Booking Airfare

Websites for Discount Airfares: 

Momondo: for great airfare deals (they compare everything online and show you options ranked by best price, best travel time, over all best, etc.). I almost always find the best deals here.

Skyscanner:  I prefer using Momondo mostly, but sometimes when I can’t find the price I want on Momondo I check Skyscanner. Once and a while they have a few options I couldn’t find on Momondo. As always beware of super discount airlines and make sure to read about all the rules and fees on those airline sites (change/cancellation fees, baggage allowances and fees, ticket printing fees, etc). You can end up doubling the price of your ticket with some of these extra fees so you want to know what you’re getting into ahead of time in order to make the best decision on which ticket to buy or to pack your bags (and weigh) accordingly.

Booking Directly with an airline to take advantage of specials/promotions: 

Using third party discount sites isn’t the only, and sometimes isn’t the best way to find the lowest prices/best flights. Airlines often offer promotions that can only be booked directly through them (Norwegian Airlines and British Airways  just to name a couple that I use for West Coast US – Europe flights).  Always check with the airlines you like, or that you know fly your route, first, before booking your flight if cost and flight time are important to you.

I’ve saved up to $400 on a flight (in comparison with lowest published rates elsewhere) by scouring the airline’s low fare calendars to find date combinations that would get me a low promotional rate. An added bonus is that I got to fly with airlines I like instead of taking the best option I found on Momondo and Skyscanner which would have put me on United or American Airline flights (my least favorite airlines for long-haul flights).

Using credit card points to pay for all or part of a ticket: 

A lot of credit cards boast ‘great’ travel benefits but many only pay off for those spend a TON of money on their cards or have hefty annual fees. For the rest of us though, there are the sign-up bonuses that credit card companies offer when they are trying to get new clients. These can vary between 10,000 and 100,000 points (though I never sign up for less than a 40,000 point bonus)!

I’ll leave it to others who do it better (and have become experts over many years) to explain, in detail, which are the best cards to sign up for. Here are my favorite credit card travel hack gurus:Chris Guillebeau and The Frugal Travel Guy

Personally, I’ve signed up for the Chase British Airways Visa (50,0000 point bonus last summer and no annual fee), The Capital One Venture Card (40,000 point bonus last summer and no annual fee for first year), and The Capital One Mileage Plus Explorer (40,000 point bonus this summer and no annual fees for first year) over the past two years and cashed in a total of $1000 worth of travel points so far.

I find the British Airways Avios to be the most difficult to use, as good deals are harder to come by (often it’s the same price for me to fly on a discount airline within Europe as to pay the fees and use my points to take the same flight on BA) and long-haul flight fees are huge. That said, since I’m in Europe it’s nice to have a bunch of BA points sitting in my account to use if/when a great opportunity should arise (such as Business Class flights somewhere for the same amount of points I’d normally use for Economy, etc).

I also have found the Capital One Venture to be the absolute easiest card to cash-in points with. You simply check boxes next to any travel expenses on your statement (they are great at itemizing all travel expenses including metros, trains, bus tickets, Airbnb and hotel rentals, etc) and you get a credit for value of points that expense is worth. With my 40,000 point bonus I bought a $300 ticket from Oakland, California to Stockholm, Sweden (I chose my own flights and worried about nothing since all I had to do was claim the $300 or 30,000 point credit afterwards) and paid for a $100 worth of Airbnb stays.

I have yet to cash in my United Airlines Capital One Visa Explorer Points. I honestly detest flying with United but it is an airline that often offers deals from Europe to West Coast U.S and the 40,000 point bonus means I’ll get around $400 in credit towards my next United Flight.