Travelhacking: Ultra Low-Cost Airline Deals


Low Cost Airlines offer insanely cheap travel possibilities in exchange for a “no-frills” flying experience. Here's a non-exhaustive list of budget airlines, so we're on the same page: Spirt, RyanAir, Easy Jet, Frontier, Allegiant, Norwegian, Air Asia, etc.

These airlines differ in a number of ways from "legacy carriers" like United, American, Lufthansa, Hawaiian, Delta, British Airways, etc. I'll break down these differences down in more detail later, but for now I just want get you informed (and excited) about the inexpensive travel possibilities available on ULC's (if you learn to play your travel cards right).

How cheap are we talking here? Here are a few examples from my own experience:

  • Flying from San Francisco to Detroit to visit my family usually cost around $350 and up. On a recent one-day sale with Spirit Airlines, I snagged a ROUNDTRIP ticket for just under $90!
  • On my way back from Europe last fall I bought a one-way ticket from Stockholm to Oakland, CA for around $220. (I’ve see this as low as $135 one-way) This was on a non-stop flight and my first time on one of Boeing’s new ultra-efficient 787 Dreamliners (so no, this is not a bucket of bolts). This deal also works flying the other direction and the price is typical of the fares you can find if you book ahead a bit. And remember, once you’re in Stockholm you can get cheap flights (on other European ULC’s) to most other places on the continent for cheap.
  • Recently (January 2017) I flew from Los Angeles to Stockholm and then back to San Francisco for a $160 TOTAL!! I mean how could I not go?

Check out one last example below in this screens shot: 

Yep you read that right, $53.98  from Oakland, CA to Honduras! 

I think you’ll agree these are some very good deals.

Other actual prices I’ve found in the last month

  • Oakland to Bellingham, WA for $50 One-way (Typically around $120-$150 each way on a non-budget carrier)
  • San Francisco to Chicago (ORD) for $50 each way. I've heard of even lower fares on this route, down to around $70 RT. (Usually it's at least $100 each way on this route)
  • Los Angeles (LAX) to Colombia for $160 ROUNDTRIP. Crazy! 
  • San Francisco to NYC (I forget which airport) for $80 ROUNDTRIP. 

*This is an admittedly West Coast of USA-centric list, but I want to emphasis that there are similarly great deals to be had from most major metro areas in the States, some with even better deals especially to Europe and the Caribbean than what I can get from here in San Francisco.

**And once you understand and master using Low Cost Carriers, you can find similarly great deals in lots of other places in the world. The ones I’m most familiar with are in Europe (EasyJet, Ryan Air, Vueling, etc) and parts of SouthEast Asia (I’m thinking primarily AirAsia (though there are others!), a low-cost carrier based in Bangkok with very cheap flights to many, many destinations around that part of the world).

The Take-away

 Understanding how to best utilize Low Cost Carriers is an indispensable skill to have if you want to maximize your travel dollar.

Travel doesn't have to be super expensive if you're willing to make the effort to learn how they work, when to book them, and how to avoid those annoying fees. 

Any great, amazing, crazy-cheap fares you’ve found?

Any travel horror stories?


travel, travel hackingRyan Moore