Ultimate Guide to Travel Hacking ft. Ricky Zhang, CEO of Prince of Travel

Ricky Zhang, CEO of Prince of Travel joins the Travel Squad Podcast to share the best travel hacking tips and reveal travel credit card industry’s best-kept secrets.

What is travel hacking you ask? Simply, it’s the strategy of using points to pay for flights and hotels. It’s a bit more complex in that you strategically use bonus offers to rack up points, utilize the right credit cards for maximum rewards on what ure already buying, and purchasing the flights and hotels and optimal times to stretch your points the farthest.

Ricky shares his personal 101 to travel hacking. Since he is no stranger to taking first-class and business-class flights on points. In fact, he’s taken what he’s learned and built a business out o teaching others how to get free flights, upgrades, hotel stays, and perks with travel credit card points. 

Whether you’re in Canada or in the US, Ricky has travel hacks to get more points, strategies to earn enough points to afford that coveted flight, and shares some of his unbelievable experiences he’s done on the credit card company’s dime! He also shares more on “travel consulting” and how Prince of Travel can help make your travel-hacking dreams come to life. You do not want to miss this incredibly helpful travel-hacking episode.

In April 2024 Prince of Travel is hosting a travel summit in Toronto, Canada to teach these points strategies in real life. Use promo code TRAVELSQUAD for $25 CAD off the ticket price!
Connect with Prince of Travel on Instagram at @princeoftravel and visit their website princeoftravel.com to read their blogs, sign up for their newsletter, and learn more about their travel consulting options.

Travel Hacking – Episode Transcript

1 (45s):
Welcome to this week’s episode of the Travel Squad Podcast. We have a very special guest joining us today, Ricky Zhang, the CEO of Prince of travel.

2 (53s):
In this episode, we talk to Ricky all about travel, Hacking more particularly how to utilize points from credit card and hotel reward programs to maximize your travel experience. Using those points to get free flights, hotels, and more, we delve deep in and discuss how Prince of travel’s website and tools can help you learn all these tips and tricks to make you a more savvy points traveler.

0 (1m 16s):
You squatty are in for a treat with this episode, I was glued to the screen, hung on Ricky’s every word as he revealed the Secrets to the points industry and step-by-step strategies to get free business and first class flights. This is one of the best guest interviews I think that we’ve ever had and you’re really gonna wanna get your notepad out to take notes because there were so many good nuggets in this episode. I know we were writing notes as we were listening to Ricky talk. We were getting ideas that we could activate on to earn more points. Ones that we started activating on immediately after the episode.

1 (1m 51s):
In April 2024, they’re actually hosting a travel summit in Toronto and they’re teaching all of you guys how to use these point strategies in real life. They have graciously offered you squads $25 off using the promo code TRAVELSQUAD in all caps. We’ll have the link with all of the information in the show notes and on the episode page on our website. And with that, let’s welcome Ricky to the Travel Squad. Podcast

0 (2m 19s):
Ricky, welcome to the Travel Squad Podcast. We are so happy to have you on.

4 (2m 23s):
Happy to be here. Thanks for inviting me. So

0 (2m 26s):
You’ve been on a very epic round the world bachelor trip and we are so excited to get into that and dive into how you did it and how much fun you had. But before we go there, we wanna go all the way back. What is one of your first most memorable travel experiences? Yeah,

4 (2m 44s):
It’s a great place to start. For me, probably it would have been 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. That was the first trip that I took kind of solo or with my friends, you know, outside of, you know, traveling with my family, which I had done from a young age. But that was the first time that I was trying to push the boundaries of what I was comfortable with in terms of going to a, a very foreign country at the time. And you know, just like funding the trip on my own, planning the trip on my own back then or flights, hostels, right, accommodations, what to do, what to see, what to eat, you know, figuring out the actual logistics on the ground in a unfamiliar place like Brazil with just a, a few buddies. So that was really a formative experience for me as a traveler and I think shaped me to a huge degree these days.

4 (3m 30s):
And look back on that trip with fondness a lot. That

0 (3m 33s):
Sounds like an epic trip. It sounds like you have a, a habit of taking epic trips.

4 (3m 40s):
Yeah, I tend to have a habit of try to outdo myself with, with each trip or major trip that I try to mark on. So, you know, starting from that first formative experience, I’ve always been seeking the next thrill, the next way to elevate my travels. The next exciting thing to do and especially as I’ve gotten into sharing my adventures with, with an audience as well, there’s obviously that motivation to keep upping the ante, right? To keep, you know, taking fun trips. So yeah, I’d say I’ve been on a hot streak there for sure.

2 (4m 8s):
Well, tell us a little bit about sharing your adventures with your audience. So Prince of travel is Canada’s leading resource using frequent flyer miles, credit card points, loyalty programs, et cetera, right? We know this. So at what point in your own personal travels did you decide, hey, I’m gonna start this right here and how did we get into that? So

4 (4m 29s):
This would’ve been around, you know, 2014 was Brazil, 2015. I studied abroad in London, UK and did the whole, you know, Europe backpacking trip. And that was also, you know, done on a pretty shoestring budget. But it was, you know, I think for many travelers out there backpacking through Europe is kind of a formative experience, right? And so again, that big part of shaping me as a traveler 2016 is when I graduated university and really started to confront the reality that okay, if I’m working a full-time job then my opportunities to travel the world will be more limited. And so in my full-time job I, you know, obviously was always trying to find ways to still unlock that, you know, ability to travel, the freedom to travel.

4 (5m 10s):
And it was, you know, from a bit of that motivation that I, that led me to at first pursuing Prince of travel as a side project, right? But eventually having aspirations to turn it into a full-time pursuit so that I could work on it at the same time as traveling the world and really build that, you know, dream life of travel freedom that, that I value so much. So around 2017 is when Prince of travel started and back then I myself was delving really deep into all of these strategies for using points to you know, maximize your, your flights and, and how to, you know, travel in a fraction of the cost. And I thought especially here in Canada, there weren’t really a lot of resources for that. So why not go ahead and give it a go myself and the rest is history.

