After spending almost a year and a half in rental cars, hotel rooms, and flights, with impulse trips to Stockholm, Mexico City, Japan, Macau, and more, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite travel hacks for the modern traveler. Whether you’re a consultant, working remote, or just love traveling, these hacks will be sure to get you room upgrades, first class tickets, and that hot pink convertible you’ve always dreamed of.
- Airline Elite Status Challenge
- Hotel Elite Status Challenge
- Car Elite Status Matches
- Chase Sapphire Reserve
- TSA Precheck/Global Entry
1. Airline Elite Status Challenge
I had gone far too long before I realized the wonders of Airline Elite Status Challenges. What is an Airline Elite Status Challenge? Great question!
Have you every wondered how certain travelers always get the best seats, always board first, and almost always get upgraded to first class? Let me tell you, it’s not always because they’re paying for it, it’s because they have status with the airline and you don’t have to be a frequent traveler to get access. To get the most basic status on most airlines you would need to fly a minimum of 25,000 miles within one year. Those miles may be physical distance flown, or some combination of physical distance and the amount you paid for the ticket. Even this can be hard to achieve if you only fly every few months.
In comes the elite status challenges. Soon after I started consulting, I learned that you could secretly apply for these airline status challenges that will let you earn status quickly if you can prove you fly often. More often than not, this means you would need to fly just 12,500 miles within 90 days to get the next level of status.
Here is a great article from The Points Guy about how to hack the American Executive Platinum Challenge. It’s important to note you may have to pay for some of these challenges or need to qualify first, but definitely worth the challenge.
For American, you can accept a challenge to receive AAdvantage Gold status by earning 7,000 elite qualifying miles (EQMS) within 90 days and paying a $120 fee. Or, you can obtain a challenge to receive AAdvantage Platinum status by earning 12,500 EQMs in 90 days and paying a $200 fee.
To sign up for one of these offers, you can contact American Airlines at 888-697-5636.
For United, it’s a little trickier. They don’t have an outright challenge, but they will match the status on any of their competitors, including American and Delta. Check out their MileagePlus Premier Status Match Challenge page for more details and to match your status.
2. Hotel Elite Status Challenge
Marriott/SPG, Hilton, IHG, all have similar challenges where you can earn status quickly if you can prove you’re a consistent traveler. Usually you have to wait until you qualify for these challenges, but what many don’t know, is that you can simply call up the rewards line at the hotel and ask to do their Elite Status Challenge.
It’s what I was able to do with both Marriott and Hyatt. Just be prepared to complete the challenge once you start it. If you fail to complete the challenge within the allotted time, you won’t receive status, and you won’t be able to do the challenge again for another 5 years.
Be aware of any potential partnerships between airlines and hotels as well. United and Marriott have an exclusive partnership, allowing status holders on the airline or hotel to match that status to the other. So if you have gold status with United, you may be able to earn automatic gold status with Marriott and vice versa.
3. Car Elite Status Matches
Same goes for earning status with Hertz, Avis, and many other car rental companies. I will admit, it’s harder to get a status match with Hertz, but it is possible. With Hertz gold, for example, you can get automatically confirmed vehicle reservations, expedited rental service, upgrades, and point’s bonuses. Check with your hotel or airline to see if they offer a match for car rental companies.
4. Chase Sapphire Reserve
I wrote extensively about the Chase Sapphire Reserve in another article, but I’ll give you the quick and dirty here. With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you get 100,000 points after you spend $4000 in the first 3 months (worth $2100 with Chase Ultimate Rewards®), $300 annual travel credit automatically applied to your account after each travel expense, $100 reimbursement for your Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® application, access to 900+ airport lounges worldwide, and 3X points on Hotels, Flights, Taxis (Ubers, Lyfts), Restaurants, and any other travel related expenses.
This card along with my status at Marriott has helped me book a $1700 hotel room at the Ritz Carlton in Macau, the Premier suite at the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay, and a $23,000 First-Class Seat on Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong to San Francisco. Definitely a must have for any traveler.
5. TSA Pre-check/Global Entry
While there are numerous other options for expedited airport security (CLEAR for example), TSA Pre-check or Global Entry is still the quickest and most affordable way to get through security. I almost missed my flight back to San Francisco from Chicago when I was visiting family for Thanksgiving. If it wasn’t for TSA Pre-check, I would have definitely missed my flight. The best part is that with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you get free credit for TSA Pre-check or Global Entry, and once approved, you’ll have it for 5 years.
While this list is not exhaustive, these are some of the best travel hacks I’ve found during my year and a half of constant travelling. If you know of any other hacks I may have forgotten, comment below!