The cost of a family vacation is one of the top factors preventing many families from traveling. When travel is safe, I know many families will be excited to take the skies and get away. This week we chat with Lyn Mettler from Families Fly Free to get her tips about saving on airfare and earning points to fly for free.
Lyn Mettler is a longtime travel writer for US News, the TODAY Show and MSN, who in 2015 discovered a way to easily fly her family free all around the US, Caribbean and Europe. She now teaches other families her simple process through her Families Fly Free members program, podcast and blog.
Tips to Help Families Fly Free
- To save money on airfare, book international trips at least six months in advance.
- Thanksgiving is a good time to search for flight deals for spring break or summer vacations.
- Search for flight deals using services such as Scott’s Cheap Flights, Dollar Flight Club, Hopper, FlyLine, and SkyScanner.
- Being flexible with your departure airports, looking at major cities within a driving distance, will help you find better flight deals.
- If you are looking to use upgrade using miles, check the airline websites daily to see what seats may have opened up.
- Be sure to consider partner airlines from your preferred airline when thinking about where you might be able to fly for free.
- If you have an American Express Platinum card, you can book some hotels and airfares through American Express Travel and receive 5 times points on your purchases. Those points can then be transferred to partner airlines.
- Sometimes American Express or other credit cards offer a transfer bonus where you might be able to transfer your Amex points and instead of getting a 1:1 transfer, you might get a 1:1.5 transfer, offering up bonus points.
- Southwest is one of the best airlines to fly a family for free.
- The first step is signing up for a credit card to receive the sign up bonus, but only use it for things that you would buy anyway — don’t go into debt to fly for free.
- A Southwest Companion Pass is good on all flights during the year that it is earned, unlike some other airlines that have a companion pass but it is only good for one flight.
- Southwest is expanding their footprint of where they fly, offering many options for families looking to fly in the United States, the Caribbean, and even to Costa Rica.
- There is no need to sign up for tons of credit cards all the time. You can easily fly free with only about three different credit cards.
- Always book when a fare sale is happening to book with the fewest points, but realize that not every sale is a good sale. Luckily with Southwest you can always cancel and rebook when you find a better price.
- It helps to be flexible in where you want to fly and chase the best fare sales.
- Tuesday is generally the best day to book when the fares are the lowest.
- Keep checking even after you book and if fares go down, rebook those flights to save more points.
- For international flights to Europe, Aer Lingus typically offers the best fare and points deals. You can fly to Dublin and then from there, use cheap European airlines to hop to other places within Europe.
- If you fly Aer Lingus during the non-peak season, you can usually fly to Dublin for 26,000 points round trip.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve also offers great sign up bonuses.
- Aer Lingus, British Airways, and Iberia (Spanish airline) all use the Avios points program and it is easy to transfer points from Chase Sapphire Reserve to Avios and Southwest.
- Get Seven Ways to Earn Frequent Flyer Miles at home from Lyn Mettler.
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Read the Full Transcript
[00:00:00.120] – Kim
Start banking miles now to fly later.
[00:00:15.380] – Announcer
Welcome to Vacation Mavens, a family travel podcast with ideas for your next vacation and tips to get you out the door. Here are your hosts, Kim from Stuffed Suitcase and Tamara from We3Travel.
[00:00:30.140] – Kim
So, Tamara, we are going to be chatting all about airfare deals and a few tips for families that maybe are looking at having to buy a few tickets. And I think for a lot of us, now is a perfect time to start saving up some miles and points and looking at what we plan to do in the future when travel opens again.
[00:00:49.580] – Kim
So do you have any favorite little, I guess I would say, travel hacks that you’ve gotten on airfare, any deals that you’ve scored?
[00:00:58.580] – Tamara
You know, I was just posting something on Instagram recently about how I’m such an advanced planner. And all these people came back like, oh, I do it like still last minute.
[00:01:05.870] – Tamara
Like, we find an airfare fair deal and we go and I know that’s how so many people travel. But we tend to be more focused on, like, OK, we want to go here and then how do we get there. There are definitely been sometimes though, where an airfare deal has led us where we’re going, but maybe it’s helped us narrow down. I remember specifically a few years ago it was right before Thanksgiving, which is a great time to look for airfare deals, especially international ones.
[00:01:35.000] – Tamara
And we were looking at a number of different cities. And Vienna came up as something that we could get to for about five hundred dollars or a little bit under per person. And we we just booked it like very much on the fly. And so that’s you know, that’s one that was definitely driven by that.
[00:01:49.250] – Tamara
And then a couple of years ago, we were debating between a few different destinations. I think it was like Japan somewhere in South America and Morocco. And then Morocco came up with like a five hundred dollar deal. And we’re like, OK, decision made we are going to Morocco, you know? So sometimes that’s how it’s been. I mean, I definitely use different apps and things to track airfare.
[00:02:10.160] – Tamara
I just I think, as you know, I don’t have the flexibility, as much on timing and such. And I am an advance planner, so I like to do it in advance. But I think my biggest tip, from that is just know when is a good time to buy.