0 (5m 53s):
That’s brilliant. You really saw a need at the right time and you jumped on it and you’re able to teach people the things that you were doing. And I have a ton of questions in this area going from US to Canada. Do you feel like the credit card points policy is about the same or are there differences over there?

4 (6m 11s):
Yeah, it’s overall pretty similar with some smaller nuances around you know, which specific banks are issuing, which specific credit cards like the specific credit cards we use in Canada are gonna be different from in the US All principles of the game of maximizing your credit card rewards are pretty much the same across, you know, both sides of the border. Like overall US and Canada are probably the world’s two biggest markets for this kind of, you know, the ability to maximize your points. And so yeah, overall I’d say like you know, the principles and the best practices that we have in Canada are pretty much the same as down in the states. And so a lot of the content we make is applicable to Americans as well. And yeah, overall we’re looking to serve, you know, we started off with Canadians foremost, but looking to serve a global audience as we grow.

0 (6m 55s):
Absolutely never a shortage of need for how to save money and travel more often, that’s for sure. For sure. So let’s get into that. What are some of your top tips for using points to get travel for free or less? Yeah,

4 (7m 9s):
Absolutely. So my bread and butter here at Prince of Travel is obviously maximizing your points, right? And that’s what is colloquially known as travel Hacking as well. And when you really delve into it, there’s many, many directions that travel Hacking can take. But to boil it down to the simplest form is really, you know, the idea is to maximize the points that you get from the credit card products that are available in the US and Canadian markets. And when, when we say maximize those points, it means, you know, there’s obviously the signup bonus component when you open the card, but there’s also the points you earn from regular spending by spending on the card. And that’s where the day-to-day purchases that you’ll be making throughout your life anyway, you may as well be earning a maximum return on those to help fund your trip.

4 (7m 56s):
And then when you combine that with, you know, promotions that come time to time can, people will be surprised by how quickly you can rack up the points to fund, you know, the next flight or a hotel stay. So the, the idea there, you know, if I were to go one level deeper is it does require, you know, time and effort to study how the whole game works. And in practice for somebody just starting out, it’s important to identify exactly what your goal is from trial Hacking or what’s the next, you know, trip that you’d like to take that you’d like to use points to help get either you know, for free or at a very reduced cost. And it helps to think about a trip that’s maybe, you know, a year to a year and a half out there because it does take time, right?

4 (8m 38s):
To put the right puzzle pieces in in place and earn points and and book and you know, you need to book a certain, sometimes you need to book a certain period before the actual date of the trip. So it helps to think of a certain trip you wanna take, like a destination you want to go to or a place you wanna stay or a flight you wanna take. And then work backwards from there. So put together a strategy starting with the goal, figure out which programs are gonna get you the flights required for that destination, how many points are you gonna need? And then which credit cards, whether it’s a combination of signup bonuses or the regular spend that you have month to month are gonna get you enough of those points that can help you book that trip.

4 (9m 19s):
Once you have that strategy in place, you go ahead and implement it. It’s easy to be distracted if you don’t have that strategy, it’s easy to go on, hey get that car, I’m gonna get and end up with a bunch of points that don’t actually pull together towards a trip. So it’s important to start with that goal. You’re kind of north star as you’re starting out and, and work towards it eventually resulting in taking the trip.

0 (9m 42s):
I think I’ve been doing it a little backwards or maybe wrong because I think about when I’m checking out in an airline and it says, sign up for this card and you get $200 off your bill and all these points. And I’m like, that’s a great deal. I was actually just talking to my grandma yesterday, she called me to ask if this southwest deal was a good one and I told her yes. So hopefully I didn’t lead her astray. What do you think?

4 (10m 4s):
Well, so for example, a Southwest deal could be useful if somebody’s goal is to travel to, you know, Yosemite National Park let’s say, right? But if your goal is to, you know, spend summer in Europe, then less so, right? Because Southwest doesn’t fly to Europe. So it, like I said, there is that initial research phase kind of understanding which programs will get you towards which goals and it’s, it’s really a matter of like the more you know, the more you put in in terms of studying, in terms of understanding how everything works, the more you’re gonna get out

1 (10m 36s):
Of it. Yeah, and that’s a really good tip because I feel like even though we’ve been traveling for a long time, we probably haven’t maximized the travel Hacking aspect of the game as well as you have, obviously you’re an expert in it, but there’s so many different layers to strategizing. ’cause I know like for example, in the US one of the major banks, they only let you open like five credit cards a year. And so if you open more than that you get flagged of not being able to open every two years. Every two years, yeah, every two years,

4 (11m 5s):
Right? 5 24.

1 (11m 7s):
So there’s like the 5 24 rule and then it’s like you have to make sure you’re earning points that will transfer to an airline that you might use. So there’s so many different layers to travel Hacking, but while we’re on the subject of money, we’d love to know what’s the least amount you’ve ever paid for a trip that you’ve taken using your travel Hacking strategies.

4 (11m 28s):
So it gets tricky to to, you know, pull from my recollection. But you know, if you just think about the at, at a basic level, I’ve probably done a handful of trips where, you know, I’ve used points for the flights and, and oftentimes there would’ve been in business class, right? Because we, we can, we can get into the, the value proposition of economy versus business as well. But I probably have taken a handful of trips where I book flights in business class, the hotel at the destination is covered on points and all I’ve paid for is the taxes and fees on the flights themselves plus food and the activities, you know, whatever you do on the ground. So in terms of those taxes and fees for the flights probably, you know, let’s say 200 Canadian dollars round trip tops and then that’s it for flights and hotels and this would be like to to Europe or something.

4 (12m 15s):
And I will say for Americans that number actually goes down even more because the taxes departing out of the US are as low as, you know, $7 or $5 60 cents or something, you know, very, very nicely low that you guys have. Yep.

1 (12m 29s):
You hit it on the head $5 and 60 cents

4 (12m 31s):
5 5 60, right, exactly. Yeah. So, so that really goes to show like if you can use points to offset flights and hotel expenses, which tend to be probably like 60 to 75% of most people’s travel budgets, then what you, what’s remaining of your travel budget gets to be stretched so much further, right? Whether it’s an enhanced trip for that one particular trip or taking more trips on the same budget.

