I can’t count how many times I am asked how I afford to travel so much. My usual response is that international travel is not as expensive as many think. For instance, in the past year, I’ve planned trips to Belgium, Ireland, and the United Kingdom for all less than $750 (hotel/airfare). How? It’s all in the art of finding a cheap flight.
Step 1: Subscribe to Scott’s Cheap Flights and The Points Guy
Scott’s Cheap Flights and The Points Guy are wonderful as they spend the time searching for the flight deals and then email you what they are. Scott’s Cheap Flights has two different subscription options: a free addition to the email list and a yearly membership for more/better deals in your inbox. The email consists of flight details such as what airline, where the flights leave from, where they land, the dates that are on sale, the price, and how long the deal with last (like any sale, it ends and usually rather quickly). I use these emails as a starting point. For instance, I see that there’s a flight from Boston to London from October to March for $300. While Boston isn’t my home airport, that doesn’t mean that this deal won’t work for me. I can use airline miles from previous trips or credit card miles to book a quick (& free!) flight to Boston.
Step 2: Google Flights
The next step is to hop on over to Google Flights. Here, I search the flight route to find the dates with the cheapest fare. After you select the number of days you want to go for, you can look at the price graph to see the different fares for various dates.
Step 3: Rakuten
After I’ve picked my travel dates based on my Google Flights search, it’s time to head to Rakuten. This step isn’t necessary, but it will score you some cash on your flights! With my Rakuten account, I earn cashback by entering websites through their links, rather than entering the website in my address bar. The percentage I earn on my spendings depends on what site I’m shopping on and what deal they have going on. This step is so easy and can earn some serious cash (in the form of a check delivered to your mailbox). Plus, you can use this for shopping on other commonly visited sites!
Step 4: Expedia
I enter Expedia through the Rakuten link, thus earning cashback. On Expedia, where I have an account, I search the dates/route I found via Google Flights. You should see the same price you found on Google Flights here. Next, I look at potentially adding a hotel to bundle with the airfare. Depending on the location and dates, you can often find a great hotel at a great price. If the hotels seem unreasonable (bad location, pricing, etc), then I would skip the hotel bundle and opt for an AirBnB. I like to book my airfare through Expedia so that I earn points through my Expedia account. When it comes time to book excursions, tours, or even rental cars, I can use my Expedia points as cash towards the booking. A free tour for just having an Expedia account is 100% worth it. Also, if you book your hotel through Expedia, you can earn free nights.
Step 5: Using my Capital One Venture Card
I use my Capital One Venture Card when booking anything travel related. I earn 2x miles on every dollar I spend, have zero foreign transaction fees, and can use my miles to book flights (like the one to Boston), hotels, and more.
Step 6: Airline Reward Programs
Lastly, I make sure that my reservations on ALL my flights have my frequent flyer number attached. I maintain airline reward accounts for all the major airlines, and while I do not strictly fly one airline (as my flights are chosen based on who has the deal, not who I like flying with best), the points still add up. A few flights here and there can give you the miles for the free flight you may need!
There are currently major sales on European routes October – March.