I began FT4RL with a quick “state of The Hobby” chat in order to drive home the fact that everything changes but nothing changes at the same time. The “nothing changes” refers to the travel hacking skills we all need in our toolkit.
The travel hacking skills list just sprung into action when this Secret Flying sub-$400 RT fare to Santiago, Chile popped up on my twitter feed. Fares to deep South America last summer were averaging high enough that 60,000 AA miles for coach didn’t look 1/2 bad.
90% of the flight steals fall on dates that just don’t work for families with two school age kids. The rare ones that do match our dates tend to have overnight layovers or other wacky routings that make the price not worth the trouble.
However, this one happened to be available pretty much all summer and had an easy five hour flight/two hour layover/six hour flight format…interesting!
Travel hacking skill #1- flexibility
Summer 2017 is a Camp Mom year. If you’re not familiar with Camp Mom- it’s a concept we started in 2013 when we realized the single largest vacation expense is transportation. Once you’ve spent the money to get to your vacation destination the extra time is simply a matter of lodging and tours- you’re going to eat at home, aren’t you? So Deal Dad goes home after our two week trip and I stick around with the kids for Camp Mom.
In 2013 I challenged myself to spend two weeks in Europe (with an assist from miles and points) for less than $1600 (2 weeks of camp for 2 kids at $400/week). Here’s how it went. In 2015 we did the same in Asia, extending our trip to Japan with legs in Vietnam and Hong Kong. Illness aside, we made it work within our budget.
I was considering Eastern Canada for 2017 but hadn’t nailed down an itinerary yet. Two reasons were lower cost to get there and climate. Deal Kid wilts in heat and specifically requested somewhere cool. As soon as I saw the Santiago fare wheels started to turn…
Travel Hacking Skill #2: Knowledge
I have a little knowledge of the region because Mendoza, Argentina and Santiago were on my short list for Camp Mom solo. The main reason I went to Liguria and Cote D’Azur instead was that I didn’t want to do wine country solo. I knew the climate in July was cool but mostly sunny.
I also know there are low level Hyatts in Santiago, Mendoza, and Buenos Aries along with lots of condo rentals all along the countryside. Intra South American flights on LAN are easily bookable via Avios, on Aerolineas Argentinas via Skymiles or you can purchase cheap tickets via Azul, the Brazilian discount airline.
Travel Hacking Skill #3: Lack of Hesitation
Here’s what separates the hackers from the posers- and here’s the skill that requires family buy-in. Just as I found flights for July Deal Dad returned from the gym. He saw the sparkle in my eye and knew what was coming! I kept it quick: “Flights for one of our bucket list destinations have come up”. (It helps that we saw a House Hunters International on Bariloche just last night.) I filled him in quickly and he said “do it”. 3 tickets for me and the kids for five weeks, one for him for two, and we’re getting to South America for $1500.
SINGLE LADIES- IF YOU FIND ONE LIKE THIS- HE’S A KEEPER.
Travel Hacking Skill #4: Self-Awareness
I mentioned how lack of self-awareness is the travel planner’s biggest mistake. Before I booked I ran through my quick “must have” checklist for travel with kids- especially solo travel with kids:
- Access to western medicine: check. Santiago has a Johns Hopkins approved hospital and Mendoza a large expat community. I’ll be sure to pick up an Allianz insurance policy for extra safety.
- Decent transport/roads: check. Some routes in the Andes might be a bit harrowing but in general it looks OK for getting around.
- A language I can read, if not speak: Even in Asian locations I’m a lot more comfortable if signs have phonetic spellings. Check. My Spanish is enough to get us by.
Deals come and go, but once you’ve mastered the basic travel hacking skills you can roll with it and make your dream trip come true. Or you can just book this Santiago fare and come meet us in July for Camp Mom!
Pressing “book” energizes me like nothing else. I was starting to have withdrawal symptoms because I had nothing to plan! If you’ve been, please share your tips. As of now, my itinerary is wide open for ideas- the Deal Kids will be 10 and 13.
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