Unfortunately, for those looking to sample a little joga bonito as well as a Carnaval atmosphere, you’ve also got one of the most difficult to get and most expensive plane tickets in the world.
So how did I score 2 direct flight plane tickets from New York to Rio for $2.50 each?
By following a system that is simple but unknown to most of the general public.
It’s the “secret” that is the key to allowing you to travel anywhere in the world for under $100, whether it be Brazil or Budapest--a secret I’ve used to travel to over 25 countries for less than two tanks of gas!
Earn Frequent Flyer Miles…WITHOUT FLYING
When people hear “frequent flyer miles,” most tune out the rest.
“Frequent flyer miles are only for people who fly all the time. I don’t fly enough, and so I’ll never earn a free ticket.”
Sadly, most people believe that they can only earn frequent flyer miles through flying.
Because of this, they wrongfully assume they’ll never earn enough for a free flight, and never pursue the idea.
Dreams of free travel dashed.
There are actually tons of ways to earn frequent flyer miles without flying.
In fact, I’ve earned over 2 million frequent flyer miles in the last 3 years, and less than 1% (yes, 1%) of them have been from flying.
The quickest way to earn a large number of frequent flyer miles is to get a good travel credit card.
If you’re responsible with your credit, you can take advantage of the perks by getting the large sign-up bonuses that credit cards offer!
By getting just one card, you could have enough miles for a round-trip ticket to Europe or South America.
Skeptical? Here’s the proof:
Understanding Which Miles to Earn
Not all miles are created equal, and so it’s important to figure out which miles are best for getting you where you want to go.
If you want a general overview of which miles are the best, check out my rankings here.
For flying to South America, I knew that British Airways miles were great to use. So while I could have used American Airlines miles or United miles to go to Brazil, I chose BA because they charged the lowest fees.
Understanding the Rules of Using Miles
After you’ve collected the miles, it’s important to know a few basics about using them. This is the spot where most people give up, but in reality, a few simple rules go a long way.
A common misconception is that you can only use an airline’s miles to fly with that specific airline.
For example, most people believe that if they have British Airways miles, they can only fly with British Airways.
Because of an awesome thing called airline alliances, it is actually much better than that.
British Airways is part of the OneworldAlliance, meaning that you can use BA miles to fly on any of the other 15 airlines in the Oneworld alliance.
To get to Brazil, I flew on AA, which is a Oneworld partner that has direct flights between New York and Rio.
With airline alliances (the other major one is Star Alliance), you can use your miles to fly practically anywhere in the world.
The 330 Day Rule
When you use frequent flyer miles to book a ticket, there is less availability than if you were to purchase that ticket.
If a plane has roughly 300 seats, they may open up 1/3 of them for people who wish to book award tickets (tickets “bought” with miles).
This means that knowing when to book is imperative.
Airlines will open their seats up for availability 330 days in advance.
If you’re trying to get a seat during a busy time, such as Christmas or the World Cup, you NEED to look as early as possible.
Knowing this, I got online exactly 330 days before the date I wanted to travel (June 12, 2014) and booked my tickets from New York to Rio.
When I checked later that evening all the tickets were already sold out!
The 6 Week Rule
If you miss out on an early ticket, more will get released sporadically, so keep checking.
However, the biggest number of seats get released about 6 weeks before the flight date.
This is when airlines look at their flight, realize most people have already bought a ticket if they want one, and release the remaining seats for people using miles.
Keep a close eye on tickets around the 6 week window. You’ll most likely see more seats open up, even for major events like the World Cup.
Where to Look and How to Book
Because the airline industry operates in the Stone Age, you may not always be able to see availability online.
For flights to Brazil, I was able to book the ticket online, but if you search online and don’t see anything, don’t give up.
Instead, call up the airline whose miles you are using and have the agents check availability for you. They often see things you aren’t able to search for online.
A great tool that is a bit more complicated but incredibly handy is Award Nexus. This is the weapon of choice of most frequent flyer experts for finding hidden availability.
