During our year+ of traveling we’ve talked to people, mostly friends and family, who ask how they can help us out along the way. While we’re grateful for any help, we’re not that hard up (yet!) to be asking for money.
The blog isn’t about getting rich and famous, though that would be nice too. It’s a place where people can keep up with what we’re doing, where we’re going, and best of all: how you can do it yourself. You don’t need much money at all to travel, and we’ve met plenty of people with stricter budgets than us. Take for example a 70 year old woman we met at a hostel in Taiwan. Her budget is $14 USD a day and in Taiwan the average hostel price is $12.
All this being said, there are some opportunities to help us that don’t require a monetary donation. We’re going to go over some of those in this post, and explain why they are beneficial to not just us, but you as well.
Signing up through one of our referral links is by far the best way you could help both of us, and yourself! All of our links are the same as the public offers, so you’re not losing anything by using them and you’re helping us at the same time!
Amex Starwood Preferred Guest
This card is a must for many travel hackers, and SPG points are some of the most valuable out there. With the current sign up bonus of 25,000 points after $3000 spend in the first three months, you could get up to 14 nights free! Realistically people would use them for higher category properties, so it would be more like 2-6 nights, but it’s still a great bonus. If you don’t want to stay in hotels, you can transfer the miles to one of over 30 partner airlines, and remember : for every 20k SPG you transfer to an airline, you get 5k as a bonus added on top.
If you would like to sign up for this card, you can find our referral link here.
We recommend the Chase Freedom to everyone as a first travel card. First, it has an easy minimum spend of just $500 in the first three months and a lucrative sign up bonus of $150. Second, it has no annual fee so this card can stay in your wallet (or your sock drawer) for life. This will increase your credit history which in turn will increase your credit score. Third, when combined with cards in Chase’s Ultimate Rewards family, that $150 sign up bonus can be converted into 15,000 UR points. Using The Points Guy’s valuations 15,000 UR points is worth about $315. If you’re smart, they can be worth much more. Last year we used just 9,000 UR points each for a business class flight from Hanoi to Hong Kong that was pricing out at $1000 one way per ticket!
Even if travel is not on your radar, this card is still beneficial. You get 15 months of 0% interest on purchases so if you need to buy something big and can’t put the money up front this is a good option. You’ll also get 5% back (up to $1500 of spend) on certain categories such as dining and grocery stores. These categories rotate each quarter.
If the Chase Freedom is a card you would like to sign up for, please use our link here.
Chase United Mileage Plus
This is another card we’ve both had for a few years and regularly get value out of, even after spending the $95 annual fee, which is waived for the first year.
The sign up bonus for this card is 50,000 United Miles after spending $3,000 in purchases in the first three months. 50,000 United Miles can be used a million different ways. We each used 40k miles to fly one way from Boston to Bangkok. Honestly that’s not a great redemption, but finding one way flights for cheap is tough. You could fly business class roundtrip in the Continental US for 50k miles though and that is a pretty nice deal if your travel is focused domestically.
You could also stash these miles, combine them with miles you earn from the Chase Freedom and another UR card, and build a better award. Next month we’re flying from Hanoi back to Boston in business, with a one month stopover in Eastern Europe, and then back to Hanoi for 160,000 United miles each. The stopover rules have since changed since we booked it, but 160,000 miles for that flight is still a great redemption. Last time we looked our itinerary was pricing out at around $5000 each if we paid cash.
Sign up bonus aside, this card has a couple nice features that will greatly benefit a United traveler. The card comes with two United Club day passes each year, which will get the holders into one of the United Club lounges around the world. We used a couple passes at the United Club at Hong Kong Airport and it was a really nice lounge overall. You can read up on it here.
The card will also give you a free checked bag for you and one other person on United flights when you booked the tickets on the card. A checked bag on United is currently $25, so if you and one other person take just one round trip flight and use this benefit you more than pay for the annual fee.
If you would like to sign up for the United Mileage Plus card, please use our link here.
Booking.Com is our go-to website when it comes to booking hotels, hostels, and homestays. They’re almost always the cheapest website to book through, plus they have free cancellation on most reservations. If you use this link here and make a booking (first time users only) you’ll get $15 off your booking and we will earn $15 towards our next booking.
