Revealing The Hidden Costs Of Travel Hacking

Revealing The Hidden Costs Of Travel Hacking

As 2023 comes to a close, I thought it’d be interesting to take some time and reflect on all of the award bookings I made this year and do a quick write-up on what was the true cost that came with them.

Booking Stats


For reference, I made 19 flight redemptions this year but some of those redemptions are for flights in 2024. For those 19 flight redemptions here are the stats.

  • 5 first class flights
  • 14 business class flights
  • Total points and miles redeemed: 1,366,900
  • Total cash price of flights: $116,125.13
  • Average cents per point (CPP): 8.5

Not too shabby if I do say so myself.

Costs


While I was able to book and experience some memorable flights like Singapore Airlines First Class Suites and Japan Airlines First Class, those flights weren’t as “free” as some social media influencers might make them sound. Anyone who tells you that traveling is free is not telling you the whole story.

Points and miles let you book some awesome awards like Singapore Airlines First Class Suites
Singapore Airlines First Class Suites

Instead of calling them “free”, award tickets can be more accurately referred to as heavily discounted airline tickets. This is because every award ticket charges taxes and fees to different degrees. The one exception is probably the hotel chain, Hyatt, which doesn’t charge any fees at all.

American Airlines award tickets generally have low taxes and fees
Cheap Taxes and Fees On An American Airlines Award Ticket

These taxes and fees can be as little as $5 or as outrageous as $1200+. The biggest culprit for these fees is usually the fuel surcharge fee which you should always try to avoid if you can.

Emirates award tickets generally have very expensive taxes and fees
Crazy High Taxes and Fees On An Emirates Award Ticket

So with that in mind, for these 19 award bookings, I paid a total of $2,356.98 in taxes and fees. This is a pretty significant amount of money and definitely not as “free” as some people would think.

However, this amount total doesn’t even include the cost of the positioning flights I had to pay out of pocket. For the flights I flew this year, I had to make 3 positioning flights that cost me $351.70 in total.

Fortunately, I’m blessed to have friends and family in most of the major US airport cities who are kind enough to let me stay with them for a few nights. If I had to pay for hotels or Airbnbs out of pocket, those costs could add up quickly and make the total out of pocket amount for trips scarily high.

Lastly, all of this doesn’t even account for the amount of time and effort that goes into these bookings. Although this doesn’t have a monetary amount, it’s still a major aspect of the award travel process that doesn’t get talked about enough. The reality of award bookings is that a lot of planning and research has to be done to even make these great redemptions possible. I’ve spent countless hours looking up routes and availability and spent even more time researching and tracking airline award release patterns.

Unfortunately, the average person doesn’t realize how tedious this whole process is and only sees the end result of “free” travel. So I hope that from this blog, you can start to better understand what it takes to accomplish great bookings and what to expect when diving into the world of points.

Conclusion


Learning how to use points and miles is a super rewarding skill that allows average people like you and me to have incredible travel experiences for less. However, as good as this is, it still comes at a cost, in both monetary and non-monetary ways that are often overlooked. It’s important to truly understand how much goes into making these amazing travel experiences a reality and to plan accordingly.

Out of curiosity, what were some of your lowest and highest fee redemptions?

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