One of the TOP reasons people DO NOT travel is because it can be SUPER expensive! Vacation abroad can get pretty pricy and not everyone has $5,000-$10,000 just laying around in their bank account. Typically, the big three money munchers are FLIGHT, ACCOMMODATIONS and FOOD. I’ve travelled to over 15 countries and 50 cities now–and I never break the bank buying flights. I will share my secrets of how YOU TOO can fly cheaply or for FREE!
1.) Be flexible! I know, super cliche–but TRUST ME. It WOULD be super cool to go to Ireland ON St. Patrick’s Day, or chill in the Maldives over summer. But sometimes on holidays and HIGH tourist seasons we are met with HIGH prices! This doesn’t mean you can’t ever travel on holidays–no way, but if you’re flexible and go to Ireland the weekend AFTER or before St. Patrick’s Day, you could save hundreds of dollars. You also may prefer non-stop flights–sometimes these are the most expensive. If it doesn’t add too much extra time, try expanding your search to allow fares for 1 stop–these might be cheaper!
2.) Use Google Flights or Skyscanner to find cheap fares! My ritual for finding cheap flights is: navigate to Google Maps (on my MacBook not my phone) and doing a “map search”:
You can play with different dates and see where is the CHEAPEST destination to fly to. You can also use this method to help you decide WHERE to go if you’re strapped for cash or just don’t want to go broke traveling. This helps me the most when looking for cheap flights.
I also use the calendar view as well if I know I’m a bit flexible and want to compare different travel dates:
As you can see, if you’re flexible–Google Flights highlights the cheap flights and you can quickly see for yourself when you should go.
3.) Don’t check a bag! Seriously, shorten your packing list! You don’t need 20 outfits for a 10 day trip to paradise or vacation, you don’t even need 10 whole outfits. Bring a backpack and a personal item, and always keep yourself up-to-date by checking an airlines baggage policy. Airlines change their policy whenever they feel like it, and sometimes it is not a better policy for YOU. Depending on the mileage or their policy, some airlines allow you to check 1 or 2 bags for free (like Southwest). A lot of airlines are stingy and only let you bring a personal item. It can get pricy checking bags–and then you have to lug them around! Pack light and keep your wallet fat! If you need help packing, check out my Ultimate Packing List!
4.) Use Travel Points from Credit Cards! I am the proud owner of the Chase Sapphire Card. This card like a couple other credit cards, is optimized to be the perfect travel card. You save 25% on flights and hotels through the Chase Sapphire Rewards website and you can use points towards flights and hotels! You get 2-3x points when using your card for travel (accommodations, car rentals, etc.). It also has $0.00 international fees. Seriously, they should pay me for advertising their card–but at the moment they don’t, hehe. When I first opened this line of credit, I was given 50,000 free points! This is equal to around $650 for travel–I have booked 4 and 5 star hotels and flights for FREE with points. ALL of my bills are routed to pull from my Sapphire card so I can rack up points, and I pay it off immediately with my bank. (This will also help you BUILD your credit–for all you students and 20-somethings out there…). If your credit score is VERY GOOD, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card is BEST for you. You also receive the famous and ever-elusive Priority Pass for access for you and a guest to enter airport VIP lounges for free. Trust me, it’s the best thing ever.
5.) Use Budget Airlines! If you’re currently living in Europe or the U.S., you may have heard of these airlines. Europe boasts many budget airlines like RyanAir and Hungary’s Wizz Air. In the U.S., you might have flown on Frontier or Spirit airlines. They aren’t super fancy, nor serve free food, but they get you from point A to point B for cheap! RyanAir has roundtrip airfares as LOW as 40€ to a plethora of European and African cities. Spirit airlines may lack in the service department (from experience) but they also have cheap flights–as low as $50 sometimes! Southwest is always expanding and improving its routes and puts out a weekly list of flight deals as low as $39.00 one-way to specific cities.
6.) Sign up for a Flight Alert/Watcher or Email List! When I was booking my one-way flight to Madrid, Spain, I set up a flight watch to send me an alert when a certain flight I wanted either reduced or increased. I waited and watched for a month before snagging a cheap price! Skyscanner watches flights too. Also, there are email lists and travel bloggers dedicated to watching airfares for you and sending deals to your inbox!
7.) Join Airline Loyalty Programs! Most reputable airlines have free loyalty programs that you can join and rack up “miles” or “points”. You can then trade these points/miles for discounted or fully covered flights, upgrades and more. I fly with TAP Portugal a lot living in Europe, after flying twice with them I joined their FREE loyalty program. On my third flight, I was able to take off 20€ from my fare! When I was in my master’s program living in Boston, MA, I joined Delta’s loyalty program and received a free upgrade to first class with my miles after flying back and forth to my home in Phoenix, AZ! It’s free, why not take free perks!?
8). Book in advance! Air fares fluctuate almost everyday; if you look up a roundtrip flight 3 months out at $450, and then check again in 1 week–it might be $470 or $370. But the closer you get to your trip date–say 2-4 weeks out, you may find that the $450 flight is now $890! It’s always safer to book at least a couple months in advance for international flights. I certainly don’t advise you to procrastinate until a week before (though, you never know)!
9) See if you know someone who works for an airline! Just in case you didn’t know, some airlines allow their employees to fly for free or reduced fares–and they can extend this to their family and friends as well. You never know–maybe they need a travel buddy to fly with too!