Travel Hacking: How living in luxury hotels for 3 years in 25 countries cost less than rent

My wife and I have been digital nomads for 3 years, living in hotels in 25 countries, while working remotely. All the hacks and tricks we figured out along the way led to us spending even less money per year than we did before we started traveling!

We earned the highest-tier hotel statuses with Marriott, Hyatt, and Hilton which gives us free upgrades to luxury suites. This also gets us free daily breakfast, access to lounges with snacks and drinks, along with daily housekeeping, gym, pool, sauna, spa, etc. We haven’t had to clean our rooms, change our bed sheets, or take out the trash in years!

You can follow our adventures on Instagram and check out our 2023 highlights reel. Here is a map of all the cities we visited in the last 3 years:

A map showing all the 200+ cities I've lived in as digital nomad and travel hacker in the last 3 years spanning 25 counties across continents including North and South America, Africa, Europe, Asia

travels collage hack-it-all-life-travel-career-money
Some of the interesting places we visited during the last 3 years including Machu Picchu (Peru), the Taj Mahal (India), Chichen Itza (Mexico), Hagia Sophia (Turkey), Mount Fuji (Japan), Eiffel Tower (Paris), Cusco (Peru), Cappadocia (Turkey), Blue Lagoon (Iceland), Marrakesh (Morocco), and Miyajima (Japan). See the highlights of Instagram stories for more!

Hotel Costs

Hotels cost us on average less than $150 per night over the last 3 years. In expensive cities, we sometimes paid $200 to $300, while in cheaper cities it could be less than $100 per night.

We earn roughly 16% back in hotel points (for example, 17.5x Marriott points with Titanium status), 6% back in credit card points, and 3% back by clicking through Rakuten to book. This totals to 25% back per dollar of hotel spend.

So essentially, we pay for 8 months of rent and get 2 months free with these points. We don’t have to pay rent for the remaining 2 months per year since we spend 3-4 weeks at work conferences and 5-6 weeks visiting our families.

Therefore, our total cost for accommodation in an entire year is approximately 8 * 30 * 150 = $36,000 per year, which translates to an average of $3000 per month, i.e., $1,500 per person per month.

We used to pay about the same $1500 monthly rent per person when we lived in the San Francisco Bay Area and New York City. However, on top of that $36,000 yearly rent, we had to pay extra on hotels during the 3-4 weeks we went on vacation! So it’s actually cheaper for us to live in hotels all year.

Credit Card Bonuses

We also earn an extra 100,000 points every couple of months as a signup bonus by opening a new credit card and charging all these hotels to meet the spending criteria

Some of the US cards each of us have cycled through include Amex Platinum, Gold, Green, Capital One Venture and Venture X, Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve, Citi Premier, and Bilt. We also got a few hotel credit cards each including those from Marriott, Hyatt, and Hilton. We haven’t started getting the airlines cards yet.

Doctor of Credit maintains a great up-to-date list of the best credit card signup bonuses right now:

Whenever possible, we downgrade each card to a free version without annual fees after exactly one year, instead of canceling (so that it doesn’t affect our credit score much). Even after opening 10 credit cards each in the last 3 years, we both still have credit scores above 780. As long as you pay off your entire balance every month, your credit score goes up even higher in the long run after the temporary dip each time you open a new card.

Traveling Tips

We use most of the points we earn through those signup bonuses to fly business class on all the long-haul flights (more than 6 hours). Usually, we book short flights (or trains) and slowly hop to nearby countries and cities to minimize jet lag. For local transportation, we use Uber or public transportation (which is typically very good outside the US). We also like to book day trips and guided tours, with good ratings on GetYourGuide or TripAdvisor, to see attractions that we would otherwise have to drive to.

Travel Insurance: A lot of these credit cards cover travel insurance and medical emergencies while you’re traveling abroad. Healthcare is also cheap in most countries other than the US.

Paying for stuff: Make sure to use credit cards which don’t charge foreign transaction fees when making purchases abroad. Almost every country takes Visa and Mastercard credit cards at stores and restaurants, so we have rarely needed any physical cash.

Getting cash: Never use foreign currency exchanges since they always rip you off by marking up the exchange rate by 5% or more. The best way to get local currency is to use either the Charles Schwab or Fidelity debit cards to withdraw cash directly from any ATM anywhere in the world. These debit cards don’t charge any currency conversion fees and they refund you all the fees and surcharges (usually $5 to $10) that ATM providers charge. Only use debit cards for getting cash, never use them for any purchases since they don’t have the same fraud protections that credit cards do.

Avoid DCC: If given the choice to pay in US dollars (or whatever is your home currency) and the local currency of the country you’re currently visiting, pick the local currency. Never choose to pay in US dollars (or your home currency) when abroad or you’ll end up paying 7% extra for Dynamic Currency Conversion.