2 (12m 55s):
Yeah, with the credit card game and travel Hacking you could only do so much on getting free food on the ground in your destination and activities, right? It’s the flight, it’s the hotel, possibly the rental car, maybe other sorts of transportation train or anything like that when you’re on the ground. So in that sense, if you could only do it for all the, only do the taxes that they require, I consider that to be, you know, a, a free trip. But you mentioned something very interesting to me, you know, the economy versus business class, you know proposition, a lot of credit cards these days of course will take your points and trade it to a preferred airline point system on a one-to-one basis more often than not.

2 (13m 35s):
And we usually use a lot of our points to get those immediate trips hotels in this that I’m trying really hard to save up to do that business class flight on it. Do you find it to be more wise to purchase an economy ticket regularly and then utilize points for the upgrade from economy to business or just go business, you know, outright and I know each airline is kind of different on how they do points, but what do you find to be the general rule of thumb on which is better?

4 (14m 3s):
Yeah, that’s a great question. The, the answer’s pretty clear cut. It’s generally better to redeem directly for business rather than try to use points on an upgrade from economy. And the reason for that is most of the programs out there have set it up so that the value proposition of redeeming directly for business basically is a lot stronger if you are to try to do upgrades. A lot of them tie the upgrade currency to like loyalty to the airlines. So you have to have already been a flying like a lot with like United American or Delta or Air Canada, right? To have the e upgrade or sorry Air Canada calls it e upgrades but every airline calls it something different but it’s like a specific upgrade currency but it’s really intended for loyal flyer like fly a lot and a lot of them tend to be like works travel.

4 (14m 48s):
And the other thing is oftentimes it’s only gonna be easier for to use points on upgrades from economy to business if you had paid for like the highest economy fair, which often isn’t the discounted economy fairs, that’s the lowest prices that often shows up on Kayak or Google flights when you know regular travelers shopping around. So long story short, if you wanna try business class using your points, which absolutely is great value and is what attracts a lot of people to right earning points and travel Hacking whatnot, then redeeming directly for business or first is best.

2 (15m 21s):
I’m gonna have to put that to practice because I’ve been putting all of our points as of late on hold. I keep telling Brittany don’t book anything, don’t book anything small like hotels, rental cars. Like I, I want to go ahead and do that business class flight and we got a couple long haulers that are potentially coming up to either, you know, Singapore, Hong Kong, Vietnam coming up soon. So I wanna redeem them for those on those luxury airlines that fly to. Absolutely.

4 (15m 47s):
I will say be careful because once you fly a business class you’re not gonna back and you’re gonna be playing the game a lot harder as a result. So that’s just something to something to keep in mind.

0 (15m 59s):
You gotta keep upping the ante. Right? Exactly.

1 (16m 2s):
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1 (19m 29s):
One thing that you’ve talked about a little bit was, you know, picking the right credit card and then maximizing the points that you get back from that credit card. So what are some other ways to earn more points from credit cards? Are there specific promos to look out for? Do you recommend putting all of your daily expenses on one card, splitting it? What would you say your strategy is on that?

4 (19m 50s):
So it’s gonna be a multi-pronged strategy if you want to fully maximize, right? So let’s break it down to three components. The first is strategic use of side signup bonuses, which if you think about it, a lot of these cards out there are gonna offer, you know, 80,000, a hundred thousand, 150,000 points just for signing up and then meeting a certain spending requirement. And oftentimes that’s like a couple thousand dollars in a, in three months you’d have to spend, you know, tens of thousands of dollars to get that equivalent amount from daily spending. So the signup bonus is a huge chunk and there’s like different levels of, let’s call it aggressiveness, that you can go with signup bonuses, right? And you know, some people prefer to, some people out there get like new credit cards every couple of months and then they just keep getting the bonuses and that’s a big part of the strategy.

4 (20m 37s):
Now not everybody’s gonna be comfortable doing that, but I think for everybody there should be consideration that if there’s an, let’s say an all time high offer on a card that we’ve, you know, never seen before or we rarely see, and you have the ability to meet that minimum spend that’s associated with it. Let’s say you have some big expenses coming up, if it’s gonna be a high spend right, then it’s worth considering going for that offer because that’s an instant boost to your points balance that can get you much closer to that next trip much quicker. So outside of side of bonuses, right? Whenever you choose the, the pace there, the number two would be, yeah, maximizing your return on spend. So there it’s like simplicity versus maximizing rewards, right?

4 (21m 17s):
Some people are gonna prefer to get one card and not have to think about which card use for their purchase and they’re going to not be able to earn as many points as a result. Whereas if you did, you know, go deeper into like the best card for dining, the best card for gas, the best card for recurring purchases and kind of took note of which portfolio of cards is gonna work best for you, given which categories of spending that you regularly spend on the most, then you’re gonna pull together, yeah. As a bigger points balance as a result. And the last piece is that you said at promotions, right? So one of the more underrated ways of racking up points is through shopping portals. Each of the major programs, you know, each of the major airlines, you know, American United, Delta, air Canada, there’s gonna be a portal that if you shop online you can shop through the portal and it’ll sometimes give you, it’s basically affiliate marketing.

4 (22m 10s):
They give you kickback and forth. So you can often earn, you know, one to three times the miles in whichever program that you’ve decided to focus on after thinking about your goals and your strategy, right on like an online purchase on Amazon or you know, buying a new computer or new iPhone or if you’re just buying stuff like shopping online for Black Friday, whatnot. And the best thing is during Black Friday during these peak shopping seasons, they’re gonna put on promos where it’s like instead of one to three times the points it’s five or eight or 10 times the points. So then if you’re doing like a few grand worth of holiday shopping, that’s instantly, you know, a like dirty maybe 20, 30, 40,000 points that are flowing into your account in addition to the points you earn from the credit card you use for that purchase.

4 (22m 56s):
That’s how it all really stacks up really quick. And then when you have your eye on the prize for how many points you need to redeem, you just need to get yourself to that level and then it’s time to book.

