View Full Version : Travel While You're Young... On A Dime...

02-19-2016, 01:38 AM
An interesting conversation with a colleague tonight... Mostly regarding the extensive amount of travel that I have done, especially when I was very young...

I started travelling Internationally when I was 16 years old. I still had to go to school, and I had to have signed, notarized letters from my parents, allowing me to leave the USA alone. It's even more difficult now that it was 30 years ago.

I was born at the perfect time. Just as I was approaching 18 years old, airline deregulation occurred in the USA, and the airlines started implementing their frequent-flyer programs. I couldn't have timed my birth more perfectly if I had had complete control over the date.

Then, of course, there is the question of money. It does take a lot of money to travel, but no more so than any other "hobby." Also... the airline, hotel, and other frequent-customer programs are designed specifically to encourage customer loyalty and continued patronage. These days, most airlines get their "Core Business" from Business Travelers and Hub Customers. Both of those groups are willing to pay a premium for travel, for various reasons. Everything else, for the airlines, is an attempt to attract "discretionary" business... people going on vacation, etc. That's a tough market to crack, but it is a Key market. Those people don't Have to travel... so you have to make them Want to travel. This is where your frequent-flyer status comes into play. The airlines have very sophisticated marketing and pricing schemes, and they are Very, Very interested in repeat, loyal, Discretionary customers... those customers who have No Real Need to travel, but do so -- Frequently -- anyway. This "class" of customer is treated Very, Very well by the airlines, and for a good reason... they don't have to fly, but they fly constantly, because they enjoy doing so. If they stop enjoying it, they will stop flying... at least on Your airline. The real trick is to build that kind of profile with the airlines. Once you fall into that category, traveling on the cheap, and with multiple perks, becomes much easier.

The same thing goes for hotels, rental car companies, tour companies, etc. However, I will say that the rental car companies are the stingiest with their perks and freebies. That worked out well for me during my career, because I don't like driving, even in my home country.

Once you "Get the Ball Rolling", as a frequent traveler, the whole system starts feeding on itself. The more you travel... the cheaper, easier, and more luxurious it gets. In my case, working in the travel industry, with the additional benefit of getting reimbursed for much of my travel, didn't hurt.

In 1997, I traveled over 1,000,000 miles in a single calendar year, while paying only $8,000 for All travel expenses out of my own pocket. That's not a typo -- over 2740 miles per day, on average. That was a very interesting year. I spent more time in airline seats than I did in cars or beds. But anyone can do it. It's just like any other hobby. Lots of people spend more than $8000 per year on their hobbies.

The one piece of advice that I give... when someone asks... is "Don't Wait Until You Retire." Travel should be enjoyed throughout your life. If you wait until you're 60 years old to start traveling, you'll miss So Much.