According to a new study from The Telegraph, millennials spend more money on travel than for paying off debt, or even buying a house. This is massive evidence of how much we love to travel. But that also shows just how expensive travel is nowadays. The price of petrol is half of what it was a few years ago, isn’t it? But did that make our flights twice as cheap?
Heck no! I actually find them more and more expensive.
And every month I get flooded with bills, that take my traveling plans further into the future. Rent, car, credit card payments, taxes…. they all bite a huge chunk of my travel budget. I often ask myself whether I should downgrade to a cheaper car or move into a smaller flat so I could save more.
I also can’t stop thinking that I lose a lot by not traveling more because in the end it’s the experiences that matter, not paying the bills. And if you want to live the adventure, you have to get out there. You have to meet people, see new places and cultures, wander throughout this amazing world.
That’s why my resolution for this year is that WE ABSOLUTELY NEED TO TRAVEL MORE !
And we shouldn’t give up on our morning coffee just to save a buck for our travel piggy bank. Although if it comes down to this, I’ll do it! Or maybe I’ll get myself a boat and start rowing around the world like this guy.
But I don’t know how to row a boat so instead, I started looking for ways to get cheap flights and hotels. And I found a few which I’ll share with you in this article. These are great travel tips and tricks that will help you get cheap flights, hotels and experiences, and it will save you a lot of money.
They helped me get almost 40% discount on two return tickets to Dubai (leaving from London) and almost 50% at a 4-star hotel there.
This is quite a discount and I am sure next time I can do a lot better. That’s because I booked the flights and hotel only 3 weeks in advance. Had I booked it 3 months ago, I would have certainly gotten a better price.
This strategy can even get you 100% flight discounts. That’s right, you can fly for free if you follow the steps below.
In this article, I will show you how to book cheap flights and hotels. But first you need to learn about reward points and how to collect more Avios/Miles (airline reward points) so you can get flight discounts of up to 100%
What are Avios and Airmiles?
Avios was previously known as Airmiles and it was the rewards program from British Airways for frequent travelers. It was rebranded in 2011 and now it’s called simply Avios.
You can collect Avios from your everyday spending, not just from hotels and flights. This includes grocery stores, petrol stations, wine merchants and a lot more.
With Avios you can get discounts for flights, hotels or travel experiences (like a dessert safari, or scuba diving). You can also use them to buy certain products from different online stores (like wine, clothes or even groceries).
But my main goal was to travel more, so I use them to get cheap flights and hotels. So let’s dive deeper into how you can earn more Avios.
How to collect and boost your Avios
First of all, you need to register with Tesco, British Airways and Avios.com. These simple steps should guide you through the process:
1. Create an account with Avios.com. It’s pretty easy, just go on their website and hit the Join button. After that, you have to go to the Ways to Collect section on their website, and find the retailers you like most. It’s also important to find the ones that are in your area. I suggest you add them to your list of favorite retailers so you won’t have to search them every time you shop.
2. Try to find a grocery store that they work with because that’s where we usually spend a lot of money. I chose Tesco as it was the nearest one. I then went and registered for a Clubcard Account on Tesco.com. This is a reward program which awards you one point for every pound spent with them. Furthermore, they send quarterly vouchers which boost your points when you buy certain products.
To join Tesco Clubcard, go to tesco.com, find the Tesco Clubcard button and then Join. It only takes a few minutes to enter your details.
3. After registering with Tesco, you have to create an account with British Airways as a Frequent Flyer. Head over to the BA website and click the Register Now button on the upper part of their homepage. After registering with BA, you will be given a Membership number.
Now you need to activate the option that automatically converts your Tesco points to Avios. So return to your Tesco Clubcard account, go to My Account Details and click on the Options and Benefits link. Enter your British Airways Membership number and activate that option. It should look like this.
This way your points will be converted automatically either into BA Avios, or Avios (you can choose from the two options). The difference between them is that BA Avios go into your BA Account and the normal Avios go into your Avios.com account.
Note that Tesco points are converted to Avios quaterly. So you can’t convert and spend them right away.
Another useful tip is to also fuel at Tesco or Shell.