2 (23m 6s):
And I think something too that you didn’t touch upon, but it’s one of those things that when people get a little bit deeper too, is a lot of these reward programs, they will give you referral codes and links as a good example where they’ll give you extra points too. And it’s one of those things where I’ve had my preferred travel credit card for a really, really long time. I hyped it up when Kim actually finally decided she’s signing up for hers. They weren’t giving the referral program anymore and now they are. And sometimes they’ll offer anywhere between 10 to 50,000 points per person up to like five people that you get to sign up. And right there, if it’s at 50,000 for five people, 250,000 points, that’s more than you know, the signup bonuses for those ones.

2 (23m 50s):
So that can also go a really long way just as well. And I’m trying to get real hard into that game right now too.

4 (23m 56s):
For sure. You’re, you’re badgering all your friends and family to, to get it.

2 (24m 0s):
Yeah, and then I had a friend recently, ’cause he was asking me because him and his wife aren’t travelers per se, they have three children right now, but they’re coming with us on a trip to October Fest and he asked me in general, what’s my preferred travel credit card. And since he’s not a traveler, I didn’t think he was really gonna do anything of it. It was just more like a general question tells me the next day he signed up for it and got approved. I’m like, dude, you cost me 50,000 points right now, I would’ve given you the leak.

4 (24m 27s):
Oh, unlucky, yeah, you gotta you gotta chastise him for that. But that’s, that’s the tail is oldest time of the space. So definitely, yeah, refer a friend. Bonuses are another big component. You’re right, probably like the fourth, you know, big source of points. American Express offers it both sides of the border. You’ve got Chase that also does refer a friend every now and then. So that’s usually a win-win, right? So if you’re a cardholder and you know, you, you’ve been discovering the benefits of the card and the program on your own, then definitely what the, what the bank wants you to do is to, is to spread the word and you benefit from referring a friend and family member. And especially like you said, if you’re planning a trip with friends, it’s a great time to get them into the game obviously, assuming they use your link.

4 (25m 12s):

0 (25m 12s):
Yes. Hey Ricky, I have a question. You’ve used your points for a lot of flights and hotels. I’ve always wanted to redeem my points as well for business or first class. It’s my dream to fly in a plane that lays down, it gives you a comforter, champagne, all of that. What is the typical like point range for a business or first class flight?

4 (25m 34s):
Sure, yeah, I can throw out a few ranges. So these days, let’s say North America to Europe and business is probably gonna be 70,000 to a hundred thousand points. One way, you know, depends on the program, but on average I think 70,000, let’s call it 60 to 80,000 from East coast to Europe, 70 to 90,000 from West coast to Europe. ’cause you know, different distances to Asia, probably a little more. So business you’re looking at like 90 to 110, actually no lower than that. 75 to a hundred for business class to Asia you can usually find, those are probably your two most common ones. And then South America probably also like 60 to 80, 60 to, yeah, 60 to 90 just in case reader.

4 (26m 15s):
Sorry, listeners are unaware, right? Business class, you get your life flat seat, generally that’s the expectation. You get food, you get unlimited, you know, food and alcohol, but it’s still a pretty like, you know, that’s it. You know, you get your seed, you get your food and alcohol, that’s it. First class is where they pamper you and make you feel like a celebrity and you have like a whole bed to yourself and they come like with unlimited servings of caviar and they come, you know, ask like what, what more can they get for you? And usually it’s like a lot of, a lot of fun, right? That’s, that’s where the fun gets in first class to Europe. Looking at a hundred thousand one way roughly first class to Asia, maybe a little bit more than that. A hundred to 120 points one way I will say for first class, you do often sometimes need to go seeking out the experience on the right routes because unless you live in a major hub and you’re flying into a major hub, you know you’re not al that’s not always gonna be available.

4 (27m 8s):
So you sometimes you need to, what’s known as reposition yourself to let’s say New York, to fly to Frankfurt so that you can try the Lufthansa first class. So you do kind of go out there and seek out the experience. But let me tell you, when you’re sipping champagne at 35,000 feet, it’s all worth it.

2 (27m 24s):
I believe it’s all worth it. That’s all of our goals and I think anybody’s with the travel Hacking. But let, let me ask you this, what am I missing? Because everything that I ever see online, that point range you gave is accurate. Of course you’ll see sometimes those point range sales be a lot better, but maybe it’s off season, maybe it’s a random day. But every time I really look to see, okay, how much is it going to cost me on these major airlines to get from where I want to go? Business class even I’m seeing in the one 50, sometimes even 200,000 point range. So what, what is it that I’m missing? Am I just looking at the wrong time or from the wrong airports?

4 (28m 0s):
Yeah, let’s stick into this. What you’re seeing is basically, you know, no matter which program you’re using, so if, if you’re using United’s program for example, or if you’re using American’s program or if you’re using Delta’s program or Air Canada’s, each of the programs, obviously they’re designed to serve the interest of their, of their airline, right? And so what the programs do is they make, basically they, they allow you to access every seat on the their own airlines flights, but you’re gonna pay an inflated cost after the first few are taken. So it’s, it’s worth very lightly delving into the economics of how this all works. Like why does using points on flights even work? Right? Essentially airlines can’t sell all their seats and they, you know, just a basic version, they, they use the loyalty programs, they make it available for people to book on points so that they, to minimize the number of seats that actually go out empty.

4 (28m 52s):
Because once the seat goes out empty, they just lose that, you know, revenue forever. But if they let somebody use points for it, at least it builds customer loyalty. So they’re obviously not gonna let every seat on the plane, especially in business in first on those seats command 5,000, $10,000 of revenue, right? They’re not gonna let every seat be bookable on points. They’re gonna limit it to like one or two per flight maximum. And that’s where, when I said those points ranges, right, I’m talking about those one or two seats per flight that many of these major airlines have chosen to make available to their partners, which you’re using to book. So for example, if you’re using United Miles, you’ll be able to find, you know, one or two flights on Lufthansa, Swiss Air Canada, Brussels Airlines, right?

4 (29m 35s):
The star lines partners that partner with United at that 60 to 80 K or one way range to Europe that I set after those seats are snapped up, all you’re seeing is a hundred, 150 on United’s own flights that they still wanna allow like somebody who’s desperate to use their points to book. But for people looking for a deal, it’s not gonna be as attractive. Same thing applies to American and their partners, right? If you’re using American Miles, you’re looking for that, you’re competing essentially with other people using points for those 1, 2, 3, 4 seats on a, on each flight on their partners British Airways, Iberia, right? Qatar Airways to the Middle East. Once those are gone, all you see is American Airlines flights for you know, 400,000 points one way most people will not take it.

