I love to travel. I enjoy exploring new places, as well as visiting old favorites to just relax. We take at least three vacations a year by car to Eagle Crest Resort, which is about a two-hour drive from our home. We pack up our Acrua MDX, hit the road, grab some groceries in the town near the resort and move into the condo for a week of relaxation. We’ve been doing this since 1991, and it truly feels like a second home to our family.
However, as much as we enjoy Eagle Crest, we occasionally like to get out of our comfort zone and explore sites and visit friends out of state. This usually means traveling by airplane rather than car. I don’t mind riding in or driving the MDX (it’s a very comfortable car!), but driving takes a lot of time and we’d rather spend our vacation hours at our destination rather than traveling to get there.
Plane tickets and all the fees can get pretty spendy, but we’ve been flying on the cheap for years. In fact, we haven’t paid full fare since 2000! How do we do it? We accumulate frequent flyer miles and use great *finesse to stretch their value.
We are members of the Alaska Airline mileage plan, but most airline programs are similar. The vast majority of our earned miles have nothing to do with flying. We accumulate miles by using an Alaska Airlines Visa and an Alaska Airline debit card. We use the cards for anything and everything possible, and the miles add up quickly. When we built our house, we put all of our construction purchases on our Visa card, and paid off the balance with the construction loan draw. Those were big purchases that really helped build the account.
When we use our miles for a flight, we rarely use miles for the entire purchase. If you do, you won’t accumulate the miles flown on that flight. However, if you use miles and cash, you can accumulate the miles flown. For a one way discounted ticket, you can use 10,000 miles and receive a 50 percent discount up to $100 on a less expensive itinerary, or use 20,000 miles and receive a 50 percent discount up to $200 for a more expensive destination.
Each year we receive a discounted companion fare, which allows us to purchase a ticket for $99 with the purchase of a full fare ticket. This is always a better option than using miles and cash. We recently flew to Alaska using this option.
When we fly, we usually stay in a hotel and rent a car. We earn miles just by using our mileage plan’s hotel and car rental partners (and there’s usually a discount). We pay our bill using our Alaska Airlines Visa to earn even more miles!
Do you want to fly more often and spend less? Try what works for us!
- Join a mileage plan and really get to know the benefits.
- Accumulate miles doing things you already do, like purchasing groceries and fuel.
- Research the best way to use your miles for maximum benefit.
- Use car rental and hotel partners when you travel to earn even more miles.
Do you have any tips for flying on the cheap?
My travel finesse level:
Novice Advanced beginner Competent Proficient Expert
What’s your travel finesse level?
*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)