To afford a life of travel, I emphasize traveling more by spending less on each trip. Since we can’t avoid spending money to travel, we might as well try to spend as little as possible, right?
Instead of spending let’s say $3,000 on 1 trip, cut costs so that you can afford to go on 2-3 trips (or even more if you’re up for the challenge). Honestly, this is how I’ve managed to travel to 4 international destinations (and counting) in 2016.
“By the way, I work full-time and I do not have a part-time job to afford travel. I am not side hustling either. I’m just a big believer in making do with what you have.”
Since flights are one of the most expensive costs associated with travel, this is a great place to look for savings. You can find error fares, flight sales, or use your miles and points. I also recommend checking out my cheap flights directory. Any U.S. based cheap flight that I find goes on this list.
For those of you who need a little more convincing, this a sequel to Cheap Flights Ever Booked. In this blog post, twelve travel bloggers take it up a notch and share the cheapest flights they’ve ever booked with miles and points. This is a testament that cheap flights really do exist!
Make sure to take notes, sign up for these reward programs and get ready to start earning and redeeming.
Cheapest Flights to Africa
North Carolina (USA) to Mozambique (Africa) 80,000 points + $34.40 USD
Tropic of Capricorn in Namibia (photo by Chasing the Unknown)
Collecting miles and points was a habit I picked up as a kid. My dad traveled extensively for business and took the whole family on vacation using the miles and points he earned traveling for work.
I collect points from credit cards and online shopping portals in addition to travel, and I always keep a reserve so that I can book a spur-of-the-moment flight home should the need arise. When I decided to head to southern Africa last September, I had a huge collection of United miles so I treated myself to a business class seat on South African Airways. I started looking about 6 weeks before I wanted to go and booked the ticket 4.5 weeks before my October departure. Enough time to send my passport off to the Mozambique embassy for a visa and be on my way!
Cheapest Flights to Asia
New York City (USA) to Bangkok (Thailand) for 40,000 miles + $52 USD
In the water at Hong Island off the coast of Krabi, Thailand (photo by Eternal Arrival)
For 40,000 United miles and $52 in fees one-way, I booked a ticket to Bangkok, Thailand from New York City!
It was so easy – I just racked up points from credit card signups and booked the ticket online using United’s website. I bought the flight to Thailand in April of 2015 for that upcoming summer (July and August) and it was the best decision of my life. I used Bangkok as a jumping off point and booked cheap flights with AirAsia to see tons of Southeast Asian countries, including Vietnam, Bali, Cambodia, Myanmar, Singapore and Malaysia. Flights were often under $20!
Chicago (USA) to Tokyo (Japan) for 62,500 miles + $2.50 USD
I’ve booked many flights with miles, but the cheapest flight I have ever booked was a first class American Airlines flight from Chicago to Tokyo in January 2014.
The cost of the flight was only 62,500 American AAdvantage miles plus $2.50 USD in fees. I also received 6,250 miles back for having an American Airlines credit card!
I booked my flight online in the fall of 2013 about a year after I started collecting miles and points. Although in my case I was able to find an award ticket online because I was flying on American Airlines rather than a partner, one tip for finding flights with miles and points is to call the airline instead of just relying on what you find online. Some airlines, including American Airlines, do not display award flights for all of its alliance partners. Call the airline to find and book your reward flights.
Cheapest Flights to Europe
New York (USA) to Berlin (Germany) for 40,000 points + $5 USD
Last March I decided to leave Austin, Texas when my lease ended. I have a ton of British Airways points and tend to search for awards flights as entertainment when my brain has otherwise quit working. I don’t usually search for British Airways intercontinental flights since they have such high fuel surcharges (and most stop at Heathrow which has its own high fees).
I suppose someone had returned a flight because a business class flight showed up for October that hadn’t been there the day before. For 40,000 Avios points and $5 USD, I got a one-way business class ticket to Berlin from New York. A similar ticket runs $3,000-$5,000 USD depending on when and how you book.
Being persistent and flexible are what really got me this flight. And both are requirements for booking with Avios since they don’t make it easy.
London (UK) to Stockholm (Sweden) for 26,000 points + £85
Using miles as a Brit is frankly a rip off compared to the deals our US buddies enjoy. No £5.60 taxes for us…think instead hundreds of pounds which may sometimes beg the question, why bother?
British Airways does however offer a European saver with flat taxes of £35 per person for economy and £50 for business class. We bagged flights to Stockholm using 26,000 points and we also used a Lloyds Duo Avios voucher to upgrade to business on the outbound flight. We returned in economy for a total cost of £85.
Tampa (USA) to Frankfurt (Germany) and more for 60,000 miles + $152.80 USD
From Tampa, Florida we flew to Frankfurt, Germany. We spent 8 hours (stopover) touring Frankfurt before hopping on a plane to Lyon, France. Then we drove to Geneva, Switzerland stayed there for a few days and then hopped on another plane to Vienna, Austria. After touring Slovakia, Czech Republic and Austria by land, we flew back to Fort Myers, Florida.