4 (30m 18s):
Some people swimming in miles, they will take it and that’s why it’s available. Hopefully it makes it a bit clear. It’s pretty complex topic at the end of

1 (30m 24s):
The day. Yeah, I feel like you really clarified that ’cause I didn’t realize how much of a competition it really is and that it’s not the same amount of points across the board for everyone. Which also brings me to my next question. Is there an optimal time to book these flights a certain amount of months in advance so that you are competitive in getting the flight with point? Yes.

4 (30m 43s):
At the lower rate there’s two optimal times. So this is different from when you’re shopping for flights that you’re just gonna buy regularly, right? The prevailing advice there is, I don’t know, like a few months to a few to like six weeks before. I think generally with points it’s different. So you either want to be looking for flights well in advance, so 10 to 12 months. So in that case, you know, people who travel on points, people who really take it to a, to a level where it’s, you know, part of their travel lifestyle. Right now we’re in August, 2023 right now. They’d be planning like late summer 20, 24 travels if they wanted to secure those flights while in advance because basically that’s when airlines released their schedule 10 to 12 months in advance at that point usually it’s like they’ve released their entire flight, you know, to be bookable for the public on cash and they’ve released those two seats to be bookable on points and usually it’s two, sometimes it’s more, sometimes it’s zero if an airline, like an airline doesn’t have to release seats for points, but they do to keep the whole ecosystem of loyalty going, right?

4 (31m 47s):
So that’s one optimal window planning nine to 12 months in advance. The other optimal window is super last bitted because again, airlines at around two weeks out start to know, okay, this flight is not selling too well, it’s looking like it might go out with a few empty seats, let’s like release more on points. And this is a very common practice that most airlines, most airlines do. So at around two weeks out you’ll start to see a lot more seats at those like base levels that we talked about available if you’re to search. So for example, today’s August 10th, if you’re to search for the next two weeks of travel dates, you’ll see you, you’ll see more seats available to book at this last minute stage.

4 (32m 27s):
Maybe it’s not that pronounced right now ’cause it’s still peak, like peak summer travel season and it’s been actually quite hard to find those seeds the whole summer. But once we get into fall winter, that’ll, that’ll be the case. Now those are, are the two optimal windows. I will say that it’s different from most people how most people play their travels, right? Well, you know, either can find it challenging to plan 10 to 12 months in advance, let alone last minute. That’s, you do have to be like quite advanced and comfortable with flexibility. We’re gonna talk about flexibility later, but you do have to be quite flexible to be comfortable booking it, you know, two weeks out. But that’s, those are the optimal windows and if you can’t make that work for you, then you, the, the game might look something like, you know, booking something that is changeable or refundable when you’re looking to plan and then looking to optimize it at two weeks out when there’s more space to work with.

1 (33m 22s):
Yeah, that’s really funny. ’cause Kim always makes fun of me for how far in advance I plan out my travel. So he’s like, oh, the 10 to 12 month that, that’s you,

4 (33m 30s):
I’m on board. Perfect. I’m

1 (33m 31s):
The two week one.

4 (33m 33s):
Yeah, well it’s either, it’s either, yeah, its last minute planners or super early planners.

1 (33m 38s):
Well, I love everything you’ve given us so far. You’ve gone so in depth and you’ve given us a lot to think about too. Yeah. But I wanna dive in to your bachelor trip, the around the world Bachelor trip that you did for $2,000. So give it to us, where did you go? How did you plan it and how long did the planning process take?

4 (33m 58s):
Well, I didn’t plan it, it was my team. You didn’t? No, it was my team at Prisoner Travel who surprised me with the whole thing. And they did it as a, they knew that I’m somebody who likes to take things up a notch and, you know, always seek out the best experience and they had to think like, what has Ricky not done? And so I’ve, I have, you know, I’ve obviously flown and I’ve been very fortunate to be able to fly in many of the world’s best business class and first class, but to their credit, they figured out like I’ve done a lot of that, you know, either solo or as a couple, but I’ve never done it with a group of friends with the gang, right? So that’s kind of the trip that they set out to plan. Like a couple of us, you know, they’re good friends and they also work a Prince of travel as well.

4 (34m 44s):
So they set out to plan this surprise round the world bachelor party across like many of the world’s best business class and first class flights all as a group of like three or four. And remember I said like most airlines only release two seats in previous cabins. So that was actually quite a quite challenging for them and I really admire what they pulled off. But the whole idea is, yeah, they, they thought about like, what would, you know for, for me, who’s been kind of at this for like 5, 6, 7 years, what would a bachelor party that’s like super crazy and really special look like? And it turned out like pretty perfectly because we ended up on the world’s two best business class. So that’s QA Airways and, and a n a, the Japanese airline widely regarded as the world’s two best.

4 (35m 30s):
We ended up with the world’s two first class airlines that actually have a bar on the plane.

1 (35m 35s):

4 (35m 37s):
So free flowing, like, you know, champagne, like, you know, whenever like we, yeah, we’re at the bar, we essentially bar hopped in the sky, which is pretty crazy. So that’s, yeah, the two airlines are Emirates and Kasar Airways. They have the bars on the plane and we’re just taking over the bars because we’re, we flew, which like they, the cruises the airlines don’t see very often at all. So we’re just chilling at the bar the whole time. We just had, you know, champagne for Four and then Vodka Martinis for four and then old fashioned for four. And then we all got pretty pretty buzzed, took a nap and then it was like caviar for four. So, you know, for us in this space, oftentimes as I mentioned, it’s all about like seeking out these incredible experiences, but to have that shared experience as a group of friends was very much new for me.

4 (36m 23s):
And you know, if I, let’s just say, like I said to the team, you know, when I first started Prince of Travel, if I thought that the team would be, you know, doing a bachelor party for me around the world in, in business class and first class, then I never would’ve believed you. So it’s been a, it’s been a, it was a fun trip and one of the better outcomes I’d say from having started this whole thing.

