Almost Fearless

How to Fly Around the World Absolutely Free

around the world trips, travel advice, travel ideas

After all the recent news about the airlines, don’t you wish you didn’t have to fly at all?  Or at least you didn’t have to actually pay to be treated like cattle?  Me too.

I recently signed up to be an affiliate on for Chris Guillebeau’s website, the Art of Non-Conformity.  I was digging around his ebooks and came across his newest one: Frequent Flyer Master.  What piqued my interest (despite the name sounding a bit like something you’d see on a 2 AM infomerical) was that Chris was promising that anyone could gain enough frequent flyer miles to earn a free ticket (25,000 miles) by reading this ebook.

Somewhere in the back of my mind I had been thinking about my own frequent flyer status and how I should really get serious about my miles.  The last time I even thought about my accounts was when, in a fit of frustration, I gave away all of my American Airlines miles to one lucky reader.  But if it’s that easy to earn flights, maybe it’s time to dip my toe back in.

So I got a review copy.  My first reaction: woah.  Apparently, I have been doing it all wrong.

Without giving away too much, if you’re an active traveler and you pay for your flights– you’re doing it wrong too.

I started doing the math.  If you made a few changes, took advantage of annual incentives by certain airlines and gained status with an airline or two (thereby increasing your per mile flown to per mile earned ratio), then I could see someone– especially a long term traveler or someone on a year abroad– racking in enough miles to fly dozens of times a year, absolutely free.

So why doesn’t Chris advertise this with his ebook?  In part, I think he’s trying to undersell his product.  But I also think he’s writing for a largely self-improvement, entrepreneurial, life-style redesign folks.  He travels a lot, but his audience might not.  For many of his readers, the idea of being able to bounce from LA to New Zealand to Thailand to Malaysia and back home again over a month is like, “so what?” If you’re not freed up to travel, the flight isn’t what’s holding you back.  It’s vacation time or pets or family or a thousand other things.

But for travelers?  It should be required reading.  Not only do we fly enough to make getting free flights worth it, but we fly internationally.  What fun is it to gain 300K miles if you don’t use it for a first class flight to Sydney?  Or instead of buying that $5,000-$10,000 RTW ticket, you earn enough miles to get it for free?

The big catch? The ebook isn’t free.

Of course, most of the methods in his ebook are, and he’s bundled it with all of his other travel hack/airline type ebooks, so you get:

  • The Frequent Flyer Master: which tells you how FF programs work and how to hack them
  • The Travel Ninja: All about RTW tickets and long term travel
  • Surviving Travel in North America: Getting free access to lounge access, tricks to booking cheap flights etc
  • Using Priceline: Tips on how to get deals
  • 2 audio tracks with questions and answers
  • And a nifty excel spreadsheet all set up to track mileage, rewards, future trips, travel goals etc.

So there’s an incredible amount of value for $79.  Which I know sounds like a lot.  But, you have to do the math for yourself.  Would getting a few free flights a year be worth it?  Are you traveling now or planning to travel soon?  Even if you only get one free ticket (which Chris has his famous money-back guarantee) then a ticket for $79 is a pretty good deal.

How will I use this new knowledge?  First class tickets!  I won’t be making as many short flights with the dogs, baby and husband in tow, but it would be very nice to have two 1st class tickets for our transatlantic flight this summer.  That’s my goal over the next few months, and for $79, to me, that’s totally worth it.

If you’re planning a RTW trip, seriously, take a look at this ebook.  If you have a little time, a little patience and know what you’re doing, I think, you could literally fly for free that whole year.  If I was planning a similar trip, that’s exactly what I would do.  Pool your money with other travelers and share this ebook, I won’t tell (just don’t tell Chris you heard it from me).

If you had 100,000 frequent flyer miles, where would you fly?

Pic: Alan Light

(Taken on a First Class Sleeper on a

United flight from Toyko to Chicago)

Christine Gilbert

I’ve been dragging my husband around the world since 2008 always with the promise that, “Yes, Drew there will definitely be hammocks there.”



  • This is intriguing, but something I would value in a review like this would be an idea of whether this book would serve any value to someone who does not live in the US. Mainly as I doubt a US bank would want to issue me a credit card when I am an Australian citizen and have no visa/residency/address for the States.

    It’s something I would like to know before I layout any money for an eBook which may prove useless for travellers in my position.

