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Beyond Frequent Flier Points: 6 International Travel Hacks

What's not to love about frequent flier programs? They're free to join and, by linking them with your credit card, dining program, and online purchases, they rack up some real advantages. For travel experts, though, loyalty programs are just the jumping-off point. These pros have a plane full of other tricks that help them navigate the system, saving money and improving their experience.

For an insider's peek at some of their most effective travel hacks, check out:

  1. Matrix. Move over, Kayak: ITA's public airfare search engine, owned by Google, is a true find. Features include a cost-per-mile filter to help you gauge flight value; an interactive calendar to find the lowest fares over different date ranges; real-time filters to target flights that suit your preferences; and color-coded time bars, allowing you to compare prices and schedules. Note: Matrix is a search tool only; it cannot be used to purchase flights.
  2. Hotel-free travel. Accommodation can be one of the most expensive and frustrating aspects of travel: hotels are impersonal, privacy is hard to come by, and, with no kitchen, you're forced to eat out. Travel pros have been solving these issues—and saving big cash—by leveraging a host of online travel platforms. Airbnb, a popular and rapidly growing app, allows you to book private or shared rooms in the homes, or even castles, of local hosts in 190 countries.To ensure safety, hosts are vetted and reviews are available for most of the spaces. Newcomer Knok, a family-oriented home exchange program, allows users to swap homes, rent apartments, and find family friendly places to visit with its handy travel guide. With these options, or by looking for a short-term rental on Craigslist, you can save money and experience local culture: truly the most important gift of travel.
  3. Multicity flights. Many airlines try to sell us on the idea that travel is point-to-point. But there are other ways to organize a travel itinerary that can provide some impressive savings. Try an "open-jaw" flight, where you fly from one destination to another, then on to a third. Or a round-robin flight, where you can travel to multiple cities and wind up back where you started. Or a "surface" flight, consisting of two disconnected legs, with ground travel between. Be creative, mix and match, and save big.
  4. Travel App. Travel gurus use a host of apps, many of them free, to save time and money while making their journeys easier and more fun—from start to finish. Plan, manage, and share your trip with Tripcase. Take the stress out of packing with PackingPro. Track your flights and navigate the airport maze with GateGuru. Use your phone's camera to translate menus and road signs with Google's powerful new Translate app. And convert every currency known to humanity with the XE Currency App. With a smartphone in your pocket and this suite of apps, you'll easily navigate any of the obstacles that travel puts in your way.
  5. Mileage and mattress running. Sometimes it pays to take the long way home. Mileage running means deliberately flying a long route on a cheaper fare in order to rack up frequent flier miles. Many airlines have gotten hip to this game and have started awarding points based not only on miles travelled, but also on money spent. But not to worry: there's also mattress running, where you can rack up some tasty benefits on hotel reward programs by booking a room you may or may not actually need. And if you link your two programs, those hotel (non) stays can boost your airline points, as well.
  6. Elite loyalty programs. If you find yourself packing a suitcase at least once a month, it may be worth committing to one airline, or one alliance program, in order to qualify for their elite status. The perks are sweet: complimentary upgrades, fee waivers, free Wi-Fi and checked bags, extra leg room in economy seats, and more. For its Marco Polo Club Gold members, for example, Cathay Pacific offers a 24-hour dedicated reservation line, advance seat reservation, priority wait-listing, and a guaranteed economy class seat when booked 72 hours prior to departure.

In this special "Business Well Travelled" series, Cathay Pacific explores a number of ways to make the most of your time on the road. Discover what #lifewelltravelled means to other business travelers, share your own memorable experiences, and learn about how Cathay Pacific makes business travel more enjoyable.

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