Last week we had a look at Chris Guillebeau’s frequent flyer mile book, Frequent Flyer Master. It builds on a previous book, Travel Ninja, that we review today.

The title (How to Become a Travel Ninja: Travel Hacking Anywhere in the World) has a hint of meme-heavy web humour but accurately describes the book’s goal: to help you travel more, and more cheaply. It focusses exclusively on airline travel, especially long-haul and round-the-world travel. While it is aimed at a North American audience, it is a little more internationally-friendly than Frequent Flyer Master, suggesting alternative countries to start from, it still best suits someone from, or close to, the States.

The book starts with some assumptions about your current travel skills (and resources to help you catch up if you’re not there), then sets the scene with a chapter on why travel seems so unfriendly (price of oil and economic woes coming to the fore). The next three chapters (round-the-world travel, “creative” accommodation, and “how to go anywhere in the world”) make up the bulk of the book’s information. Things finish with another three chapters on troubleshooting your booking and dealing with overbooked flights; a Q and A; and a link-heavy resource section that’s highly recommended.

The content

In my mind, the central chapters are the most useful for people planning lots of air travel. The section on round-the-world travel talks about all the major programmes in some depth and also includes alternative passes. It usefully points out current “cheap” countries from which to start your RTW, with promised email updates as things change and special offers become available. The “creative lodging” chapter mainly served to outline hotel reward programmes, but mention was also made of hostels, guesthouses, couchsurfing and the hospitality club. How to anywhere in the world has details on local budget airlines, regional passes and special deals. This is especially useful for planning your own itinerary in an unknown place. It still wasn’t able to get me cheap return flights from Buenes Aires to Bogota (one of my current preoccupations) — but I found cheaper options than the local travel agents.

The troubleshooting section nails common problems with best-chance solutions for the impossible ones (full flight, being waitlisted, not having a visa) and raises awareness of others (connecting flights with different airlines and timezone confusion). Hopefully you won’t have to use this section, but the strategies are common sense and I have used variations on them myself. The Q and A and resource sections both seemed a little light to me, but some of the themes there are greatly expanded in the new Frequent Flyer Book.

Extras

Along with the PDF are two extras: a 30 minute audio file and a travel-hacking spreadsheet. The audio is interesting and engaging — a Q and A format –, with some added tips and tricks that are not in the book. Although audio is more time consuming (in terms of information given to time taken), I’m finding it a great medium for little stories and tips that don’t fit into the narrative flow of a book. The spreadsheet is interesting; I uploaded it into Google documents (I seldom use traditional Office software) and it converted without any problems. It has several sheets allowing you to record your flights, miles available on a programme, miles earned on various credit cards, lists of “current” RTW prices (with space for exchange rates), and a few lists of countries, air passes and connections for trip planning. I’m not much of a spreadsheet guy (I’m INTP for Myers-Briggs aficionados) but it might work well for you.

Who is it good for?

Overall, Travel Ninja is not for those with much international travel experience. It is great for those planning their first trip, or who have not done much airline booking in the past five years (since the rise of online booking, budget airlines and fading legacy profits). If you feel you paid too much for a previous trip, it’s also well worth the investment. You will probably save money if you are planning a round-the-world trip or extended backpacking trip with multiple point-to-point tickets (which is how we plan most of our flights). Links to non-local budget airlines and reward programmes are also useful and well currated by the author, perfect if you need to cut down on your research time.

Buy Travel Ninja for US$39 or bundle it with Frequent Flyer Master for US$88.

Travel Ninja by Chris Guillebeau is published by the author. A copy was made available for review and we earn commission off copies bought through the above links.

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Your thoughts on "Travel Ninja – Review"

  • Sounds like a good read and could become an essential part of travelling. I like the idea of the tips and tricks part, which has a bit more edge than the run of the mill Lonely Planet guides. I think I would definitely invest in this book if I planned to go traveling again and it would also make a great going away gift for a friend or family member. Thanks for the review Craig.

    on March 5, 2010 at 8:06 pm Reply
  • I wish something more like this had been around back when I was young enough and free enough of responsibilities to travel. I did it on a wing and pray without knowing enough about where I was going and to be honest, although I'd never stop my kids from travelling I'd be worried sick if they did it a green (and I mean novice not eco) as I did! I'd definitely get this for them having read your review... in fact, I might get it as a hint :-)

    on March 10, 2010 at 1:56 am Reply

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