If you are a travel lover or frequent traveler then you’ve probably heard about how to use points to get free flights — credit card miles with double points on certain purchases, sign-on bonuses, maximizing your points, transferring points, annual fees, the best travel cards, etc. All of this is great, and you can score some amazing deals, fly for free, stay for free and more. However, I only know the basics of how to do this and I pretty much know nothing about maximizing my points. But I do know someone that has this down to a science and is the Albert Einstein of travel credit card points. His name is Brian Kelley AKA The Points Guy. He explains the best credit cards to get based on your spending, how to transfer points, the most valuable sign-on bonuses, travel news, reward programs, airport lounges and SO much more. I highly recommend visiting his website for all your credit card points questions!
So since I am not the points expert, I have found other ways to travel on a budget. If credit card points are not your thing, then check out my top 6 tips on how to travel cheap without using points or miles:
1. Use Multiple Travel Search Engines - Each travel search engine picks up different flights and prices. Try using Kayak and Skyscanner vs just using Kayak. Check out Google Flights’ Explore Destinations feature. Here you can find the cheapest cities to fly to from your desired airport. Also - keep in mind that Southwest does not show up on these search engines. You’ll have to go to their website to find out what kind of prices they offer.
2. Be Open to Budget Airlines - Budget airlines may sound like low quality and discomfort but they can actually save you some major cash and be just as enjoyable. The frustration many people experience comes from lack of customer service and getting charged for extra items (i.e. carry-on bags, food, drinks, etc) However, with a little reading you can find all the rules and regulations on the airline's website. They will tell you exactly what is and isn't included, that way you can plan ahead and pack accordingly. Last year, I booked a flight on Spirit to LA, paid and extra $55 for a checked bag, and still saved more than if I had booked with a full-service carrier. (Read more about how to get the most out of budget airlines here.)
3. Look for One-way Tickets - Try searching for a ticket that departs from one city and returns to another. For example, you may find an amazing deal from NYC to Paris one-way on the date you want to depart. But if you make it a roundtrip flight, the price triples due to the date you want to come back. Instead, search for a different city to fly out of on your way back home. Not only will you get to see another city, you’ll potentially save a lot of money.
4. Try Different Airports - I'm not sure how airlines decide to price their flights, but I do know that there have been many times where I've found a cheaper flight to a smaller airport. For example, Norwegian flies into the smaller airport, FLL (Ft. lauderdale) versus MIA (Miami). I recently found a flight back to the USA from Copenhagen for $144, but only if I flew into FLL.
5. Flexible Dates - The more flexible, the better. Try leaving on a Thursday and returning on a Monday.
6. Avoid Holiday Travel - This doesn't just include Christmas and Thanksgiving. Prices tend to rise for holidays such as Memorial Day, spring break, 4th of July, etc.