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Though the Selfish Years started as a dream years ago, the idea for a year long trip around the world didn’t become a reality until September 16, 2011.

Mrs. Selfish and I have always liked to travel, but we’ve usually limited ourselves to one international trip per year – mostly for time reasons, but also because international trips can be utterly expensive.  This all changed after our trip to Peru last fall.

After an amazing trip to Machu Picchu, I became deathly ill upon our return to Orlando.  Bed-ridden, I spent an entire week lying on the couch when I wasn’t doubled over.  My only solace was the internet – and on this particular day, I stumbled across an article about how some guy had spent the last 9 months traveling around the world.

And he had done it for $418.

Immediately, Mrs. Selfish and I started plotting.  Was it possible for us to accumulate the necessary miles to fly around the world for next to nothing? Better yet, could we do it all in business class?

The short answer, was yes.

What is Travel Hacking?

Travel Hacking is about earning miles and points to get free flights or accommodations. Travel hackers are typically looking for ways to accumulate the most miles, points, or elite status for the least amount of money.  They look for ways to game the system. Some of it can be pretty hardcore, like a mileage run where the goal is to fly as many miles as possible for the least amount of money (think New York to San Francisco by way of Philadelphia, Tampa, Dallas, and Seattle). Other times it can be pretty easy, like signing up for a new credit card, or moving your investments into a different brokerage account.

Shortly after reading the initial article last September, I became completely obsessed with the idea of earning enough miles to get us around the world. And it worked.

Over the last year, Mrs. Selfish and I have managed to rack up over 1.5 million miles and points (all without flying), including:

    • – 600,000 American Airline Miles
    • – 256,000 Chase Ultimate Reward Points
    • – 206,000 Delta Miles
    • – 107,000 Starwood Preferred Guest Points
    • – 169,000 United Miles
    • – 96,000 Priority Club points
    • – 50,000 Jet Blue Miles

We’ve already put some of these miles to good use!  This past April, we spent a little over 40,000 miles to fly Jetblue from Orlando to Cancun:

And back in May, we took an amazing trip in business class to Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and Berlin for 100,000 Delta miles + $131 in taxes each!

For our current stint in Europe, we’re paying 100,000 United miles + $131 in taxes to fly in business class to London, Vienna, and Lisbon.  Smaller legs (like Ireland) we’re paying for ourselves, since it’s not worth the miles.

Which brings us to the grand daddy of mileage redemptions – One World’s Round the World ticket:

For a grand total of 190,000 American Airline miles + taxes, we can use this ticket to fly up to 35,000 miles and 16 segments in business class.  Probably one of the best bang for buck deals out there – especially since American Airlines would charge you about $18,550 per ticket!

Gimmee da’ miles!

Before writing this post I took a quick survey of all of our miles and points, and here’s how they break down:

As it turns out, Mrs. Selfish and I have over 2/3 of our miles squarely in airlines – no surprises there!  The rest is evenly distributed among hotels, and credit card points.  Our limited amount of hotel points is nothing new, since we haven’t spent too much time focusing on hotel, but I was a little surprised by the amount of credit card points we’ve accumulated over the last year.

This chart was a surprise, however.  It turns out we earned almost 55% of all of our miles from credit card sign up bonuses!  The rest was from a combination of bank bonuses, every day spending, and other tricks.

Where to From Here

If I’ve managed to pique your interest in this bizarre world of miles and points, stay tuned for upcoming posts where I’ll discuss the basics on earning and burning miles:

  1. Credit Card Sign Up Bonuses and You!
  2. Banks, Brokerage Agencies, and Bonuses
  3. Buying Things You Need for Miles
  4. Other Sources of Miles
  5. Award Ticket Basics: Stopovers & Open Jaws
  6. Buying a Round the World Ticket

Learning More

If you’re interest in travel hacking, these links are for you!

  • – The Ultimate Guide to Travel Hacking – a good starting primer.
  • The Points Guy – one of the best miles & points blogs. Especially useful for booking flights with miles.
  • Million Mile Secrets – another great miles & points blog.  The “Hot Deals” tab is indeed filled with great deals.
  • – Flyertalk Milesbuzz – Flyertalk is an amazing resource, though it has the reputation for being a little unfriendly to the uninitiated.