You would have to register with Shell and have your points automatically converted to Avios, just like we did with Tesco above.
For Tesco you don’t have to do anything because you’ve already registered. Just swipe your Clubcard every time you pay for fuel or groceries and your points will add up.
If you don’t have Tesco and Shell in your area or country, you need to see on Avios.com which local retailers they work with. You should also check if there are other reward programs that will let you convert their points into Avios.
Other ways to earn Avios
Another way to earn more Avios is to make your purchases through the Avios e-store. Sounds a bit confusing but I’ll explain you exactly how it works:
Let’s say I want to buy a pair of shoes.
I head first to shopping.avios.com and check if they work with the retailer from which I want to buy the shoes. I usually shop from Asos. So in this instance, I just have to click on the Asos icon.
Everytime I want to buy something from them (shoes, clothes …. whatever the product), I head first to shopping.avios.com, then I log into my account, go to my favourite retailers list and finally click on Asos.
It’s easier if you browse through all retailers when you first register, and save your favourites so you won’t have to do that every time you shop.
Here is an example of how many Avios you can earn for each pound you spend through Avios E-Store:
I usually book hotels through Booking.com, and accessing it through Avios.com gives me 4 Avios for every pound I spend on their website. For instance, if I book a £300 hotel with Booking.com I’ll get 1200 Avios. Not bad at all.
Keep in mind that it’s IMPORTANT to log into your Avios e-store account before shopping. You won’t receive any points if you’re not logged in.
They have also partenered with Apple, Expedia, Hotels.com etc, so you have plenty of retailers to choose from.
One other way to earn more Avios is to book hotels through Kaligo.com. I haven’t tried it yet, but from what I’ve seen they offer huge reward points. That said, you should always compare hotel rates on multiple travel websites, like Booking or Expedia. It’s pretty common to find different prices between them and I’m sure you want to find the best.
These are some of the most efficient ways to collect Avios, but I suggest you also read this article from MoneySavingExpert.com. It gives a few in-depth tips and tricks on how to boost your Avios and get cheap flights.
My next trick to earn more reward points and get cheap flights is also the most effective:
Find a travel credit card with the best rewards program
From my extensive research I found that American Express has the best travel rewards program. Hence, I have applied for a Gold Credit Card, a Rewards Gold Charge Card, a British Airways American Express Credit Card, and a Gold Business Charge Card. I know I’ve loaded myself up with credit cards. But now I pay all my household and business expenses with American Express and I get lot of points for that.
When you first join American Express, they will give you 20.000 Reward points if you spend a minimum of £2000 pounds in the first 2 months. Note that they will only award them to you, if you haven’t received another welcome bonus in the past six months.
TIP: Apply for each card every 7 months. This way you’ll get the welcome bonus several times
Remember that you will have to pay the monthly balance in full for the American Express Charge Cards (personal and business). It’s not like a credit card where you can pay monthly installments.
How to boost your American Express Reward Points
For every pound spent with their cards, you get one reward point. Furthermore, if you shop at Tesco (or any other store that rewards points convertible to Avios) you will receive one Tesco Point and one Amex reward point. Pretty cool, huh?
American Express also offers 9000 bonus points if you refer somebody. As you would imagine, I pitched it to all my friends and family. That includes my hubby.
But there’s another amazing trick that will earn you reward points.
By now you should have all four cards: the two credit cards, the charge card and the business charge card.
Now it’s time to cancel one of them. Preferably the personal charge or credit card. Wait for six months to pass from the moment you’ve received the last welcome bonus points. Then re-apply for the same card.
This way, you’ll get another 20.000 reward points.
Do the same with your family/partner’s cards, and they will get the bonus as well. And you can repeat that every six months. This trick can get you A LOT of reward points.
If you happen to pay rent, I’ve got another trick for you. Create an account with Paypal and register your American Express cards with them. Then ask your landlord to create a Paypal account as well, and from now on pay your rent only with Paypal. Remember to select the American Express card as your default payment.
How to get cheap flights and discounts with Avios or Reward Points
To spend your reward points, you have to log into your American Express account and transfer them to your airline frequent traveler account.
