How to Buy and Use Round the World Tickets (RTW) in 2019

If you’ve never heard of round the world tickets, you may be missing out. Round the world tickets (also known as an “around the world ticket” or just “RTW”) allow you to fly to many destinations in one trip, often more cheaply than buying tickets individually.

But is buying an RTW ticket worth it? And how the heck do you buy one, anyway? In this guide, we’ll show you everything you need to know. We’ll cover what RTW tickets are, how they work, and whether or not you should buy one for your next trip. (more…)

How to Earn the Southwest Companion Pass in 2019

The Chase Southwest Companion Pass is one of, if not the, best airline perks out there. For people who fly domestically, it is an absolute must-have.

Even for people who don’t fly domestically that often, it can still provide incredible value and is probably worth getting.

Read on to find out what the Southwest Companion Pass is, how to get it, and our favorite ways to use it.

Jump to:

What Is the Southwest Companion Pass?

The name of the card is not intended to fool; the Southwest Companion Pass is exactly what it says it is.

The pass allows a companion (spouse, mother, friend, favorite blogger) to fly free with you when you fly on Southwest.

And unlike many other airlines, Southwest does not make the rules super confusing. In fact, the process is fairly straightforward:

  1. Once a person earns the Companion Pass (how to earn it is discussed below) they will designate the individual they want as their companion.
  2. The Companion Pass arrives in the mail.
  3. When the person is booking their tickets online, there is an option to choose to use the Companion Pass. When the person is booking over the phone, they simply have to tell the representative they want to use the Companion Pass.
  4. The companion flies for free.

About as easy as it gets, right?

Here’s a closer look at how you can earn the Companion Pass:

How to Earn the Southwest Companion Pass in 2019

Technically, there are two different ways to earn the Companion Pass:

  1. By flying 100 qualifying one-way flights with Southwest in a calendar year.
  2. Earn 110,00 Southwest points in one calendar year.

Since 99% of people won’t fly enough on Southwest to earn it the first way, we will focus on how to earn 110,000 Southwest points in one calendar.

At first glance, this may seem difficult, but in fact, it’s not hard AT ALL – below are all the options for earning 110,000 Southwest points in one calendar year.

Option 1: Open Two Southwest Credit Cards

Getting the Companion Pass is so easy because Chase is currently offering three different Southwest credit cards that EACH earn you Southwest points that count toward the Companion Pass.

The amount of points each credit card earns changes throughout the year, but you can generally get these cards with bonuses between 25-60k.

All you have to do is open up two of these credit cards and you’ll be at 110k Southwest points (and the Southwest Companion Pass) before you know it!

Plus vs. Premier Southwest Credit Cards

The first thing to be aware of is that there are two types of Southwest cards, the Plus and the Premier. These cards differ slightly:

  • The Plus has an annual fee of $69 and offers 3,000 Southwest points as an anniversary bonus each year you keep it open. Also, it charges a foreign transaction fee of 3%.
  • The Premier has an annual fee of $99 and offers 6,000 Southwest points as an anniversary bonus each year you keep it open. It has no foreign transaction fee, so you pay nothing extra when you use it abroad.

The second thing to understand is that Chase offers both a personal and a business version of the Southwest Premier card.

That means there is a Plus personal card, a Premier personal card, and a Premier business card — three opportunities to make the Southwest Companion Pass yours!

To ensure that you get the sign-up bonus for both cards (more than enough points to qualify for the Companion Pass), we recommend opening both a business and a personal card.

Since one is a personal card and one is a business card, you can apply for them at the same time without issues getting approved.

It is possible to reach the necessary number of points by opening two personal Southwest credit cards, but we don’t recommend it, as Chase is unlikely to approve an application for two personal credit cards so close together.

If applying for a business credit card feels intimidating, don’t worry. Here are some tips to get approved for a business card.

Other Ways to Earn Qualifying Points

If you only get approved for one Southwest credit card, or just want to apply for one of the cards, don’t worry, there are plenty of other ways to rack up points towards your Southwest Companion Pass.

Just a quick (but very important) heads-up: Not all the ways that you can get Southwest Rapid Rewards points count towards the Companion Pass, so be careful.

For example, buying 6,000 Southwest points WILL NOT count towards the Southwest Companion Pass, nor will transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points directly to Southwest. Transferring points from hotel loyalty programs was also cut out of the equation early in 2017.

Option 2: Spend with the Southwest Credit Card

For each dollar you spend, you’ll earn one Southwest point, so if you spend $6,000, you’ll earn 6k points!

Plus, any Southwest flights you purchase on the card earn you an additional point, making it that much easier to rack up those Rapid Rewards points! For instance, if you use your Southwest credit card to buy a $300 ticket, you’ll earn 600 points instead of just the regular 300.

I’d recommend this for anyone who has a big purchase planned or plenty of monthly expenses that you can pay with a credit card.

Your regular monthly spending could earn you your Southwest Companion Pass in no time!

Option 3: Book Hotels Through Southwest Hotels

If you are planning any travel in the near future, consider booking your hotel through Southwest Hotels.

The base rates for points will count towards your Southwest Companion Pass.

Generally, you’ll earn one point per dollar spent on hotels. This isn’t bad, but we can do better — some hotels give you up to 10k points!

For instance, a quick search for a one night stay in Las Vegas shows many hotels with 1-2k Rapid Rewards points per night. A $254 night at The Palazzo will earn you 7,000 Rapid Rewards points when you book it with your Southwest credit card.

Southwest Hotel Deals Vegas

And when you pay for the hotel with your Southwest credit card, and you’ll earn an additional two points per dollar. Meaning that, in the above example, your total earnings would be ($254 x 2) + 7,000 = 7,508 points.