All of this cost 60,000 United miles + $152.80 in fees! By the way, I paid the fees with travel credit from a cash back credit card.
London (UK) to Hamburg (Germany) for 7,750 points + £25
I decided to take a last minute trip to Hamburg, Germany but couldn’t find any amazing deals for the day I wanted to fly. After looking on Skyscanner, I usually log on to my British Airways account to see if it’s worth using my sacred points. There were no economy tickets, but there were business class tickets available. I thought “what they hey, let’s see what they charge for that”. To my complete shock, the flight was only 7,750 points + tax.
So on the 9th of September 2015, I booked a business class ticket flying to Hamburg from London on the 22nd of September 2015 for only £25! Getting this ticket also meant I had access to the BA lounge. To put this deal into perspective, my economy flight to Oslo the previous November was 16,000 Avios points (round-trip) and £75.
Edmonton (Canada) to London (UK) Through Coupon Code
I’m from Edmonton, Canada and it’s not easy to find cheap airfare where I live. Aside from using airline points or winning a flight (I won a free trip to New Orleans), the best airfare deal I got was $209 CAD (including tax) for a one-way ticket from Edmonton, Canada to London, UK.
I lucked out and got this deal when I attended a media event for Westjet (an airline in Canada). They gave everyone in attendance a 50% off coupon. I used the coupon code to leave London and move to Ireland for 2 years.
Cheapest Flights to North America
Detroit (USA) to Calgary (Canada) for 35,000 points + $60 USD
Banff National Park with friends (photo by Suhiyama Travels)
When I went to Banff National Park two summers ago, I booked a round-trip ticket with American Airlines from Detroit to Calgary for 35,000 points and $60 USD in fees. My miles were set to expire, and I wanted one last retreat in the mountains before I moved to Japan, so the timing was perfect. It was my first time to Banff, and I met up with a couple of friends who were living in Edmonton at the time. We had a blast exploring and hiking through the mountains.
San Juan (Puerto Rico) to New Orleans (USA) 37,833 points + $22.40 USD
For two straight years, I earned the Southwest Companion Pass, which allows you to designate a companion that can fly with you on any flight for free. The process of earning the companion pass allowed me to accumulate a lot of Southwest points as well, so I was able to book flights for myself using just points and have my boyfriend tag along for free.
I once booked two round-trip flights from San Juan, Puerto Rico to New Orleans, Louisiana for a total of $22.40 USD. I booked my flight with 37,833 points, which was a little high, but that’s because it was Easter weekend. It wasn’t the cheapest flight in terms of points usage, but considering I traveled to a party destination during a holiday, it was by far the best deal I’ve ever got!
Cheapest Flights to Oceania
Atlanta (USA) to Sydney (Australia) 80,000 points + $73.50 USD
New Zealand glaciers! (photo by Flirting With The Globe)
In late January of this year, I took an epic vacation to New Zealand. The trip was AMAZING, but the most exciting part was the cost – just $73.50 USD round-trip from Atlanta, USA.
How is it possible to fly such a far distance for so little during peak season?
- Collect your airline miles and points. I collected points on my Chase Sapphire credit card which allowed me to transfer them at a 1:1 ratio to United Airlines.
- Book your flight in advance. I booked my ticket in early June 2015 for a late January 2016 departure. This allowed me to book a “super saver” reward ticket with United, which cost me considerably less points than the full “point value” for the fares.
- Be as flexible as possible with your travel dates and the cities you fly in/out of. Even booking more than six months in advance, super saver tickets weren’t available from every city and many dates were blacked-out. I saved a ton of cash (and points) by being flexible. I flew into Sydney, Australia and flew out of Dunedin, New Zealand.
You can travel anywhere in the world for pennies on the dollar with some advance planning and flexibility!
Cheapest Flights to South America
Guayaquil (Ecuador) to Galapagos (Ecuador) 60,000 miles + $40 USD
Welcome to the Galapagos Islands! (photo by Travel to Blank)
For my birthday my wife and travel partner, Jazmin, bought us a ticket to the Galapagos from Guayaquil, Ecuador with miles. It cost us 60,000 miles plus $40 USD for both of us. For that time of the year, it could have easily cost over $500 each.
She bought the flight at the beginning of March 2015 and we flew at the end of March. LAN Ecuador was running a special with miles, where you only needed half the amount of miles that were normally needed for the ticket. Jazmin was looking for a good deal for almost two months until she finally spotted LAN’s promotion.
What’s the cheapest flight you’ve ever booked with miles and points?
Author: Danielle Desir
Danielle Desir is a Travel Finance Strategist that uses her financial background and knack for financial planning to empower those who want to travel afford travel and excel in their personal finances. She shares creative planning strategies, saving tips, cheap flight deals and even talks about her student loan repayment journey on her blog, The Thought Card. Her financial expertise has taken her across the globe to over 21 countries and 3 continents (and counting), all while paying off her student loans, saving for a house, owning a home, and working full-time.
Want More Travel Finance Tips & Advice?
Get the latest travel finance content from Danielle!