Want to see the world? Want to experience new foods, cultures, places? Ya, most of us do, but we also have bills to pay and have to be grown ups. Luckily, theres LOTS of tips and tricks for cheap/free flights all over the internet. You can spend hours and hours researching different methods (buying tickets exactly 54 days in advance, or midnight on Tuesday, flying midweek instead of weekends, blah blah blah). While some of these, or maybe even all of these, could be true or helpful for finding lower prices on airfare, they’re not necessary.
Theres a million things you can read up on, but we're going to tell you what we personally do and how we’ve been able to book tickets to places like:
- Havana, Cuba for $192 (roundtrip from DEN) - usually around $500-600
- Oslo, Norway for $202 (roundtrip from SJC) - usually around $700-800
- Nassau, Bahamas for $216 (roundtrip from PHX) - usually around $600-900
- Reykjavik, Iceland for $240 (roundtrip from ORD) - usually around $600-700
- Bali, Indonesia for $380 (roundtrip from LAX) - usually around $800-1100
- Auckland, New Zealand for $387 (roundtrip from SFO) - Usually well over $1000
You're probably thinking "I don't live near any/some of these cities." Well, neither do we, but we will explain how we personally do it on the cheeeeaaaap! But first, the services we use:
Email Subscription Services
Instead of wasting all of our time searching for deals, we pay for them. Thats right, we PAY someone else to find deals for us and let us know when things are on sale. Its not as crazy as it sounds (nor expensive). There's a number of free email subscriptions you can sign up for that alert you about discounted airfare. Most of these email subscription services, although free, are not actually giving you everything.
There are other *paid* services that charge you a monthly (or yearly) fee for being subscribed to their “premium services” that include SEVERAL more deals than the free email. You might be thinking, “ya, that great, but how much is a premium subscription gunna run me?” Well, it varies, but something like $30 for a 12 month subscription. Thats quite a few tacos, isn’t it? Or almost a tank of gas for a roadtrip. Well, it comes down to 2-3 bucks a month. Hardly noticeable, and EXTREMELY worth it. If you don’t believe me, look back up to the flights I mentioned earlier. Most of the flights were purchased were less than 50% their usual rate per ticket. We are a family of 3… we have saved THOUSANDS of dollars using email services like these:
- Pomelo Travel - This one is our favorite. Offers both free and paid subscription services. Subscription is only a few bucks a month and you get around 4x the amount of deals in your inbox each week. Also, if its the same deal being sent out as the free subscription email, the paid service is sent a few hours earlier and your chances of having an open seat available are higher because of it.
- Low Fare Don’t Care - Similar deals to those you receive from Pomelo, but in my experience, Pomelo is sent out slightly quicker
- The Flight Deal - A good mix of international deals and domestic. Not always the crazy cheap deals sent out from the two I named above, and definitely never mistake fares (ya, they happen, and they’re sweeeeet), but still nice to see some different ones here as well.
- Flights From Home - This is actually just an Instagram account. Its only flights from Salt Lake City (no we don’t live there). I will explain why we are subscribed to this one below and it will make sense.
So the deal with all these websites/email services is that the destinations are random. So are the departure cities. Generally there's a small list, and sometimes 40-50 cities when a big sale is happening, of departure cities. You may not live in or even anywhere near some of these cities that are having a great sale. You first have to get to where the departure city is, which can be expensive and nullify your savings you got so excited about. This is where tip #2 comes into play:
Getting to the Departure Airport
We use rewards points to fly from wherever we are to the departure city we just bought a cheap ticket from. Buy the cheap mistake fares and sale priced tickets in the email services above and then use very points (very few) to get to that departure city. I won’t go into insane details on which cards are the best and why, because you can google that and find tons of articles on the subject. We're not huge on credit cards. We don’t like debt. We have 1 credit card that we use to purchase EVERYTHING and we pay it off twice a month because we dont think its wise to be paying high interest rates.
Chase offers a Southwest card with a good signup bonus (40k points), very low annual fee of $69 (and easy to get waived after that), super awesome cancelation policy for flights (up to 10 minutes before departure) and 2 free checked bags - always. This is the only card we use and HIGHLY recommend it. You can apply for it here.
All of our gas, food, insurance, cell phone bills, etc all goes on here and each dollar spent turns into points we use for free flights. A ticket from Phoenix to Bali is almost always over $1,000 roundtrip. Pomelo sent out an email about $380 tickets from Los Angeles. We bought them and then used points (freeee) for commuting between PHX and LAX. Thats over $700 of savings instead of just flying out of Phoenix directly. You get the point...
- BE FLEXIBLE. Keep in mind that we don’t have exact dates were looking for, or specific places we are trying to get to. The more open ended you can be for travel dates (I know, I know, sometimes you HAVE to have specific dates because of job scheduling, etc) and for destinations, the more likely you are to score some really good deals.
- BUY THEM. Don’t be shy. When a deal is sent out, they sell out quick. The really good ones within an hour or two, but sometimes flights are available up to a couple days. If you see one that catches your eye, check out the dates, quickly decide if that works for you or not and buy them. United States law requires airlines to have a 24 hour cancellation for ticket reservations. Fill out all your info and card details and reserve that cheap seat. Then you can spend the next 24 hours looking at transportation, food, lodging, etc and ultimately decide if it was a good decision or not. Or just use the 24 hours to contemplate how you’re going to tell your employer you’re quitting, or your wife that you blew a few hundred dollars at 3am last night for flights to South America…oops.
I hope this helps you get to your next dream destination for a much better price than usual. Thanks for reading. This link is for the Southwest Plus Card. We do get a small kickback if you apply through our link (POINTS!) but thats really not the reason for writing this. Share what you love and we’ll see ya out there!!