International flights don't have to break the bank—even when your budget is zero
The skyrocketing cost of plane tickets—thanks in large part to the rising cost of jet fuel—can make or break a vacation before it even leaves the planning stage. But if your schedule and destination are flexible and you’re willing to put in a little extra work, it’s relatively easy to snag a low-cost flight to just about anywhere in the world.
Score a Free Trip to Hawaii
Or anywhere 30,000 miles will get you. Most airline credit cards give you enough miles to book a round-trip flight from Seattle to Honolulu or Los Angeles to Cancun just for signing up. Depending on which card you snag, other perks can include extras such as no blackout dates, free checked bags, priority boarding, and discounts on hotels, car rentals, and cruises.
Play Destination Roulette
Plug your travel dates and home airport into Kayak Explore or Google Flights to find prices for trips to everywhere in the world. All you have to do is pick out a great deal. Last summer, we snagged $414 round-trip tickets from LAX to Barcelona. If your final destination isn’t cheap, try finding the closest inexpensive flight, then check rates for trains or cheap regional airlines like Ryanair to get you those last few miles.
Book a Long Icelandic Layover
If you’re flying out of Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, Denver, or San Francisco to major European cities like Dublin, Paris, London, Milan, or Zurich, book with Icelandair for a free layover in Reykjavik, or the rest of Iceland for that matter, without any additional cost. Visit the country’s famed hot springs, geysers, and glaciers, or schedule an adventure like heli-skiing the powder-filled mountains of the Troll Peninsula. Bonus: Flights can be pretty cheap. We flew round-trip from Seattle to Zurich with a stopover in Reykjavik for just over $400 each.
Pay Your Dues
Charge everything you can to your airline credit card while paying off the bill each month and you’ll rack up miles without racking up debt. Big-ticket items like a new computer or sofa go a long way, but if you use the card for recurring bills like gym memberships and utilities, you’ll be getting free flights in no time.
Stay in the Loop
Sign up for alerts from sites like TravelPirates or Scott’s Cheap Flights, which scan the web for the cheapest flights, including mistaken price listings that airlines are forced to honor, and you’ll receive a daily email with some of the best deals around.