[00:02:26.900] – Tamara
For us, when we’re looking at spring break airfare or even maybe summer, especially international, Thanksgiving is a really good period because there are definitely a lot of sales and definitely with internationally, you want to be a good six months out from your trip because it’s just going to get more expensive from there. I remember a few years ago, Glenn and I were kind of last minute for us, which was maybe three months before I decided to go to France in the summer.
[00:02:54.680] – Tamara
And I think we ended up paying eighteen hundred dollars round trip each for economy. And it was killing us, you know, that other times we’ve gotten that for five hundred. But it’s just that’s what happens when you can’t make up your mind. But then you want to go to a particular place, you know. So it’s like, either be very flexible with where and when you want to go or plan pretty far in advance.
[00:03:17.420] – Kim
Yeah, I remember that episode that we talked to with Dia Adams and that was Episode one, our very first episode. And one of the things she had said I remember is flexibility. You’ve got to be flexible either on where you want to go or when you want to go. And so I think that’s a big thing that people don’t always consider. And we also have talked to Monet with the traveling child and they get some great airfare deals.
[00:03:41.360] – Kim
But for them, it’s kind of like what you saw with it just pops up where. OK, well, this is the cheap airfare. That’s where we’re going to go. And now we’re going to plan that vacation based on that destination.
[00:03:50.720] – Kim
So I think I think there’s some, you know, good, good thinking of that. And when you’re locked in a little more, it limits what you can do. I think for us, one of my best deals was I did a lot of research for our trip to Japan, which didn’t happen.
[00:04:05.570] – Kim
And I had figured out because, being an Alaska Airlines member, I found that there was a sweet spot with Alaska because they were partnered with Japan Airlines and I was able to score business class seats for us from Seattle to Tokyo nonstop. And I was so excited. Of course, now all those points are back in my account and we didn’t get to use them.
[00:04:26.060] – Kim
But I remember faithfully stalking the Alaska Airlines app every morning I would wake up and load it and search to see if any availability had come up for business class on those Japan Airlines flights. And I would check Seattle, San Francisco, Oakland. I think a tip is that if you have nearby airports, you can kind of search and see. And I think that Lyn will give us some of that same info that if you can be flexible with a few of your departure airports on International, that can be a real benefit.
[00:04:58.790] – Kim
I know you’ve had that as well, where you’ve sometimes, of course, mostly with your international going out of Boston. It’s a pretty major airport.
[00:05:06.890] – Tamara
So, yeah, the one when we went through to Morocco, we did go through New York.
[00:05:13.940] – Tamara
I was thinking of you and your Japan trip, when I was thinking about this episode, seemed like, well, you think about the times that we have done some of our best hacking work and we actually didn’t get to take this trip. We didn’t do quite the work that you did, but we had some Delta points which transfer to Air France. And then I had Glenn open up a Delta card.
[00:05:35.000] – Tamara
And then I had booked our Greece trip on American Express where you got five times points for hotels and airfare. And so then I took those points and transferred them to like his Delta. So we were doing our trip to Paris with three free flights. And so now we have all these Delta points where we have nothing to do with them because we we hardly ever fly Delta. Would like to it’s a nice airline. It’s just usually not something that is going where we’re going from, where we’re going.
[00:06:10.880] – Kim
Yeah, yeah. We have Delta points as well. Banked because I used our Delta points because Paul likes Delta and there a hub in Seattle after they had their big, nasty breakup with Alaska. But so we actually I wanted to fly home from Osaka. So we were going into Tokyo and out of Osaka. And the Japan Airlines flights connect from Osaka back through Tokyo. And whereas Delta goes direct from Osaka to Seattle. And so I booked I used, you know, Delta points and I transferred either Chase rewards or ultimate rewards membership, American Express points, I don’t remember which one into Delta so that I could get us home and I got us in whatever like the economy.
[00:06:54.110] – Kim
But yeah, those now are in my account too. And I like I said, I am a loyal Alaska Airlines flight flyer, so I kind of am like, OK, when are we going to use these Delta points? Because I always choose Alaska when I can. But yeah, I mean, I love Delta too.
[00:07:18.230] – Tamara
Well it’s funny because our American Express I had some points left and I used for Hannah and I to go to Marco Island in Florida and stay at the J.W. Marriott. This is not last December but the December before. And I then when I got refunded for my Greece hotels, they took away the points and now I have negative thirty five thousand points, so it’s terrible.
[00:07:43.760] – Tamara
But then the other day as well, another bad news thing is in the last six months I’ve had to replace practically all of our appliances in the house, everything keeps breaking. Our entire travel budget right now is going towards appliances, it seems like. But the other day I went to use the dryer and it was not working at all. And they’re ten years old. So I’m like, OK, so we went and we were buying a new washer dryer. And I’m like, I’m going to put it on my American Express because number one, you get the extra one year of like warranty extension and then I can make up some of those negative points. I need to get back to at least a zero balance. It’s really kind of sad to see negative points, you know?
[00:08:20.780] – Kim
I know. Yeah, that’s tough. The American Express card, by the way, right now, the platinum card, you get a thirty dollar PayPal credit.
[00:08:28.250] – Tamara
I got that.
[00:08:33.620] – Kim
I was paying our cell phone bill so I was getting the twenty dollar AT&T credit and then you know they need to give me something because we pay. What do we pay? I think it’s four fifty a year for that stinking card. And I haven’t stepped foot in a lounge for.
