I am a self proclaimed Budget Traveler. Most of the time, I am not concerned with having fancy seats or flying on the biggest carrier. If I have the time, I am willing to jump through a few hoops to save more money. I just want a dependable flight at a good price.
Why I Fly Southwest
Although I prefer to travel with just a carry on, it is also nice to know that when the need arises, I am able to check up to 2 bags for free with Southwest. Sometimes after adding baggage fees to a cheaper advertised competitor fare, it can drive their costs up higher than the original Southwest posted rate.
I also like that Southwest doesn’t charge Change Fees. Recently, I had booked Wanna Getaway flights for my daughter and I to Phoenix. I booked them at $121 each which seemed pretty good at the time. Two weeks later, Southwest had a sale that dropped the fare for our exact flight to $88. Because we had booked the Wanna Getaway economy fares, we were only eligible for an account credit which was $41 each. If we had booked a higher tier fare we could have actually received a refund for that amount. Having this option provides a nice little price protection safety net when booking your airfare.
They are not always the cheapest, but in my experience are usually right in the ball park. I am more comfortable flying with them than some of the other less appealing budget airlines like Spirit. I would also rather fly with Southwest over big carriers like American who always seems to be in the middle of some kind of drama. No thank you.
How to Find Cheap Fares
You probably have a process that you use whenever you are looking for airfare. It might be using Google Flights, Skyscanner, Momondo or companies like Expedia or Priceline. Those are all great resources to use for finding cheap fares. What you won’t find at any of these sites, however, are Southwest fares.
Southwest only advertises their fares on their own website, so you will have to do a separate search if you are considering them for your flight. If my dates are flexible, I like to use their Low Fare Calendar which allows me to compare fares for an entire month. It makes it easy to adjust your travel dates in order to get the lowest fares. You can also easily toggle between cash and points to determine the best way to pay for your flight.
Rapid Rewards Program
It’s a good idea to sign up for the Southwest Rapid Rewards loyalty program. Having a Rapid Rewards Account with Southwest allows you to earn points through their online shopping site, by booking hotels or car rentals as well as the points earned from miles flown on Southwest flights.
They will also send you notifications whenever they are having their Low Fare Sales which is usually the best time to book flights with them. Read the terms and dates for the sale carefully before pulling up the Low Fare Calendar to look for a flight.
If you fly a lot, you might be able to qualify for their Companion Pass. With it your Companion (which can be changed up to 3 times during the year) can fly with you for just the cost of taxes and fees. I had it last year and took advantage of it to fly with my husband to Texas, and Hawaii and my daughter and I traveled to Portland Oregon. What I saved by having the Companion Pass really helped me to be able to travel more last year.
Southwest Rapid Rewards Credit Cards
There are 4 different Southwest credit cards to choose from.
The annual fees are tiered $69 to $99 and $149 as are the Anniversary Bonus points. Each of the regular cards comes with an offer to earn 40,000 bonus points for spending $1,000 in your first 3 months. The Business card has a 2 part bonus where you earn 70,000 after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months and then an additonal 30,000 points once if you have spend $25,000 in your first 6 months. Click the teal link above if you want to see the card comparisons including the differences in earning potential and benefits.
I have a Southwest card which isn’t a big earner, but allows me to add to my points bank faster than just by earning miles from flights. You also get points deposited into your account each year on your credit card anniversary. The amount of points depends on which of their cards you have.
There are also some little surprise perks from Southwest for cardholders from time to time. You may get drink vouchers sent to you or some other small token of their appreciation. This year I was given 6 months of A List status even though I didn’t quite meet the criteria for it.
Other Creative Ways to Pay
As part of my budget travel and savings strategy, I participate with a few different Rebate Apps. Both Ibotta and Fetch allow me to redeem my earnings for Southwest gift cards. If I know that I will be booking a Southwest flight in the near future, I try to redeem some of my earnings for one or two gift cards in order to offset my flight costs. You can click here for my Referral links to these programs or on my Money Saving Links tab in the menu bar.
As a Budget Traveler, I try to save money on the biggest travel costs (Lodging, Airfare, Car Rentals) for each trip in order to have more money to spend on the fun stuff.
Depending on where you are located and where you are traveling to, Southwest may be a solid budget airline for you. Remember when searching for cheap flights to check out their Low Fare Calendar for the best prices and to sign up for a Rapid Rewards account to receive notifications for their sales and specials.
Dream, Plan, SAVE, Adventure!