There are all sorts of hacks out there to help budget travelers. For example, I’m sure you’ve heard of Southwest’s 50,000-point sign-up bonus for their rewards card through Chase. Though it’s technically a limited-time offer and the regular bonus is 25,000, you can usually find the 50,ooo bonus around the web if you give it a Google. If you already have Rapid Rewards, like me, they’ll also target you with the offer by mail from time to time.
You do have to spend $2,000 in the first three months of having the card, but fortunately I’m moving so there are lots of unusual expenses cropping up this month to bump me over that finish line. Since my family lives all over the US and Southwest services a lot of the Central American destinations I’m interested in, I’ll have plenty of free travel in the bank. I don’t think I’d recommend trying to score this bonus if you don’t already spend the money for regular reasons, or if you don’t normally use Southwest. (But if not, dude, you should.)
Another great hack I came across, courtesy of Travel with a 9 to 5, is Twitter flight deal accounts like @SecretFlying and @TheFlightDeal. These are scanners that post wickedly low fares from across the web–sometimes they’re mistakes, sometimes just sales. There are many accounts like this, and the best way to keep up is to set alerts on your phone so you know about them right away and can book your tickets for WAY less. This week I saw a $412 round trip mistake fare from San Francisco to Sydney on Virgin America. Yes, round trip. On a regular airline. What??