I've been having a great time here so far and can't wait to share some tips for getting here on points and miles so more people can experience this gem of a city.
Here's what I've got on the docket today:
💰 Google tests out new "price guarantee"
🏃 Mike on the move: using points & miles in Iraq
🛂 The most powerful passports in the world (2023 edition)
💰 Google tests out new "price guarantee"
You know when you go to BestBuy to buy a new TV and they tell you they’ll match any other price you can find?
So you go out to all the local electronics stores trying to find a sale that you can match the price to, only to come up short and realize that the $5 you saved wasn’t worth the 48 hours you spent searching for a lower price?
No? Just me?
Well, what if you could do the same thing with your plane tickets?
Google wants to find out because they have recently started testing a price guarantee that would refund you for tickets you purchase if the price lowers in the future.
As things stand, this is only available to a handful of users in the U.S. and only for certain airlines and routes that are bookable through Google.
Here's what I mean:
When you search for a flight on Google, they provide options for which method you use to book it.
Sometimes, you can even book it right on the Google page - it’s basically Google acting as a mini travel agent for you so you don’t need to go through the trouble of an extended, multi-page checkout process.
Because of this, you’re paying through Google rather than the airline directly.
It’s these flights that Google is proposing this new feature with since booking through Google will give them the power to issue refunds in the event of a price lowering.
So, this is pretty sweet, but there are a couple more details to keep in mind:
The difference must be at least $5 to claim a refund
You can only receive up to $500 per year using this feature
It’s currently only available as a pilot program for certain U.S. users
Google tried this exact experiment back in 2019 to great success. I would assume that the pandemic is the only reason they didn’t move forward with a more widely available version right away.
People reach out to me every day, asking about the best time to book flights.
Should you book as far in advance as possible? Wait a few months to see the range fluctuate? Wait until the last possible minute?
Google rolling out this feature would mean you can just book the flights you want whenever convenient and know that if the price lowers, you’ll get some money back.
I think it will be a little while before we see this offered at scale. But if you live in the U.S. and are looking at airlines where the “Book with Google” service is offered, you might be able to take advantage sooner than you think.
🏃 Mike on the move: Using points & miles in Iraq
As you know, I recently arrived in the beautiful city of Erbil, Iraq. It’s definitely a bit off the beaten path for most travelers, but don’t think that this country and city are impossible to access with points and miles.
You may be surprised that, in fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Personally, I booked my trip here using Aeroplan points. Multiple Aeroplan partner airlines fly into Erbil, including Austrian, Lufthansa, Emirates, EgyptAir, and Turkish Airlines, the latter being the airline I ended up flying with.
Coming from Paris as I did, you can fly to Erbil on any of the aforementioned airlines for only 25,000 points each way.
But that’s not what I did, actually.
Since I have a lot of flying to do in the region, I booked a massive, multi-city itinerary with stopovers and open jaws all on the same booking.
Since Aeroplan lets you piece together multiple segments, here is what my full ticket looks like:
So what’s the advantage of doing this?
There are two important ones for me:
First, since almost all of these segments involve partner airlines, Aeroplan charges a partner booking fee of $39. If you were to book each leg separately, you’d have to pay that fee each time.
But because I have everything on one ticket, I only had to pay for it once.
When you’re dealing with a big trip like this, those relatively small fees can add up, so I consider this a pretty substantial benefit.
Second, having everything on one ticket means Aeroplan is on the hook if something goes wrong.
For example, if I had a 3-segment day and the very first segment got canceled, it could easily result in me missing the next two segments that day. Thankfully, Aeroplan would be responsible for rebooking me to get me to my destination.
This is very important to me. Missing one flight can cause a domino effect that could get you into some serious trouble… trust me; I’ve been there before.
Anyway, I love the fact that I can book a single ticket that takes me through Europe, the Middle East, and Africa on airlines like Air Canada, Turkish, and Emirates.
I think Aeroplan’s multi-city and stopover bookings are some of the most underrated strategies in the points and miles world, personally.
Booking hotels in Iraq with points
While Iraqi Kurdistan is developing rapidly, there aren’t many major hotel brands that operate here.
The one major brand that does have a property here is Hyatt - and it’s a GORGEOUS hotel…
Compared to other hotels in the city, the Hyatt Regency in Erbil is definitely much pricier, hovering around $225-$250 per night after taxes.
But I found a sweet loophole… 😏
Despite the high price tag, rooms only cost 6,500 World of Hyatt points per night.
Right now (until January 19th), Hyatt has a promotion to buy points with a 25% bonus.
To purchase the 7,000 points you’d need to book the room, you’d only pay $126 with the 25% discount.
That’s roughly HALF of the cash cost of the room.
And that’s precisely what I did. And it was well worth the price, in my opinion, especially given how luxurious the property is.
If the points arbitrage didn’t work out so well, there’s also the option to transfer points from Chase, which is arguably one of the best ways to use your Chase points.
I think my flight and hotel bookings this week are solid travel hacking techniques, so I hope you find them valuable.
🛂 The 2023 most powerful passports in the world
Every country’s passport is different. Depending on the diplomatic relations between your home country and other countries, there are places that are either really easy, really difficult, or sometimes even impossible to go to.
Between visa-free travel, e-visas, and other fees charged to certain nationalities, passports can be pretty easily ranked from most powerful to least powerful.
And that’s exactly what the Henly Passport Index does every year.
They just released their 2023 Q1 index, so let’s take a quick look at which countries made the top of the list. You can see the full list here.
First, let’s cover what this score means.
The ranking they use is the “visa-free travel score,” meaning how many destinations a passport holder can travel to without requiring a visa in advance.
The key term here is “destinations” rather than “countries.”
Rather than the generally agreed-upon number of 196 countries, this score is built off of 226 destinations, including some disputed areas, some territories with their own immigration rules, and other unique cases.
Unsurprisingly, countries like Japan, Singapore, and South Korea made the top, with 192-193 destinations offering visa-free travel for their citizens. With little geopolitical friction between them and the rest of the world, it makes sense that the borders are generally open for them.
The U.S. came in 7th place, tied with five other countries.
Obviously, the U.S. has some enemies… so I’m not surprised to see it pretty far down.
Still, 186 destinations with hassle-free travel is pretty incredible.
Have a look through this list and see where your country ranks! You might be surprised to see how much of the world is readily accessible for you! 🙂
That's gonna do it for today, folks!
Would you be more likely to book a flight if you had a price guarantee? Which country's passport ranking are you most surprised by?Let me know by replying to this email or reaching out on social media.