Option 4: Shop Through the Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal

Everyone shops online – so why not earn something for it?

There are lots of stores on the Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal that you probably already shop at, so make sure you visit those shops through the portal and earn points towards your Southwest Companion Pass for buying what you were already going to buy!

Earn Rapid Rewards points at websites like Restaurant.com, Home Chef, Shutterstock, Bass Pro Shops, Lord & Taylor, Tumi, Apple, and Nike.

Buying a new iPad Pro? That’s 650 points towards your Southwest Companion Pass.

Buying $100 worth of clothes for the kids at JCPenny? That’s three points per dollar equalling 300 points!

The best part is that you can double dip when you pay with your Southwest credit card. This means iPad Pro purchase has turned into 1300 Rapid Rewards points and the clothing from JCPenney has become 400 points.

All of these points count towards your Southwest Companion Pass!

There are hundreds of websites listed, so make sure you check the Rapid Rewards portal before you click “buy” and you’ll be well on your way to the Southwest Companion Pass!

Option 5: Go out to Eat with Rapid Rewards Dining

If you go out to eat a lot, be sure to take advantage of this opportunity to earn points towards the Southwest Companion Pass.

Signing up for Rapid Rewards Dining Program will earn you up to three points per dollar towards your Southwest Companion Pass at participating restaurants.

That means a $20 dinner would net you 60 Rapid Rewards points!

If you use your Southwest credit card, you can double dip and earn even more!

Your $20 dinner just turned into 80 Rapid Rewards points just by using the right credit card. Who thinks double dipping is bad now?

Option 6: Fly Southwest Airlines

This might seem like a no brainer, but it really does make sense. You’ll earn miles for your fare, plus an additional two points per dollar when you book with your Southwest credit card.

You’ll earn Rapid Rewards points based on the fare you buy:

  • 6 points for Wanna Get Away
  • 10 points for Anytime
  • 12 points for Business Select

If you book a $200 Wanna Get Away fare, you’ll earn 1,200 Rapid Rewards points.

If you book that same fare with your Southwest Credit card, you’ll earn an additional 400 points for a total of 1600 Rapid Rewards points!

A $300 Anytime fare will earn you 3000 Rapid Rewards points (300×10=3000!)

If you’re a little short on Companion Pass qualifying points, spending a little extra on your next Southwest flight could bump you up to two for one travel for the next year!

5 Awesome Southwest Companion Pass Benefits

Still not convinced of the value of the Southwest Companion Pass? There are five things that make the Companion Pass especially awesome. Let’s take a look at them:

1. You Can Use the Pass Unlimited Times

This is not a one-time pass, but instead allows a companion to fly free with you EVERY TIME you fly Southwest.

Yes, you are hearing me correctly: EVERY SINGLE TIME you fly Southwest.

Theoretically, I could fly Southwest every day and my companion would fly free with me each and every time.

2. The Companion Pass Can Remain Valid for Up to 2 Years

You may think you are mishearing misreading me, but you aren’t. The Companion Pass is good for the year you earn it and the next calendar year as well.

Example: Let’s say you get your Companion Pass on October 1st. Your Companion Pass will then be good for October, November, and December of 2019 and then all of 2020, for a total of 15 months.

Of course, the way to squeeze maximum value out of it is to get it as early in the year as possible (like January) and then you’d have it for a full two years.

Bingo!

3. Your Companion Flies Completely Free

With most things in life, free doesn’t mean free, and a lot of times there is enough red tape and rules to make the “free” item not even worth it.

This is NOT the case with the Southwest Companion Pass.

In this case, free really does mean free.

The only thing that the companion will be required to pay is a government-mandated September 11th security fee and taxes which is about $5.60 one way.

Other than that, there are no costs for the companion whatsoever.

And in case you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last two years, you should be aware that bags fly free on Southwest (awesome commercial evidence here, here, and here), so the companion won’t even have to worry about that cost!

4. You Can Use the Companion Pass on Both Paid and Award Flights

Whether you pay out of pocket for your flight or use some of the Southwest miles you’ve accumulated to get an award ticket, your companion can still fly free with you.

This is basically unheard of in the airline world, as every other companion pass (that I’m aware of) requires the original person to pay for their ticket.

Not on Southwest.

So whether you pay $500 for a last-minute ticket, $150 for their normally cheap regular fares, or fly free yourself using your Southwest miles, your companion can come along as well.

What’s better than one person flying free on Southwest?

TWO PEOPLE FLYING FREE ON SOUTHWEST!

5. You Can Change Your Designated Companion Up to 3 Times Per Year

After you originally designate your companion you can change it and get a Companion Pass reissued with another person’s name up to three times a calendar year each year you maintain your Companion Pass.

This can be done instantly over the phone and is an awesome perk that often gets overlooked among all the other amazing things about the pass.

I’ll give you a good example of how I plan to use this to my advantage.

Naturally, Heather (my wife) will be my companion on many of my trips.

However, instead of designating her as my original companion, I plan on designating my best friend Jon because we are planning a trip together down to Florida.

After we take our trip and he flies for free (saving him anywhere between $150-300), I’ll call in and ask to designate Heather as my new companion.

Then, we’ll use the Companion Pass to fly all over this awesome country of ours.

You can even designate a new companion (i.e. Jon), change it to someone else (Heather) and then change it back to the original person (Jon).

FINAL WORD(S)

The Southwest Companion Pass is an amazing, amazing perk and even those who only occasionally fly domestic should consider it. Southwest is expanding their route network every year with flights to the Caribbean and Latin America already happening.

