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Flights and accommodations can be some of the most expensive parts of traveling. There are a lot of old cheap flight tricks out there. As a frequent budget traveler, I’m always trying to figure out how to save money on transportation. Here are some of the ways I’ve been able to save money on flights.
How to Save Money on Flights in 2023
1. Fly during the offseason
Flights are often the most expensive at peak seasons (spring break, Christmas), during annual celebrations (Brazil during Carnival), or when the weather is the best (winter in Colorado). If your schedule allows, flying in the offseason can save you hundreds of dollars. Christmastime tends to have the highest prices; followed by January and February having some of the lowest flights of the year.
2. Use a combination of major airports and local public transportation
If I can, I try to avoid flying into small local airports. Tickets from LAX (Los Angeles) to SBN (a small local airport in South Bend, IN) are $300-600+. Tickets from LAX to ORD (Chicago, IL) are $130-350 and require a $15, 2-hour train ride to South Bend. If you have extra time, these savings can be significant.
3. Plan in advance
By planning in advance, you can learn approximate rates and know when you’re getting a good deal. Skiplagged and Kayak help with discovering low, average, and high fares.
4. Learn to travel with just a backpack
By traveling with just a backpack, you can take advantage of budget airlines and get away with just taking a backpack as a personal item, saving both time and money by avoiding checked baggage.
5. Sign up for Scott’s Cheap Flights
This free email list helps you figure out when rates go ultra-low. They also tell you if the deal is common or rare so you know if it’s a fantastic, short-lived deal or something you can take advantage of later. The one negative is you have to be flexible with both location and time, but it’s a great option if you love spontaneous travel. I’ve gotten several domestic deals with Scott. I’ve passed up on great deals like $200 to Lima and $450 to Bangkok.
6. Sign up for travel credit cards
The key to travel credit cards is PAY THEM OFF EACH MONTH. I have the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Bilt Rewards Card.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred: if you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months, you receive 60k bonus points. When eating out with friends, offer to pay for their meal and have them Venmo you. The initial bonus is great for an international trip. Chase’s bonus paid for my roundtrip from LA to Iceland. There is a $95 annual fee but the plethora of rewards makes it a great option for the frequent traveler.
The Bilt card, through Wells Fargo, allows you to pay rent with your credit card. There are no fees involved. The transfer is 1:1 to a variety of points. I haven’t exchanged points for free flights yet, but I have received discounts on rent. The one thing I don’t like about Bilt is it’s primarily controlled by their mobile app, not desktop. When my backpack and all of my credit cards were stolen, I could not cancel my Bilt card through the app. The transactions were canceled and taken off, but it was a pain to deal with.
7. Take advantage of long layovers
Have an 8-hour layover? Don’t just sit at the airport. Leave your luggage at the airport or a bag drop off and head out in the town. The best places to do this are major airports that are close to the city or have good public transportation. For example, Iceland’s primary airport, Keflavík, is about a 40-minute drive to the capital. When factoring in transportation costs and time, it probably wouldn’t be worth exploring for a 6-hour layover.
Sometimes, this can be a LOT in one trip, but can be a fun way to explore a new city.
8. Overnight flights can help save money on accommodation
If you’re strapped for cash, overnight flights can be great for saving money on accommodations. It sucks but overnight flights also tend to be a bit cheaper.
9. Consider cost vs convenience
From 12:30am flights to multiple layovers, I try to weigh the pros and cons of the cheapest option. Sometimes, I’d rather pay $30 than have 2 layovers to get to my destination.
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