Flying isn’t cheap, and it’s what prohibits a lot of us from traveling to new destinations (that and a restriction on paid-time-off *sigh). While prices to fly from the United States to other continents will never be as cheap as we wish they were, there are a couple ways to ensure you’re being savvy and getting the best deal and cheap airfare.
Sign up for miles so that you earn while flying! You’d be surprised at how far a small number of miles can get you. For example, for 30,000 miles you can get a non-stop flight (one-way) from Chicago to Munich. And it doesn’t take that long to get to that number.
My favorite trick to getting free or inexpensive flights is mileage programs on airlines. My advice is to pick one airline and try to fly it as often as possible. I am a United flyer, it’s what the USA team flies, so I make sure to utilize it when I’m home. Now, sometimes a flight on Southwest might be cheaper, but if it’s less than a $100 difference, I’ll still elect to fly United because I’ll get at least a thousand miles added to my account.
Additionally, airlines often allow you to earn miles by shopping or dining aka things I do every day! For example, United offers MileagePlus Shopping and MileagePlus Dining. Link up your credit cards or go through the shopping portal before making an online purchase and you’ll get points for everything you buy. Even if you don’t have a rewards credit card!
A final way to get miles is to participate in surveys. I find this one to be a little tiresome, but if you have a couple minutes to kill at work, it’s a great way to earn a few extra miles here and there. I was once 300 miles short for a flight; so, I took a couple surveys and got the extra miles I needed. I use OpinionMiles Club, e-miles and e-rewards for United but there are a ton more out there (hint: you can get 300 United miles just for signing up!).
For more ways to earn miles, check out The Points Guy’s post.
Fly on off Days
Everyone wants to fly on Fridays and Sundays, which is why they are generally more expensive. If you can, try to fly during the middle of the week or on a Saturday. My favorite day to fly overseas is actually Thursday. Airlines will typically have a late flight that will get you to your destination Friday morning, and it’s a lot less then flying in the morning or on a popular day!
If you can avoid flying on a holiday weekend, make sure to do that as well. Airlines jack up the prices during holidays (rude I know!).
Don’t Fly During Peak Season
In addition to flying on an off day, fly during an off season. The summer months are typically peak season for travelers going abroad, which means prices are going to be much more expensive. I love traveling towards the end of September/early October. Not only does flying during an off season result in cheap airfare, hotel and tourist sites are typically more inexpensive as well. There are a ton of less tourists wherever you go, which is why I advocate for off-season travel!
Track Flights You are Interested In
Two of my favorite sites are Travelzoo and Airfarewatchdog. You can enter where you want to go and you’ll be sent deals or notifications when travel prices are less than normal. It’s great if you are flexible, as well, as they often send random notifications on travel deals.
For example, my sister recently visited Beijing because she got an alert from Travelzoo that flights on American Airlines were only $490 roundtrip from Chicago to Beijing during November. You can’t fly some places within the country for that cheap!
Another of my favorite sites is Skyscanner. You can enter your destination and see when flights will be the cheapest and what airline is offering the best deals. My favorite feature of Skyscanner though is the “Flexible” destination that you can enter. It’ll give you the cheapest locations during the time you want to travel. If you’re flexible and up for anything, this is a great tool! I’d also recommend Momondo. It does essentially the same thing, but gives you a smiley face (which is fun!) and a rating to let you know if the deal is good or not.
Use a Miles Rewards Credit Card
I only recommend this for responsible people as credit cards can oftentimes lead to trouble. However, there are some great cards that provide awesome rewards. For example, the Chase Sapphire card gives you 1 mile for every $1 you spend, and it doesn’t restrict which airline you redeem your rewards on. You can also use it for hotels.
Or, get a rewards card from the airline you fly most. I have the United card because it gives me miles for every purchase and extra miles when I book a flight on United. If you link the card up with the MileagePlus Dining and Shopping – you’ll have a free flight in no time!
Did I miss any tips for getting cheap airfare?