For anyone who flies a decent amount (or would if it was cheaper), it’s an absolute must.

Grab a personal and business card, find a good companion, and experience the joys of free travel!

If you’ve got the Southwest Companion Pass, weigh in below. Is my love for it justified? Where have you gone with it? If you don’t have it, how do you plan on getting it? Fire away!

How to Use Frequent Flyer Miles: The Mega FAQ

The goal of this FAQ is to serve as a guide for anyone (from total newbie to veteran) who has questions about how to use and redeem their frequent flyer miles to book a ticket.  I’ve attempted to arrange the questions in an order from the most basic to the more advanced while also keeping some semblance of continuity between the topics discussed.

I want this to be a “living document”, so if you have any other questions I’ve missed or things you want explained, please ask, either by commenting below or by emailing.  I’m looking to continuously add to the list, so don’t be shy!

1.  Since I have 50,000 miles, that means I can fly 50,000 actual miles, right?

I start with this basic question because that is EXACTLY what I thought when I first heard about frequent flyer miles.  Turns out, I was completely wrong.  The term “miles” does not equate to the actual miles you can fly, and should really be thought of as “points”.  A certain amount of points will equate to a certain level of prize (free flight), but it does not necessarily correlate with the actual number of miles that flight will be.

For example, an economy class roundtrip ticket between Philadelphia and San Francisco will cost 25,000 miles but the distance you will actually be flying is about 5,000 miles roundtrip.

2.  How do I determine how many miles I need to fly to a specific destination?

Each airline has different charts that determine how many miles you’ll need to fly to and from each place.  The best place to go to determine how many miles you’ll need to fly from place to place is milez.biz which will show you the miles you need for each airline.  This is much faster than checking each airline’s individual award chart.

3.  Will I pay more to fly business class or first class than economy class?

Yes.  How much more depends on the airline.  Milez.biz will show you the prices for economy class, business class, and first class.

4.  Is a first class redemption worth it? 

That’s up to you.  Some people prefer to make their flights as comfortable as possible.  Others prefer to get as many trips out of their frequent flyer miles as possible.

5.  If I have 50,000 American Airlines miles, does that mean I can only use them on American Airlines flights? (substitute American Airlines with any other airline you wish).

No, not usually.  Most airlines are part of one of the three major alliances; OneWorld, Star Alliance, or Sky Team.  To see what airlines are a part of what alliance, see this Wiki page.

If the airline that you have miles with is part of an alliance, you will be able to use those miles to fly on the other partners in that alliance.

For example, lets say you want to fly from New York to Madrid and you have AA miles.  AA does not operate this route, but Iberia does.  Iberia and AA are both part of the OneWorld Alliance, and therefore, you can use your AA miles to fly with Iberia.

6. Which airline alliance should I focus on?

The short answer is, it depends. If you live near a major airline’s hub, Delta’s Atlanta hub is a good example, then focusing on SkyTeam is a good idea because you will have access to many more flights out of Atlanta.

If you don’t live near a hub for a major airline, then finding the right alliance is a little trickier and it becomes more dependent upon where your dream destination is!

7.  If I am using miles from one airline but flying on a partner airline, which airline do I actually book the tickets with?

You will always book the tickets (either online or over the phone) with the airline that you have the miles with, not the airline you will actually be flying.

If you are using AA miles but flying on Iberia, you will book your tickets with AA.

8. If I am  using miles from one airline but flying on a partner airline, whose award chart do I use to determine how many miles it will cost?

You always use the airline whose miles you are using to determine how many miles a trip will cost, not the airline(s) that you will actually be flying on.

If you are using AA miles but flying on Iberia, you will use AA’s mileage chart to determine how much it costs.

9.  What is the difference between a “zone-based” award chart and a “distance-based” award chart?

Most airlines operate on a zone-based award chart.  The world is divided up in to sections, such as North America, Europe, Middle East, etc.  Travel from one zone to another is a certain amount, no matter what city you leave from or arrive at.

For example, you would pay the same amount to fly from Vancouver to Rome as you would to fly from New York to London because each flight would be leaving from the same zone (North America) and arriving in the same zone (Europe).

A few frequent flyer programs operate a distance based award chart (with British Airways being the most notable).  With a distance-based award chart, you are paying based on how many miles you are actually flying.

Using the above example, a ticket between Vancouver and Rome would cost many more miles than a ticket between New York and London because it is twice as far.

10.  Can I book one-way award tickets or must I always book roundtrip?

This totally depends on the airline whose miles you are using.

In the U.S., the major carriers (American, United, Delta, and Southwest) all allow one way award redemptions.

11.  How do I find availability if I want to fly on partner airlines?

Most airlines’ websites will only show availability for their flights, not for all their partner’s flights.  If you have AA miles and simply go to AA.com to search for availability, you won’t be seeing all the possible options.

The best way to see availability on for all OneWorld partner’s is to use Qantas’s website.  If you’ve never done this before, first check out my step by step instructions and video tutorial.  Remember, you won’t actually book through Qantas’s website, but you will be able to find flights you want and then call the airline whose miles you are using and tell them the times and numbers of the flights you want.

The best way to see availability for Star Alliance partner’s is to use either ANA’s website (which is pretty complicated but gives the best results) or United’s (which is much simpler but isn’t quite as comprehensive).  I show you how to use both of them in this post, complete with two video tutorials and step by step instructions!

If you have miles in a bunch of different airlines across all alliances and want to check for availability all at once, I suggest using AwardTravelr.com or Award Nexus.  Both are free but Award Nexus requires you sign up for the Flyertalk forum first.  Wouldn’t you know, I’ve got another video tutorial and written instructions for you if your confused by Award Nexus.