  • Thanks for the thoughtful review. I have looked at this before but was put off my the price. I am hoping to do some traveling in the next year so may have to look again. I appreciate it! 🙂
    .-= Kevin Martin Doyle´s last blog ..This Week on EvilDonkey – 1/18/10 =-.

  • Luke:

    Good question re: folks not living in the US. I think there is still value. Firstly, the ebook doesn’t just cover US based airlines. It covers programs everywhere, including the alliances which have US/International airlines sharing miles. But he does point out, and I think it’s okay to spill the beans on this, that the US programs will have the best reward programs. So if you’re not able to participate in anything US based (he does give a work around for this that would work for many things, except probably credit cards) then you can still earn miles, and his guarantee holds up, but it’s not going to be as easy as being a US citizen, in my opinion.

    It is an ebook written by an American, so there is a natural slant in that direction. So to me, there is still value, but with that caveat.

    Hope that helps. Let me know if you have any other questions.


  • Thanks for making me feel stupid for not checking out this before flying to Australia and South-America! Great post though, will definently check it out for the future.
    .-= VagaBen´s last blog ..Top 5 Travel Inspiring Music Videos =-.

  • Great review Christine. Like StumbleUpon, I’ve avoided frequent flier programs, but can eventually see myself getting into them. Especially with the value you’re suggesting is inherent in Chris’ book.

    With 100,000 miles, I’d be heading straight to Brazil, via Fiji. 🙂
    .-= Dave´s last blog ..Faces From Around the World: Russia =-.

  • If you REALLY think you can score first class trans-Atlantic tickets in the summer and you haven’t booked them yet, I got TWA tickets I would like to sell you. I have done great in using my miles to flew NW over the years to Asia in business class. However, I’ve ALWAYS flown in the spring and always booked 8 months in advance.

    Also, I have no idea why you are telling people to pay $79 when most likely ALL the info from the book can be found on the net for FREE. That and taking the time to sign up on e-mail lists from airlines, hotels, etc. I scored 10,000 Worldperks miles last year just playing a stupid 2 minute game everyday for 2 months on NW’s site. I only found out about it through an e-mail. I also got 10,000 miles by staying at three different Wyndham hotels this summer by getting an offer through e-mail.

    There is just no reason to pay so much money for common sense tips and what can be found free on the internet. Sorry Christine. You missed the mark on this one.

  • Jay-

    Sounds like you should read the ebook! 10K points for staying in 3 hotels? You probably paid more for the hotel than the points are worth. Chris’s ebook shows you how to figure out what your points are worth so you don’t do things like pay for 3 nights accom for 10K points (not even enough for a domestic flight).

    Good luck!

  • Jonny-

    Yup $79 is high… unless you actually use the information and get some free flights. But the good news is that Chris will refund your money if you don’t score at least 1 flight.

  • Thanks for your excellent review, Christine! I have frequently visited his website but I haven’t thought of purchasing any of his ebooks…until now. Now, I’m going to rethink frequent flier miles and incentive programs.

  • Interesting. I’ve had an Alaska Airlines card for a while (weird airline to have it with, I know). Each time i’ve gone to use it (I’m sitting on 38k miles atm) – I’ve been unable to book during the windows I have available, or needed 40-80k miles at least for a RT ticket to the destinations I was considering (Europe or South America). I eventually got so frustrated that i’ve switched to a pure cash back card and have been letting the mileage card just sit until I finally find a way to use it. I’ll have to take another look at it.

  • Christine, I don’t want to get in an argument here but it’s ALL about common sense. Of course if i stayed in hotels only for the miles, that might be stupid. HOWEVER, I had to use 2 of the hotels. I paid $45 for a Days Hotel in Fuzhou, China and $65 at a Ramada in Beijing. SO I choose those hotel for the promotion over other hotels that were in the same price range. For my 3rd hotel, I stayed at a Super 8 in my hometown of Xiamen, China for $25. So I paid ONLY $25 for 10,000 miles!!!

    Just like a miles credit card. Use it for EVERYTHING. But ONLY if you pay it off every month. Not to mention that you should sign up for the airlines Dining for Miles club to! It’s not that hard to figure these things out people!

    Sorry, Christine I do not need that e-book!

  • Jay-

    I think your advice is common sense, but unless you’ve read the ebook you can’t really speak to it’s contents, and unfortunately I can’t just list every tip to prove it to you (that would be so unfair to the author).