We get the free hotel breakfast and then eat every lunch and dinner at restaurants. This costs us an average of $1000 per person per month. In the most expensive cities like New York and Geneva it cost up to $2000 but in other countries like India it cost less than $300 (since an average meal was less than $5 per person!)

Even before we started traveling, we used to eat out or order Uber Eats every day since neither of us likes to cook. So now we get to eat at thousands of different restaurants and experience an incredible variety of authentic cuisines from all over the world!

A collage of some of the amazing food we've had in Peru, Colombia, Japan, Turkey, India, US, Iceland, Italy, UK, France, and Morocco as digital nomads traveling around the world living in luxury hotels in the last 3 years.
A collage of some of the amazing food we’ve had recently in Peru, Colombia, Japan, Turkey, India, United States, Mexico, Iceland, Italy, England, Scotland, France, and Morocco.

Total Expenses

Our total yearly expenses were roughly $35,000 per person per year i.e. $70,000 for us combined. This includes $18,000 for hotels, $12,000 for food, and $5000 for everything else.

Monthly breakdown: The average expenses per person per month was roughly $1500 for rent, $1000 for food, and $420 for all other things (like Ubers, shopping, phone bill, tours, etc.)

Address and Taxes

Our only legal permanent residential address is our parent’s home since we spend more than a month here every year (which is longer than we stay anywhere else since we change hotels every 2-3 weeks). We also store some of our belongings here throughout the year. Our mail and credit cards are sent to our parent’s home and they send us photos.

We make sure not to stay more than a month or two in any country to avoid personal tax liabilities and also get digital nomad visas which exempt local taxes when possible. We don’t spend enough time in any other US state to establish residency there.

I was also able to legally reduce my total tax liability by traveling so much that I became a non-resident in the US but that is a story I’ll write about in another article!

Working Remotely

Both of us are computer scientists specializing in AI. We work New York-hours remotely during weekdays and explore the cities in the evenings (or mornings depending on time zone) and weekends. We make sure to travel or move hotels only during weekends or holidays.

When we traveled to places with extreme time zone differences like Japan, we used our vacation days.

Packing Light

When we started traveling, we used to each have a backpack and a carry-on suitcase. Over the last 3 years, we realized that most of our luggage was unnecessary. So we slowly got rid of everything we didn’t need. 

Now I only have 35 different items, which weigh less than 11 pounds combined and fits in a tiny backpack. Also the cost of everything I own in the entire world adds up to only $1700 in total and can be easily replaced. 

Below is the breakdown by category of my optimized “onebag” setup:

packing list 2 hack-it-all-life-travel-career-money

You can find the detailed list with links to every item I own along with the cost and weight here:

The key to traveling light is to get the right materials like merino wool which is odor-resistant and dries quickly. You can layer these clothes in different combinations for all climates, especially if you add a warm ultralight packable down jacket. You can quickly do your own laundry in the hotel sink in the evening and it dries by the morning. 

The subreddit r/onebag is a great resource to get inspired and learn how to optimize your baggage to weigh as little as possible. 

Favorite Places

Of all the countries we’ve visited so far, our favorite ones are Japan (both of us agree it’s number 1 by far), Peru, Sri Lanka, Iceland, Turkey, Greece, and Italy.

You can see our favorite moments in this highlights reel.

Some of the best 5-star hotels that we really enjoyed staying at recently include:

Future Plans

We started out thinking we’ll travel for just a few months and then settle down in another apartment. But it was so much fun and not as exhausting as we thought it would be. We even tried settling down last year but realized we really wanted to hit the road again after 3 months. Booking a hotel and flight every few weeks becomes a quick mindless routine eventually.

Where are we going next? Cancun (Mexico), Cairo and Luxor (Egypt), South India, Singapore, Mexico City.

Can we keep doing this forever? Probably not. We’ll eventually settle down when we’re tired of traveling or if we have kids someday. There’s still miles to go before we stop.

The Nihilist – A Short Story

(A short story I wrote in 2012)

Hello. Is anyone is listening? I would introduce myself but I can’t remember my name anymore. I must be more than a thousand years old. No, I am not a vampire or some immortal being encountered in fiction. On the contrary, I am a severely disabled entity. I can neither see, hear, smell, taste, nor feel. I can only think. I do not possess a body. Time and space no longer have any importance in the world I occupy. I am trapped in absolute darkness and utter silence with only my thoughts to accompany me. I do not know whether I’m dead or alive. Maybe this is the afterlife. My imagination is the only means of recreation I have. I was left in this state for so long that I cannot differentiate between memories and dreams. For all I know, this is how I ended up like this:

“What seems like an eternity ago, I was born a human. I enjoyed a long and happy life in the company of others like me, in which I amassed a great fortune. Eventually, old age caught up with me and death seemed inevitable. Like most others, I did not wish to die and sought a method to prolong my lifespan. My body could not be saved and had to be discarded but recent advances in science and medicine at the time helped preserve my mind. I was told that parts of my brain, in which my consciousness resides, could be sustained for practically an infinite amount of time. Therefore, I used up all my resources to construct an impenetrable facility to safely house my brain along with the necessary resources to sustain it for several millennia.

