. It's 100% worth it & I'm not deviating. MILES MILES MILES. Bottom line... pick an airline and marry it. This will make more sense in #3.

3. Airline Benefits - Besides accumulating miles, there are a ton of other benefits that make traveling much more pleasurable. Each airline has levels. For example, AA has Gold, Platinum & Executive Platinum. Each tier is based on how frequently you travel... MILES MILES MILES. Each tier you reach you receive an increased amount of reward miles. So, on gold I only got like 40% earning on each mile I flew but now on Platinum I get 60%. For example, I just booked a flight from New York to San Diego, which is about 2,500 miles, and I will be awarded about 1,000 miles that I can use towards a future flight. You can pay to move up the levels but if you want to spend money frivolously on travel, you're probably not reading this. Also, with each tier you move up, you get free checked bags, priority boarding - NO LINES, better seats with no charge & even FREE first class upgrades. Ahhh the benefits of monogamy.

4. Last minute deals - I always hear inexperienced travelers bitching and moaning about booking early to get a better deal. Totally false. Sometimes, last minute deals are the best you can get. Airlines are desperate to fill those seats. Yes, at times they can be pricy & it totally depends on the time of year, what day you are flying & if it's a hot destination. Either way, don't be afraid of last minute deals because they are there. Like I said, I am going to San Diego next week and I booked my ticket this morning - 8 days before travel. My round trip cost me $125!!! This is not a joke. I had about 30,000 miles in my account so I spent 12,500 of them on my flight from San Diego to New York & then I bought a one way flight from New York to San Diego for $125... Actually, it was only $95 and the rest was taxes and fees. Oh & my ROUND TRIP flight to Europe was only $500 booking las minute... believe me yet?

5. Choose undesirable flight times - I am not saying take the 30 hour trip or something that has 14 stops. I'm saying, choose the Saturday morning 6am flight or the Tuesday mid day flight times. Why? because no one wants to fly those times & you have a better chance at a better deal. BUT the real reason I do this is for first class upgrades. I have not flown in a coach seat in almost two years & I have only ever purchased a first class or business class seat once or twice. How? because I don't fly when everyone else is flying, I get a last minute upgrade or use my miles. (Right now, the upgrade fee is minimal like $100 - $120 but when I reach executive platinum it will be FREE - the tier system; a religion) This ONLY works if you marry an airline. They give the upgrades based on status level. Always have to follow the program.

typical travel situation...

When I decide to take a flight at 6am on a Saturday - after most people have booked their flights for Friday after work, I get a business class upgrade because they need to fill that seat last minute since everyone flew the night before, I married the airline & I built up status to get my name at the top of the upgrade list...

So, imagine all that, in the comfort of the lounge, drinking a glass of free wine. Bottom line, this strategy works. If I paid full price for the amount of travel I do, it would be more than the average American makes in one year & I am NOT silly enough to spend like that. As Carrie Bradshaw once said, "I like my money right where I can see it; hanging in my closet". I want to spend my money on other things! =)

If you have any other travel tips I'd love to know! If there is any way to improve my game, I'm IN.

I Hope this was helpful & inspires some wanderlust for 2017!