If you want to keep your travel expenses as low as possible, you’ve got to plan ahead. It surprises me when people don’t take the time to stalk low airfares for trips they know they are going to be taking. There’s really no excuse not to get the best fares within the US on Southwest Airlines, since they don’t charge change fees and you can cancel your ticket or get a credit if fares go down.
On their website, Southwest is currently offering 50,000 bonus points when you charge $2000 in the first three months of getting the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card. There is a $99 annual fee applied to your first statement, but 50,000 points can get you to a lot of places if you’re flexible and frugal!
Apply for the card when you have a big bill coming up. I always charge the yearly premium for my home and car insurance. If you don’t end up traveling that year, you’ll have the points banked. Even if it’s too late to get the card and earn the bonus points to use for the flight you want, you can still get the card and start charging any low Southwest fares that you find. I have found that the first two weeks of December, especially that second week, are an especially cheap time to go to Vegas Baby, VEGAS!
Easy Come Easy Go
It’s quick and easy to check airfares by using the low fare calendar. You put in the cities you want to fly to and from and search by month for the lowest fares. Once you find a low fare, you click on the day to get the exact flight. Non-stop flights are often the least expensive.
It’s also easy to change your flight on the site and/or get a credit if the price goes down. You are prompted multiple times before your original flight is canceled and your new flight is booked. If only the price has changed, it shows you the credit that goes back into your account. You have a year from when the flight was originally booked to use a credit if you paid in cash. If you used points, they get redeposited with no time limit to use them, except some activity in your account within a 24 month period (and the credit card counts as activity).
I go to Vegas in the summer at about the same time every year to meet a group of friends from around the country. In January, I saw a flight from Philadelphia to Vegas in July for $135 or 7318 points, so I immediately booked it. It was on a Tuesday in the evening, but I thought I would try to take public transportation to and from the airport to save additional money. In February when return fares didn’t seem to be budging, I booked a non-stop flight from Vegas back to Philly for $224 or 14448 points, for a reasonable $359 or 21766 points round trip. On July 7, I re-booked the same Vegas to Philly flight for $154 or 9369 points. Two days later the price went down to $114 or 6690 points. On that same day, I decided to fly to Vegas one day earlier on a morning non-stop flight, also for $114 or 6690 points.
Ultimately, I flew to Vegas and back to Philly non-stop, both on a Monday for $228 round trip or 13380 points for a total savings of $131 or 8386 points. This is an excellent fare for the summer but when I originally booked back in January, there was no way for me to know that fares would go down and not up. (I had a red eye back to Philly, so I could not use public transportation, since it doesn’t run from midnight until 5am. I used the van shuttle service, Rapid Rover instead and my seat mate from the plane would also be my seat mate in the Rapid Rover van, since we live in the same town. What are the chances?)
You don’t have to check fares every day, like I do, but it can’t hurt to check fares once a week and every time a sale comes out. (Fares change during the sale period though, so if you’re looking to score a sizable discount, check frequently.) If you received the 50,000 bonus points, why not check multiple destinations and go to the one with the best discount? I’d love to hear about any spectacular bargains you find!
More on Southwest Airlines:
Southwest Airlines | An Introduction
Southwest Airlines | Credit Cards, Maximizing Rapid Rewards and Finding the Best Fares