How To Get The Cheapest Airfare (Transatlantic Roundtrip for $425) A Real Example

I travel full time. 365 days a year. On the road. In planes, trains and automobiles. I love it and need to start using this blog to share tips and secrets on how you can travel more too. Since I started tracking miles with Tripit I’ve traveled 713,490 miles.

Over the years I have developed quite a few airfare hacks / have been doing it so much I think I’m skilled. ”How do I find a cheap ticket to ______?” is the #1 question people ask me when they find out I travel year round. Let’s go into a real life example.

I do a lot of work in Europe (thanks to the amazing HackFwd). My heart is in Colorado. Long time readers know how I generally plan a round the world trip, but flying in between two points a few years can be expensive. I plan about two months into the future and February 24th is as far as I’ve planned. A one way flight from LHR->DEN is the only ticket I NEED, but dear reader, that is expensive and stupid to do.

stupid one way

I think most business travelers would say “Sunday, I need to be home on Sunday” and book the $1177 one way, or even worse the $1999 direct flight.

one way direct $1999

Now if you are experienced flier you are thinking one of two things:
1) Buy a round trip, it will be cheaper!
2) Use your miles!

And you, for this trip, would be wrong.

1) Round trip between these two destinations doesn’t save much. $982 for round trip isn’t exactly cheap. Sometimes this is good thinking, always good to check.
2) Booking an awards mile ticket to cross the Atlantic results in some hefty fuel surcharges. In this case, over $400 plus 20,000 AA miles. Best option so far, but that isn’t good enough!

fuel surcharges over $400

Notice the 20,000 miles is from Europe to the US and can be anywhere in the US, including a stopover. A great one way milage hack.

So what did I do? I’m just over three weeks out which isn’t ideal for international travel (I usually book six to eight).

I first looked at one way tickets between nearby airports. Paris. Meh, not cheaper and not a great airport. Dublin is a place I’ve always wanted to go to and is a train and ferry away from London. One way awards travel DUB-LHR-DEN. That expensive LHR-DEN above is in here:

dublintoden

Nice, for $300 + 20,000 miles I can go around the world. Time to book? Hell no. We can do better.

More searching. Tinker, tinker, tinker. +3 days on either side search again. Go a week ahead, search again. Go a month ahead, search again. See where the price breaks are. Notice what airlines drop the price at how many days out. Play around.

What does my calendar look like? I have a wedding in NYC this summer of my great neighbor for many years Jen. Doing a Europe trip after this wedding is going to make a lot of sense, so lets break out the most underused option in booking airfare and multi city check LHR->DEN and NYC-> LHR. Closer. Let’s try that nearby city of Dublin:

DUB->DEN (with a stop at JFK) and JFK->LHR.

Drumrollllllllll: $425.

$425

dub-den-jfk-cheap-airfare

Yes!!!

Safe to say I was booking that after I finished a round of high fives with everyone in the hotel. After some shopping around I opted for the $520 fare that had better hours for me.  A huge win. If you take off the taxes and airport fees, the airline is just getting $187.35 to fly me over the Atlantic… twice. With food. And wine.

Modern travel is super cheap. Or can be.

Of course I also earn some perks for spending $ on a credit card and for the actual flights. Miles earned: 6630 for the flight (don’t have status on this airline) and 1560 for booking on a 3x point AMEX (in total about a 1/4 of a domestic round trip award ticket). The missing leg of DEN-> JFK is cheap with points (10,000 + $2.50 on Frontier, which is almost covered by the above points).

So, how did I get this good of a deal? I was flexible and tried a lot of options. I thought out of the box as far as what was nearby and what my schedule actually needed. I tried booking out all my options including all my milage points. Perhaps the biggest key (besides having a great attitude for the process and treating it as a game) is being a little bit lucky.

How can I help your next trip happen? Get on the road!

Related Posts:

  • http://twitter.com/danhhoang Danh Hoang

    Great post Andrew. I’m trying to figure out how to get to Vietnam cheap. Seems like any flights to southeast Asian will eat my wallet as prices peak near the $1500-$1600 mark. Any suggestions for that?

  • http://andrewhy.de/ Andrew Hyde

    Austin to Bankok is ~$1280 at a quick glance. ~$1000 to Hong Kong! If you have the flexibility I’d try that! If you go http://www.kayak.com/explore/ and type in your destination you can see quickly where there are direct flights to (which can be cheaper / something to build on).

  • http://twitter.com/matthaltom Matt Haltom

    You are a travel guru. :) Thx for sharing.

  • http://twitter.com/gregcohn Greg Cohn

    how many hours did u spend researching this? (serious question, not a pointed one — i’d rather pay someone else to do this for me and am wondering how cost effective that would be.)

  • http://twitter.com/andrewhyde Andrew Hyde

    Thanks for reading (and sharing)!

  • http://twitter.com/andrewhyde Andrew Hyde

    This was a particularly lengthy search because the first searches (six weeks from the travel date) were ~$1200 roundtrip. I put a lot of time into it but was also learning a lot about open jaws and fuel dumps.

    6-7 hours + 1 to write this post is my best guess.

    Doing it again for this route would take 1-2 now that I know what to look for and what the absolute bottom is.

    There are some services that do reward booking (say you have 100k points) but mainly focus on business class tickets.

  • http://www.facebook.com/MrDion Mike Dion

    What site or sites are you using for your research?

  • http://andrewhy.de/ Andrew Hyde

    I use kayak.com in 90% of searches.

  • http://twitter.com/lksugarman Lydia Sugarman

    Don’t overlook alternate US cities, e.g. Dallas, Houston, LA, or SF/OAK, then buying a cheap domestic rd-trip.

  • http://twitter.com/chrishough Chris Hough

    Great post Andrew, I have been exploring these same things for the Hough family as we make plans to travel. By fighting for the lowest price do you often find you have to trade in overall trip duration? Direct flights cost more, but you get their faster. I am curious as to the correlation between the savings and the actual time spent traveling. While that time is not dead time, it is still traveling time. Cheers. When you land in PDX next, hit us up. We love it here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brandon.whalen Brandon Richard Whalen

    I want me and my wife to go visit my 86 year old grandmother in Santiago, Chile next January. I should probably start planning now.

  • http://andrewhy.de/ Andrew Hyde

    You could book that on miles having that much time to plan.

  • http://twitter.com/andrewhyde Andrew Hyde

    Sometimes cheap = lots of hassle. Not with this trip (DUB->JFK->DEN is about as nice as it comes time wise. Saving two hours to fly around the world has never been, well, something I think about a lot.

    Hope to see you in PDX!

  • Steffen

    Hey, great site! got here through a referral on http://simplifyyourlife.tumblr.com/.

    I was just checking for cheap flights on kayak from canada to germany. found a flight from nyc to dus for $600 which would be ok. the flight is actually with a transfer in yyz. would it be pssible to book the flight and only board in yyz. that would be way more convinient for me. such a cheap flight from yyz to dus wouldn’t come up by itself…

  • Nancy

    Love your post Andrew. I will be going to Lourdes/France from NYC RT in September,but I also try and get a few days in Glasgow/Scotland to see my family. I usually go to France then Easy jet to Glasgow. Then leave from Glasgow back to NYC. I would appreciate any tips. Thanks Nancy

  • Oz

    How about skyscanner.com? Better than kayak and sometimes i use onetravel.com

  • http://www.hotelurbano.com.br/ Rickeytard

    That’s great information about flight. I was searching for the cheap flight rate but I was not getting. After going threw your blog I got it.

Commenting Rules