12.  Are there any specials or discounts that airlines offer on using frequent flyer miles?

American Airlines offers off-peak rates to certain destinations throughout the year. To read all about the value of traveling off-peak, the rules regarding off-peak travel, and what destinations are available, click here.

Flying Blue (the frequent flyer program of KLM, Air France, and others) also offers 50% off certain destinations all year round.  Every 2 months, they’ll change the destinations, so continue to check back.  American Express Membership Rewards point will transfer to Flying Blue at a 1:1 ratio.

13.  When I use frequent flyer miles, will my flight be free?

No, you’re flight will not be completely free, but it will usually be a whole heck of a lot cheaper than paying for a ticket!

They are not completely free because you will be required to pay the “taxes and fees” associated with your flight.  Unfortunately, there is no set rule of how much these will cost, as they can range from $5-$700+.

14.  How can I pay less taxes and fees on an award ticket?

The two main culprits for why these prices can vary so wildly are the amount of the airport tax (London Heathrow is notorious for having high taxes) and whether an airline charges a fuel surcharge as part of the “fee”.

It is difficult to avoid the airport tax charged unless you decide to fly somewhere else.  Usually, the amount you’ll pay in taxes isn’t enough to justify going out of your way to find another airport.

Fuel surcharges are another story, as they make up the bulk of the money charged on award tickets.  To avoid them, you must use miles for carriers that don’t charge them (like United) or fly on routes that where they are not charged.  To learn all about fuel surcharges and the way to avoid these like the plague, start here.

15.  Can I combine frequent flyer miles from different airlines?

No.  If you have frequent flyer miles 50,000 American Airlines miles and 50,000 United miles you can not combine them to make 100,000 miles.  Each airline’s miles must always be kept separate.

16.  Can I transfer my mom/dad/sister/brother/friend’s miles in to my account?

If the miles are from the same airline, then yes, you can transfer (or share) them between accounts.  However, most airlines will charge you a substantial fee to do this.  For example, AA charges $10 for every 1,000 miles plus a $30 fee for each transfer. This is almost always a terrible value for your money and miles!

There are a few airlines that let you “pool” your miles together and have household account, as long as you everyone lives under the same roof.  An example of this is British Airways, which you can read more about here.

17.  Can I use my miles to book a ticket for someone else, or vice versa?

Yes, you can use miles to book tickets for someone else.  The name on frequent flyer account that has miles in it DOES NOT have to be the same as the passenger.

18. Can’t I just buy airline miles for an award flight?

Yes, you can buy miles, but they are priced at a point that will make the award flight cost more than you would pay for the flight with cash.

The only time I recommend buying airline miles is when you need to top up your balance to get those last few miles towards your award flight. Otherwise, you are just spending more money than you are saving!

19.  What is an “open-jaw”?

An “open-jaw” is when you arrive in one city but leave from a different city.  An open-jaw itinerary would look like this:

Departing flight:  New York to London

Returning flight:  Paris to New York

You originally arrived in London but your return flight left from Paris, a different city.

20.  What is a “stop-over”?

A stop-over is when you spend more than 24 hours in a city on international flights.

Whether you are allowed a stop-over or not depends on what airline you are redeeming miles with.

An example of a stopover itinerary would be:

New York-London (stay 5 days as a stopover)-Rome (final destination)

If you are allowed a stop-over, you usually have up to 1 year to stay in the stop-over city before you have to continue on to your final destination.  In the above scenario, you could stay in London for up to 364 days before heading to Rome.

I always, always, always recommend people make use of stop-overs if they are able to because this is like getting 2 vacations for the price of one.  In the above scenario, you’d be able to visit both London and Rome but only pay the price for one ticket!

21.  When does award availability open up?

For most airlines, they will begin releasing award seats 330 day before the flight date.  Most airlines do not release all the seats at once, but stagger it over a period of time.  If you know for sure that you want a certain flight on certain dates,  you should start looking as soon as possible.  The 330 day “early bird” gets the worm.

You can also, on occasion find some first class awards very close to departure, sometimes even as close as 24 hours!

22. Do my frequent flyer miles expire?

Yes! But don’t worry, as long as there is some sort of activity, like award redemption or if you earn more miles, your miles are safe.

Different programs’ miles expire at different times, but most programs are between 18-24 months.

FURTHER READING (POSTS HANDPICKED FOR YOU…BY US!)

None of that automatic “read more” stuff you’ll see everywhere else on the internet!

If you liked this post, then you’ll love these as well:

(photo courtesy of Colin_K)

How to Find the Cheapest Flights Everytime

How to find cheap flights 2

Booking flights can be exhilarating if you find a good deal…

Or excruciating if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Prices for flights can vary dramatically based on a large number of factors –  you could have paid $700 for a ticket while the person next to you could have paid $1500.

It all comes down to knowing where to look, when to book, and how to find the tickets that others don’t know about.

To help you be the person always paying $700 (or less) and not the person paying $1,500, I’ve created a step-by-step guide that details the exact process I use every time I book a ticket.

Follow these 8 steps and you’ll ensure you’re always getting the best price.

1.  Check Your Frequent Flyer Mile Balance

If you don’t have frequent flyer miles or aren’t interested in them, skip directly to Step #2.

If you’re not familiar with how to earn and use frequent flyer miles, don’t worry.

I was in the same boat five years ago, without a single frequent flyer mile to my name.

Since then, I’ve flown to over 30 countries for an average of less than $100 each.

Start with the Frequent Flyer Miles FAQ, which will answer all the most common questions.

