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Cheap International Flights
#1
Wink 
Hi all - 

Inspired by the cheap domestic flights thread, I wanted to post a few tips that I've picked up from my 100-200k miles a year that I travel internationally.   
  • Don't go to Europe in the summer.   Just don't do it.
  • If you do go to Europe in the summer, consider non-traditional destinations in Eastern Europe.  
  • Major destinations in Europe like Paris or London are MUCH, MUCH better starting in October and through February.
  • No, it's not a secret to do a "bumper season" trip to Europe in April or September.  Your savings and enjoyment levels will be only minimally better.   Just put on a scarf and do it in Feb or October.   For many of us in the US, the temperatures are brisk, but not too cold during those months.   If you're from Florida, yes, you may get uncomfortable, but not too bad.
  • Have a bucket list of vacation destinations and several dates that you can go.   This way, you can check multiple locations and multiple dates to find the absolute best deal.  
  • Look outside of traditional destinations.   My best adventure vacation ever was Mongolia!  
  • Weigh the cost of cheap airfare against the cost of living in the country.   The aforementioned trip to Mongolia was very expensive from a flight perspective, but once in the country, everything was dirt cheap.   Hubby and I got an AirBnB in a yurt in the middle of the steppes of Central Asia with all meals and entertainment included for under $100/day.  
  • Also count your time standing in lines as wasted money.    Tokyo is an expensive flight and not a bargain to stay in, but it's not a huge travel destination for westerners.  If you pick the right month, you can go anywhere and do anything without too much wasted time.   Except Disney.   (But Disney by the Sea in Tokyo is the best Disney park in the world, so worth terrible lines IMHO)
  • Don't stress the cost of a passport.   You only need one every 10 years.  I've seen people jump through hoops to avoid getting a passport and they end up having less fun and spending way more than they could have in a foreign country.
  • Really think about that AirBnb.   In many countries you can get a Best Western or a Holiday Inn for 60 bucks a day.   AirBnB has given me the coolest experiences ever, but sometimes you arrive exhausted and just want to have someone there to give you local advice.   So, for the charm, do Air BnB but know that there is some risk.   (I have only walked out of one, and that was surprisingly in Iceland)
  • Does your hotel include breakfast?  9 times out of 10 you will save money this way unless you're certain that you won't eat at the hotel.    
  • Strongly consider the location of your hotel.   Do you know how much transportation will cost in your destination country?  Is your hotel near a metro station?  Is it even safe to take public transportation?
  • In countries where Uber is allowed, it is generally cheap and safe, though of course you need to do your local research.  Look also for other local or competitive versions of Uber like Didi.  
  • Research your food choices ahead of time.   Take advantage of jet lag.   Not hungry for dinner?  Don't eat, but do bring a snack back to the hotel in case you wake up hungry.
  • Did I mention research your food choices?  Choose your hotel based on proximity not only to transport, but also to shopping centers and convenience store.  You'll be fine in most countries, Asia and Iceland excepted.   
  • Don't skimp on a guide where needed.  India and China fall into these categories, especially India.   That warrants a whole other post, so I won't go into details unless requested.
Ha - got to run to a meeting so that's all I'll post for now.  What are your tips?
Regis University, ITESO, Global MBA with a focus in Emerging Markets 4.0 GPA, Dual-university degree (Spanish/English) 
COSC BS, Business Admin

My BS Credits:
Spanish 80 | Humanities 67 | A & I Lit 72 | Sub Abuse 452 | Bus Ethics 445 | Tech Writ 62 | Math 53 | HTYH 454 | Am. Govt 65 | Env & Humanity 64 | Marketing 65 | Micro 61| Mgmt 63| Org Behavior 65| MIS 446|Computing 432 | BL II 61 | M&B 50 | Finance 411 | Supervision 437| Intro Bus. 439| Law Enforcement 63|  SL: Accounting I B | Accounting II C+| Macro A | ECE: Labor Relations A | Capstone: A| FEMA PDS Cert 
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#2
For people just starting out who have decent credit, I would recommend looking into credit cards such as the Chase Sapphire line, among others. The "science" of it goes deep, but I still use introductory offers on cards such as these (50K+ miles) and have banked several free international flights over the years just through this method. I used to use a service like Plastiq to pay my regular expenses such as a rent check with the new card to run up the spending requirements. Since I would have to spend the money anyway, might as well get something else for it.

Aside from the few flights that were completely "free" through these introductory deals and the regular points accrual, my record is $2.25 from JFK to Narita. This is one relatively accessible way to experience international travel through regular expenses.

By the way, in Tokyo, [tiny] tatami rooms used to be available in the Asakusa neighborhood for around $20 or less when I lived there about a decade ago. There are always hostels or even manga cafe booths around Shinjuku, if you have the back for it.

