Sunday, July 6, 2014

How to Snag Cheap Air Travel

I'm reviving this guest post I did for Shane at Whispering Sweet Nothings, as I thought my readers would enjoy seeing how I travel so cheaply. Enjoy!

Every year, I make sure I travel. In past years, I've been to Philadelphia, Dallas, Boston, and even Marrakech, and this year I went to Austin, TX. Of course, airfare is ridiculously expensive, and my university-student budget doesn't have much room for such a luxury.

But if you spend enough time on the Internet, you can travel for almost nothing. With the help of Swagbucks, e-Miles, e-Rewards, and airline dining and shopping rewards programs, I pay less than $100 out of pocket for domestic round-trip airfare. Lucky for you, I'm going to teach you how it's done!


First of all, make sure that you have frequent-flyer accounts with your preferred airline(s). That's how you'll accumulate miles when you book travel and earn miles elsewhere. Now onto the earning!

I'm going to start by telling you about Swagbucks, where you'll earn the most the fastest. Swagbucks is an online platform where you earn points, called "Swag Bucks," for doing simple activities like watching ad videos, taking opinion surveys, and even just searching the web. There's also the Shop and Earn feature, where you can earn points for everyday shopping. (For example, when I bought a $5 Groupon, I earned 20 Swag Bucks--four per $1 spent.) If you install the Swagbucks Toolbar, you'll receive an alert whenever you're on a Shop and Earn site (e.g., Nordstrom or Groupon) that allows you to turn on the program (and thus receive SB). Here's an example:


Each Swag Buck equals a penny, and when you've saved up enough, you can redeem them in the the Rewards Store. The Rewards Store features gift cards ranging from Zappos to Restaurants.com to American Airlines, and you can even exchange your points for PayPal credit! So, in order to obtain a $100 gift card, you need 10,000 Swag Bucks. There are tons of opportunities to earn Swag Bucks on the site, and if you're diligent, you can earn 1,000-2,000 per week--that's $100 every 5-10 weeks! I always opt for the PayPal credit, which I use toward my flights. I recently redeemed $100 that I used toward my upcoming flight to France.

Another quick Swagbucks tip: make sure to do the daily poll and NOSO each day, as they're "free" Swag Bucks. And check the sidebar to see what the daily goal is. If you reach that day's goal, you earn 10% of the goal. So, as you can see, today's goal is 30 SB. If I earn at least 30, I get a bonus 3 SB.

My Swagbucks homepage.

In addition to Swagbucks, most airline companies have opportunities to earn miles through e-Miles and e-Rewards. With e-Miles, you can earn 5-10 miles for each ad opportunity you click; with e-Rewards, you take surveys in exchange for dollar amounts. Once you reach 500 miles (on e-Miles) or $25 (on e-Rewards), you can redeem your points for 500 miles toward that airline's account! I'll be honest, it takes a long time to accumulate miles on these programs, but some is better than none, am I right? Plus, if you pay for airfare using Swagbucks gift cards, you'll earn miles from those airfare purchases, which these additional miles will supplement. Each airline varies, but most programs charge 12,500 miles for a one-way domestic trip.

Choose your airline below to see how you can start earning through e-Miles and/or e-Rewards.*
American Airlines
Southwest Airlines
Spirit Airlines
United Airlines
U.S. Airways

*Note: Delta Airlines does not participate in either of these programs.

My e-Miles homepage.

Like Swagbucks Shop and Earn, most airlines have their own retail programs where you can earn miles for online purchases. Take a look at the retailers with which your preferred airline(s) has partnered, and whenever you want to make a purchase, click through to the shopping site from the airline's frequent-flyer site.

Similarly, sign up for a dining account with your preferred airline(s), and register a credit or debit card with that account. You'll never be charged (you only give the card number, not the security code or expiration date)--it's only so your dining purchases on that card can be recognized.* See which restaurants are partnered with your preferred airline(s), and earn 1-5 miles per dollar spent!

Choose your airline below to see how you can start earning through retail and dining.
American Airlines retail/dining
Delta Airlines retail/dining
Southwest Airlines retail/dining
Spirit Airlines dining
United Airlines retail/dining
U.S. Airways retail

*Note: for any given credit or debit card, you can only register it with one airline. For example, you cannot register the same Visa for both Delta and American Airlines. However, you could register your Visa for one, and another credit card for the other.

U.S. Airways retail site.

Also, if you ever fly on someone else's dime (e.g., a business trip), hold onto your ticket so you can redeem your airline miles! Same goes for if you're flying on an international line that's partnered with a U.S. airline. For example, I flew on Iberia to Israel. Because Iberia is in the same airline alliance as American Airlines, I was able to redeem my ticket for AA miles!

Once you're ready to book your flights, use Skyscanner to compare prices. If you're under the age of 26, though, you may find better deals with STA Travel or StudentUniverse! I booked my one-way flight from Detroit to Paris for just $617 (before all of the PayPal credit and everything) with STA Travel, with just one two-hour layover at Chicago O'Hare. (They have even cheaper one-way flights, but they often have multiple stops or have stops in faraway places like Moscow. Also, even if you are a student, mark yourself as 26 and under, as you don't need to buy a special "student" card.)