    I wanted to share this ebook over the many others I’ve read (this is the first ebook review on this site ever) not because it can get you 10,000 frequent flier miles. But rather, because I was thinking, in the right hands, someone could land 300,000. That seemed pretty exciting to me, and I wanted to share it with folks who are in the kind of position to take advantage of it (someone planning a RTW for example who has a year before they leave).

    Anyway, I’m not trying to convince people one way or another, I’m just personally excited when I get to share something I find to be really cool.

  • I posted to your 11/18/08 blog, but wasn’t sure if you would get it. Did you ever figure out a way cross the Darien Gap with your dogs? My boyfriend and I going to do the very thing next year and were curious about doing that.


  • I’m lazy about frequent flier miles but happened to see a show on Discovery I think it was about frequent flier addicts (basically).
    One guy found an $8.00 (yes $8.00) flight between two cities in China, and paid 8 Chinese people to take that flight four times a day every day for 6 weeks. He racked up over 1 million miles. As well as the interest of the DEA. Turns out he was doing it all above board though.

  • Hi, Christine! Just last summer, I finally used a whole mess of our Star Alliance miles (200,000 + $250 in taxes, for two) to book Air New Zealand business class to and from the Cook Islands…and it was spectacular.

    For a few months now, I’ve considered buying Chris’ e-book to see how I can make the front of the plane a common occurrence, but you make an even more solid argument for it than he does! (Under-sell, indeed.) I think I may have just parted with $79.

    Now I just have to convince my husband to sell his company so we can travel full-time…if only someone had an e-book for THAT. Oh…wait.

    *With my next 100,000 miles, I’m contemplating Croatia.

  • Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your blog. I was cooling my itchy feet with a bit of vicarious travel when I came across it. I can see that you are quite famous in these circles, and I can see why. I find your work very refreshing, open, honest and intelligent. I will be back!
    .-= islandmomma´s last blog ..It’s All In The Mind =-.

  • Another great promotion that might be gone now is where I got 100,000 British Airline miles for their Chase card and spending $2,000 in a couple months last year. Sign up for these airline programs and make sure you get the e-mails sent to you!

  • Very interesting review. I’m a frequent flyer but I don’t pay for most of my flights. When I do, I’m always looking for deals. $79 sounds like a lot for an ebook but if i can save at least that amount, its worth it.
    .-= Fly Girl´s last blog ..The Queen of Haitian Song =-.

  • interested in seeing a snippet of such a book, if I can go around the world for 100,000 miles. I’m very interested, as I’ve got way more than that.

  • Did you actually read these guides before recommending them? I returned the FF guide immediately after I saw it. The advice is 90% signing up for credit cards. He got 300K miles by signing up for something like 18 different cards, and many of them you have to make a certain dollar amount of purchases to get the miles. Fine if you have good enough credit in today’s market to get these cards (if they even still exist – it seemed out-dated), but what damage are you doing to your own credit score by having so much revolving credit? NOT WORTH THE MONEY.

  • Detractor:

    2 things:

    First, I did read the ebooks and I didn’t get the same impression as you. Only one small section was about using credit cards to earn miles. Obviously that’s a sticking point for you, and it stood out as being much more (90% as you put it). I’m flipping through the ebook now, and I’m seeing page after page of stuff that has absolutely nothing to do with credit cards.

    Second, what happened when you returned it? Oh you got your money back. So basically Chris held up his promise and if you didn’t like the ebook he refunded the money. That’s a pretty tame worst-case-scenario.

  • You know you are often best just sticking with one airline these days for freq. flier miles. I’m a freq filer person and to be honest, the miles these days are becoming harder and harder to use. Although if you have any hope of getting some decent service you really need to have status with the airline. You get lots of bonus miles (sometimes up to twice what you’d normally get for a flight) for status and other promotions that they send you.

    I definitely disagree with signing up for a large # of credit cards. The damage to your credit, and just having to keep track of all those credit cards sounds absurd.

    These days too, honestly the value of a mile has gone way way down. I have probably somewhere in the few hundred thousand range of miles and even just trying to use them has become crazy. Airlines now are limiting what can be used by the discount tickets or charging you crazy amounts of miles for what used to be a reasonable cost flight. Plus if you want to do something like go into one city and leave for another they will charge you the miles for 2 round trip tickets (at least if its international, never tried what it would be domestic). I generally look at the value of a mile say in Merchandise (or hotel or other exchanges) which is usually a terrible value exchange and see if the cost of the ticket on that airline or another is worth more or less in terms of exchange.

