Lonely Planet Writer

How one man paid $408 for a $52,000 round-the-world trip (and how you can too)

Daniel Gillaspia wanted to see the world in style, but didn’t want to pay the price tag that came with it. With careful planning and research, he went on a $52,000 around the world trip…but only paid $408 for it.

Enjoying the view touching down in JFK with a glass of bubbly.
Enjoying the view touching down in JFK with a glass of bubbly. Image by Daniel Gillaspia

Daniel first put his plan in action when he discovered ‘travel-hacking’ blogs, learning how to travel around the world using only points and rewards schemes. He compiled all the tips and tricks he found and decided to put his expertise into practice by planning a trip around the world, flying in first-class cabins and staying at five-star hotels. Starting in Los Angeles, Daniel and his partner Bradley flew to Tokyo, Singapore, Johannesburg and Abu Dhabi, before hitting New York City and returning home again. In total they visited ten airport lounges with complimentary food and drink and stayed at some of the swankiest hotels in the world. The trip was worth $52,294 but he paid just $408 from his own pocket.

travel-hacking looks glamorous now.
The couple stayed at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel for free. Image by Daniel Gillaspia

While the rewards are epic, Daniel warns that “it takes a fair amount of work to learn how to earn and redeem them in efficient ways and having access to many credit cards is definitely not something that’s for everyone.” He now runs a blog Upon Arriving where he breaks down the lucrative, but confusing, world of award travel. Lonely Planet asked Daniel to share his five top tips for doing some travel-hacking of your own.

Business class on Singapore Airlines.
Business class on Singapore Airlines. Image by Daniel Gillaspia

Most valuable sign-up bonuses

“When you go to apply for a rewards credit card make sure you’re getting the most valuable sign up bonus. A lot of people don’t realise that there are sometimes multiple offers out for the same credit card and one offer might be offering twice the amount of miles.

Credit card application rules

“Many banks have specific rules and restrictions for being approved for their cards and it’s important to know about them in order to strategically apply for different cards. For example, a bank may not approve you for some cards if you’ve opened five or more new accounts within the past 24 months.  Make sure you know what these rules are before applying for cards or you might exclude yourself from eligibility from other valuable credit cards.

A glass of Dom Perignon before bed.
A glass of Dom Perignon before bed. Not bad for a bit of travel-hacking. Image by Daniel Gillaspia

Bonus categories

“A lot of credit cards offer two or three times the points per-dollar-spent on things like dining and travel or groceries and gas. Take a look at your expenses over the past couple of months and figure out what your main categories of purchases are. Then you can find a card that offers bonus categories that align with your personal spending habits and allow you to maximise your earning potential.

Online portals

“You can usually go through an airline’s online shopping portal when purchasing items from major retail shops, whether it be clothes or electronics or something else. These portals allow you to earn additional miles whenever you make a purchase and so you can supplement your earnings from your credit cards. Sometimes they offer extraordinary deals that may only last for 24 hours but allow you to earn something like ten miles per dollar spent. They can be very valuable.”


Sweet spots in award charts

“Sweet spots are the cheapest ways to use miles and points to get from point A to point B. If you can become familiar with these, you can find cards that offer you the right type of miles and points so that you can utilise these sweet spots and effectively create a shortcut to get to your destination.