[00:08:50.720] – Kim
Well I guess March first I think was my last flight, I flew home from Disneyland on March 1st. It’s crazy to think that.
[00:08:58.820] – Tamara
Yeah well American Express definitely needs to do something to keep their members happy for what we pay.
[00:09:04.280] – Tamara
I know they’ve been doing that. Uber eats, you know, credit instead of giving you an Uber credit, but I’ve never actually used it because the fees and things are so expensive. And I feel bad because it takes away from the restaurant. So we tend to just order directly from the restaurant anyway. So I’ve had almost a whole year of those credits just disappearing.
[00:09:22.290] – Kim
Yeah, we do the same thing. We try to do local because I saw a thing that showed the math that restaurants can make almost nothing from Uber and those delivery services. And so the other day when Paul took the girls skiing, I was like, oh, I’m going to splurge and I’ll use my Uber credit because, you know, in December, I think it’s like twenty dollars or something. That’s more than the fifteen. So I thought I would splurge.
[00:09:46.310] – Kim
And so I logged on to buy myself a meal from a local Mexican restaurant, and it was just one entree and some chips and salsa and it was like over thirty dollars to have that meal and it’s just ridiculous. And it still took them like 45 minutes to get here because I was like drop number three or something. So I had to heat my food up anyway. So I’d rather just order my food and go pick it up locally.
[00:10:17.920] – Tamara
And it’s funny, because you think about these services, I’m like, aren’t these what college kids are using, how they’re going to afford that, right?
[00:10:26.430] – Kim
So hopefully they can give us some good deals and we can all keep stockpiling our miles for when we’re ready to travel again. But I wanted to give people a heads up because we’re going to be talking to Lynn about her tips.
[00:10:39.210] – Kim
But if you are kind of flexible on what you want to do and you are saving Miles or you’re just searching for cheap flights, a few of the sites that I know that I can give you guys a little shout out about are Scott’s cheap flights.
[00:10:51.480] – Kim
And I believe they have like a free one and then they have a premium version. And a lot of people that have the premium say that it’s worthwhile. How that works for a family that needs to buy multiple tickets, I’m not so sure. And then the other really popular cheap flight alert deal site is called Delta Flight Club. And so I know that’s another one that they send you emails, you know, throughout the day of all these deals. So that’s a couple of you know, if you’re looking for those cheap airfare deals, those are good.
[00:11:19.680] – Kim
But again, I don’t know how well those work for families. I know Monet likes them, so they must work for families.
[00:11:28.110] – Tamara
I’ve used Dollar Fly Club and I’ve used Fly Line, which is someone that I started working with last year and lets you kind of build together your flight using different airlines. So if you’re going international, you might do one hop on one airline and the other hop on the other airline. But it puts together in one ticket. So you don’t have to deal with issues of them not checking you in or something like that you can check on all the way through.
[00:11:51.300] – Tamara
So that was a good one. And then I’ve used Hopper a lot in the past just to kind of keep an eye on things and of course, Google flights is kind of the the one that’s taken over everything.
[00:12:00.600] – Kim
Yeah. Not that we like, you know, giving Google all of our information, but I do know that Google flights is good because you can put in your outbound city and then like the dates you want to fly and you can leave the destination kind of blink and it’ll show you flight deals for all around the United States if you’re in the U.S. and then also international deals.
[00:12:22.080] – Tamara
Yeah, it’s a good way to take a look when you’re not quite sure where you want to go. You know, you want to do it on a budget.
[00:12:27.300] – Kim
Exactly. And I know that another one that people have talked about a lot that I tried to use a little bit is called Skyscanner.
[00:12:33.780] – Kim
And I think Skyscanner is good. Again, it’s a monitoring flight, so you can kind of monitor your destination and deals and stuff. However, I do see that Skyscanner has a lot of third party flight sale booking sites and a lot of them have very negative reviews.
[00:12:51.840] – Kim
And so I kind of stopped using it just because I feel like when you you find a great deal, then you see that it’s that, you know, Big Bob’s cheap airfare.
[00:13:01.950] – Kim
And so I haven’t been, you know, totally on board with that. So just another heads up. For some people, Skyscanner works well. But, you know, a little bit of word of caution there.
[00:13:12.330] – Tamara
That’s why sometimes the the membership ones are interesting because they’re alerting you to deals and that’s how they’re making their money. But you don’t have to necessarily book through them. You know, I always prefer and what we’ve talked about this a lot is booking direct whenever we can, just because it gives you more flexibility and cancellations or changes and all that kind of stuff.
[00:13:32.760] – Tamara
Well we’ve certainly covered different topics along the almost five years now that we’ve been doing this podcast, different things about traveling with points or travel hacking or how to find travel deals. So there’s definitely episodes to go back and listen to, but it’s always great to get people’s perspectives. And so today we’re going to talk to Lyn, and she works a lot with Southwest, but she has a whole program about helping families fly free.
[00:13:57.810] – Tamara
And I know that for many of us, that’s, you know, we’re dreaming about travel, but we may not have a big budget. So it’s time to start thinking about it and planning it now so that when we can travel, you’ve got some some miles in the bank, so to speak, and you can absolutely take off somewhere. Let’s talk to Lyn.