If you have yet to start using frequent flyer miles, now is the time to start. You can literally fly anywhere in the world for less than $100.
Start by getting a good travel credit card (click here for my recommendations). Once you earn the miles, make sure to look for seats 330 days out, if possible.
Continuously check back for availability, and be aware that a large bunch of tickets may appear 6 weeks prior to the departure date.
And lastly, make sure to use all the tools at your disposal to find availability. Check online, call if you need to, and dig in to Award Nexus.
Start now and we’ll both be flying to Brazil on $5 tickets for the 2016 Olympics!
Want to travel to your dream destination for under $100? Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter and you’ll be in the air in no time!
Has anyone else been able to use miles to get amazing deals to major world events? Let us know your biggest score in the comments below!
The more I travel internationally, the more annoyed I get each time I return home and am faced with paying an exorbitantly large cellphone bill.
Because I’m home often enough, I can’t just cancel the plan straight up. A US cellphone, for better or worse, is necessary for me.
But after being away for a large chunk of the month, or sometimes even the whole month, why should I have to pay the same amount of money as someone else if I’ve only used my phone a fraction of the amount?
I’m throwing money down the drain, and it’s constantly irked me. But unfortunately, because I needed to keep a US cellphone, I was stuck, a slave to Sprint.
Enter Chris, the brains behind the terrific site Mr. Everyday Dollar and avid EPoP reader. When he mentioned to me that there was a much cheaper, much better options, my ears perked up.
As he began to give me more and more details, my smile grew wider and wider. Chris had finally give me the answer to my “throwing money away” cellphone woes.
The best part: while Chris’s “secret weapon” is especially beneficial for people who frequently travel overseas, it can actually save money for anyone, even people who never set foot outside of US soil.
If you travel internationally you probably fall into one of two camps when it comes to connectivity.
The first camp – incidentally, my group of folks – is when you tell your friends and family, “I’m going on vacation, don’t contact me!” and power off your phone for two weeks on the way to the airport.
The second camp, increasingly popular, is when you find yourself breathing into a paper bag a few days before your trip, your mind racing with thoughts on how you’ll stay connected.
If your preference is to tuck your phone away when you travel, you may want to suspend your service to save some dollars on your monthly bill.
The top three U.S. carriers – AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint – will allow you to suspend your service, but unfortunately it may not be worth it because they all charge ridiculous fees to do so.
Thankfully, there may be a better way.
Consider Switching to Ting
Ting is a wireless service provider that utilizes Sprint’s network. They’re unique because they allow you to pick your plan based on what “size” service you think you’ll use, from XS to XXL, as shown below:
The awesome thing about Ting is that they’ll automatically bump you up or down in “size” based on what you actually use during the month.
Paying for what you ACTUALLY use; what a novel idea!
Many folks who sign up choose to pick XS across the board, forcing Ting to bump them up in size as they use minutes, messages and data over the course of a month.
Ting is a great option for travelers who don’t plan to roam with their phone abroad: because their usage will be lighter than normal they’ll automatically save money.
Additionally, if you’re traveling for months at a time and won’t be using any services, you have three great options with Ting:
Suspend your device – the phone will be deactivated but the number will stay active, and you’ll only be billed an active device fee of $6 a month.
Do nothing – if you really won’t have any usage, you’ll be billed the $6 a month for an active device.
Cancel your account – Ting is a no-contract service so you can cancel your account at no-cost. The downside is that you’ll lose your phone number, which to some people might not matter.
Now that we’ve figured out the best, cheapest cellphone option for when you’re home in the US, what about options for staying connected with friends and family (and possibly even work) while you’re abroad?
If you plan to stay connected while traveling abroad, there are a few techniques that will allow you to communicate back home and leave you with some extra money to enjoy your vacation.
You’ll find you won’t pay a dime to talk to friends and family back home if you take advantage of free WiFi – available at coffee shops, hotels, and hostels, amongst others – and use apps that let you communicate over the internet.
