Travel can be expensive. Finances more than anything else has limited our traveling over the past few years. But there was something more that I didn’t realize was limiting us- lack of resources. The resources were there, we just didn’t know about them yet.
We have been able to travel to watch the Cubs play Wrigley Field in Chicago, Road trip around Puerto Rico in a jeep, eat Dim Sum in Hong Kong and visit the most beautiful beaches in Thailand. These trips only happened because I was able to find airfare for often less than half the normal price. I will let you in on some of my secrets on how to find cheap flights.
This is easily the most expensive part of any trip. For our Puerto Rico trip we were able to get one flight for free by cashing in our Delta Skymiles. Airline miles don’t add up very fast and they are only a great way to save money if you use them properly. To get the best deal you need to:
- Sign up for their frequent flyer cards first (not the credit card). They will offer their frequent flyer card holders a credit card deal with a higher sign up bonus or other perks (i.e. you can get 50,000 miles if you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months versus getting 35,000 if you sign up initially from their site)
- Don’t get the card unless you are able to get at least 40,000 points and pay attention to the amount that must be spent first
- Many of these cards have a yearly fee (some waived the first year) but if you keep track of when you signed up for the card and give them a call you can likely talk your way into them waiving it the next year as well
- Pay off your balance as soon as you can! This is where we struggled and it may or may not have been a good deal when we got our first card because we carried a balance on it for too long.
We have credit cards through Delta and Southwest Airlines which gave us enough points that is the equivalent of $500 in airfare per airline.
If any one’s interested I currently have an offer for friends for Southwest Airline that would get you 50,000 bonus points if you spend $2,000 in 3 months if you are approved. This is compared to their current online offer of 25,000 bonus points.
Flight Search Engines
To find the best flight and save money you will have to be willing to put in some extra time. My recommendation is look at a couple different search engines and then when you fight the flight you want, check the price on the airlines website. It may be listed cheaper on the airfares site. And remember, not all search engines are created equally. Here are my go-to places to find flights.
- Skyscanner: this is an easy search engine to use and has an awesome feature to be able to search for flights to “everywhere” if you don’t know exactly where you want to go. This is the first place I look for flights and it usually finds the best deals
- Kayak: I don’t think it’s as good as Skyscanner but I really like the multi-city search function and you may save money finding a hotel/flight package for cheaper
- Hipmunk: I like that it sorts the flights by which one is “best,” not necessarily the cheapest. Because nobody wants a 5 hour layover if you can find a 2 hour layover for a few dollars more.
- Google’s ITA Software: This is the most complicated search engine to use but you will the most comprehensive list of flights here. Also, I like that you can choose multiple airports to depart and arrive at so you can find the best flight to a certain area (i.e. within 500 miles of a San Jose, Costa Rica if your main goal is to just go to Central America). Also, you will find some flights listed here that you won’t find anywhere else and can therefore find a killer deal.
As I stated earlier, it was an email that initially informed me of the crazy cheap deals happening in Puerto Rico in April. Here are some of my favorite and most informative newsletters I subscribe to.
- The Flight Deal: If you don’t hear anything else I say, listen to this: you must subscribe to this newsletter! I get an email everyday with a list of the best flight deals and I look forward to this email every morning! I recently saw a roundtrip flight from Portland-San Francisco for less than $30. True story! It sold out within an hour, sadly. Sign up- you won’t regret it when you score the deal of a lifetime.
- Airfare Watchdog: They will send you the best flight deals for your home airport and will also keep an eye on a specific route for you (i.e. Portland to Las Vegas) and will inform you when an awesome deal comes up. This is how we scored our $100 RT tickets to Chicago in 2014.
*Note: there may be affiliative links in this post, which means if you click on it I could receive a small commission. I have used all of these sites and fully recommend them, and all opinions are my own**
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What are your tips and tricks for finding the cheapest flights?