[00:14:23.980] – Tamara
Today, we’re here with Lyn Mettler. She’s a long time travel writer for U.S. News, The Today Show on MSN. And in 2015, she discovered a way to easily fly free with her family all over the U.S., Caribbean and Europe. And she now teaches other families her simple process through Families Fly Free Members program and her podcast and blog. So welcome, Lyn.
[00:14:44.470] – Lyn
Thanks for having me and glad to be here.
[00:14:53.590] – Tamara
Obviously, our listeners are interested in trying to fly free with their families. Maybe not right now, but for the future. I think everyone’s budget has been a little bit crunched this year and we’re looking forward to planning things in the future. So this hopefully will give them a chance to think ahead, plan ahead and start building towards that dream trip whenever whenever they can get it back out there.
[00:15:18.850] – Lyn
Like, now is a great time if you’re not traveling to be getting your plan in place and collecting your frequent flyer miles and whatever you need, even if you’re just sitting at home so that you can do that in the future, at least it gives you something to look forward to.
[00:15:34.720] – Kim
So Lyn, why don’t you start off and tell our listeners a little bit about some of the awesome destinations that your family has flown for free to?
[00:15:42.490] – Lyn
As Tamara said, we really just try to focus on the U.S., the Caribbean and Europe. So the first trip we took where we totally flew free, all four of us was to San Diego. That destination holds a special place in our heart and we’d love to go back there. But we also love to go to National Parks. So we’ve been able to go to lots of different national parks we would have never been able to do by flying free.
[00:16:06.820] – Lyn
We like Disney. So pretty much every year we either go to Disney World or Disneyland. Of course, we we took our dream trip to Europe again that I never thought we’d be able to afford to do. And I was able to fly all four of us over there on miles. And then the Caribbean is awesome, too, you know, when you ready for some warm weather. And so my favorite Caribbean destination so far that we’ve been to is Grand Cayman.
[00:16:29.970] – Kim
I like Grand Cayman, have great beaches there.
[00:16:32.730] – Lyn
They do, and it’s just feels very American. I think it’s very especially if you haven’t been traveled internationally, it’s a it’s an easy one to start. Yeah.
[00:16:43.080] – Tamara
Until you go to drive and then they’re on the other side of the road.
[00:16:46.560] – Lyn
That’s a little weird. My husband was able to do that, amazingly. But yeah, if you’re not comfortable with that, then take a taxi or something instead.
[00:16:55.260] – Tamara
It’s definitely easier than in Ireland. At least the roads are much wider. But I remember the first time we landed in Grand Cayman, I got into the into the taxi and the guy just like looked at me and I realized I was sitting in the driver’s seat.
[00:17:11.280] – Tamara
So I imagine that took a lot of work. And there’s four of you that you mentioned. So you’re flying everyone for free versus, you know, getting one ticket or trying to do like the, you know, first class thing. You know, you are looking at flying a family, and that is definitely our audience as well. So can you tell us a little bit more about some of the travel hacking methods that you use? I mean, we’ve talked about this a couple of times with some other people on the podcast, but everybody has their own system and ways that they like to do things.
[00:17:39.090] – Tamara
And some are a lot more work than others. So I’d love to hear about your process.
[00:17:43.560] – Lyn
Sure. So my goals are, number one, to keep it simple and also to fly my whole family, as you said, to as many places as we can go. So we are not the people that are flying first class to Japan and fly back seat on a plane with the shower and glasses of wine. Like, I will hang on to the back of the plane if I have to, as long as I’m flying there free. So I really try to focus on the the fewest number of steps you can take yet to fly everyone free.
[00:18:13.300] – Lyn
So for us, that is taking advantage of a couple of travel credit cards and of course, earning the those big sign on bonuses where you get a whole bunch of miles just in one go, just by meeting the minimum spend. And I always teach people, you to only put your everyday expenses on. There are things that you were already going to buy anyway. It’s never about getting yourself in debt or buying things you shouldn’t be buying.
[00:18:43.230] – Lyn
I’m a big proponent of Southwest Airlines. So I think for families who again, want to keep it simple and want to travel a lot of places, they have the simplest system to do that. And one of the big reasons is the Southwest companion pass. So if you’re not familiar with that, that is a pass that you earn and it lets you bring one person with you on as many flights as you want to take while you have this pass for free.
[00:19:10.020] – Lyn
Aside from the five dollar and 60 cent government security fees, you have to pay per person. But other than that, you’re not paying an airfare, let’s just say. And that pass is good, not just once, because some airlines have companion passes, but they’re good one time. This pass is good from the time you earn until the end of the following year. So that falls into my category of like the one thing you can do to save significantly on airfare, because if you don’t ever have to pay for one member of your family to fly, like, there is just no better deal than that going.
[00:19:44.250] – Lyn
Then to get that pass, you need to earn one hundred and twenty five thousand Southwest points to do so. And then you can use those points to book everyone else in your family free. So you’ve got one person you don’t have to use any points or dollars for and the rest of you uses that one hundred twenty five thousand points to fly free. So it did take me about a year to kind of figure out the best process and do all the research and read all the blogs and all of that until I really streamlined how we do it.