There are two great options to place voice, or video, calls for free over that free WiFi:
Google Voice – allows you to make free voice calls to regular numbers. Calls can be made from a tablet or laptop through Gmail or the Google Voice website. You can claim a free domestic phone number and use it when you travel to call back home, or you can port your current number to Google Voice and then forward it to your phone.
Skype – offers the ability to make free calls from a phone, tablet, or laptop as long as both users are on Skype.
Like calls, there are a few awesome ways you can message your contacts completely free:
Google Voice – allows you to send and receive traditional text messages through Gmail, the Google Voice website, or the app that’s available for iOS and Android devices.
WhatsApp – recently acquired by Facebook, is the easiest messaging app to get started with. It works by scanning your contacts for others that use the service. Chatting is speedy, plus you can send short recorded voice messages, videos, and photos which is perfect for travelers! There’s other popular messaging apps – WeChat, Kik, Line, Telegram – but they’re underwhelming in comparison.
Viber – has many of the same messaging options as WhatsApp but offers free voice calls if both users are on the app.
Using a SIM card
While using free voice and messaging apps over free WiFi may meet your connectivity needs, a nice complement is to buy and use a SIM card. A little chip that you insert into your phone when you’re abroad, they’re available for $5-$20 and usually include minutes and data.
Having a phone to use locally in a foreign country can be extremely useful to make calls for things like reservations and tickets, and to be able to use Google Maps to help navigate a city, although getting lost can be fun too!
The Bottom Line
If you are person that wants to disconnect from your normal day-to-day life when you travel, by choosing a flexible and inexpensive provider like Ting you’ll save money off your monthly bill.
If you choose to, you can still stay in touch with people back home by taking advantage of free WiFi and services like Google Voice and apps like WhatsApp.
Happy (frugal) trails!
What cellphone service do you currently use? Are you eyeing a switch to Ting? How much would it roughly save you? It will most likely switch me at least $25 per month!
Chris runs the blog Mr. Everyday Dollar, which publishes practical articles for people striving to improve their personal finances. Individuals and families can use his tips, tutorials, and resources to make decisions on how to budget, save, invest and spend for the long haul. He’s also a big fan of Clark’s Desert Boots.Connect with him on Twitter @MrEverydayDolla or Facebook.
[offer expired] Barclays is at it again, giving us yet another awesome travel credit card and continuing to challenge the big boys of Chase, American Express, and Citi.
This time, it’s a near perfect card for people who travel domestically.
Introducing the Barclays Frontier Airlines World Mastercard®.
The Details for the Barclays Frontier Airlines Card
Here are the details of the current offer (bolding mine):
Earn 40,000 bonus miles after spending $500 in purchases in the first 90 days
Earn up to 10,000 bonus miles on balance transfers (1 mile per $1 transferred) in the first 90 days
Earn DOUBLE miles on purchases at FlyFrontier.com and 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases
No blackout dates! Book any roundtrip award flight on Frontier starting at 20,000 miles (subject to fees/taxes from $5)
Cardmember Exclusive! Redeem roundtrip companion award tickets for 5,000 less miles (from 15,000 miles plus taxes/fees from $5)
0% Introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 12 months after account opening. After that, a variable APR, currently 15.99% or 24.99% based on your creditworthiness
$69 Annual Fee
Click here to apply —> Barclays Frontier World Mastercard®
Why I Love the Barclays Frontier Airlines Card
Reason #1: 40,000 mile sign up bonus
40,000 miles is a good sign up bonus nowadays, especially considering the Frontier airlines award chart.
The 40k sign up bonus can get you 2 free roundtrip tickets anywhere in the US, including Alaska!
Check it out:
Or, since they allow one way tickets, you could use it for 4 free one-way tickets.
It can also get you 1 free roundtrip ticket to either Mexico, Costa Rica, or Jamaica and you’d have miles to spare!