If you’re really ready to take the next step, considering joining Frequent Flyer Botocamp, the world’s first course designed to teach you EVERYTHING you need to know travel the world for pennies.

If you have frequent flyer miles, you need to determine two things – first, whether you have enough miles for the flight you want to take, and second, whether it is worth using them.

To determine how many miles you need for a flight, head to milez.biz and plug in the cities.  This tells you how many miles you need with each airline.

Determining whether it’s worth using miles is a little more subjective, so use CPM (cents per mile) as a guideline.  Simply take how much the flight would cost to buy and divide it by the amount of miles needed.

For example, if a flight costs $600 to buy and costs 60,000 miles, the CPM would be 1.  If a CPM is 1 or more, using miles is generally worth it.  If it’s less, then I consider buying the ticket outright.

To learn how much a flight costs…

2.  Find a Baseline for Prices With Google Flights

The Google Flights tool amazes me with its simple but powerful search engine.  It lets you tailor the ticket you want to your EXACT specifications all in one search.

On Google Flights, enter the flights you’re looking for, and the calendar below will show you the cheapest flights for each day.

When you click on a date, it brings up a screen of all the flights for that day, showing the layovers, routing, and any other information you may need.

By starting your search with Google Flights, you’ll see a good baseline for what you can expect to pay.

Because, believe it or not, not even I know how much a flight from Cleveland to Budapest should generally cost in May.

3.  Check Surrounding Airports

One of the major reasons that Google Flights is so powerful is that it allows you to search for flights to and from multiple airports simultaneously.

This is perfect for me, since I like to fly out of Philadelphia, but can also fly out of any of the New York airports or even Baltimore or Washington DC if the price is right.

So instead of searching JFK to Paris, getting the price, searching Newark to Paris, getting the price, searching Philadelphia to Paris, getting the price, etc., you can do it all at once.

You can even add multiple airports to the destination and search from JFK, Newark, and Philadelphia to not only Paris, but also Nice, London, or Amsterdam–and then grab a cheap flight from any of those cities to Paris if the price differs substantially.

Being flexible with which airport you fly in and out of can potentially save hundreds of dollars, so you should always check.  Since Google Flights makes it so easy, you have no reason not to.

4.  Is There a Mistake Fare Available?

Frequent flyer miles are the #1 way we score cheap flights, but mistake fares take a close second place.

With mistake fares, we’ve flown to Italy for $125, Madrid for $225, Bali for $250, and South Africa for $300.  I’ve written about what they are, where to find them, and how to book them before, so you’ll want to read that to catch up.

Before booking any flights, always check to see if there is a mistake fare available.

Odds are, the mistake fare won’t be the exact itinerary you want, but even if it isn’t, it may still work.

For example, let’s say you want to fly from New York to Rome, but there is no mistake fare to Rome, and a normal ticket costs $800.

If you find a mistake fare from New York to Milan that costs $125, unless you have absolutely no flexibility, grab the mistake fare and then take a $50 train ride down to Rome.

Learn everything you need to know about mistake fares in this post.

IMG_3499

5.  Check to see if Budget Airlines are Available

Budget airlines can save you a lot of money on flights, and while they’ve been around Europe and Asia for a while, they’ve recently seen a huge surge in popularity and are even making inroads in other areas, like the US.

I’m a huge fan of budget airlines because not only are they generally much cheaper, but the service is typically as good as “regular” airlines and they fly to many non-traditional or smaller destinations.

Just this past week, I flew directly from Chiang Mai, Thailand to Khon Kaen for $50 on Kan Air (a budget airline).

Everyone else in the wedding paid $100 or more AND had a layover in Bangkok because they didn’t know Kan Air existed.

I didn’t know Kan Air existed before 3 weeks ago either, but using my step by step guide to finding budget airlines, I unearthed this amazing gem and saved myself a lot of money in the process.

6.  Check Skiplagged

Skiplagged has received a lot of publicity because the airlines recently sued its 22-year-old founder for revealing the hidden city “trick.”

In reality, savvy travelers have used the hidden city “trick” for a while now, and while the airlines don’t like it, it’s their own system that allows it to happen and there is nothing illegal about it.

Hidden cities work like this:

Let’s say I want to fly from Milwaukee to Detroit.  A direct flight from Milwaukee to Detroit costs $407.  However, a flight from Milwaukee to St. Louis with a layover in Detroit costs $104.

Instead of booking the expensive, $407 direct flight, I’d book the cheaper ticket.  When I land in Detroit for the layover, I’ll get off the plane.  By booking to St. Louis but not using the second half of the ticket, I just saved $303.

If you book a ticket using this “trick” be mindful of two things:

Don’t check bags because they’ll end up at the final destination (St. Louis) and you won’t!

If you miss a leg of your itinerary – which you’ll be doing by skipping the last segment – the rest of the ticket will be canceled.

So make sure you skip the last leg of a trip, and not in the middle of a round trip ticket.

Or just book a one way ticket and then you don’t have to worry.

7.  Cross Check the Price on Google Flights with Other Websites

If you’ve gone through the checklist above and found that there are no mistake fares (step #4), no budget airline options (step #5), and no hidden city tickets (step #6), then you can return to the ticket you found on Google Flights (step #3).

Find the best ticket for your needs on Google Flights (always checking the surrounding cities) and then take that information and cross check it against Kayak, Expedia, Orbitz, and the airline’s website (like AA.com or United.com).

The price on Google Flights matches these other options 95% of the time, but it never hurts to double check.

8.  Book Your Ticket

If the price is the same across all platforms, always book directly with the airline itself.