Airlines like Air Astana offer 4-star hotels with airport transfer for $1 if you layover in Kazakhstan on your way to or from Europe/China. You can often add these little layovers into already-cheap tickets if you are flexible and trod out extremely uncommon paths to call your own.

Senior college admissions counselor in Beijing with research interest in higher ed college access. Reverts to PADI Divemaster when near a coast.

BS Anthropology | Tulane University '08 (3.90, summa cum laude
MS Early Childhood Studies: Administration, Management, & Leadership | Walden University '19 (3.90)
Certificate College Access Counseling | Rice University '19
Certificate Teachers College College Advising Program | Columbia University '19
Other TOEFL/IELTS Trainer; Alumni/Company Interviewer; National Resume Writers' Association (completed coursework!)
Goals: A) 2nd MS in Higher Ed; B) 51/195 Countries; C) Find good hamburger in Beijing (accomplished June '19!)

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#3
(06-05-2019, 10:19 AM)PrettyFlyforaChiGuy Wrote: For people just starting out who have decent credit, I would recommend looking into credit cards such as the Chase Sapphire line, among others. The "science" of it goes deep, but I still use introductory offers on cards such as these (50K+ miles) and have banked several free international flights over the years just through this method. I used to use a service like Plastiq to pay my regular expenses such as a rent check with the new card to run up the spending requirements. Since I would have to spend the money anyway, might as well get something else for it.

Aside from the few flights that were completely "free" through these introductory deals and the regular points accrual, my record is $2.25 from JFK to Narita. This is one relatively accessible way to experience international travel through regular expenses.

By the way, in Tokyo, [tiny] tatami rooms used to be available in the Asakusa neighborhood for around $20 or less when I lived there about a decade ago. There are always hostels or even manga cafe booths around Shinjuku, if you have the back for it.

Airlines like Air Astana offer 4-star hotels with airport transfer for $1 if you layover in Kazakhstan on your way to or from Europe/China. You can often add these little layovers into already-cheap tickets if you are flexible and trod out extremely uncommon paths to call your own.

I love this post almost as much as I love your goal of finding a good hamburger in Beijing.   I have a hard time believing you... that is like a needle in a haystack - or more difficult.    I'm impressed.  

I actually got the Chase Sapphire card years ago and like it for the most part.   I would say it's the best one unless you are 100% certain that you are a one-airline type of person.     Since I fly United/Star Alliance almost exclusively, in hindsight, I wish I would have gotten theirs, but since you can convert the Chase points, it doesn't matter.  

My son did a manga hostel when I took him to Tokyo.   I was on a business trip so we stayed in my company-sponsored hotel for a few days and then I left and he stayed on in Japan to get a real feel for it.   He absolutely loved the hostel vibe and met the coolest people.  He ate almost exclusively at the ubiquitous conveniemce stores and saved a ton of money and really seemed to enjoy the novelty of it.
Regis University, ITESO, Global MBA with a focus in Emerging Markets 4.0 GPA, Dual-university degree (Spanish/English) 
COSC BS, Business Admin

My BS Credits:
Spanish 80 | Humanities 67 | A & I Lit 72 | Sub Abuse 452 | Bus Ethics 445 | Tech Writ 62 | Math 53 | HTYH 454 | Am. Govt 65 | Env & Humanity 64 | Marketing 65 | Micro 61| Mgmt 63| Org Behavior 65| MIS 446|Computing 432 | BL II 61 | M&B 50 | Finance 411 | Supervision 437| Intro Bus. 439| Law Enforcement 63|  SL: Accounting I B | Accounting II C+| Macro A | ECE: Labor Relations A | Capstone: A| FEMA PDS Cert 
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#4
(06-05-2019, 10:39 AM)burbuja0512 Wrote: I love this post almost as much as I love your goal of finding a good hamburger in Beijing.   I have a hard time believing you... that is like a needle in a haystack - or more difficult.    I'm impressed.  

I actually got the Chase Sapphire card years ago and like it for the most part.   I would say it's the best one unless you are 100% certain that you are a one-airline type of person.     Since I fly United/Star Alliance almost exclusively, in hindsight, I wish I would have gotten theirs, but since you can convert the Chase points, it doesn't matter.  

My son did a manga hostel when I took him to Tokyo.   I was on a business trip so we stayed in my company-sponsored hotel for a few days and then I left and he stayed on in Japan to get a real feel for it.   He absolutely loved the hostel vibe and met the coolest people.  He ate almost exclusively at the ubiquitous conveniemce stores and saved a ton of money and really seemed to enjoy the novelty of it.

That Chase line is still my normal-use card since it has no foreign transaction fees and racks up points all the time. I used the Delta Amex card for a while but cancelled it, and still have the Citi AAdvantage as a back-up. I've still never even redeemed any of the Chase points, so not sure about the ease of it. I just appreciate that there are these avenues for people to rack up rewards or points.

