Not all of us are on a five-star budget, but there are ways and means of bagging a luxury hotel or meal for less on your travels - or even for free, according to one TikTok star.
Money-saving vlogger Jen, aka @SmartyPantsFinance, says she gets to stay in luxe crashpads and dine out in lavish restaurants on her holidays - all due to one nifty trick.
“I have been hotel mystery shopping around the world and across the United States since 2004,” she revealed in a recent video.
Mystery shoppers are under-cover customers sent by retailers, market research and consumer watchdogs to experience the customer service of a brand - for example, a hotel or airline - and report back.
“So the first thing I do is, I go to mystery shopper websites that I’m registered with and I look at their list of available assignments.
“There may be an assignment in New York City or one in Chicago or one in Cancun, and I just pick the ones that I’m interested in doing.”
Once she’s nailed the hotel stay, she turns her attention to getting to her impromptu destination.
“If I get one of the hotel jobs, then the next thing I do is start looking for airline mystery shopping assignments,” she explains.
“Now typically the hotel jobs are also giving me money to help cover my travel, but the airline assignment means there will be increased reimbursements.”
But she’s not finished scoring freebies for her luxury-packed trip.
“Then I look for airport assignments - because if I’m going to be at an airport for an hour and a half, two hours before an international flight, I might as well make some money at the airport while I’m waiting.”
Though less common than hotel and restaurant experiences, mystery shopper firms sometimes have opportunities to review airport services, duty free or lounges.
“The next thing I do is look for assignments at my destination. I’ve evaluated stores, restaurants, even trolley [tram] tours while I’m at a destination, and I add that onto my trip.
“By the time I come home, my trip has been completely free and I’ve usually made some money on top of it.”
She then offers followers more tips on specific mystery shopping brands.
The video has already had more than 27,000 views, with many followers asking questions about the travel hack.
“I feel like I would be exhausted having to be critical 24/7. On the other hand, great way to see the world!” wrote one.
“It’s not really about being critical. It’s more about making observations. And I do get to sleep and sightsee!” reassures Jen.
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