Then, if you have a problem, you can deal with the airline directly instead of having to go through a third party like Expedia or Orbitz.

Final Word(s)

When booking flights, many variables can change your ticket price dramatically.

If you’re the type of person who prefers saving hundreds of dollars instead of spending it, take the extra 10-15 minutes to follow the eight steps above.

By using Google Flights, checking surrounding airports, looking for mistake fares, and considering budget airlines, you’ll always find the best prices on flights.

And don’t forget, if you’re not yet earning and using frequent flyer miles, what are you waiting for?

Getting the best deals on paid flights is great, but not paying for flights is even better!

How do you search for flights?  What steps do you take to try to get the best deal?  Let us know in the comments below.

FURTHER READING (POSTS HANDPICKED FOR YOU…BY US!)

None of that automatic “read more” stuff you’ll see everywhere else on the internet!

If you liked this post, then you’ll love these as well:

The Target REDcard: How to Pay Your Mortgage With a Credit Card and Meet Minimum Spends

target-redcards

[UPDATE 5/12/2015:  You can no longer load your REDcard with a credit card.  HOWEVER, you can still load your REDcard with gift cards.

All you have to do is follow Steps 1-5, skip Step 6, and then follow steps 7-8.]

The Target REDcard (frequently referred to as a “Redbird” card due to it’s similarity to Walmart’s Bluebird card) is far and a way the best tool for anyone who wants to:

  • Meet a minimum spend requirement on a credit card.
  • Pay bills that you can’t usually pay with a credit card (mortgages, student loans, rent, taxes, etc.).
  • Or simply earn extra frequent flyer miles and points on your credit card.

Why?

Because it’s easy, and most importantly, totally free!

Here’s exactly how to do it:

Step 1:  Find a Target that sells REDcards

The first step is actually the hardest, and that’s because at the moment only certain Target stores sell the Prepaid REDcard.

Target is slowly rolling it out to more and more stores, but it’s still in its infancy.

To check which stores currently sell Target Prepaid REDcards, click here.

If a Target near you sells Prepaid REDcards, great!  Skip to Step 2.

If you don’t see a store near you listed, I’d call ones in your area and ask if they have them.

Make sure you are asking for the Target Prepaid REDcard. Stress the PREPAID part! 

If a Target Near You Doesn’t Have a Prepaid REDcard:

If not, you’ll need some help to getting one.  Here’s how to do that:

  • 1.  Find someone who lives near a Target who will purchase you one.
  • 2. When that person goes to Target, have them buy an extra one for you (or many extra for multiple people).
  • 3.  When it comes time for the person to enter the birthday or social security number, they can either enter your information or enter fake information.  It doesn’t matter, because you’ll have to enter your real information when you register it later.
  • 4A.  Have them send you the temporary card in the mail OR
  • 4B.  Have them open the REDcard and tell you the card number and the security code on the back.

Step 2:  Buy the temporary Target Redcard

When you buy the card at Target, it’ll be a temporary card.

There are a few options, so make sure you get the Prepaid REDcard.  It looks like this:

Target-Prepaid-REDcard

DO NOT BUY A TARGET DEBIT CARD OR TARGET CREDIT CARD!  Get the Prepaid REDcard pictured above.

At the register, you’ll go through this process:

  1. When asked how much you want to load – Make sure to load at least $1.  You can load up to $500.  Personally, I loaded the max ($500) so I could get more points.
  2. Hand your driver’s license to the cashier.
  3. Enter your birthday, social security number and phone number on the keypad.

Step 3:  Register Your Temporary Redcard

If you have an existing American Express Bluebird card or Serve account you have to close that before you can register your Redcard.  You aren’t allowed to have both.

Take your temporary REDcard home and open it.

Then, go to https://secure.prepaidredcard.com/manage?intlink=us-serve-partner-target-launchmain-uppermanage

Click register.

Remove the sticker from the front of your temporary REDcard.

Enter the 15 digit card number and 4 digit security code that is on your REDcard.  Then enter your birthday.

After that, you’ll be prompted to enter all your information.

If you had someone else buy you a Target REDcard, make sure to enter YOUR information. 

You’ll get a confirmation screen saying that your permanent card is on it’s way.

Step 4:  Use Your Temporary REDcard OR Wait For Your Permanent Card

If you want, you can use your temporary card (which only has the money you initially loaded on at Target) wherever American Express is used.

Your temporary Redcard cannot be reloaded, used at ATM’s, or used for online functions like paying bills or sending people checks.

To do all of that, you have to wait until you get your permanent card.

For that reason, I reccommend that most people just wait the 4-7 days it takes to get their permanent card in the mail to start using it.  This cuts down on any confusion.

If you’ve found this post, then you’re obviously interested in using frequent flyer miles.  If you want to make sure you are squeezing all the value you can out of your miles, we created Frequent Flyer Bootcamp specifically for you.

Join hundred of others who are using their miles to take some of the most amazing trips in the world.  On top of that, we offer the one and only $1,000 guarantee.  It’s literally completely risk-free!

Check out Frequent Flyer Bootcamp

Step 5:  Get Your Permanent REDcard in the Mail and Activate It

Once your permanent card arrives in the mail, you’ll have to activate it.

You can do it by calling 1-855-306-7395 or by going to target.com/prepaidredcard/activate

Now that it’s activated, it’s time to move on to the good stuff!

Step 6:  Load Your REDcard at Target with a Credit Card

This is the easy part.  Just take your permanent REDcard to Target and ask them to load it at the cash register.  Here’s what’s crazy:

You can load it with a credit card, and it doesn’t cost a thing!

Currently, you can load $2500 per day and $5000 per month.