[00:20:13.860] – Lyn
And that is kind of basically how it works. And I would say the first year that I figured this out, we were able to take our family of four to six different places over the course of a year for about a hundred dollars per trip. And I’ve now figured out how to do that for less. And that hundred dollars comes from that five dollar and 60 cents per day per person.
[00:20:36.870] – Lyn
You have to pay the annual fees for just two cards that we used. And then we ended up buying a few points at the very beginning to kind of get us to where we needed to be to actually redeem a free flight. So it’s pretty amazing what you can do. And again, with Southwest, a lot of people don’t like that you can’t pick your seat. So you might be in the back of the plane. But who cares if you’re flying for free. That’s my thought.
[00:21:00.720] – Tamara
Yeah, well, and you guys have teens, too. So it’s if you’re not all together, isn’t maybe not as big of a deal.
[00:21:07.650] – Lyn
Right. And we have never had a situation where one parent and one child couldn’t sit together. That’s how we do it. We just break it up into two and two. But I’ve even forgotten to like check in, which is how you get your boarding order on Southwest. And I was literally in the very back and we still could sit two and two and their flight attendants are awesome. So, if for some reason you have a young child and you can’t find a seat together, they’ll figure it out, it’s like they’ll get someone to switch with you or something, you know?
[00:21:34.930] – Kim
I was going to mention also like just four people on the West Coast that, you know, side note, the Alaska Airlines card has a similar type of thing, not quite the same. Not quite the good deal. But you can if you have the Alaska Airlines credit card once a year, you get a companion certificate where you pay ninety nine dollars plus those taxes.
[00:21:54.310] – Kim
And so for families, that also is a good thing if you’re on the West Coast a lot and doing that kind of trip because, you know, you can pay 100 hundred bucks for what would be a 500 to 600 dollar flight, so that can be a good savings.
[00:22:14.470] – Lyn
And is that just a one time?
[00:22:16.340] – Kim
So it’s every year it’s an annual. It’s just the one time. Yeah. But I would say a lot of families, it seems they take that one spring break or summer trip. We all travel a lot more than that. But for some families it’s a good plan.
[00:22:36.850] – Lyn
[00:22:37.990] – Lyn
And Southwest has added a lot of destinations in 2020. Well, they’re going to be adding mostly in 2021. So they’re expanding their footprint, which I like too. So if you happen to be in a place where they don’t fly, they’re starting to branch out a bit more.
[00:22:51.640] – Kim
Yeah, and Southwest is also just good for, you know, if you are buying the other tickets as well. They’re so convenient with the no change fees and free checked baggage and all that is is definitely a plus.
[00:23:05.260] – Lyn
I’ve gotten to where I could hardly book another airline not knowing that I could change it if I wanted to, because we just book all the time with points because we think we might want to go somewhere and it’s a good deal.
[00:23:18.040] – Lyn
And then if we a kid gets sick or we decide we don’t want to do that or whatever, easy. We just cancel the points, go right back in our account. No penalty. You know, it’s just I have a peace of mind. So, I mean, in the way I show families how to do this is you really just work with the Southwest program for the U.S. and the Caribbean so you don’t have to worry about is this airline a partner with this airline in which cards, you know. I like I use three travel credit cards for 90 percent of our free travel.
[00:23:50.560] – Lyn
So I’m definitely not someone who recommends, you know, because it’s very easy to get turned into, oh, this card has an amazing offer and I should get it because it’s a limited time and whatever. And I think we’ve all made, like, the mistakes early on of getting a card. We wish we hadn’t because it seemed like a great deal. So I have a very specific like here’s the cards I recommend get them in this order and then you’re done, you know, so you don’t have to worry about.
[00:24:15.820] – Tamara
Yeah. We’re so busy. I listen to a couple of points people and they talk about the spreadsheet that they have, you know, the bonuses. And when you turn off this one and that one and I’m like, oh no thank you.
[00:24:28.450] – Kim
Yeah it is. They have like sticky notes on the credit cards in their wallet. So they’re like, OK, I’m at a restaurant, I’m using this one this time. And they change the sticky notes like every month on which credit card they use. And it’s overwhelming. It’s like you said, Tamara, it’s totally like couponing.
[00:24:42.040] – Lyn
I mean, like you can get into you can doing it that way if you want, for sure. You know, some people love doing that, but yeah, for busy moms, I mean, we’re working and managing kids and helping parents and, you know, trying to take care of ourselves. Like we don’t need to be spending hours on this.
[00:24:57.730] – Tamara
You know, we want simple so that it works.
[00:25:00.340] – Lyn
Keep it simple.
[00:25:01.570] – Tamara
Well, in one question I have for you is you use Southwest and we fly southwest quite a bit. And I also I enjoy that airline because I know some people are uncomfortable with the method of lining up and getting on in the open seating. But I actually like it because it feels very orderly instead of everyone trying to cram in there and fight with the entire rest of the plane. So I kind of like that part of it. And I’ve gotten used to, you know, how things work and, you know, waking up early or whatever to try to log in right away to to get my boarding order assignment.
[00:25:39.400] – Tamara
But one of the things that I found about Southwest is like if you fly, you know, at off times, like you can find some really amazing, you know, like one way is for 7000 points or these kind of really amazing, amazingly low point rewards.