0 (36m 44s):
That’s really cool. We definitely feel that about Squad trips, group trips. They, they are something special. It seems like your whole bachelor trip being on these amazing flights, bar hopping plane to Blaine, that’s almost like the highlight of the trip. But did you all have fun in destination too?

4 (37m 3s):
For sure. Normally forgot to talk about where we actually went, but yeah, fiery was, we flew from Montreal to Bangkok via Doha, so Casa Airways and then we spent three nights in Bangkok, you know, doing bachelor party things, Bangkok’s destination for that. And then we did the Everetts flight was actually what’s known as the fifth freedom flight. So a flight between two foreign destinations from Bangkok to Hong Kong is one of the routes they operate. So we took that flight to Hong Kong, spent one night in Hong Kong eating and drinking. And then it was next morning, flight to Tokyo, had a more wholesome day in Tokyo where we had friends enjoyed the, you know, sampled the food, took it a bit easier on the night out.

4 (37m 46s):
And then the next day it was a n a business class back to San Francisco and then Vancouver. So the whole trip was about a week long. We really squeezed it in. It was also like, you know, the wife wouldn’t let me get away for her for more than that. So we really realized our time. So yeah, it was a, it was a bit of a whirlwind trip, but it was a, it was a great time. Like, you know, Asia’s one of my favorite parts of the world and, and we, you know, definitely made the most of our, of our time in all three cities.

2 (38m 13s):
Well it’s funny how you just mentioned everywhere that you went and how with travel time you really only spent a week. But I think that’s something that a lot of people don’t really understand about people who love travel is sometimes getting there and the experiences have the fun and if you’re flying your business and first class, that in and of itself with your friends is the experience sometimes versus the destination, right? Really. So I find that to be, you know, completely awesome, just literally did a circle around the globe. If your first spot was Bangkok and you flew Montreal, Doha, Doha there, you’ve took the longer route technically, if I’m thinking of geographically correct. Right. So the awesome little script around the globe, I love it.

4 (38m 54s):
Yeah, I think you guys know the thrill of the journey, right? As well as the destination. And, and I’m the same and I think for a lot of travelers or you know, for a lot of maybe more infrequent travelers, the journey is something that people dread. Like the airport experience isn’t fun for most travelers, but once you get into points and you don’t even need to fly business, right? Let’s say you get the right credit card, you have airport lounge access. Oh yeah. Place to spend time and a good way to like kick off the trip on the right note becomes a lot of fun as well. So that’s been, it’s been something I’ve bought into since the very start. I’m, I’m pretty, I’m obsessed with the journey.

4 (39m 34s):

2 (39m 35s):
Before we switch gears and you tell us a little bit more specifically about Prince of travel, I have to ask, did your friends utilize any of your points to pay for this? Or was it all on their points? They used

4 (39m 45s):
Their points and apparently we have some accounting to do after the fact. So they, they, they played the first half and then when I was there I was like kinda getting antsy about all the surprises. I was like, guys, let me be involved in this as well. So actually Emirate, the Emirates portion was, was my doing because I was the one who was like, look, we can fly Emirates and do the bar to Hong Kong as the next move. So, so that one, I I poi up a lot of the points and some cash as well because the business was available on points first was cash only.

0 (40m 14s):
I’m the same. My boyfriend was planning a trip for my birthday last year and it was the same thing. These surprises, he kept dropping hints and I was like, I know I can plan this better than you. I need to be a part of it. Right?

4 (40m 26s):
I was pretty much the same. Like, look, I’m, I’m the expert here, right? So

0 (40m 32s):
You are, you know, a ton about this stuff. This is really cool. Listening to all this

2 (40m 37s):
And being the expert. Tell us a little bit more about Prince of Travel. I know you talked about how and why it got started, but a little bit more about it other than just your social media and online presence. Of course you offer points consulting, et cetera. So tell us a little bit about that and a little bit about, for anybody who wants to get in the Point Hacking and Travel Hacking game, like where’s the best and easiest way to start?

4 (40m 60s):
Sure, absolutely. We got started, you know, back in 2017 making a lot of content and we kind of continued doing that for three, four years. So we made a lot of content on our website, right? That we write a lot of articles and guides and reviews of our experiences. We, we do YouTube, we do the social media and you know, we’re, we’re continuing to do that, but in recent years we’re looking to build out more of a, you know, a, a series of products that can serve travelers as they pursue elevated travel. Which is, you know, very much our mission statement is to help travelers elevate their experiences. So, you know, like I think a lot of people they approach the the points game, like I said at the start, you’ve got to build out your strategy, you’ve got research to do.

4 (41m 44s):
Definitely a lot of that is consuming content can help, but you know, depending on the person, it can also get overwhelming. So that’s where Points Consulting comes in to service that we offer where for an hourly fee, we’re able to, you know, one of our consultants speak to you one-on-one about your situation, understand your travel goals, like which destinations do you have aspirations of visiting and which among those might be best suited to using points, right? What are some of the best experiences that right now in the state of the game can be unlocked using points? What are your spending requirements, spending patterns that will, and, and which credit cards will serve those spending requirements best to get you to your, to your goal the quickest. So we offer that service to help people along that journey and we’re looking to build out, you know, more and more products and services that can, you know, similarly serve different types of travelers at different points along the journey.

4 (42m 36s):
So just to give you another example, we recently launched a, like an actual travel agency in the traditional sentence where we can actually book hotels for people with additional benefits compared to them booking directly at the same price. And that that’s, that’s not, you know, that’s doesn’t really tie into points that much, but to us points is a, you know, we think of it as a bit of a matrika doll, right? Credit cards is a key tool to earn points, which is a key tool to traveling the world, but you know, it’s all about mastering not just points, but also all of the tools at your fingertips if you wanna get the best experiences out there. So that’s where, what

0 (43m 12s):
Are some of the benefits that can come when we book through you?

