Did you know you can book flights for free and only pay the taxes? I am so excited to share with you exactly how we booked a flight to Europe for a family of 5 for $18! After so many years of traveling, we’ve figured out ways to get the best deals and make traveling with a large family affordable. The most important part is planning ahead. If you want to try to book flights for almost nothing, you have to be prepared way in advance. In this post, we’ll walk you through the exact steps we took to get our flights for just $18.
Here are the exact steps we took to book flights for free to Europe for a family of 5 and only paid $18 in taxes:
1. Start planning with travel credit cards.
This is the first and most important step, and it needs to be done well before you plan to book your flights so you have time to accumulate points. To do this you will need to start to research travel credit cards and look at their welcome offers. What is a welcome offer? It is when you can redeem a large amount of points once you spend a certain amount in a designated timeframe. Welcome offers are the best way to accumulate the most amount of points in the shortest amount of time. For example when we opened our Chase Sapphire Preferred Card we earned 100,000 points once we spent $4,000 in the first 4 months. These offers change all the time so you’ll want to look at the current promotions to see what card is best for you. You can use this guide to find the right card for you. Once you identify the card with the best offers, go ahead and sign up.
2. Use your card and accumulate points.
Over the next several months, all you have to do is use your card as much as possible so you can qualify for the welcome offer. That can differ depending on what card offer you have but you’ll want to be intentional about really trying to hit that welcome offer so you can earn your points. During the first 4 months after we opened our first travel credit card we put all of our purchases on our card including groceries, gas, and everything else to accumulate the points so we could earn that bonus.
Even after you hit that welcome offer you can keep earning points when spending on everyday purchases. You’ll really want to pay attention to your cards bonus rewards. For example my AMEX Gold card earns 4x points per dollar spent on groceries and dining out—that’s better than my Chase Sapphire credit card. So I tend to reach for that one first.
3. Find your flight.
Once you have collected enough points, it’s time to find your flights. The amount of points you’ll need for your flight could vary. Some things to consider are if you are traveling internationally or domestically and what airline you would like to fly with. If you aren’t loyal to any particular airline and are looking for the best deal you can use Google Flights to find flights easily:
Step 1: Access Google Flights
Go to Google.com and type in “Google Flights” in the search bar. Click on the first Google Flights link in the search results and it will take you to the Google Flights home page.
Step 2: Input Flight Information
First you’ll enter your flight information in the search bar. Enter the departure city of your choice and the destination city as Europe. Then, select the dates you would like to travel and the number of travelers.
Step 3: Filter Your Search
To filter your search, click on the “Filter” button located at the top right corner of the page. You can filter your search based on your preferences. If you have a preferred airline, flight duration, number of layovers, or departure time, you’ll filter that here to narrow down your search.
Step 4: Check Points Options
If you belong to an airline loyalty program (they are free to join), you’ll need to check your points options next. Click on the “Loyalty Programs” tab under the filter section. Here, you can select the airline loyalty program you belong to and Google Flights will show you the flights that offer the most points for your selected program.
Step 5: Compare Flights
Next you’ll want to compare flights. Google Flights will display all the flights available for your selected dates, with the flights that offer the most points highlighted in green. You can compare the flights based on the price, flight duration, departure and arrival times, and the number of points offered so you can make the best final decision.
Step 6: Book Flights for Free
Once you have found the flight that best suits your needs, click on the “Select” button to book your flight. This will then direct you to the airline’s website where you can complete the booking process.
When we did this, we first used Google Flights to find the best flight from Tampa, and then we cross referenced that with the airline’s website. The best flight we found was a United Airlines flight, so we went onto the United website to book the flights using the miles feature. Once you do this and put in all of your info, it will show you the cost of the flight with the miles.
This can sometimes take a few tries before you find something available. Dont get discouraged. There definitely is a bit of a learning curve here but it is worth it. You are getting these flights for free so they dont necessarily make it easy on you.
For this particular flight we were able to find one way tickets in economy for 22,000 points per person. This was an insane deal and normally internationally flights start closer to 40,000 one way. Point redemption is definitely worth the time and research to find the best deals and its how you can make your points go the furthest.
Once you find the flight availability that works for you, then transfer the miles…. but make sure you read this first:
Here’s where the $18 comes in. We paid for our entire flights with points, but you still have to pay taxes. For us that ended up being the $18.
When you book flights for free using points, there is no difference in the rest of the process versus when you pay any other way. You will still get the same flight confirmation emails, communications, etc. Woo hoo! Now it’s time to start packing for your trip! Get more travel tips and travel must-haves here.