[00:25:55.690] – Tamara
But you have two teens. So I imagine you also have trouble like working around school schedules a little bit, what do you find?
[00:26:02.890] – Tamara
Do you really look for destinations that have low points in terms of flying there? Or are you just like, here’s where we want to go and when we want to go? And we’ll we’ll book whatever it takes.
[00:26:16.750] – Lyn
So a key part of this and I have a program called Families Fly Free where I teach everyone my process and I give them, like, updated information that they need to know in real time to keep doing this. So first part is you have to kind of learn the process. Second is what you’re asking about, how it’s booking the flights for the fewest amount of points possible, and so we literally just flew to Las Vegas in October to drove into Utah to do the national parks. I flew us there for 2700 points per flight.
[00:26:50.890] – Lyn
You you learn to you have to buy when they’re having a sale. And we alert our members always when they have a sale almost every week. So they’re not all good. So we tell them it’s a sale, but we’ll tell them this is a good sale. This isn’t a good sale because Southwest lets you book in points and change with no penalty. You need to constantly check and see if the price has gone down. And when I say constantly, as much as you want, at least once a week is what I suggest on Tuesdays, because that’s when airfares tend to be lowest.
[00:27:18.100] – Lyn
So check and see if the price has gone down. And if it has, it’s really easy to rebook on their website. And if you’ve booked on points, those points go right back into your account. So we have saved tens of thousands of points just by doing that alone. And most people miss that. They don’t realize you can keep checking and keep adjusting and changing if you find a better deal. So and then, yes, I do look for destinations that are fewer points from my home airport, which is Indianapolis.
[00:27:48.580] – Lyn
And we also are willing to drive and we do this. A fair amount will drive up to Chicago, which is about two and a half hours from us. If the airfare is significantly less. So that deal to Las Vegas, we actually did drive up and flew out of Midway because it would have been like seven thousand points per day from Indianapolis. And if I can pay twenty seven hundred points, that’s another free trip my family can take right there.
[00:28:17.470] – Kim
Well, we’ve definitely talked a lot about the United States and those kind of destinations. And with Southwest Airlines being, you know, mostly a U.S. and Caribbean airline, what about Europe? You know, I figure that’s much harder. And you said you have been to Europe. So do you have any little tips for families who are thinking of a dream European vacation?
[00:28:36.160] – Lyn
Yeah. So my favorite way to fly to Europe, which I think is it’s the cheapest number of miles and the easiest way to do it is on Aer Lingus, which is the national airline of Ireland. And they have a really good deal where if you fly during their off peak season, which is actually two thirds of the year, so it’s most of the year except for the peak summer months, spring break. And like the holidays, you can fly for twenty six thousand miles roundtrip from several major cities in the U.S. to Dublin.
[00:29:11.530] – Lyn
So it’s like Boston and DC and New York and Chicago and San Francisco, lots of major cities. So you may need to get to one of those major cities. And I recommend flying Southwest or using a companion pass to do so. But again, we just would drive up to Chicago and then we fly over to Dublin. And then once you’re over in Europe, it’s really cheap to get a flight out of Dublin like. So when we took our big trip a couple of years ago, we flew to Dublin and then we just used points to fly on into Paris.
[00:29:42.010] – Lyn
And then we flew Ryanair, which is a really cheap discount airline in Europe for like three hundred dollars for all four of us to go from Paris to Bologna. And that was with all they have there, one of those that charge a bunch of fees, but that included all of the baggage fees and everything. And then we flew points from Bologna back to Dublin. And so I was able to do that with one card sign up, which happened to be the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
[00:30:09.250] – Lyn
When they had that card first came out, they were offering one hundred thousand points if you met the minimum spend. So my husband was able to get that. And that was enough for all four of us to fly to Europe, which was amazing. So pretty simple, really, because it was one card sign up and then one airline.
[00:30:27.040] – Lyn
And Aer Lingus uses Avios, which is we’re talking about partner airlines. They are partners with British Airways and Iberia. So if you have, you can transfer or use for any of those three airlines. And the way I like to earn them is with the Chase ultimate rewards because Chase ultimate rewards transfer to Southwest super easy and they also transfer to Aer Lingus super easy. So that accomplishes my goals of US and Europe.
[00:30:57.370] – Tamara
When we went to London three years ago, we flew Aer Lingus through Dublin. We didn’t do it with points we paid. But just even from a cash standpoint, it was definitely cheaper than, you know, the direct flights to London, which, you know, it’s added a little bit of time, but not really that much time.
[00:31:13.720] – Lyn
And we just made like a day trip out of it. We stayed in Dublin actually for two nights and just saw the sights of Dublin for a day just to check that all our bucket list, you know, so that’s a way to do it, too. If you want to spend a little bit of time in Ireland. And Dublin is a really, really nice airport and. Flying out of Dublin, you actually go through customs before you board in Dublin, so you don’t have to do it when you get off in the U.S., which is another great benefit.
[00:31:39.540] – Tamara
And they even have Global entry and everything there, too.
[00:31:42.750] – Kim
They have a lounge there, too.
