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✈️ The best travel hacks of 2023

I'll break down my travel stats from the past year, and revisit some of the best hacks we shared in Daily Drop to finish off the year.

Estimated read time: 6 minutes and 14 seconds

❤️ Thanks for being a Daily Drop reader this year. Have a happy, healthy, and safe new year!

Good morning and welcome back to the final Daily Drop newsletter of the year!

Since the year is coming to a close, I wanted to take today to reflect on the past year. I’ll share my most EPIC points redemptions and some of the best travel hacks of the past year.

So, without further ado, let’s get to it, shall we?

✈️ The best travel hacks of 2023

My year started off a little turbulent—with an attempted abduction in Tunisia 😳

That was January 5th. And things only got more exciting from there…

Here is my flight map for 2023:

This year, I’ve traveled to places like Iraq, Ukraine, China, Madagascar, India, Paraguay, and a whole ton more. Here are how my stats came out:

  • 105 flights

  • 52 countries

  • 71 airport lounges visited

  • 290 nights in hotels

Not bad, eh?

And flying over 100 times per year, you can imagine how many hours I spent on planes… and how many hours I spent DELAYED… 🥴

As you can see, I experienced 21 hours of flight delays this year, more than HALF of which was on Air Canada (but are we even surprised? 🙄).

Although 42% of my flights were delayed, this was almost strictly North American airlines.

Generally speaking, most of the world runs on time, and my flights outside of the U.S. and Canada were almost all on time.

As for the amount of time I spent on planes… well… see for yourself:

That’s right… 351 hours… I spent a total of almost 15 days of the year in flight. That’s not including boarding, being at the airport, going through customs and immigration, etc.

Now, you might be wondering how many of my flights were in business class versus economy. Check it out:

Although most of my flights were in economy, I actually spent more flight hours in business class.

My strategy is to prioritize business class for longer flights and economy for shorter flights. I don’t mind sitting in economy for one, two, or even five or six hours 🤷🏼‍♂️

Conversely, I appreciate flying in business MUCH more when it’s for a long-haul flight versus only enjoying it for an hour or two.

Now, let’s get into the good stuff….

I’m going to share some of my favorite points, miles, and general travel experiences from the past year 👇

My favorite flight redemptions

I think the highlight of the year for me was ANA’s “The Room” business class, which I was lucky enough to fly from Tokyo to Los Angeles back in March.

Despite costing as much as $10,000, I was able to book this flight for 75,000 Aeroplan points and under $100 in taxes and fees, which was amazing.

I wrote an entire newsletter about how to book The Room, so check it out if you want to book this seat for yourself!

Another amazing flight I had was on Oman Air from Dar Es Salaam to Milan (with stops in Zanzibar and Muscat).

Much like ANA’s The Room, Oman Air’s business-class pods feel more like first class.

Not only did I get to try out their epic business class pods, but I also got to fly on the shortest Boeing 737 flight in the world from Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, to Zanzibar. 😎

I booked this amazing set of flights for only 60,000 Aeroplan points, another steal for 15 hours in a world-class business-class seat.

Finally, I spent a TON of time on Ethiopian Airlines in their various business-class seats.

While it’s not the most luxurious airline out there, here’s why I love flying with Ethiopian:

When flying business class, Ethiopian will put you up in a hotel in Addis Ababa airport during long layovers. And it’s actually really nice.

In fact, I did this three times this year!

Additionally, Ethiopian has amazing service on their flights, lie-flat beds on all of their wide-body planes, and, of course, amazing food.

If you’re traveling around Africa, Ethiopian Airlines is simply the best option out there. They fly to more African cities than any airline, have a solid product, and plenty of ways to book their flights with points, including:

  • United miles

  • Aeroplan points

  • Turkish miles

  • Avianca LifeMiles

Plus, Ethiopian Airlines lets you schedule a stopover in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa.

I spent almost a month in Ethiopia back in 2019, and I cannot recommend Addis enough.

My favorite hotel redemptions

Personally, I love the hotel travel hacking game more than the flight game.

As you may imagine, I had some pretty insane experiences this past year with my nearly 300 nights spent in hotels…

Here are some of my favorites:

One of my first hotels of the year was in Erbil, Iraq. Surprisingly, there is a STUNNING, brand-new Hyatt Regency there, which costs only 3,500 Hyatt points per night 🤯

My luxury Hyatt suite in Iraq

In fact, Category 1 Hyatt hotels were a big theme of my year. I stayed at ten different Category 1 Hyatt hotels this year, most of which only cost 3,500 or 5,000 points per night.