If you have a credit card that you need to make a minimum spend on, this is a great way to do it.  You can knock out $5000 in just two days.

If you’re not trying to make a minimum spend, just pick the credit card whose points you want to earn and use that to load the REDcard.

Make sure you’re picking the type of points that are most valuable (you can see my rankings of the best and worst frequent flyer miles here).

Step 7 (Optional):  Load Your REDcard at Target with Gift Cards

Want to get really crazy?  You can also use gift cards to load the REDcard.

Why is this important?

Because you can earn even more frequent flyer miles and points!

For example:

If you have the Chase Ink Plus card, you’ll earn 5x per $1 spent at office supply stores.

That means that if you buy a $200 Visa gift card at Staples or Office Depot, you’ll earn 1,000 Chase points.  Buy the gift card that looks like this:

Visa Gift Card

Then, you can take that gift card and use it to load your Redcard instead of using your credit card to load your REDcard.

But why stop at one?

If you buy $5,000 worth of Visa gift cards from Staples (the amount that you can load on your REDcard each month), you’ll earn 25,000 Chase points per month.

25,000 Chase points are enough for one roundtrip ticket anywhere in North America on United!

Each $200 Visa gift card costs $6.95 to purchase.  So, you’re paying $6.95 for 1,000 Chase points.

If you extrapolate that out, you’re paying:

  • $173.75 for 25k Chase points – a roundtrip flight in North America
  • $417 for 60k Chase points – a roundtrip economy flight to Europe
  • $556 for 80k Chase points – a roundtrip economy flight to Australia, NZ, or SE Asia

If you know how to use frequent flyer miles effectively – especially if you are taking advantage of stopovers and open jaws to get 2 vacations for the price of 1– this can be an incredible deal.

Step 8:  Use Your Online REDcard Account to Pay Any Bill

Now that you have funds in your REDcard account, you can easily pay any bill you’d like from this account – including things like your mortgage, rent, student loans, or any other big expense that doesn’t normally accept credit cards.

That’s because you’ll be sending a check from your REDcard account, and almost everyone accepts checks!

If you’re struggling to visualize this, just think of your REDcard account as a bank account.  It operates in the same way as regular online checking account – it just happens to be tied to Target.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Login to your REDcard account
  • Go to Pay & Transfer and hit the Pay Bills button on the dropdown.

Target-REDcard

  • Hit Pay a Bill on the next screen.

Target-Redcard-pay

  • Pick whether you are paying a business or a person (if it’s a mortgage or student loan, they may have your company preloaded in the business part).

Target-REDcard-person

 

  • Enter the information.  If it’s a person, you won’t have an account number.  Hit “Save and Pay”
  • On the next screen, enter how much you want to pay, then you’ll hit “review”.
  • On  the last screen, you’ll have to enter the PIN you set when you registered the card.
  • After that, hit “submit” and a check will be sent to whoever you are paying!

Step 9:  Repeat Each Month and Rake in Points

Every calendar month, you’ll be able to add $5,000 on your Redcard.

As long as you have a Target near you, this is by far the easiest way to rack up miles and points and it doesn’t cost a cent.

If you did this for a year, you’d have 60k extra points, which is enough for a free roundtrip ticket to Europe!

[post src=”http://www.extrapackofpeanuts.com/bootcamp/”]

A Few Frequently Asked Questions

1.  Do you know where I can get a Target Redcard?

Click here to see where they are sold.  If you don’t see a store near you, make sure by calling and asking if they sell Prepaid REDcards.

2.  Do you know when all Targets will start selling REDcards?

No idea.

3.  Do you know when or if Targets will stop allowing us to load REDcards with credit cards and gift cards?

Nope, but I imagine they won’t let it go on forever.  I’d take advantage of it as much as you can while it’s available.  Personally, I’m loading the $5,000 a month max each month.

4.  Can someone else buy me a Prepaid REDcard?

Yes.  If you know someone who lives near a Target, they can buy you one.  Then, have them either send you the temporary card in the mail or give you the card number and security code.  After that, you can register it online and get a permanent card sent to your home address.

4.  Is buying Target REDcards for other people illegal? 

No.

5.  If I’m going to buy more than one for other people, what should I say?

I simply told the cashier that I lived in Philadelphia and had driven all the way down to Maryland to get them because we didn’t have them up there yet.

I then said that my friends and family had heard about the REDcard and wanted them as well, and that I was buying some for them too.

She totally understood, and said she realized that only a few places had the REDcards and that it was nice of me to do that for others.

6.  If someone else buys me a REDcard, do I need them to actually send me the temporary card?

No.  They could open it up, give you the card number and security code, and you could “register” for your permanent card without ever actually having the temporary one in your possession.

7.  How much can I load at a time?

$2,500 per day and $5,000 per month.  You can only load $1,000 per swipe of your card, so if you are loading $2,500, you’ll have to ask the cashier to do it three separate times ($1k, $1k, $500).

Final Word(s)

The Target REDcard is an absolutely amazing way to meet minimum spends, get points for paying bills that you can usually pay with a credit card, or just rack up points very easily.

I highly recommend you start doing it as soon as possible, as there is no telling how long it will last.

And if it sounds a little confusing, trust me, it’s not.  As soon as you do it once, you’ll realize how easy it is.

I get it, frequent flyer miles can be complicated and confusing.  2 years ago, I created Frequent Flyer Bootcamp to personally walk you through the each and every step.  Now, hundreds of people are traveling the world for (almost) free.

You’ll learn everything you need to know in less than one month, and we even have the one and only $1,000 guarantee.