4 (43m 15s):
Yeah, so if you book through our travel agency, you’ll get, you know, and this generally applies to higher ed hotels, but you’ll pay the same price as the best flexible rate and you’ll get daily breakfast for two early check-in, only checkout upon availability room, upgrade upon availability, and a property credit usually a hundred US dollars. So you can enjoy the property a little more. So Whether you are, you know, somebody who just stays in luxury hotels all the time or you know, usually you, you go a bit lower end, but looking to splurge for a special occasion, we’re, we’re happy to help. So yeah, happy to, yeah, offer, offer more resources. You know, for, for the listeners as well,

0 (43m 54s):
We’ll link all of this in the show notes so anyone listening who’s interested can easily access that

4 (43m 59s):
Sure thing.

0 (44m 0s):
And you said a, a typical points consulting meeting is about an hour or you said you pay by an hourly fee, right? Is it about an hour that, that the process typically takes or do you see people having a first meeting coming back, doing some research, having a second?

4 (44m 16s):
Yeah, that depends on the client. I would say a lot of our requests are one time, you know, planning sessions that generally do take about an hour. I will say that, you know, some people prefer, some people would like help figuring out the best credit cards for them. A lot of people, once they’ve earned the points, you know, they face the problem that, that you guys express, right? It’s hard to find the right seats at the right price and that’s a very time, time intensive process that even, even if we’re able to save the customer that time, that would take to like figure out the systems on their own, figure out how to search for the dates on their own that could be worthwhile for the, for the consulting fee, right? So we do a lot of those requests where people come to us with existing points, they want, you know, this kind of outcome of a, of a trip booked using those points and we go ahead and find that space for them.

4 (45m 5s):
That is actually quite difficult to find that we’re competing with other award travelers to book and, and yeah, a lot of people, you know, just take that trip and then maybe they come back for the next trip. Some people, if they’re looking to remain on top of their strategy, they’ll book quarterly sessions. We see that a fair bit. So yeah, it’s a pretty versatile, you know, hourly service that’s, that’s available for your needs.

0 (45m 28s):
I think that’s really smart. It reminds me a bit of those people you can hire to get in line for like Taylor Swift concert tickets Yeah. And save you all that time. Yeah, that’s brilliant.

4 (45m 39s):
Very relevant topic right now. My, my wife was just upset yesterday that she didn’t get any of those codes, virtual bot.

0 (45m 47s):
Oh, I know you were just talking about it at work today too. They’re hard, but see they need, they need experts like you to help ’em out.

2 (45m 56s):
I see the analogies kind of on point with that Kim, but also a little bit different, but I, I love the, the thought process on that. I have a question for you Ricky. I’m just curious to know here, what is your favorite travel credit card that you have right now and do you have any that are US based or are they all Canadian based ones?

4 (46m 17s):
Yeah, I have Canadian cards and US cards. So for Canadians, one of the more advanced strategies is to kind of play the cross border game. Yeah, we, I’m, I’m familiar with the US cards as well. So right now in, right now in Canada you’ve got the American Express Cobalt card. That’s one of the strongest cards that’s, you know, generally pretty much for everyone because it gives you five times the points on food and drink and it can transfer one-to-one to AEL plan, which is kind of like AEL plan’s Air Canada’s program. And it’s kinda like the only game in town for comedians. So think about it, you’re earning five times the points on a major spending category including groceries by the way, dining and groceries.

4 (46m 58s):
And then you can transfer one to one to basically the best program to book business class or first class fights with. So for Canadians Cobalt card is a pretty much a no brainer In the US there’s a kind of an equivalent similar card, which is the American Express Gold card that gives you four times the points on dieting. That’s very popular also for, you know, millennials, people who spend a lot on going out to eat those American Express points. Also transfer one-to-one, not just to Aeroplan but to a much wider range of transfer partners. You guys have that going for you over us Canadians, we have a very limited set, but then the other big one right now is the Capital One Venture X that’s super popular and they’ve launched it fairly recently, so it’s still in their first few years that they’re looking to capture market share.

4 (47m 44s):
But you know, that card has a 3 95 annual fee, but it basically pays for itself through the perks and the earning rates are really strong and there’s also a wide set of transfer partners unique to Capital One as well. And last one, I’ll, I’ll shout out in the us you know, you guys all have the best cards is built MasterCard, I don’t know if you’ve heard of it. Have

2 (48m 3s):
Not heard of that. Yeah,

4 (48m 3s):
It’s, it’s actually really, it’s a really unique offering because it lets you, it’s the only card that lets you pay rent with a credit card with no fee and the card also has no fee and basically no other card lets you do that. It’s like built as a startup that have basically, you know, entered that space. They work with a bunch of real estate companies and I don’t know, big shots to have made this possible. And so if you pay rent and many Americans do, right, you’re basically, you should get the Bill MasterCard or else you’re leaving points on the table because you have to pay rent anyway and you may as well earn points, bill points on those payments, which are getting more and more valuable by the day as well. Yeah, that’s

0 (48m 44s):
Probably the biggest spending category most people have.

4 (48m 46s):
Exactly. And it’s one that without the build card, you can’t regularly earn points on. So that’s a very unique product.

2 (48m 53s):
Definitely gonna have to check that out. And I know you hit kind of like the, the main travel credit cards of course. I guess I should have specified more so on that question of those which one, yeah, you mentioned the perks of them and the, the categories and what they get, but of their travel and redemption portal, which one would you say is actually your favorite of those?

4 (49m 14s):
If you’re asking on the redemption side these days, built rewards is actually a good shout. So honestly like they have one of the strongest like lineups of trans transfer partners even competing very well against American Express, chase and Capital One. American Express is probably the SEC or leading candidate that built is trying to like really compete with, but build’s really built a very impressive set of airline partners that you can, you know, once you’ve earned your build points, choose which program’s gonna make the most sense to you. Now I will caveat that by saying that it’s not that easy to earn build points because you can earn, you can, you know, pay rent and that’s one way to earn it and you can spend on it. But we go back to signup bonuses and how big they are built purposefully doesn’t offer a signup bonus.

4 (49m 57s):
You know, they’re more trying to get people into their ecosystem spending. So in terms of how easy it is to rack up the points and quickly get to a high value redemption, American Express, ’cause they’ve got like five, six cards that will all give you like 50 to 150,000 points upon signing up and good spending multipliers as well. So you could quite easily rack up six figures of points, leverage that towards a, a flight and get the ball rolling.