One of my favorites was this UrCove hotel in Shanghai, China 👇

Actually… Going to China, in general, is an epic travel hack that people don’t know about...

Citizens of 53 different countries can travel to China for up to six days with no visa. Check out this newsletter for a more detailed explanation.

But I didn’t just stay at cheap hotels this year… Rather, I stayed at some of the best, most luxurious hotels of my life this past year, like the Alila Fort Bishangarh in rural India 😍

I redeemed my Hyatt Free Night Awards for this stay (which I earned from playing Hyatt Bingo), which was absolutely amazing and unlike any other hotel I’ve stayed at.

Speaking of free night awards… 👀

I redeemed my Hilton free night certificate (which I get every year from this credit card) for a stay at the Conrad in Seoul.

Since the card also comes with Diamond elite status, I was upgraded to their nicest suite and enjoyed a MASSIVE free breakfast.

But not all luxury hotels need a ton of money or valuable free night awards to book. In fact, some of my favorite luxury stays were at cheap properties.

For example, I spent four nights at the Park Hyatt in Siem Reap, Cambodia, which can cost as few as 9,000 Hyatt points per night.

I even got my own private pool, which was directly accessible from my suite (which I got upgraded to after “Suite Talking” my way in 😉).

Or, if you don’t have points at all, you could book a luxury stay at the Andaz on the Palm Jumeirah in Dubai. I spent six nights here and spent less than $100 a night, despite it being a 5-star hotel.

Traveling to the Middle East in the Summer might be hot (which is an understatement), but traveling in the off-season means DIRT cheap hotels.

Considering the suite upgrade, beach access, spa, and massive breakfast buffet, I’d say this was the single best-value hotel that I spent cash on this year.

But not all great hotels belong to the major loyalty programs that we know and love.

My single favorite hotel of the year was the Best Western in Lviv, Ukraine. 

I spent 14 nights at this hotel and loved every minute of it.

In general, Ukraine was the highlight of my year. Despite the ongoing war, it was an incredibly eye-opening, meaningful, and enjoyable experience to be there.

And I have a feeling I’ll be back in the near future… but more on that soon. 😉

HOWEVER… travel hacking is about more than just flights and hotels. After all, strategically earning points, participating in promos, and jumping on the right credit cards is an important part of the game.

So here are some of the best travel hacks we shared in the newsletter this past year 👇

Free cruise

This one was truly hard to beat… earlier this year, the stars aligned.

Because of a Bilt Rent Day that offered free Hyatt status, I was able to match that status to MGM casino status, which I then leveraged into a free 10-day cruise from Holland America. 🤯

Here’s proof:

In fact, MANY readers took my advice and did the same exact thing, which I was very pleased to see.

EU261: How to get paid for your delayed flights

This isn’t really a “hack” as much as it is a law in Europe that offers substantial compensation for delayed and canceled flights.

Most people don’t realize that this law exists or that you can make up to 600 euros per canceled or severely delayed flight, depending on a few factors.

Personally, I made around $2,000 this year from this law, which not only covered all of my expenses on these interrupted trips, but actually turned a nice profit.

Check out this newsletter so you know your rights when things go wrong on a European flight.

Southwest Companion Pass

This might’ve been the most popular credit card offer of the year…

The airline decided to include a full year of Companion Pass as part of the welcome offers on all of their cards.

Normally, earning Companion Pass takes a lot of flying and/or spending, so this was a huge win for a lot of people.

Hundreds of you took them up on this offer and have (hopefully) been reaping the rewards of your Companion Passes.

Reconsideration line

Some of the best travel hacks are the tools that you can bust out anytime, anywhere.

Many people don’t realize that getting rejected for a credit card isn’t the end of the road.

In fact, many banks have what we call a “reconsideration line” that you can call. In just a few minutes, that rejection can turn into… this:

Despite sending that newsletter months ago, we still get feedback all the time from readers who have successfully used the reconsideration line 🤗

Honestly, I could go on forever about more amazing deals, hacks, and travel hacking strategies that we covered in our HUNDREDS of newsletters this year, but we just don’t have time.

Here’s what I will say:

It’s been an awesome year. I’m so happy to have been able to share so many great travel tips with y’all, and I know that next year is going to be an equally (and hopefully even more) exciting year!

Have a happy, healthy, and fun New Year’s weekend, and I look forward to seeing you… next year… 😉 (on Tuesday!).

Love,

Mike Dodge
Head Writer, Daily Drop

52°22'35.4"N 52°15'17.4"W