I think I only ever stayed at the Keio for an orientation meeting, since manga cafes were good value, with free food, drinks, and entertainment. Capsule hotels are also great, if you've always wanted to sleep in a coffin. I still miss the daily convenience store oden. Hopefully I'll be back soon, since I kind of came of age there. Not as easy to be flexible as we get older though.

Senior college admissions counselor in Beijing with research interest in higher ed college access. Reverts to PADI Divemaster when near a coast.

BS Anthropology | Tulane University '08 (3.90, summa cum laude
MS Early Childhood Studies: Administration, Management, & Leadership | Walden University '19 (3.90)
Certificate College Access Counseling | Rice University '19
Certificate Teachers College College Advising Program | Columbia University '19
Other TOEFL/IELTS Trainer; Alumni/Company Interviewer; National Resume Writers' Association (completed coursework!)
Goals: A) 2nd MS in Higher Ed; B) 51/195 Countries; C) Find good hamburger in Beijing (accomplished June '19!)

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#5
Or get your spouse to get a job with a major airline and fly for free the rest of your life....

That's what I'm doing and it's the best. Just did r/t business class to LHR a few months ago, r/t first class to HKG and NRT last year all for free. Life is good.
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#6
Really? Did I read Free flights? I need a job with the airlines!
Someone get me a contact person some place some where...
Done: TESU ASNSM Biology, ASBA/BSBA (ACBSP Accredited in 2017)
Working on: TESU BA Biology & Computer Science
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#7
It's honestly the best thing ever. She is a gate agent for AA so she just gets yelled at all day but she loves it. She goes on more trips than I do because of how flexible her schedule is and how much PTO she gets. It's a union job, the pay is great, and the benefits are incredible.
I fly domestic for $0 and when I fly international I just need to pay departure tax from the international destination. So, for example, I think we paid $35 in taxes to fly home from Buenos Aires last year, in Business class.

If there's an open seat, it's mine for the taking. It's life changing and we're never giving it up.
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#8
(06-08-2019, 05:48 PM)inkleind Wrote: It's honestly the best thing ever. She is a gate agent for AA so she just gets yelled at all day but she loves it. She goes on more trips than I do because of how flexible her schedule is and how much PTO she gets. It's a union job, the pay is great, and the benefits are incredible.
I fly domestic for $0 and when I fly international I just need to pay departure tax from the international destination. So, for example, I think we paid $35 in taxes to fly home from Buenos Aires last year, in Business class.

If there's an open seat, it's mine for the taking. It's life changing and we're never giving it up.

I have a friend who is a pilot for Delta, and it has gotten harder and harder for them to travel with their "free" benefits, at least as a family of 5.  Flights are so crowded now that it's next to impossible for them to all get on the same flight together.  Many times, they split up into 2/3 or 3/2, and they spend hours at the airport waiting for space, or going to the airport, then going home, then going back the next day (or two).  It was great 10 years ago, not great any more.

If it was just my husband and myself, then it would be something I'd consider.  Trying to do it with a family of 4 though, would get old real quick.

They did say that international travel is easier, flights aren't as crowded.  So they've gone to England and Rome for their last 2 vacations.
TESU BSBA in HR, 2018
WVNCC BOG AAS,
 2017
GGU Cert in Management, 2000

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#9
My "trick" for free flights was to study international business, though it definitely doesn't sound as good as just hopping on a free flight like the airline employees can. I don't get to go where I want, but have had a strong hand in choosing my destiny with the regions I work in. And most trips are exhausting, but sometimes there are trips where I can add on days at the end and bring family with me. However, even on stressful trips, I have managed to do at least brief sightseeing in all the major cities I've been to.

So I guess I have saved a lot of money in the sense that I know right away which cities I want to return to, and I also know which places seem overrated. Like I saw Prague for work and HAD to return with my husband. But after several business trips to Australia, I would return to Cairns and skip Sydney and Melbourne. Just my opinion and just an example of how I saved myself thousands of dollars by knowing that there are some places that I just wouldn't pay to go to.
Regis University, ITESO, Global MBA with a focus in Emerging Markets 4.0 GPA, Dual-university degree (Spanish/English) 
COSC BS, Business Admin

My BS Credits:
Spanish 80 | Humanities 67 | A & I Lit 72 | Sub Abuse 452 | Bus Ethics 445 | Tech Writ 62 | Math 53 | HTYH 454 | Am. Govt 65 | Env & Humanity 64 | Marketing 65 | Micro 61| Mgmt 63| Org Behavior 65| MIS 446|Computing 432 | BL II 61 | M&B 50 | Finance 411 | Supervision 437| Intro Bus. 439| Law Enforcement 63|  SL: Accounting I B | Accounting II C+| Macro A | ECE: Labor Relations A | Capstone: A| FEMA PDS Cert 
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