I’ve noticed something in the travel hacking community. A large portion of the bloggers live near a large airport such as Seattle, Boston, or Chicago. But what about the rest of us who live in a small town, or in the asterisk states (Alaska and Hawaii)? What about those of us who can only see the term “cheap flight” as an oxymoron?
I live in Honolulu. I know, not exactly an obscure place, but the sheer remoteness of it makes traveling difficult. Now add in that everyone wants to come here, so airlines can jack prices up whenever they want. The nearest state is California, and I am ecstatic when I can find a round trip ticket for under $500. Most people would be offended by a $500 domestic ticket.
And I’m not alone. There are many people who would love to travel, but where they live makes it prohibitively expensive. This problem doesn’t only apply to people living outside the contiguous 48 either. Flying into a small airport can be very costly as well. So what is a travel hacker to do?
Accept that not everything is going to apply to you
The people in small towns in the 48 can start right now. This section is for people in Alaska and Hawaii.
You’ve probably already developed a sense of skepticism when faced with ads and free shipping. I don’t know how many times I’ve been excited about a good deal only to get to the store/restaurant/website and see that soul-crushing little star. Seeing “*” makes my heart drop. It almost always means “not applicable in HI or AK”.
Use that skepticism around the travel hacking community, especially if you’re new. When people praise a new bonus as having enough miles for a domestic round trip ticket, check the airline’s award chart first. Most airlines do not include Hawaii in their “within the US” category, and some do not include Alaska either (American Airlines). So it could take a lot more miles to travel domestically. For example, a one-way standard award on United within the continental US is 25k. A one-way to the continental US for me is 45k, almost double.
You’ll also need to skim through posts about a lot of the budget airlines, like Southwest and Frontier, for example. These airlines are only flying into major cities where they can fill the seats.
Find the sweet spots
One bonus of having to buy expensive airline tickets is that you can get some amazing value out of travel hacking.
Using AAdvantage miles to go to Central and South America gives me insane value. Once you move down the award chart into international territory, Hawaii gets to join the North America category, meaning that I get to enjoy the same redemption criteria as everyone else, even though my airline tickets cost much more. One-way tickets from Honolulu to Belize City would have cost me around $800. The saver award from North to Central America is 15k, giving me a value of 5.3 cents per mile. Damn! Most people don’t even break 3 cents per mile on business class flights.
People living near obscure airports can always get great value for their points as well. Going on an international flight always requires another flight to the nearest big city first, then on to other connecting airports. This means that you can pay hundreds of dollars more than someone already leaving from a large airport, even if they’re geographically close. However, points aren’t prejudice, so you pay the same amount of miles, giving you greater value per mile.
It can suck at times, but at the end of the day, you got to just be grateful that you’re traveling at all. You still have that magic blue passport that gets you into 160 countries without having to apply a visa. You know the value of credit card bonuses, manufacture spending, and other travel hacking tips. True, you probably won’t be doing mileage runs anytime soon, but those are quickly becoming extinct since more airlines are incorporating qualifying dollars into their elite status requirements.
In the end, how much can I honestly complain about living in Hawaii? I mean, did you see the picture at the top? Totally worth a few extra hundred dollars.