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freeA lot of times in the miles and points community, there is talk about how using miles and points (mostly through credit card signups) makes travel “free”.  There has been a fair amount of discussion on this topic, most of it arguing that travel is not really “free”.  The reason is that you have to take into consideration your time, the value of the rewards you might otherwise have earned from spending on credit cards and even the taxes, fees and other expenses that you have to pay out of pocket. Drew from the (topically named “Travel is Free” site) wrote a series of posts talking about how if you want, travel really CAN be free, but it takes a) more work than most people want to put in and b) more work than is generally worth doing.

So if travel is not FREE, then what is it?

Over on the Points with a Crew miles and points Slack channel, user @jazzhammar summarized the whole concept of travel hacking succinctly with a quote, attributed to a fellow churner

 It doesn’t make travel free, it just takes me to Paris, for the price of [Poughkeepsie]”

He actually said Columbus, but I liked the sound of Poughkeepsie better and although we all know that Columbus is a “small regional airport“, since it’s my blog I’ll do whatever I want 🙂

Paris on a Poughkeepsie budget

I thought that was a very apt way to put things.  Yes, it’s true that travel is likely not going to be FREE, no matter how many miles you get or credit cards you sign up for.  But, with appropriate application of basic travel hacking principles, a modest travel budget can literally take you anywhere in the world.

Even if your travel budget isn't very large, a few simple tips and tricks can stretch it into going just about ANYWHERE in the world

When I talk to people unfamiliar with the miles and points hobby and looking to start, I always suggest that they

  1. Make sure their finances are in order and that they have no outstanding credit card debt
  2. First pick a place you want to go
  3. Only THEN sign up for the credit cards that will get you there

The magic about picking a place to go is that you can just about literally go ANYWHERE in the world.  It may take more time, and more miles and points, but if you put your mind to it, anywhere is possible.

I haven’t actually literally been to Paris yet (but it’s on the bucket list!) My friend did though and wrote 7 tips to save money in Paris, the city of Light.  But we’ve been to Seattle, around the world in first class, London, MonacoSingapore, Hong Kong, on an overnight train, in a helicopter, and many places in between.  And we’re still writing the journey!

Share your Paris on a Poughkeepsie budget stories in the comments!

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