[00:31:48.240] – Kim
Well, yeah, I think that that’s I think what you said, there’s two parts to that that I’ll just quickly mention that I thought stood out was just be flexible and kind of be willing to look beyond just the traditional I’m going to fly from Seattle to Tokyo, you know, even though that’s a common flight. But you know what I mean. You know, like you guys going to Chicago and then going to Dublin and using that as a jumping off point, I think that’s really a tip for people, is to be a little more flexible and see if you can even get from one place.
[00:32:15.750] – Kim
Like I know a lot of times I have looked when we were planning that Japan trip, I looked out of LAX in San Francisco because, you know, sometimes those flights to Japan were a little cheaper. And for me to get from Seattle to L.A. or San Francisco is pretty easy. So definitely be, you know, thinking outside of the box on that. And then I think one of the things I’ll quickly mention is what you said about that people need to be aware of is something like Chase and the American Express cards have kind of those I don’t know what the term is used, but they’re universal points that can be traded into other networks and programs.
[00:32:50.070] – Kim
And sometimes that can be handy for families who aren’t loyal to one brand and want to kind of spread things around. So I think that that’s that’s something for people to be aware of, is that there is a difference where when people talk about travel credit cards, sometimes it’s with one hotel like Marriott or it’s with one airline, you know, like Southwest. But other times it could be just the American Express or the Chase, which are kind of universal points that can be traded in. So I think that’s something for people to be aware of.
[00:33:17.250] – Lyn
Yeah, I’m a big fan of the flexible points for that for exactly what you’re saying. Now, if you’re loyal to one airline or to one hotel brand, you really use it a lot, then you do need to probably have their card because you’ll get some good perks for doing so. But then pair that with the flexible card who whose points travel to your favorite programs, you know, and Chase Ultimate Rewards works well within my system. And then it happens to transfer to some hotel programs as well. Should we have plenty of points and want to use it for that also.
[00:33:49.290] – Tamara
Well, definitely lots to think about when it comes to planning some trips. I know you’d also mentioned the Caribbean. Now, would Southwest also be your preferred airline for getting to the Caribbean?
[00:33:59.280] – Lyn
Absolutely. And because you can bring someone free with you. So, yeah, that’s a great deal.
[00:34:06.540] – Tamara
Now, what are some of the islands that they go to?
[00:34:09.930] – Lyn
A lot of different places in the Caribbean. Mexico is a is very popular among families. Of course, Grand Cayman, Turks and Caicos. We’ve been to the Dominican Republic on Southwest. They go to the most recent like Jamaica. Yeah. And Costa Rica.
[00:34:29.760] – Lyn
So, yeah. Lots of choices there. And of course they now fly to Hawaii. So for lots of families, that’s their dream bucket list trip is to to go away.
[00:34:40.950] – Tamara
And so for when we just talked about Hawaii too. And that is from California. Right. So if you get yourself to California, then you connect there.
[00:34:49.680] – Lyn
Right. You will have to connect in California. But yeah, you can fly from major U.S. cities to connect in California and then over and there’s, you know, good ones like San Francisco and San Diego, where you can if you want it again to stop and make it kind of hang out there for a weekend or something and then hop on over to Hawaii. So it’s not such a long flight. That’s a good option, too.
[00:35:13.140] – Kim
So you mentioned it took you about a year when you first were starting. What would you say for the average family starting out? Maybe they’re a family of four. How much time should they allow for kind of earning points? How does that how does that look for an average family on, you know, what would be realistic to think if they want to have a vacation and they’re going to buy all their airfare with points, what does that look like, do you think, from a time perspective?
[00:35:37.410] – Lyn
If you know what to do and what steps to take within two to three months, you can be flying around the U.S. in the Caribbean.
[00:35:46.650] – Lyn
For Europe, I’d give yourself four to six months of time to to get those points in order. But the key is you need to know what steps to take and what order.
[00:35:56.850] – Lyn
And you can definitely search online and discover a process for yourself. But like I said, I’ve mapped mine down just for families who want to travel to those destinations. It’s really pretty simple if you know what to do when.
[00:36:14.260] – Tamara
And you’ve talked about the companion pass for Southwest and I seem to recall like is that only offered as a special promotion at certain times of year and is sometimes limited? Like I remember there is one that I was going to do, and I didn’t live in a state where it was offered or something like that. Are there sometimes restrictions that you need to look out for?
[00:36:32.500] – Lyn
No, you can earn one any time of the year and it’s good from whatever you earn it till the end of the following year. So there’s no location restrictions. All you have to do is earn these hundred and twenty five thousand qualifying points. Boom, you got it.
[00:36:48.880] – Kim
When they first launched their Hawaii one Tamara, I think that’s what you’re thinking of. They did it to just California residents when they first launched that, you know, and they will have like special promotions where you can earn a companion pass by just meeting a minimum spend or by flying six flights. But the typical process that you can use at any point in time is to just get those qualifying points in and then you just have your pass.
[00:37:14.200] – Tamara
There was a year when my husband was flying to Milwaukee every week and he was always flying Southwest. So he made A list but for some reason we never went through getting the companion pass, like now thinking back now, why did we not take advantage of all that Southwest flying?