    If you want to get a lot of miles, get upgraded regularly, and generally have a better trip I would from experience say stick with one airline who has a good partner network. That way you can use miles and often get miles on any of those airlines for the freq flier program your signed up on. If you really do travel a lot I would have to say that status is king. You get lots of miles, and they actually treat you better (or at least less worse). When you are stuck in a delay somewhere and need to get out or get on another flight since yours was delayed or canceled you will be thankful you had the status and go on the next flight before someone else did.

  • Never thought of that befire since I always fly with budget airlines and if grab it at the right moment, I could still get free or nearly free tickets to fly… anyway, thanks for sharing. It helps frequent flyers who flies because of works and tickets are at his company expense, so he could earn enough miles for his free holiday flight. 🙂
    .-= Cecil Lee´s last blog ..Travel Photos – Chinese New Year in Malaysia =-.

  • for a backpacker point of you, every penny counts, so for us $79 to invest in an e-book would be a unrealistic figure but that’s saying it might worth it.
    i am not sure if we are going to score that 300.000 miles but, by being a frequent flier doing our rtw trip, we already score 25.000 miles, i believe the equivalent of a free one-way flight for example London-NYC.
    this is because we did a bit of research before embarked on our journey looking for the ff program which would reward us the best in regards to the airlines we would have take and that’s why we opted for Virgin Atlantic FF. Would we had got more miles if we would have bought Chris Guillebeau e-book??
    my tip? even a complain about the inflight entertainment’s system gave us an extra 3000 miles.
    .-= marta´s last blog ..Australia backpacker travel tips- all you need to know about buying a van. =-.

  • Thanks for the review. I often wonder if books like this are too good to be true but it looks like you summed it all up. Very cool! I love the fact that he isnt whoring his book all over the internet.
    .-= Doug´s last blog ..Cape Town, South Africa =-.

  • Wow, thanks for sharing I too a huge fan of Chris’ wisdom, and I love to fly these tips make me want to dig into his stuff even more and find out what works.
    .-= David Krug´s last blog ..Mexican Visas and Immigration =-.

  • I’ve been living in China for a year and 7 months, and when I travel it’s usually very cheap because everything here is on a completely different system and level. The most expensive internal flight I’ve paid for is about $70. The average internal flight cost is about $40. If I want to travel within Asia but outside of China, I’ll just use

    From China to Australia direct is about $1500 each way.

    With AirAsia I flew from Wuhan to Guangzhou, Guangzhou to Kuala Lumpur, KL to Gold Coast, Gold Coast to KL, KL to Johor Bahru, JB to KL, KL to Shenzhen, Shenzhen to Wuhan and this was done over 25 days. In the end for all of those flights combined, I spent about $500.

    There MIGHT be airline mile programs in China, but I think people don’t bother using them because everything is so damn cheap and people don’t use credit cards.
    .-= Sean Weisbrot´s last blog ..Johor Bahru =-.

  • To those wondering about the high cost of this book, and curious about the information:

    1) I would say look through some of Chris’ old blog posts. He actually posted a series of blog entries on getting airline miles and tracking how many he got in a short time. That was the basis for this book. You want free information, start there.

    2) Yes, you can probably get this for free if you do enough research. Go ahead, do that. How long will it take you to get all the informaiton? A week? Two? And how much is a week or two of your time worth to you? Not $79? It should be a lot more than that.

    3) 1 million miles from 8 people, 4 flights a day for 6 weeks @ $8 each. Thats 1344 flights, or over $10,000. Plus how much did he pay these people for all that hassle? I bet another $10,000 at least. And the airline can easily call shenanigans and cancel the miles after you spent $20,000. You’d do that, but not pay $79 for an ebook? Either free travel is important to you, or it isn’t. It’s not for everyone.
    .-= Scott´s last blog ..Sabbaticals May Only Be Part of the Overall Picture =-.

  • This post is right up my alley. I only use flying to cross continents, otherwise slow and methodical is a treasured choice. With time and altering scenery, one has time to absorb events, dream, catch up on sleep, or mingle with fellow travelers (local or not). This is such a lovely post! Thanks!

  • I recently flew to Australia – I booked my ticket through a travel company, Down Under Answers, that has some amazing deals on trips right now, but because I booked it through them, I didn’t get a say in the airline. They booked it through Qantas Airlines and I don’t have a mileage plan with them but I was very surprised and ecstatic to learn that my miles transferred over to my Alaska mileage program! I love Alaska Airlines : ) and am very happy with their mileage program!

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