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.
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.
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!
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:
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.
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!