How I Cut the Airfare Costs For a Budget Trip Without Using Valuable Points or Miles

It was time to plan the annual Girls Getaway trip for my daughter and I.  This year we have decided to visit friends in Phoenix Arizona. Because it is a “Budget Trip” we always try to book our hotels, car rentals and air fare as inexpensively as possible so that we can have more money to spend on food and adventures. Last year, we did a great job with the budget for our trip to Portland Oregon and I am hoping we can do just as well this year.

Although I have a few options for points and miles that I could redeem for our airfare, I don’t want to use them because I am saving them for a bigger trip this fall.  Time to get creative!

 

Flight Number 1

I wanted to book with Southwest because I had a $100 voucher from our travel delays last fall that I needed to use up.  In January, I found a decent price on Southwest so I booked the Detroit to Phoenix leg of our trip. Since I didn’t find a return flight I liked, I decided to hold off and shop a bit more.

The cost was $128 per person for a Non Stop flight.   In order to reduce the cost of my fare, I redeemed my $100 voucher.  I also applied a $25 gift card which I redeemed from a grocery app that I use.  That brought my airfare down to $3.28! With my daughter’s at $128 we were only spending $131.28 total for both of our flights. Almost a Buy 1 Get 1 Free or like having the Companion Pass again.

Keeping My Eye on The Prize

A few weeks later, I noticed a significant price drop for this fare. Since Southwest doesn’t charge any change fees, I rebooked the flight. They don’t issue cash back on Wanna Getaway flights, but we each got a $41 future flight credit. Works for me.

Although I currently have A-List status which provides me with early boarding, I purchased Early Bird Check in for my daughter.  By paying with my American Express Gold card, I will get reimbursed for the $25 as a portion of my Airline Fee Credit (which I have set to Southwest).

 

Flight Number 2

For our return trip, I had my eye on a late night Delta flight.  This Non Stop flight would leave out of Phoenix at 11 pm and land us in Detroit at 5:41 am.  Sounds crazy, but it would work well for our needs.  We would get to maximize all of our last day there before having to head to the airport.  The Basic Economy fare for that flight was $122 per person and the Main Cabin fare was $163.  I decided to splurge for the Main Cabin because I wanted to be able to pick our seats.  Since this flight is a red eye, we are hoping to be comfortable enough to sleep for as much of it as possible.

I immediately went to work figuring out how to reduce the cost of our fares without using those valuable points and miles that I have been saving up for a trip to Europe in the fall.  Recently, I opened a new Delta credit card in order to earn more miles for that trip to Portugal. The card came with an offer that if I used it to book Delta airfare within the first 3 months, I would receive a $50 statement credit.  A use it or lose it perk.  This flight would fall in the correct time frame to qualify for the credit!  I had also just performed my Annual Credit Card Points Review and found that I had enough points on an old local bank card account to redeem for a $50 Delta gift card.  Additionally, I was able to redeem points on one of my Grocery Rebate Apps for a another $25 Delta gift card  This dropped the total cost for our flights from $326 to $201.  Not quite the 50% reduction that I had hoped, but still a decent savings.

 

Strategy for saving on Airfare (or other travel)

It was great to have a small arsenal of discounts that I could pull together.  Paying attention to what I had available to use was the key.   Flight Vouchers, Airline Fee Credits, and an Airfare Statement Credit were all items that  needed to be used before they expired and also required specific types of purchases in order to use them.  By using two different airlines, I was able to utilize all of them.

It’s also good to know what other tools you have available like the Capital One Travel Eraser, credit cards with points that can be used or that have some type of Travel or Airline Fee Credits.  Even the points on my Grocery Apps are helpful.

Grocery Rebate Apps are easy to use and to earn points with.  I utilize a few different programs.  Whenever I am planning a trip, I try to keep enough of points in my account to be able to redeem for a gift card or two to buy down my airfare costs. Ibotta offers Southwest gift cards as an option and Fetch has a long list including Southwest, Delta, Airbnb, Celebrity Cruises, Hotels.com, Princess Cruises and Uber.  When you decide to redeem, it is a quick and easy process that provides you with an e-gift card for immediate use.

 

Final Thoughts

By being very creative in the way I used all the options that I had, I was able to reduce our airfare costs by 46% to $275 for this trip.  That may not seem like a lot, but it is enough to cover the cost of our rental car and a few nice meals during our trip.

I better get to work figuring out the best and cheapest plan for our one hotel night next!

 

Dream, PLAN, SAVE, Adventure!