2 (50m 22s):
And on that topic of American Express, I saw something, I forgot which famous travel hacker it was, but I know it was a very reputable site. They mentioned one of their strategies, and I’m curious if you’re familiar with this or have any input on it, is of course everyone knows the American Express Platinum. They think that’s a signature card and to some degree it is, but it’s the most expensive in fees. But he said something really good to do is get that and also get the gold card from American Express that you mentioned. And he said actually make all your purchases on the Gold Card because it gives you better reward points than you get. Your Amex membership reward points can transfer and redeem it through the platinum portal and things and get those benefits that way.

2 (51m 3s):
And they said it’s better. Are you familiar with that? Do you agree with that topic?

4 (51m 7s):
Yeah, like I mentioned, the goal card is four times the points on dining, which the Platinum card doesn’t offer. It’s like, I think it’s one or 1.25 at maybe getting the geographies mixed up, but it’s, it’s low and the whole reason there is platinum card’s more expensive. But people, you know, it’s geared towards people who are seeking out the premium products who are not gonna care so much about the return on spend. So the savvy way to do it is indeed, you know, get the gold card for the, you, you need to think about like what, what are the unique purposes of each card, right? The Gold card gives you that return on spend, the platinum card gives you that unlimited lounge access, which is also very valuable if you’re a frequent traveler. So that’s a good combination, you know, if you can justify the annual fees.

4 (51m 47s):
But yeah, it’s always important to, to dig into the details a bit rather than just go, just assuming like expensive card means best card.

0 (51m 55s):
I have a question Ricky about opening all of these cards. We’ve always heard when you open a card, it triggers your credit report, it dings it down a little bit. And if you’re opening all of these cards, are people running that risk or is it not as bad as it seems?

4 (52m 11s):
There’s a lot of misconceptions around credit scores in general and I think the more one educates oneself around that topic, the clearer things are gonna be the, the credit score is determined of five components and the strongest, the most significant components are your payment history. So Whether, you pay your bills on time and in full every month, which if you’re in this game, you absolutely should because you know you need to have those healthy financial habits. So assuming you do right, then the mo, the majority of your credit score is like well taken care of. And then there’s a small component that’s like how many inquiries there’s been recently, how many new applications you’ve put. So yes, if you continuously open new credit cards that like 10 to 15% of new inquiries that component dips in terms of the score.

4 (52m 57s):
But it also means that you’re demonstrating strong credit usage across more products, which proves the remaining like 65% of your score. So 35% is payment history, 30% is utilization, how much of your limit you’re using. So unless you’re like racking limits every month, then you’re good there. So yes, it dips a little bit, but that’s not the full story is the answer. Right? It’ll dip a little bit, but over time, as you use the credit cards you’ve opened responsibly and your credit score actually improves.

0 (53m 28s):
And do you keep most of them open or we’re talking about the 5 24, are you closing them within a certain amount of time or do you recommend that?

4 (53m 37s):
It depends on how much value you get outta the card itself, right? So for example, somebody might choose to keep the gold card around in the long term because they value the four times the points they can earn on dining. Somebody might choose to keep the expensive platinum card open for the lounge access, but they might also say the Capital One Venture X, which is 3 95, which is cheaper, also gets me lounge access. So after I get the welcome bonus in the first year with Platinum card and I’m gonna cancel it. Now another option in the states especially, and you know, we could go on and on for this, so you’ll have to invite me back for a second episode. But absolutely another option is downgrading your card instead of canceling, which preserves that account, preserves that relationship. But you can downgrade it off like ANU fee card if you wanted to not pay a fee anymore,

0 (54m 20s):
Right? There’s a, there’s a lot of things you can do and a lot of money out there points out there waiting to be taken. There’s

4 (54m 26s):
A lot of nuances, a lot of ways to optimize, like I said at the start. The more you put in, the more you can get out of it in terms of rewarding travel.

0 (54m 33s):
On that note, other than your website, Prince of travel.com, are there any other books or resources you’d recommend

4 (54m 41s):
Prince of travel dot com’s? A great place to start. You can join our newsletter to get our, you know, Sunday delivered into your inbox summary of what’s been happening in this space. We’re also hosting an event next, next spring, it’s called the Travel Summit. And it’s very much designed to be a gathering place for, you know, passionate travelers. Those looking to travel the world for maximum effect. Those looking to unlock a lifestyle of travel freedom, the same one that I’ve pursued over the years. The same one that I’m sure is true of you guys as well. So that’s, that’s our flagship event. It’ll be our second edition. It’s happening in Toronto open to people from all over the world and we would love to see some of you guys there.

4 (55m 21s):
Happy to toss over a, a little discount code for listeners as well.

0 (55m 24s):
Oh, that’d be awesome. Thank you for that.

4 (55m 27s):
Of course.

0 (55m 28s):
Well, Ricky, before we wrap it up here, is there anything last you, you want the listeners to know, obviously let ’em know where they can find you, follow you?

4 (55m 36s):
Yeah, absolutely. You can find us. You can find us at Prince of Travel across socials. I, I post my own trips on my personal Instagram, it’s called Real Ricky. And listen, I’ve just really enjoyed the conversation. As you can probably tell, I’m very enthusiastic and always eager to share what I know and spread the word, spread the joys of travel far and wide. So yeah, thanks for having me. We really hope that the listeners got some value out of this.

2 (56m 3s):
Well, we appreciate you being on, we know our listeners definitely did get value of it. We got value out of it. And I am, even though we book ahead, I’m gonna start looking further further ahead so I could get those really special discounted business class rates with my points. ’cause I got a whole stack of them ready to go right now. So you,

0 (56m 23s):
You’ve started all of our new obsession. Thank you so much, Ricky. Of course. It’s been a pleasure. Thank you so much for tuning into our episode this week. Keep the adventures going with us by following us on Instagram and YouTube at Travel Squad Podcast. And send us in your questions of the week.

2 (56m 40s):
If you found the information this episode to be useful or if you thought we were just plain funny, please be sure to share it with a friend that would enjoy it too. And as always, guys, you subscribe to rate Review our podcast and tune in every travel Tuesday for new episodes.

0 (56m 55s):
Stay tuned for next week’s episode. We have some more amazing adventures and tips in store for you. Bye squadies!

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