Groundhopper Guide to Travel Hacking

groundhopper guide travel hacking
Alethea Smartt · Profile
Groundhopper Guide to Travel Hacking

If you are planning a trip to watch soccer in the UK or Europe, or if you just want to work a game or two into your vacation plans, our Groundhopper Guide to Travel Hacking will help you save money and enjoy some travel-related perks at the same time.

First, here are some of the most frequently asked questions about traveling to watch soccer in England:

In addition to those helpful resources, Groundhopper Soccer Guides offers consulting services to help you plan your English soccer adventure.

Here are our tried-and-true tips for saving money on travel.

What is Travel Hacking?

In the same way that a soccer coach formulates a strategy to win games by playing a certain lineup against a particular club, travel hacking is a completely legal way to get travel for low cost or sometimes even for free by optimizing the benefits of existing programs like credit card promotional offers, frequent flier accounts, hotel loyalty programs, etc.

Here we’ll tip our hats to Chris Guillebeau, who may have coined the term “travel hacking,” and was an inspiration and invaluable resource in our early travel hacking days.

credit cards travel hacking

Photo created by jcomp –

Best Travel Hacks for Soccer Lovers: Credit Cards

If you’re traveling to watch soccer in the UK or Europe, you already know there are going to be certain unavoidable costs besides your tickets to the games: flights, trains, and other ground transportation; lodging; food and drink; sightseeing; travel insurance; and maybe some travel-related expenses like new luggage.

How do you pay for it all? For the majority of these items, you’re purchasing online and thus can charge everything to a credit card. Even “onsite” expenses like dining in a restaurant or paying for a ride on the Tube in London can be done with a credit card.

The main strategy of travel hacking is to search for the best credit card sign-up offers in which, once you meet a minimum spend requirement (usually several thousand dollars), you automatically get airline miles or bonus points, which are often equivalent to at least one free flight. Even after receiving the bonus, you’ll continue to earn miles or points for all purchases, and extra miles/points for purchases with affiliated airlines, hotels, or other brands.

The idea is, in addition to your travel-related expenses, to put charges for things you regularly buy like groceries, household goods, fuel, etc. on one (or several) of these cards. Signing up for just a few of these cards and meeting the minimum spend requirements can earn you the equivalent of a roundtrip airfare plus a couple of hotel nights — a value of more than $1,500 for travel to England.

In some cases you can sign up for the credit card, meet the minimum spend requirement, earn the bonus, cash out (if the miles/points aren’t automatically deposited into your frequent-flyer account or related program), close the account, wait a while (typically 24 months but sometimes less), and then apply for another card and be eligible for another sign-up bonus. This is called churning.

Are you a freelancer or do you have a part-time side hustle? You may qualify for a small-business credit card, which also allows you to earn bonus miles and points.

Note: The biggest mistake you can make is to not pay off the balance in full every month. Credit card debt (and the monthly interest charges that come with it) will negate any savings you could potentially realize from sign-up offers and accumulating miles/points. We are not financial advisors, but for us this is non-negotiable!

NerdWallet has all you need to know about the best travel credit cards, plus helpful tips on what to consider when choosing a card.

airplane landing over ocean

International Travel Hacks: Flights

As mentioned above, co-branded airline credit cards are a great way to earn extra miles redeemable for flights. The best cards come with perks like companion fares, free checked bags, priority boarding, in-flight discounts, and airport lounge access.

Another easy (and free) way to earn extra miles is to sign up for frequent-flyer programs. Sometimes just clicking on a link in an email will result in bonus miles being deposited into your account! Of course, loyalty to a particular airline and its partners will more quickly earn you elite status which comes with perks like free upgrades. With Paul’s anticipation of spending more time in England in the near future, you can be sure he has a British Airways account.

You can also earn bonus miles by using the airlines’ online shopping portals to make purchases on other retail sites you use frequently. The Points Guy has all you need to know about boosting your miles and points via online shopping.

Delta Air Lines international business class seat travel hacking

Groundhopper Paul used these travel-hacking tips to earn a free business class ticket from the US to London.

What if you’re just looking to save money on flights? 

There are some great free resources for staying informed about the lowest prices to your destination of choice. Upgraded Points has a list of the 10 best websites for flight deal alerts. While we have used all of these at one time or another, we particularly like Scott’s Cheap Flights as they are the only site that monitors flight deals from your home airport. We think the $49/year cost for the premium version that also alerts you to mistake fares is money well spent, especially for frequent and/or flexible flyers.

A few other ways to save money on flights are to check prices from alternate or nearby airports; use flexible date search; compare one way vs round trip and open jaw (flying into one airport and out of another); and check if there are budget airlines operating the route as they often don’t show up on aggregator websites like CheapOAir (but be sure to read the fine print as to what your ticket does and does not include).

travel hacking luxury hotel suite

Photo created by dit26978 –

Best Travel Hacks: Accommodations

Similar to airlines, there are co-branded hotel credit cards and loyalty programs. Perks include free nights, room upgrades, in-room dining discounts, free parking, and so on. Million Mile Secrets has a recap of the best hotel rewards programs.

Check for deals with online agencies like, which has a loyalty program that unlocks exclusive rates or rewards like complimentary breakfast after you’ve completed a certain number of stays.

Use Google Maps to search for privately-owned accommodations like a bed and breakfast or a family-run motel. You’ll generally pay a lot less than the posh hotel around the corner, especially if you contact them directly. Airbnb is also a great way to find alternative types of lodgings; for example, a private room in someone’s home usually comes with full use of the kitchen and common areas. Groundhopper Alethea is also a big fan of hostels if you want to meet like-minded travelers in a more communal atmosphere.

woman mapping a soccer trip

Groundhopper Alethea mapping an around-the-world trip.

Our Experience As Travel Hackers

Groundhoppers Alethea and Paul have collectively spent several years traveling around the world. We have individually opened (and closed, and then reopened) a slew of affiliated credit cards — Delta, American, Marriott, Holiday Inn — plus others just for earning points or cash back. When we are traveling frequently, we may have up to 10 accounts open at the same time! 

We have been able to take advantage of some elite-level bonus offers because, at times, we were allowed to use our personal credit cards to pay for corporate expenses. Alethea once used her American Express Platinum card to pay for a $30,000 private event for music executives in Bristol, England. She enjoyed the perks from all those bonus points for more than a year!

When Paul was leading hiking trips in Tuscany, he paid for all of his clients’ expenses with his credit cards and then invoiced them for reimbursement. That’s about $40,000 in spending for every tour! He managed to rack up nearly 500,000 miles and points — enough for eight roundtrip tickets to England! He also got to second-tier status with Delta which, at the time, meant free access to First Class and international lounges.

One of Alethea’s most recent travel hacks was using flexible date search to find an amazing airfare deal. Less than 12 hours before the flight departed, she redeemed 25,000 American Airlines miles for a one-way, first class ticket from Nashville, TN to Mexico City. That same ticket was available for purchase for a whopping $800! Besides the perks of flying first class, she thoroughly enjoyed the complimentary food, drinks and other amenities in the first class lounge during her two-hour layover in Charlotte.

British Airways first class lounge JFK

British Airways first class lounge at JFK. Photo credit: British Airways

It’s Your Turn to Travel Like a Soccer Star

We hope that this travel hacking guide helps you save money, earn great rewards, and make the most out of your soccer adventures. Be sure to let us know how you used these tips to travel like a soccer star!

groundhopper guide travel hacking
Written By Alethea Smartt

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