5 Travel Hacks for Scoring Cheap Flights

International flights don't have to break the bank—even when your budget is zero

Cheap travel hacks for international travel (Photo: Courtesy iStock)
Woman with backpack on laptop outside

As the country begins to reopen, we'll keep publishing news to help you navigate the state of travel today (like whether travel insurance covers the coronavirus), as well as stories about places for you to put on your bucket list once it's safe to start going more far-flung.

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 youre willing to put in a little extra work, its 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.

Our mission to inspire readers to get outside has never been more critical. In recent years, Outside Online has reported on groundbreaking research linking time in nature to improved mental and physical health, and we’ve kept you informed about the unprecedented threats to America’s public lands. Our rigorous coverage helps spark important debates about wellness and travel and adventure, and it provides readers an accessible gateway to new outdoor passions. Time outside is essential—and we can help you make the most of it. Making a financial contribution to Outside Online only takes a few minutes and will ensure we can continue supplying the trailblazing, informative journalism that readers like you depend on. We hope you’ll support us. Thank you.
Contribute to Outside
Filed To: HawaiiIcelandAir Travel
Lead Photo: Courtesy iStock
More Travel