Flights can be one of the most expensive costs of travel. If you learn a few travel hacks, you’ll save money on your flight and you’ll have more money to pay for food, drinks and tours while you are traveling abroad!
I’ve traveled abroad twice for less than $20. The first time was from Anchorage, Alaska to Glasgow, Scotland in 2014 and, more recently, I flew from Dallas, Texas to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
So, what is the “secret” to traveling abroad for less than $20? Miles!
There are a ton of airlines that have reward programs. Since I live in Alaska, I tend to fly Alaska Airlines and this is where I earn most of my miles. If you live outside of Alaska, there are lots of other mileage plans you can sign up for. Just search for airlines in your area.
The Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan has been rated the best airlines reward program. You’ll earn miles based on the distance between the cities on any Alaska Airlines or partner airline flight, which is unlike other programs that offer miles based on the cost of the ticket.
If you’re not a frequent traveler, it might take a while to earn enough miles to travel abroad… If you want a quick boost because you suffer from extreme wanderlust, you can sign up for an Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card or another reward card. (I am not getting compensated for this post. This is just exactly what I did.) After a few purchases on the card, you’ll earn 30,000 bonus miles! This is more than enough to fly internationally.
BONUS. No foreign transaction fees and annual companion fare! This totally makes up for the costs of the annual fee. I am currently using my card for larger purchases like bus tickets and any accommodations – mainly hostels. And I’m earning miles (to get back home) at the same time!
Tip: If you purchase your flights on Alaska Airlines with your Alaska Airlines credit card, you will earn 3x miles.
Now you can use those miles toward free flights on Alaska Airlines and especially its partner airlines.
Here’s how I book my award flights on Alaska Airlines.
First you need to figure out where you want to go. Iceland? New Zealand? Peru? Enter in your origin and destination cities. You MUST check “Use Miles” in order to search for international destinations. I also select “One Way” so I can fly back home from a different city. Now enter your ideal departure date and click the”Find Flights” button.
Now you can browse available award flights. I like to view by calendar so I can see the cheapest flights available. Another tip is to look at departing flights farther out than your ideal departure date to determine the cheapest flight you could potentially book. I usually aim for 20K miles and $20 for any destination.
Flight costs are constantly changing and they saw Tuesdays are the best day to book travel. Once you know what the minimal cost could be, you can start to watch flights around your ideal departure date.
It’ll always be easier to find cheaper flights if your travel dates are flexible. I knew I could fly to Rio de Janeiro for 20K miles but since I was arriving around the time of the Olympics I ended up using 30K miles and flying a week and a half earlier than anticipated.
You can also look for flights out of different airports in nearby cities. My brother lives in Austin, Texas but Dallas had way more flight options. He ended up driving me 3 hours so I catch my flight!
The cheapest way may not always be the most convenient but if you can make it work then you should make it work.
Interested in saving even more money? Any Alaska resident can sign up for Club 49 to get two free checked bags when traveling to or from Alaska on Alaska Airlines.
Have some travel hacks of your own? Let’s chat about it in the comments.