3 Strategies for Cheap Airfare

Sometimes my readers write to me with travel-related questions.  I always do my best to help out, and thought I’d share some of the questions and answers here in my blog posts.  I hope you find them helpful!  Feel free to add pointers of your own in the comments below, or ask me anything about travel.  Who knows, maybe your question will be featured in a future blog post?

Today’s question comes from L.M.:

Q:

Hi Lily,

I actually found your site while looking up travel grants for teachers (and read through your helpful and extensive list).  I’ve applied for the first one on the list, the BUSS program to study Shakespeare in London.  Since the scholarship covers tuition, room and board, and most food, I need to figure out how to finance my plane ticket to London in July, should I get the scholarship.  Any pointers? Thanks.  ~L.M.

A:

Hello, L.M.!  I’m glad you found my list of grants helpful.  For plane tickets, I would suggest doing one or more of these three things:

1.  Collect frequent flyer miles.

If you can collect enough miles, your flight would be virtually free (you only pay the fees and taxes, often less than $100).

The fastest way to earn a bunch of miles all at once is to apply for a credit card that offers the miles as a bonus (usually after meeting a minimum spend, and there are a few different strategies for doing this).  I believe the best deal out there right now is the US Airways card which gives you 50,000 miles after your first purchase (NO minimum spend, which is really unusual!) and the payment of the $89 annual fee.  This puts you close to the 60,000 miles required for a ticket between US and Europe, which you can earn in various ways.  Incidentally, US Airways miles will soon become American Airlines miles (in the second quarter of 2015), so if you already have miles on American (or sign up to earn some) you should be able to combine them.

I could go on and on about frequent flyer miles; if you are interested in this option and want to know more, just ask and I’ll be happy to help answer any questions.  I have flown close to free on miles many times–I can’t recommend them highly enough.

I know it sounds too good to be true, but the fact is that most people just don’t want to put in the effort to collect and use them or learn how.  They are not as easy as simply paying for a ticket, but it’s not hard, either, and the amount of money they save you make them well worth a little time and effort to learn and use.

2.  Get airfare alerts.

If you aren’t interested in getting a credit card for whatever reason (and I know there are plenty of good reasons NOT to get credit cards), go to Skyscanner.com and/or airfarewatchdog.com and sign up for fare alerts between your nearest airport (check for several airports if possible, since prices can vary quite a bit depending on airport) and your desired destination, and keep an eye on the fares.  The latest research seems to indicate that the best time to buy a ticket is 57 days before a flight, and Sunday is typically the best day of the week on which to buy.

3.  Sign up for the daily “Flight Deal” newsletter at theflightdeal.com and keep an eye out for some awesome deals.

If you’re a Twitter user, also follow them: @TheFlightDeal.

Every now and then an airline will make a mistake posting an airfare, and if you’re lucky to see it soon enough you might land an amazing deal.  The Flight Deal is really good about alerting followers about these mistake fares and other good airfare deals.

Their blog posts will tell you exactly how to go about booking the ticket to get that fare, but you need to act fast because the really good fares never last long, and the mistake fares are often cleared up within just a few hours–so be ready to jump if you ever see one.  Buy first and ask questions later; you can always cancel within 24 hours and get your money back if you change your mind.  Usually airlines will honor mistake fares to avoid bad publicity.

One last thing: if you are buying a ticket and have been searching airfares on one browser, it’s a good idea to open a different browser (or an incognito window if you’re using the Chrome browser) or use a different computer to make the purchase because once your computer is detected searching for a particular fare, the airlines and travel websites sometimes increase that fare when you come back later.  Always double-check from a different computer or a different browser to make sure the price isn’t being artificially raised on you.

I hope all this helps!  Please let me know how the process goes with your grant application.  How exciting!  Good luck!

Lily

P.S.  If you’re a teacher traveling primarily for educational purposes, you might also approach your school district or the Department of Education and see if they can help fund your trip!

CLICK HERE! Download Your FREE Teacher Travel Grants Spreadsheet!

About the Author

I spent 5 years of my childhood in Mexico, became a teacher, traveled the world, married a nomad, and now run some websites and write books!