Finding a Travel Deal – You Can Do It, Too!

If you read my post last week, you know that my daughter found a great travel deal for our family.  Many of you were excited for us; some expressed how you would like to get a similar deal.  Well, you can!

Today I’m going to share a few ways that my family and I get great deals on airfare.  If we didn’t do this, we wouldn’t be able to travel as much as we do.

When I first started traveling internationally, everything almost seemed like a dream.  Travel was so expensive that I thought my trip in the year 2000, would be my last for many years.  The plane tickets alone were $250! (I can’t believe that’s all we paid 16 years ago).

I fell in love with Europe on that first trip, and since then, have done what I could to add more travel to my life.  I started reading about other travelers and became a huge fan of Rick Steves.  I started following travel bloggers like Nomadic Matt, Chris Guillebeau, and Johnny Jet.  Female travel bloggers are also joining the ranks.

When my daughters started traveling with me, they, too, were caught by the travel bug.  One daughter, in particular, became interested in travel deals when she and I traveled together in 2014.  We started following bloggers that wrote about traveling for free or cheap.

The deal bloggers we like the best are The Points Guy, One Mile at a Time and Wing From the Wing.  In addition to giving reviews of hotels, airport lounges and flights, these three bloggers write about the two main ways to get deals – airline points and flash sales.

Waiting to Take-Off
Waiting to Take-Off

Airline Points. One way to get a deal is to use airline points.  These points can be accumulated by flying frequently or by applying for and using credit cards.  I write about this reluctantly because I don’t want anyone to misuse credit cards. A rewards card can be great, but only if used wisely.

If you would like to try using the credit card method, there is one rule you must follow.  Pay off your credit cards in full each month. If you promise me you will do this, you can read on.

Rewards credit cards can be bank cards – Chase, Citibank or Amex, for example – or they can be for a specific travel company – like United Airlines or Hilton.  Points from the bank cards can be transferred to partner airlines and hotels.

Big points are rewarded as a credit card sign-up bonus.  For example, when you sign up for a United Airlines credit card and spend $2000 in the first 90 days, you will receive 2000 points for the amount you spend plus a 30,000 – 50,000 point bonus.  United also has a “shopping portal.”  If you shop through the portal, you earn multiple points per dollar, building your points total more quickly.

Points from partner bank cards can be combined with those from airline or hotel cards to accumulate the total needed for a ticket.  A “Saver Fare” economy ticket to Europe through United can be purchased for 60,000 points and less than $100 in fees.

Some of the cards have a yearly fee, but these are usually waived the first year. If you are unhappy with the card or don’t feel it is worth the fee after the first year, you can cancel it.  I don’t mind paying the fee for some of the cards that I have, because I know how much the card saves me on plane fares.  (If you want to know more, comment below or email me and I’ll walk you through the process or write a more detailed post).

Taxiing to the Terminal
Taxiing to the Terminal

Flash Sales – The deal we snatched up a week and a half ago was a flash sale. My daughter read an article from The Points Guy telling how United Airlines had lowered their price on the spring fares to Tokyo, Japan, in order to fill more seats.  The prices were offered for a limited time – tickets had to be booked by March 6 – for travel dates from March through May.

Often, a sale like this only includes travel from a select group of departure cities, but Chicago was on the list, so we were covered.  (Also included were Los Angeles, and for about $150 more, Boston).

While we were emailing and texting with the rest of the family about a possible trip, American Airlines (AA) decided to join the sale and matched United’s offer.  We have flown several different airlines and don’t always have a preference, but AA worked out better for us this time.

My daughter had emailed me around noon and by five in the afternoon, we had purchased our tickets.  By 7 pm, there were five of us flying together to Tokyo. We decided quickly and purchased as soon as we decided.  We knew this was a fantastic deal and we didn’t want to let it slip away.

How can you get this kind of a deal?  There are a few ways that you can prepare yourself to be able to grab a deal like this.

  • Be sure you have a valid passport if you want to travel internationally.  We have some time before we leave, but one of my daughters let her passport expire, so she has to pay an extra fee to get it renewed quickly.
  • Be aware of your vacation time at work.  Many of you have a limited amount of time you can take for vacation.  If you want to take advantage of an airfare sale, you will need to save some days or be able to rearrange your schedule.  Another of my daughters decided to cancel her plans to go to New York so she could go to Tokyo instead.  (Maybe next year there will be a fare sale to New York).
  • With any deal and especially if you are using points, read the fine print carefully.  Make sure you understand how the credit card points are combined or transferred.  And again, use credit wisely.  Note that flights like these are usually non-refundable and expensive to change.
  • Have courage.  It takes a bit of courage to jump on a deal like this.  The first time is the hardest.  We were nervous and excited to hit “Buy,” but next time will be easier.

My purpose in writing these posts, is to share what I’ve learned about travel so you can do the same.  I want everyone to be able to travel and to enjoy it as much as I do.  Let me know if you get a deal!

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