So you want to travel for cheap…

I’ve been fortunate enough to learn a few good ways to score cheap flight tickets to enable my passion for traveling. I’m always asked by people how I get such good deals, and I figured I’d share some of the best ways to travel on the cheap. I’m only a good resource as far as the links I can provide, and better advice exists on dedicated travel blogs, but hopefully this helps!

  1. For the open-minded, flexible traveler (happy to travel to plenty of places, as long as it’s affordable):
    • Making this site one of the tabs that opens when you start your web browser is hands down is the easiest way to find a good deal. Roundtrip WAS/NYC -> Europe fares often come up on this site for <$600, and I most recently scored DC to Peru tickets for less than $390 last month.
    • Fares go quickly, so I suggest taking TheFlightDeal’s RSS feed, putting it into Yahoo Pipes, and filtering it specific to the departure cities that you would be willing to fly out of. You can get notified of deals as they appear by plugging in your Yahoo Piped feed into a site like Blogtrottr that emails you RSS updates. Alternatively (and more easily), you can just follow them onTwitter.
  2. For travelers looking to book flights to/from specific places: ITA Flight Matrix paired with
    • Most people know Kayak, but many have not heard of the ITA Matrix. The ITA Matrix is owned by Google, and allows for much more advanced route lookups than common sites like Kayak or Orbitz. You have the option to choose to fly in and out from multiple airports that may or may not be the same, can select specific airports you want to connect in, and most helpful of all, you can select any range of trip lengths, and see the cheapest window over the course of an entire month! Note that ITA Matrix doesn’t let you actually book the tickets, so use it to find the best flight itenerary, and then plug it into Kayak (or your booking website of choice) to actually buy the tickets.
  3. For travelers willing to open a credit card: Get a SPG American Express or United MileagePlus card.
    • While opening a credit card isn’t right for anyone, occasional mileage and point sign-up bonuses can allow for someone to quickly fly a international, multi-leg, round-trip flight for almost nothing. United frequently has offers to get 55,000 miles on sign-up, which yields a card that’s great for travel because it has no international transaction fees. This isn’t currently available, though a 30,000 mile offer is. I’d personally wait for a 55,000 mile offer, though if you click the 30,000 offer link, you’ll help me get some referral miles!
    • A great card if you don’t want to be tied down to a specific airline or alliance is the Starwood Preferred Guest Card. The sign-up bonus is smaller (currently 25k points, and I have only seen it as high as 30k), but you can transfer the 1 point/dollar spent directly to miles on nearly every major airline, with 5,000 bonus miles for 20k point transfer. This essentially means every dollar you spend is 1.25 miles on multiple airlines. You can also use points on a plethora of hotels, or go even further with your points and use them on what I think is their best deal: “Nights & Flights.” 
    • Once you get miles, you can chain together what would otherwise be multiple expensive flights into one, free, award route. Research the terms stopovers and open-jaws, and you’ll be shocked at the flights you can pull off with miles!

If you have any questions, or think there’s a better travel site or credit card than those I mentioned, let me know in the comments!

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