As per my wishes, the procedure was successfully carried out. My brain was connected to the Grid, a virtual world that the internet had eventually morphed into. Even though my physical form floated around in a jar deep underground, my mind was free to virtually roam the world. This second phase of my existence was a truly delightful one. I could still communicate with all my friends and loved ones. I had access to vast amounts of information by mere thought. I had eyes and ears all over the world. In this manner, I existed for many centuries until the third World War. I am not sure of the exact details but my guess is that a nuclear explosion somehow cut off my connection to the Grid. That was the beginning of the worst phase of my existence:

Total isolation.

I hope that these memories are real. If so, at some point, the resources required to sustain my brain would run out thus freeing me from this hell of an existence. But there is this grim doubt lurking in a dark corner of my mind. What if all that was a dream? A hallucination? What if eternal isolation drove me insane? Am I schizophrenic? Did I convince myself that these stories I invented were real?

Yes. I cannot deceive myself any more. The truth is that I’ve created a web of lies around me to hide the fact that I was always alone and always will be. There is no other world. Only this desolate one. There is no light, no sound, nothing and no one. There never was. They were all merely figments of my imagination, the product of an empty consciousness left to rot for eternity. Only my mind exists. I am someone who had imagined a world around him and a life for himself in the company of other minds like him, in order to escape his solitude and explain his existence. My mind is the world. Within it, I am omnipotent and omnipresent. To imagine is to create. I am…

Truth 1 hack-it-all-life-travel-career-money


Upcoming Japan Travel Guide: How we planned our perfect 21-day honeymoon trip

Subscribe to be notified about this upcoming article where I’ll go over:

  • Our travel itinerary across 10 cities in Japan during cherry blossoms.
  • All the attractions we visited and how we spent our time in each city.
  • Our favorite restaurants with the best food we’ve ever had in our life.
  • Which hotels we stayed at and which ones we recommend.
  • How we used points to book free 5-star hotels with incredible onsens.
  • How we booked free business class flights from US to Japan with points.
  • Tips for booking bullet trains across cities as well as local transportation.
  • Our favorite photos and videos from the trip.

Upcoming: How I completed my PhD in 1 year at age 24 while also working at the same time earning over $140,000

Watch our for another post coming soon explaining:

  • How I finished my PhD at age 24, just one year after completing my Masters degree at 23
  • How I have 80 publications which were cited over 50,000 times (over 1000 times as first-author).
  • Hacks that allowed me to simultaneously work in industry jobs before graduating, earning over $140,000 income legally even though I was an international PhD student on an F-1 visa.
  • Strategies that helped me win multiple graduate fellowships and awards worth $90,000 combined.
  • How I survived grad school drinking only Soylent for every meal for 3 years.
  • How I received travel grants to go to 10+ conferences around the world for free and how I networked during these events to get multiple job offers and internships.
  • Tips for getting admitted to PhD programs and for getting internships and job offers.

Upcoming: Why I refused a green card and sold stocks with $400,000 in capital gains paying $0 taxes legally

Stay tuned for an article explaining:

  • Why I refused to get a green card despite having a US citizen wife and qualifying for EB1-A.
  • How I sold stocks with $400,000 in gains and paid $0 in capital gains taxes legally.
  • How traveling around the world and working remotely saved me $200,000 in taxes.
  • Tips for getting both an extraordinary ability O1 work visa and 10-year B1/B2 visitor visa.
  • How to get digital nomad visas and how this can minimize your tax liabilities.

Upcoming Personal Finance Guide: How I earned 3 million points in 3 years and why I only keep $1 in my bank

Keep an eye out for the next upcoming article about:

  • Why I only keep $1 in bank accounts but can get a million dollars in cash instantly.
  • How I invest 100% of all my savings in stocks and the breakdown of my portfolio.
  • Personal finance tips especially when traveling internationally.
  • Why I haven’t legally married my wife yet and how we save taxes by being domestic partners instead.
  • How I got 20 credit cards in 3 years and earned 3 million points while still increasing my credit score.
  • How I redeemed the points for $100,000 worth of free hotels and business class flights.

Upcoming: How I saved a million dollars by age 27 after working 3 years and retired early at 29

In this upcoming article I’ll talk about:

  • How I saved over a million dollars by age 27 after working for only 3 years.
  • How I reached FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) at age 29.
  • What it was like working at the top tech company in Silicon Valley vs the biggest firm on Wall Street.
  • Negotiation techniques I used to double my pay each time I switched jobs.
  • My strategies for investing in the stock market and how I made over $400,000 in capital gains.
  • What life is like after retiring from corporate life.