If you thought this post was helpful in explaining a difficult subject, you’ll be blown away by our concise, easy to understand library of video lessons.

Check out Frequent Flyer Bootcamp now! – and don’t forget, it’s completely risk-free

FURTHER READING (POSTS HANDPICKED FOR YOU…BY US!)

None of that automatic “read more” stuff you’ll see everywhere else on the internet!

If you liked this post, then you’ll love these as well:

21 Ways to Survive a Long Haul Flight

 Bali-Beach

Walking along the beach in Bali and gazing out over the expansive water was enough to make us dread our upcoming flight the next day.

A flight that would begin our 27 hour journey back to Philadelphia.

Flying home for the holidays sounded like a great idea – until it really sunk in that we would be in transit for longer then it takes most people to plan their entire trip.

Because this was not the first time, nor the last, that Trav and I would be embarking on such a long journey, we decided to make a list of all the things we do to make a 27 hour flight more enjoyable bearable.

Hopefully, these tips help ease your anxiety the next time you’re preparing for a long haul flight!

Pre Flight Tips:

1. Book a Business or First Class Ticket.

If you have a enough miles or enough money to book a business or first class ticket, then this is the time to use it! Having a more comfortable seat will ensure you have a better sleep.

2. Book a flight for late afternoon or early evening.

We find this really helpful for getting lots of sleep on a flight and feeling more rested when we arrive at our destination.

3. Have a regular, laid back day the day of your flight. (If possible)

The first leg of our itinerary was a three hour flight to Taiwan with an hour and a half layover. We did not want to sleep on that first flight.

Therefore, the day we left Bali (our flight was at 5pm), we went to the beach, had lunch and sat by the pool. We felt really relaxed by the time we had to leave for the airport.

This way we were not that tired for our first leg of the trip.

4. Have your own entertainment queued up.

You never know what planes are equipped with, or even if the entertainment consoles are working. It is a good idea to have movies, tv shows and books downloaded on your devices before you leave for the airport!

5. Have an eye mask and ear plugs accessible in your carry on luggage.

Even if the airline provides an eye mask – bring your own.

6. Have a good pair of headphones.

The complimentary headphones are uncomfortable and don’t block any noise.

Trav’s Note: I love my Xiomi Pistons because they are 90% as good as super expensive earbuds at a tenth the price.

7. Make sure all of your items are easily accessible in your carry on.

We usually grab all of our necessary items and put them in the seat pocket or on the top of our small carry on bag under the seat.

8. Have a change of clothes.

On a long flight, it is nice to change into comfortable sweats or even pajamas. Then you can change back into your travel clothes once you arrive.

After traveling for such a long time, changing your clothes makes you feel a lot better equipped for the next part of your journey.

9. Have a toothbrush.

And toothpaste! For obvious reasons.

10. Have snacks.

27 hours with only airplane food to look forward to? No thank you!

Have some snacks or even a sandwich that can help tide you over until you land. A bottle of water is also a good idea.

During the Flight

11. Always scope out extra seats and ask to move if they are available.

Trav is obsessed with checking out how many people are boarding and what seats might become available and always asks the attendants if it is a full flight.

As silly as this may seem, it has worked to our advantage when we switch to a whole row all to ourselves.

12. Have reading material.

Movies are great for passing the time. But if you are ready to sleep, reading is a better way to calm your mind and prepare for a better, longer sleep.

13. Try to sleep at the normal time.

Our flight left Bali at 5pm and landed in Taipei three hours later and we did not sleep on that flight at all on purpose.

This way, we were ready to sleep longer on the 12 hour flight to San Francisco.

14. Take medicine.

A sleeping aid will ensure you fall asleep and stay asleep during the flight. Either Nyquil, Lunesta, melatonin will do the trick.

15. Don’t worry about waking up for meals.

Airplane food is terrible anyway – don’t bother. This is where those snacks come in handy!

Trav’s note:  It’s not soooo bad, but it’s definitely not worth waking up for.  Plus, you could ask for it later if you wanted.

16. DRINK WATER.

It is important to stay hydrated before, during, and after a flight. This will help you recover from jet lag after you land as well (here’s more tips to combat jet lag).

During a Layover

17. Have lounge access, if possible.

Having a quiet comfortable place to wait during a layover can enhance your airport experience and keep you calm and relaxed.

Also, the free food and booze doesn’t hurt either!

Trav’s Note:  A lot of credit cards offer complimentary lounge access as a perk.  If you’re interested in having us help you find the best travel credit card, fill out our free credit card consultation form.

18. Take advantage of airport amenities.

Airports are getting nicer and nicer each passing year.  SFO has showers and Changi airport (Singapore) has a pool, botanical gardens, and even a complimentary movie theater.

19. DRINK WATER

Again, it is important to stay hydrated.

After Arriving at Your Destination

20. Stay awake until the normal bedtime at your destination.

This can prove quite difficult, but stay strong!  If you can manage to stay up you will get over your jet lag much more quickly.

Fresh air, exercise and getting out of the house/hotel will keep you awake.

21. Have a reason to get up.

If you just can’t hack it and need to take a nap – then have a friend call or come to your house to make sure you wake up.

The more persistent the friend, the better (thanks Mike!).

If you are at the beginning of your trip, then plan a tour or meeting that forces you to wake up from your nap or even the next morning.

Hopefully our strategies can help improve any long trips you take in the future.

Do you have any secrets to enduring long haul flights? What was the best or worst flight you have ever had?

Further Reading (Posts Handpicked for You…By Us!)

None of that automatic “read more” stuff you’ll see everywhere else on the internet!

If you would like to hear more tips about our trips, you’ll love: