How To Fly to Europe for $100 or Less: A Travel Hacking Guide
In talking with people about travel I’ve found money is the number one reason people say they stay at home—but I’m here to show you it doesn’t have to be super expensive.
Let’s take Europe for example.
The most prohibitive cost when visiting Europe is the flight—from North America it's usually $700 - $1,400 depending on the city and time of year.
What if you didn’t have to pay for the ticket? Then suddenly a trip to Europe is no more expensive than a week spent in Seattle, or Chicago, or Omaha. Sure, there’s food costs, and lodging (which can also be minimized)—but the point is that visiting Europe becomes much more feasible once the flight cost is elimated.
Here’s a real world example from my life of how to get air travel on the cheap:
Last week I was asked if I’d like to come to Santiago, Spain in September to be part of a short film on the Camino de Santiago (More on this in another post!!). Of course there’s nothing more I’d love to do (with the exception of actually walking the Camino again.)
My only problem? I’m broke and really can’t afford the ticket to Spain right now.
I was in angst about this for a bit until I realized I had 30,000 miles already sitting in my American Airlines account, thanks to my previous forays into Travel Hacking.
Last year I applied for the American Airlines credit card, got the mileage bonus—and promptly forgot about the miles since last year I was booking reward flights mostly through United and their Star Alliance.
This previous Travel Hacking really paid off since 30,000 is enough for me to book a one-way ticket to Madrid (or wherever in Europe) TONIGHT if I wanted to (and I do)!
Even in an era where it sometimes feels more difficult to redeem miles than earn them, America Airlines is showing plentiful and immediate availability in their cheapest rewards category—AND all during the heavy summer travel time! Hard to believe but true!
A couple things to notice from above.
One, that flight is leaving tonight! It think it's amazing we live in a world where you can hop on a plane to Europe on such short notice for a grand total of $86!
The reason it's $86 and not $11 is that American has a policy of charging $75 for reward tickets booked less than 21 days out. So a bit less spontaneous trip would only cost you $11.20!
How's that for cheap?! I can't even drive to the next town for that price.
And lest you think this is just a fluke a quick search from Seattle, Los Angeles, Denver, and Chicago all showed excellent availability for the coming weeks! (The only caveat here is that some of the routings are a little funky—like a San Francisco to Portland to Chicago to Paris routing I found—but even a bad routing to Paris still get you to Paris!)
But how to get back home (eventually)?
There are a few ways. United is another airline that lets you book one-way rewards. So a few days ago I applied for their card which comes with a 30,000 mile bonus after a $1,000 minimum spend that must be completed within 90 days of the account opening. I’ll use this card over the next few months and by the time I need the miles, I’ll have them in my account ready to redeem.
I’m also hedging my bets and re-applying for the American Airlines card that initially gave me my current 30,000 miles last year.
I never knew this was possible until I started researching and doing travelhacking, but it is not uncommon for companies to re-issue you a card you already previously used and then closed—thus giving you the bonus all over again! (You typically need to have the account closed for at least 6 months or so in order to do this.)
So there you have it! My cheap-skate way to get earn almost-free round-trip travel (using two one-way tickets) to get Europe and back. (For as low as $10 in ROUNDTRIP taxes for some rewards).
There’s really nothing mysterious about it once you understand your options and how it works.
YOU CAN DO THIS with just a bit of effort, planning, and a decent credit score.*
If you can spend
$2,000 in 3 months ($1,000 for each card), [UPDATE: UNTIL SEPT. 2nd, UNITED BONUS IS NOW 50,000 with a $2,000 MIN. SPEND] you can go ahead and apply for these two cards I used above. Each offers a 30,000 mile bonus, no annual fee for the first year (just cancel before your year is up), and other airline specific benefits like free checked baggage and reduced mileage redemption possibilities.
See below for details:
- Minimum Spend: $1,000 in 90 days
- BONUS: 30,000 miles
- Annual Fee waived first year[/ezcol_2third_end]
- Minimum Spend: $2,000 in 90 days
- BONUS: 50,000 miles
- Annual Fee waived first year
- No Foreign Transaction Fee
[/ezcol_2third_end] *I’m actually not sure what credit score you need to get these cards, but if you have a low score or are unsure, I’d encourage you to apply anyway—you might be surprised and get it. What’s the worst that will happen? If they reject you—so what?
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