How to Travel for FREE

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

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Free flights? Yes, please.

The answer? Frequent flyer miles.

It might take a little time & effort, but signing up for frequent flyer miles is definitely worth it! Even if you aren't completely loyal to one airline (like me!), the miles add up... especially when taking cross country or international flights. You might not be flying for free today, but it will pay off - I promise! I like to think of frequent flyer miles as a little investment account. The more I travel, the more I'm saving for the future :)


Here are some facts about frequent flyer miles, and tips to help you start earning NOW!

  • Currently, most airlines use the model of miles flown per segment, and a minimum cap for short legs (i.e., Delta gives me 500 miles when I fly from Nashville to Atlanta, even though it's only about 200 miles). Use this calculator to see how many miles (approximately) you'll earn.
  • Most airlines fall under three categories: Star Alliance (United), SkyTeam Alliance (Delta), or OneWorld Alliance (American Airlines). This is inclusive of many international airlines, even ones you've never heard of. This excludes only a few independent domestic airlines, like Southwest & Frontier, and international budget airlines like EasyJet & RyanAir. Check the links to see where your airlines fall.
    • A friend flew on LOT Airlines to Europe over the Summer and on EVA Air to Thailand last Spring. Even though I've never heard of either one, they both fall under the Star Alliance, giving her several thousand miles with United (enough for at least one round trip flight!). Another great example is our AeroMexico flight that gave us miles with Delta!
  • Each airline has a credit card that gives you miles per dollar, and can often come with additional perks. Delta SkyMiles Amex gives us free checked bags (not that we ever use them!), Zone 1 boarding, and double miles on all Delta purchases (flights, WiFi, in flight wine, etc). You can typically get a signing bonus of miles, upwards of 25,000! If you're interested in an airlines card, I'd suggest holding out for a large miles bonus (we waited for 50k!)
  • You can earn miles while you're still on the ground. Each major airline has affiliate shopping programs that give you miles per dollar spent! You just shop through their portal and earn miles on things you were buying anyway. You can DOUBLE your earnings when you use your branded credit card through it's matching portal (Delta Amex on SkyMiles shopping, etc). I use Delta but I've heard good things about American, too.
  • You can submit a request for your miles after your flight. Each airline has different rules, but it's good to know you have a little wiggle room.
  • Miles don't expire... within reason. Delta miles NEVER expire. American & United require activity within 18 months. Essentially, if you fly once every year or two on an airline, you can continue earning miles. Also, you can often times "reactivate" miles for a small fee. 
    • A former Continental (now United) lover myself, I had over 15k miles on the airline that had expired. I paid $25 to have them reactivated, and am using those 15k miles for a free one-way flight. Worth it!
  • Most airline miles redemption start at 12k one way. If you fly from NYC to LA round trip, you'll earn close to 5k miles. NYC to London is 6500 round trip. Even domestics like NYC to CHI, Denver to LAX, Miami to Dallas are 1500-2500 miles round trip. 
    • My trip to Italy will earn almost 10k miles. That's nearly enough for a one-way ticket!
Tomorrow I'll follow up with the beginner's guide to frequent flyer miles.

Have you ever used frequent flyer miles to earn free flights? Where did you go? Are you signing up for loyalty programs right now?!
xo

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