I’m sure many readers of The Shoestring Trekkers know what AirBNB is, but to those who don’t it’s a website that connects travelers to people who rent out a room in their home, apartment, or even the entire place! Some of the hosts are running actual businesses such as a b&b or small hotel, and others are supplementing their income by renting out a room or their entire apartment for a period of time. It’s a great business model and really takes advantage of the sharing economy, which helps both parties in the end. When we spent a week on Koh Lanta in Thailand we spent it at a great bungalow we found on Airbnb and it was one of the best places we’ve stayed so far.
How does this help us? If you use our link here to sign up and book a stay for over $75 USD (excluding taxes and fees) you will receive $35 off that stay and we’ll receive $35 in credit on the website. Also, if you decide to become a host we will receive $75 in credit after your first guest books a stay. It’s a win-win for everybody!
Rocketmiles is an Online Travel Agent (OTA) just like Expedia, Travelocity, Booking, etc. It’s owned by Priceline, one of the largest OTAs out there. What makes them different than the rest is you receive back frequent flyer miles as a sort of rewards program on the site. They are partnered with over 40 different programs, including JetBlue TrueBlue, United MilegePlus, American Airlines AAdvantage, as well as dozens of international airlines. Generally, the more expensive the hotel the more miles you receive, but that’s not always the case. After comparing prices from various hotels across the major OTAs it seems like Rocketmiles is usually the same price or even a little cheaper than its competitors. This may not always be the case, so do your own research when booking a hotel, but the points earned will usually offset any price difference, sometimes by a wide margin.
How does this help us? If you use our link here to sign up and book your first stay, we’ll receive 1,000 miles in one of our frequent flyer accounts and you will receive 1,000 miles as a new user, plus the miles you would receive from your booking.
If for some reason the link isn’t working, use code ANTHONYF953 when signing up and you will receive the same benefit.
Pointshound is a direct competitor to Rocketmiles in that it performs the exact same function. The only major difference is the frequent flyer programs it’s partnered with. Some partners, such as Etihad Guest, are in both programs so it’s a good idea to have accounts on both websites so you can build your miles more quickly. The hotels on the different websites may be different as well, so you should always check both websites, as well as the other major OTAs when making a booking.
How does this help us? If you use our link here to sign up and book your first stay, we’ll receive 500 miles in one of our frequent flyer accounts and you will receive 500 miles as a new user, plus the miles you receive from your booking.
Uber is officially worldwide. We’ve personally used it in London, Lisbon, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Taipei, Prague, Krakow, and countless cities in the US. Everywhere we’ve used it it’s been a great experience and always cheaper than taking a traditional taxi. Everything is done over the phone and you don’t need any cash since you have a credit card or Paypal loaded onto your account.
PRO TIP: If you’re traveling internationally make sure the card you have loaded on your account is one with no foreign transaction fees. Those fees can add up fast so it’s better to leave those cards at home.
How does this help us? If you’re a new user and use the code ZIC9T you will receive $20 off (sometimes $30 during promotional periods) and we’ll receive $5 cash for every new user. If you want to drive for Uber, which Anthony did for a while and loved it, you’ll receive $200 after your first ride and so will we! Again, a win-win for everyone!
Some of our first posts on here were our Packing Lists, which detailed each and every item we brought along with us. Most of them were carefully thought out with size, weight, and usefulness in mind. When traveling with nothing but a backpack, space comes at a premium. As you can see in the posts there are links on many of the items linking back to Amazon. This is our Amazon Affiliate Account. If you click one of these links and purchase that product, we will receive a 4% commission. While this may not seem like much, that could be our dinner for a night at a street stall. Little things like this add up, especially in countries where the USD goes far.
All of these items are high quality and things we actually took with us, not just expensive items we found to link on Amazon in order to receive high commission. In fact, many of these items are rather cheap. Our two favorite items we each took with us, our HydroFlask Water Bottles and our Ebags Pack It Flat Toiletries Bag, were both around $25 each. If we had to recommend any two items to take with you on a trip it would be those!
We’ll be adding to this list every now and again as we continue our travels, but these websites are the best ways you can help us on while we’re on the road. As you can see, we’re not getting rich off any of these and in all of them the new user (you!) is benefitting more than we are. We also use all of these products, we’re not just pitching them because we think we can make a quick buck off them. All of them are solid businesses that provide a quality service and we think everyone should use. If you have any questions about any of these websites please feel free to comment or message us and we’ll be happy to help you.
Questions and Comments are always appreciated!