One last note: you can earn miles very quickly if you get an airline credit card, but they do come with an annual fee. I've never had a credit card, so all of the miles that I've earned are completely from the above listed ways.

So there you have it, how to travel affordably! Oh, and guess how much I paid out of pocket for round-trip airfare between Detroit and Austin in March? A grand total of $45.

56 comments:

  1. I use Swagbucks too! I am pretty religious about it, I get all the Swagbucks I possibly can but I don't think it's quite as good for us here in Canada unfortunately!

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  2. I am so excited about your tips! I have a trip I want to plan soon!

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  3. Great practical tips! Travel to HI next time.

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  4. OMG, a fellow Swaggernaut! I love this! I have noooo idea what it's like there, but I can't imagine it's too different? I have no idea!

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  5. Ahh I'm so glad! Keep me posted!

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  6. Thanks for the tips! That's definitely a great savings.

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  7. I had no idea about all of these reward-earning resources! Thank you so much for sharing these... and have fun on all of your trips!


    xo,
    Stephanie
    Diary of a Debutante
    www.thediaryofadebutante.com

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  8. SUCH good travel advice! I use Swagbucks, too but I need to start using that more!

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  9. Awesome tips! Always looking to save money!

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  10. This is brilliant! I use Swagbucks but I had no idea that they could actually accumulate into something helpful... as in, I never thought to apply them to airfare. Tons of great ideas, thanks for the tips.

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  11. Ahh, yes! You can earn even more than you thought!

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  12. Yeah, that's the only thing I use them for! :) Well, I use PayPal toward that or get AA gift cards, but yeah!

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  13. Love these tips. I really need to start using some of these to help me travel.

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  14. I need to try this! I definitely want to start traveling, but plane tickets are so expensive!

    xo Marina,
    Earth to Marina

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  15. your tips are great! i have a trip to plan and these tips are so helpful!
    xo
    Orly
    coffeebeansandhighheels.weebly.com

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  16. Wow this is really neat Chloe! I love this :) Thank you for sharing!

    http://neatly-packaged.blogspot.com/

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  17. Great post! Will have to use these tips as I'm an avid traveller!

    Xo, Michelle

    mash-elle.blogspot.com

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  18. Such great tips! I've never heard of swagbucks!

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  19. Thanks for the tips! I love Swagbucks!

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  20. This is great! We're always wanting to travel but flying always kills us! Maybe we'll be able to travel more often!

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  21. What an amazing post! I am totally sharing with everyone I know who travels!

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  22. Thank you for this! It is really helping my trip to LA next summer already!

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  23. Let me know how it works out for you! :) Patience is key!

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  24. Ooooh how fun! Where are you guys off to?

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  25. Seriously, it's the only thing that holds me back. It's easy to find people to stay with (friends of friends, etc.) and many countries are super cheap once you're there (Morocco, Thailand, etc.), but airfare sucks.

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  26. Definitely! Let me know what you end up doing!

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  27. It takes patience, but it's so worth it when you redeem ca$h.

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  28. Yeah! Depending on where you go, it can be really cheap once you're THERE...just getting there is expensive.

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  29. By all means, share away! :D Glad you liked it!

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  30. I'm so glad! I hope you get to go for free. ;)

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  31. I've always wanted to travel around the US and maybe even Europe some day, and I think I'll get there quicker with your tips! I love simple tricks like this that I probably for some reason wouldn't think of on my own haha. Thanks for sharing!

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  32. This is a great way to get cheaper flights! I just recently went to Austin, TX to visit my family!! I would love to go back for that price! <3

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  33. I loved this post! It's actually the way I found you blog! We probably wouldn't be doing a meetup if you didn't write it! Anyway I've been wanting to plan a weekend trip to New York soon!

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  34. Those are some great ways to save on airfare. I was just looking at prices for tickets to London and they are outrageous straight out.

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  35. Austin is such a fun city--it was my first time there!

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  36. Oh yeah. :( Definitely look into STA Travel and enlist the use of Swagbucks!

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  37. Ahhh this makes me smile! :D <3 I can't wait to do the meet-up! I was hoping to go to NY this summer but some stuff fell through and all my money is going to France now. You lucky girl!

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  38. This is such a good idea. I am going to be spending a year in Australia so will be doing a lot of flying and was quite worried about airline costs.
    EnglishPrepster

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  39. I hope these help! Good luck and have fun in Australia!

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  40. I'm Swagging right now, haha. Weekends are hard for getting points though. And I tried to do SBs in the UK. It's definitely harder if you're not in the US. SB codes, SB TV, and more don't work.

    Is E-rewards just for getting airline miles or can you get cash like on SB too?

    Thank you for these tips! Definitely useful for when I want to travel again.

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  41. E-Rewards I don't think can get you cash, but not sure--you can definitely use them toward stuff like Starbucks gift cards, though!

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  42. Oh how neat! I have never heard about that before!!

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  43. These tips are incredible! Thank you for sharing.

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