Most airlines charge 25k miles roundtrip for a domestic ticket, so the fact that Frontier only charges 20k is huge.
This is a great sign up bonus for domestic travelers.
Reason #2: The Low Minimum Spend
In order to get the sign up bonus, you’ll only need to spend $500 on the card in the first 90 days.
Most other cards require much larger minimum spends, such as $3,000 or $5,000 in the first 90 days.
The $500 minimum spend means that this is a card that ANYONE can meet the minimum spend on.
Reason #3: Frontier Airlines Flies From Lots of Smaller Airports
For people who don’t live near large hub airports, this is a MASSIVE benefit.
Here is a map with all the places that Frontier flies to:
This is especially good for people out in the west and midwest, as Frontier flies to places like Jackson Hole, tons of places in Kansas and Nebraska, and even 5 different airports in North Dakota (wow!)
It’s even really great for people who do live near major airport.
For example, I live about 45 minutes from Philadelphia International (PHL).
Frontier flies out of PHL, but also flies out of 3 other airports in the area, including Wilmington (ILG), Trenton (TTN), and Harrisburg (MDT).
Not only does this give me a ton of options, but flying out of a smaller airport is also oftentimes a better experience.
It’s usually easier to get to, not as hectic to go through security, and parking is cheaper or even free!
Reason #4: Companion Tickets are 5k Less
With the Barclays Frontier Airlines card, you’ll receive a companion ticket. Here’s how the Frontier Companion Ticket works.
If you purchase a ticket with cash on Frontier, a companion can fly using miles for 5k less than the normal price.
This means that instead of paying 20k for a domestic roundtrip ticket, you’d only pay 15k.
And it can be used on one-way tickets as well!
Since a one-way domestic ticket is only 10k, you’ll actually only pay 5k miles + $5 using the Companion Ticket.
That’s a sweet deal!
Just remember, you can only use the Companion ticket if you PURCHASE your ticket with cash.
So if you have two people traveling and find a cheap ticket on Frontier, consider purchasing it the first one and having the companion fly on miles for cheap!
Reason #5: Cheap Changes on Award Tickets
One way most airlines really gouge you is when you have to make changes to an award ticket after you’ve booked it.
Luckily, Frontier isn’t like most other airlines.
Any change you want to make to the itinerary of an award ticket that is more than 8 days before you leave is free.
Also, if you want to cancel the ticket and have your miles redeposited in to your account, it’s only $75 (most airlines charge you $150).
Click here to apply —> Barclays Frontier World Mastercard®
Downsides of the Barclays Frontier Airlines Card
Overall, I think this is phenomenal card for anyone who is traveling domestically and really is a must-have.
However, there are two downsides.
$69 Annual Fee
The $69 annual fee is NOT waived the first year. I consider it a very small price to pay.
In essence, you’re paying $69 for two roundtrip tickets, which is a great deal.
Still, it’s something to be aware of.
Frontier Charges for Checked Bags
If you do use miles, Frontier charges $25 to check the first bag, and $30 for a second checked bag.
Of course, carry-ons are free, and I always recommend traveling with just a carry-on anyway, so this isn’t a big deal to me.
But if you’re someone who does check baggage, just make sure you are aware of the fees (which are actually less than most airlines).
Final Word on the Barclays Frontier Airlines Card
All in all, I believe the Barclays Frontier Airlines card is one of the best card right now for domestic travel and I HIGHLY recommend it.
The sign up bonus of 2 free roundtrip ticket, even to Alaska, is awesome.
The minimum spend is super low.
You can fly one-way if you want.
And as an added bonus, you can also fly in to and out of some really cool, easy small airports that aren’t serviced by most other airlines.
Add it all up, and you’ve got another great travel credit card from Barclays!
Now that the sign up bonus is 40k, are you going to apply?
If so, what cool city that Frontier flies to do you have your eye on?
If you do apply for the Barclays Frontier card using my links, I’ll receive a commission. Your support allows me to continue to run this site full time and as always, is truly appreciated!