Would you like to get round trip international flights for under $50 for you and your family?
If so, read on.
That’s exactly what we did a few weeks ago. We’ll be traveling to Colombia in the summer 🙂 . You see, my daughter is now over 2 years old, so she doesn’t fly for free anymore. This was the first international trip where we needed to purchase 3 tickets instead of 2. They grow up so fast.
Luckily for us, we had a decent arsenal of travel miles and points from credit cards. For this particular trip we would end up using Citi ThankYou Points, Southwest Rapid Rewards, and Barclays Bonus Miles. Before we get to how we booked the flights, let’s look at how we accumulated the points.
- We used the Barclaycard Arrival Plus to get 70,000 miles
- We used the Citi Thank You Premier to get 60,000 ThankYou points
- We used the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus to get 120,000 Rapid Rewards points (60,000 each). Unfortunately, you can no longer open both of these cards at the same time. However, you probably don’t need to. We only spent a fraction of the points above. More on that later.
There are no direct flights from Raleigh (RDU) to Bogota (BOG). So we usually need to go through Atlanta, Orlando, Miami or Fort Lauderdale. There are many other airports in the U.S. with direct flights to Bogota, but those are the ones that make the most sense from Raleigh. I’ll cover the international part of the trip first, and then we can tackle the domestic one.
Orlando (MCO) to Bogota (BOG) – $225.99
After doing some research, it became clear that Orlando and JetBlue were the winning combination in terms of price and timing between the flights. Once we narrowed down the airline, it was a matter of choosing the travel rewards we wanted to use. We decided to use Citi ThankYou points over Chase Ultimate Rewards points (CUR) since CUR points are more flexible and we can probably use them more efficiently later. Both of these reward points transfer to JetBlue at a 1:1 ratio.
To find how many points we would need, we just searched on the JetBlue website and checked the “Use TrueBlue points” button.
After entering all the information, we knew exactly how many points and cash the 3 flights were going to cost.
The next step was to transfer the exact number of points from our City Thank You Premier account to our JetBlue account. 31,500 in this case. This is about half of the points we earned via the sign up bonus so we still have enough points on this card for another family trip.
What About the $225.99?
When redeeming miles or points for flights like this, you still have to use cash to pay for certain taxes and fees. These are usually more expensive for international flights. While this not ideal, it is much cheaper than paying full price for the entire ticket, which would have been $774.09.
As you can see, the savings so far are $548 (774.09 – 225.99). So it’s not unrealistic to say that the 60,000 sign up bonus on the City Thank You Premier is worth around $1,000.
I would have been happy with this savings alone, but we are just getting started 🙂
Using Miles to Pay for Taxes and Fees – Bringing the Price Down to Zero
Thanks to the Barclaycard Arrival Plus that I mentioned earlier, we were able to “erase” the taxes and fees via a statement credit. Cards like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus are known as fixed value cards. This means that once you have miles in your account, you can use them to reimburse yourself for expenses that are categorized as “travel”. Since we paid the taxes and fees with this card, we were then able to “delete” the expense with our miles.
By this point, the total cost of our three MCO to BOG round trip tickets is ZERO! Gotta love free travel. The remaining 58,734 miles can be used to pay ourselves back for another $587.34 of future travel expenses.
Total savings for the MCO to BOG flights = $744.09
Flying from Raleigh (RDU) to Orlando (MCO)
Since we have a Southwest Companion Pass (pay for one flight, bring a companion for free), this is usually our airline of choice when flying domestically. We also have a bunch of Southwest points from when we earned the Companion Pass. To recap, we earned it as follows*:
- 60,000 through the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card
- 60,000 through the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card
The process of booking the flight is very similar as with JetBlue. Look-up the dates and destinations you want, and then perform the search on “points” rather than on “dollars”. We ended up paying with 25,448 Southwest points (12,724 each for my wife and daughter, mine was free as I’m the “companion” 🙂 )
In addition to the points, we each had to pay $11.20, for a grand total of $33.60. This is all we paid for our flights.
The same Southwest tickets would have cost $611.88 if paid fully in cash. So the total savings from using the Southwest points are $578.28 (611.88 – 33.60).
Total savings = $1,322.37 (578.28 from Southwest + $744.09 from JetBlue)
Conclusion and Takeaways
We are very exited about our upcoming trip! It will be awesome to spend time with friends and family we haven’t seen in a while. Being able to buy our plane tickets for $33.60 makes the whole experience even better. I’m not saying any of this to brag, but simply to show you that using miles and points is a great way to save a lot of money on travel. The best part, anyone can do it.
Here is are the credit cards we used for this particular trip if you want to consider doing something similar:
- Barclaycard Arrival Plus
- Citi Thank You Premier
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier and Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus
I hope the example above can help you plan and execute your own travel adventures for pennies on the dollar. If you have any questions or want to share your travel rewards experiences, let us know in the comments below!
*By earning more than 110,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points on the same calendar year, we earned the Southwest Companion Pass. Which means when my wife purchases a Southwest ticket (with points or cash) she can bring along a companion (A.K.A. me) for free. Having the companion pass helps us keep more of our Southwest points. The companion pass has gotten a little more difficult to earn. You can no longer do it through 2 Southwest personal credit cards. One workaround for this is to use one personal card and one business card. You can Google “how to earn Southwest Companion Pass” for more info.