[00:37:30.820] – Lyn
It’s it’s totally the number one thing you can do to fly free. That’s simple. You know, if you if you just do that, you’re in good shape for a while for even for a whole thing.
[00:37:43.690] – Kim
So do you have any final tips that you want to share with our listeners, just about, you know, helping families fly free?
[00:37:51.760] – Lyn
One thing I want to make sure families know is that you can earn frequent flyer miles for whatever your preferred airline from home. That was the big light bulb moment for me. When I started into this, I thought people who flew a lot is who earned frequent flyer miles and I didn’t fly a lot. So how can I earn frequent flyer miles?
[00:38:13.210] – Lyn
So, I mean, making sure, you know, there’s a lot that you can do from home right now, like taking advantage of airline shopping portals, which just means you start your online shopping in their portal and then you earn points for things you were going to be buying anyway. You earn frequent flyer miles or travel points, right. Or dining at restaurants.
[00:38:33.340] – Lyn
All of the airlines have dining programs where you can earn points just by getting carry out at your local restaurant or eating there. There’s a lot of different things. In fact, I have a list on my go to travel gal dot com blog of 101 Ways You Can Earn Southwest points and very few of them are by I mean certainly you can earn them by flying, but that’s not the way I recommend doing it. We get all of our points mostly without flying.
[00:39:00.250] – Lyn
They’re earned without flying is what I should say. I also have a list of seven different ways you can start earning frequent flyer miles from home that you can download and that you can find that at families fly free dot com slash vacation mavens. So that’s just for you guys. It’s a PDF that you can download and it’s easy things you can start doing today even if you’re not traveling and start accruing those points for your future travels whenever you’re ready to travel again.
[00:39:28.420] – Tamara
Perfect. And we’ll definitely link to that in our show notes because. I think that’s really sort of us these days, like I can’t remember things, so to have something written down that we can follow. That’s what I mean.
[00:39:41.480] – Kim
Great. So we will start wrapping up by asking our question that we ask all of our guests. And that is, what do you wear when you travel?
[00:39:48.590] – Lyn
Yes. I can’t wait for this. Been waiting for this question. So my favorite thing are Ofos flip flops. They were originally designed to be like a recovery shoe for runners. And I had a son who was a runner and I just happened upon them at the running store one day and I was like, these are the most comfortable, supportive things I have ever put on. So I got myself a pair and I have one. I’m on pair of number three. I think now take I wear a mountain about a year, but I have worn them all over the world, like at Disney, on the cobblestone streets of Europe, on the beach, you name it, you know.
[00:40:25.640] – Lyn
And I love them because they’re not your flat flip flop where you’re, you know, that hurt your feet if you do much walking like these are more supportive than any sneaker or tennis shoe I’ve ever owned. And I at one point I had plantar fasciitis and that was the only thing I could wear that kept my feet from hurting. So I absolutely loved those. And they now come in all kind of different stylish designs and colors because people beyond runners have now have now figured out how great they are.
[00:40:52.100] – Tamara
Yeah, I actually have a pair of their recovery slides and my husband had gotten them first and we we laughed at him that he called them recovery slides. But then I tried them on one day and I’m like, oh, these are so comfortable and I have plantar fasciitis too. And I needed something for just around the house. Like I can’t just walk around barefoot, you know, it just will bother it. So I started using those as well. And I noticed last time I was in a running store, they have all pretty styles as well.
[00:41:19.760] – Kim
I wonder if they have closed toed ones because Lizzie has a lot of trouble. She works in retail and she’s on her feet like her whole shift and she comes home with a bit of the plantar fasciitis, like her feet are swollen and really hurt. And so I wonder if those would be if they have those toed ones that they do.
[00:41:35.030] – Lyn
They do. And they look like they now they have boots. So I wear them in the winter for my boots. And they have kind of clogs which are but they’re made out of material, not they’re super soft kind of foamy stuff. But I think they have close toed ones, like the flip flops too.
[00:41:52.190] – Tamara
So maybe you can just remind our listeners where they can find you online.
[00:41:56.810] – Lyn
Sure. You can find me at Families Fly Free dot com. And then I also have a podcast where I teach families how to fly free, and that’s called the Families Fly Free podcast. And then you can find me on Instagram as families fly free and then Facebook and Twitter is go to travel go, which is my blog. So great.
[00:42:19.730] – Tamara
Well, thank you so much for sharing some of your process and your insights. And I’m sure everyone that wants to get more into this can go and download the PDF that you mentioned. So thank you for that as well.
[00:42:30.620] – Lyn
Great. Yes. I love to show people how to fly free. Everyone needs to know how to do it.
[00:42:35.660] – Kim
Thanks so much, Lynn. We appreciate you all the tips.
[00:42:42.860] – Tamara
Well, thanks for joining us for another week on Vacation Mavens. We are coming up on our five year anniversary. So if you guys have any suggestions on a special episode that you would like to hear or recaps or anything like that, please let us know. In the meantime, stay tuned. Our next episode in two weeks is going to be all about travel to the Catskill Mountains in New York, which is a great destination in the winter and the summer and the fall. Not so sure about the spring, but we’re going to find out more next week.
[00:43:12.080] – Kim
Thanks for joining us and we’ll chat with you again soon. Take care.