But you can also go to travel.americanexpress.co.uk and search for flights, hotels and experiences. You will be able to pay with points or part pay with money if you don’t have enough points. And their prices are not different from what I found on Sky Scanner or Booking.com
The only downside is that American Express doesn’t offer a shared household account, where you can pool your points together with your partner’s. If they allowed that, I would have gotten these flights FOR FREE.
The price for two return flights to Dubai was about £590 pounds and that was equal of 130.000 points. If I had all those points into my account, I could have used them to pay the entire price.
Unfortunately I didn’t have them, nor the patience to wait and collect more. So I transferred a part of my points to my British Airways Account. Unlike American Express, they have an option where you can set up a household account and combine Avios with your family.
But you can’t pay the full price with Avios, so you’ll have to part pay with cash. And that’s how I got ‘just’ a £220 discount out of a total of £590. That’s about almost 40% discount. It’s not free, as I had hoped when I thought American Express will let me combine our points, but it’s not bad either.
On top of that, British Airways will award me 3500 Avios for this flight, which I’ll use for my next trip.
As you’d imagine, I accessed the BA website from my Avios.com account and I have part paid with my American Express Rewards Card. So more points coming… yeyyy !!
If you have the patience to collect more points, you won’t need to look for cheap flights any longer. You’ll get them “free” on the American Express travel site, by paying entirely with points.
And the discounts just keep coming.
After getting my cheap flights to Dubai, I started searching for a decent priced hotel. I had a few reward points left in my American Express account, so I carried out my search on their travel site. Hotel prices were ranging from £250 up to £500 (my max budget without discount) for 5 nights.
I didn’t have enough points to pay for the whole trip but I was still able to get almost 50% discount on a 4-star hotel in Dubai. Not free, but it certainly saved me some money.
American Express even lets you pay for experiences with points. For instance, if you want to book a dessert safari it would cost you around 15000 points or about £150.
You need to know that flights outside the EU area are more expensive because the airport taxes and fees are higher. Had I chosen Venice, Barcelona or Paris, I could have easily paid with my reward points for both flight and hotel. Now that’s what I call traveling cheap.
That said, you should always compare flight fares between airlines. Sometimes it’s cheaper to fly low-cost than buying tickets with Avios or Reward Points. And no, you can’t use points to buy low-cost flights.
More Tips and Tricks on How to book cheap flights
One website I use to search for cheap flights is SkyScanner.net. You just have to fill in your destination and dates, and they will show you the airfares from almost all providers. This will save you a lot of time, because you won’t have to sift through hundreds of airlines to find the best flight.
Note that when searching on Skyscanner.net, or on any other flights website, you always have to turn on your Private Browsing Mode and here’s why.
Have you ever searched for a cheap flight, found it and after waiting a few minutes to buy it, the price went up? Don’t think that was a mirage or anything like that. That’s exactly what happened. Just like most websites, airlines plant cookies in your browser. That’s how they see and record your interest in that particular flight.
Let’s say you’d like to visit Rome and start searching for cheap flights. You find them and decide to return and buy them within a day or two, maybe when you get your paycheck.
When you return, you’ll find that your cheap flights are not cheap anymore. They’re actually quite expensive. That’s because they’ve recorded your interest and know that you are likely to pay the premium.
But if your Private Browser mode is on, you practically tell websites that you don’t want them to plant cookies in your browser, nor track you in any way. This way they won’t be able to record your interest. You can just close the browser and start another search if you want and the prices will remain the same.
How to activate your browser’s Private Mode
To activate Private Mode in Safari, right-click on the icon and it will show you a list of options. Choose New Private Window.
For Firefox, right-click on it and choose New Private Window.
To activate it in Google Chrome, right-click and then choose the New Incognito Window option.
This way you’ll fly under their radars when trying to find cheap flights.
If you follow the steps above, you should be able to get flight discounts of more than 40%. Heck, you can even get free flights.
I will update this post when I’ll find new tricks, as I want people to travel more and not miss out on the great things this world has to offer. And who knows, maybe I’ll see you on one of my next travels.
I’m always in search of new Travel Tips and Tricks, so how do you find cheap flights and hotels?