7 Ways to Fly Cheap or Free

 
Flying Over Miami FL

(Danielle’s free flight to Grenada came with this bonus aerial view of Miami, Florida.)

I’ve saved over $10,000 in airfare all over the world, and you can do the same with any of these seven methods. You don’t have to be a frequent flier, a business traveler, or go into credit card debt to do it. There should be at least one method here that anyone can use. You can also combine any or all of these methods; I’ve done it!

In this article, I’m giving a quick overview of the seven methods. Each method will soon have its own article with every detail on how you can utilize that one method to get free or cheap airfare tickets. For now I’ve detailed the first method because it is the easiest for most people to do. As more detailed articles are published, I’ll add links to them below. If you sign up for our FC Travel Newsletter, you’ll get an email when these new articles come out so you don’t miss one.

To make it easier to see which methods might work for you, I’ve included the “Time needed to earn free or cheap airfare” and “How free is it?” under each method.

If you are new to the world of free and cheap travel, we encourage you to read the Beginner’s Guide before diving into these detailed methods. Now on to the ways you can fly for free…

1. Redeem Travel Credit Card Rewards

This is probably the easiest method for the average, non-business traveling person to get free airfare. There’s no need to go into credit card debt to do it, either. Many miles credit cards are offered by credit card companies and airlines. Rewards can take the form of frequent flier miles, points, gift cards, or statement credits that can be redeemed for free or cheap airfare tickets. Most travel credit cards require cardholders to reach a certain spending threshold in a certain amount of time to earn bonus rewards, and many bonuses are large enough for a free roundtrip domestic flight.

Time needed to earn free or cheap airfare: It may take up to 10 days for your application to be processed and your card to arrive in the mail. Usually you must reach the sign-up bonus spending requirements within 4 months or less; some people can reach it within 1 month. Miles are usually automatically applied when your next statement cycles; other reward types may require you to request redemption. Total minimum time to get a free flight: about 2 months from sign up.

How free is it? You normally have to pay taxes and fees, which I’ve seen range from $2.50 to $300 per flight in one direction.

Read the detailed version: How to Fly Cheap or Free with the Best Airline Credit Cards and our list of the Best Airline Credit Cards Right Now

2. Become a Frequent Flier

The old way of earning free flights was by becoming an actual “frequent flier”, which is not realistically attainable for most people—unless you fly frequent business trips paid for by your company.

Time needed to earn free or cheap airfare: depending on your budget and job duties, it can take months or years to earn free airfare by flying on paid flights alone.

How free is it? You normally have to pay taxes and fees, which I’ve seen range from $2.50 to $300 per flight in one direction.

Read the detailed version: (article not ready yet, sign up to get an alert)

3. Get Bumped, Earn Vouchers

Airlines attempt to overbook flights to cram as many people as possible on an airplane, thus keeping their costs down and profits up. Sometimes all of the passengers actually show up for their booked flight, resulting in too many people for one plane. That’s when the airline offers to “bump” extra people to the next available flight with an “airline travel voucher” to compensate for this inconvenience. Airline travel vouchers typically start at $300, but I’ve earned vouchers as high as $500 and once accepted four bump offers over two days for a grand total of $1600 in airline travel vouchers! Vouchers are as good as cash to buy a ticket from that airline and usually have no redemption fees or blackout dates, resulting in a true, 100% free-of-charge airfare ticket (assuming your flight costs less than your voucher value).

Time needed to earn free or cheap airfare: you have to already be flying (on a paid or free flight) to have the chance to earn a voucher, but once you have a travel voucher in hand you can redeem it instantly (I’ve done it!)

How free is it? 100% free!

Read the detailed version: (article not ready yet, sign up to get an alert)

4. Extend a Business Trip

If your employer is paying to fly you to and from somewhere, they may not care what days you fly in and out because the difference in airfare prices is a drop in the bucket of their annual travel budget. You might as well ask to extend that business trip with a few leisure travel days before and/or after the time you need to be there for business. If your company won’t pay for the extra hotel nights and rental car (some companies will), then find yourself some cheap lodging and ground transportation. In the end, you’ve effectively taken a vacation with totally free flights!

Time needed to earn free or cheap airfare: instant, once your company decides to fly you somewhere and approves your flight dates

How free is it? 100% free for you!

Read the detailed version: (article not ready yet, sign up to get an alert)

5. Accept a Long-term Business Assignment

In this case, your company pays for you to live and work somewhere else, usually for a few weeks to a few months at a time. This type of arrangement often comes with a free flight and leaves you with evenings and weekends to explore your surroundings, effectively giving you an extended vacation with free flights.

Time needed to earn free or cheap airfare: instant, once your company decides to fly you somewhere

How free is it? 100% free for you!

Read the detailed version: (article not ready yet, sign up to get an alert)

6. Volunteer Far from Home

Many volunteer opportunities exist around the world, and some of them will pay for some or all of your travel expenses. Mission trips are one example, but not all volunteer travel is religion-based. For example, when I was a college student, I applied to be a student volunteer at a major conference for my field of study. They gave me $300 cash to help pay for my flights from Cincinnati to Los Angeles, and then again the next year from Cincinnati to Boston, and the next year to Los Angeles again. Of course I also applied method #4 and extended those business trips so I could explore LA and Boston.

Time needed to earn free or cheap airfare: may range from a quick phone call to someone who needs a volunteer starting ASAP, to a long application process that starts far in advance of your travel

How free is it? Varies from 100% free to partially free, depending on the volunteer organization.

Read the detailed version: (article not ready yet, sign up to get an alert)

7. Organize a Group Trip

For four years, I organized a travel group for young professionals in Dallas, and that’s when I discovered how group organizers can travel for free. If you have a large group of friends, family, wedding guests, or a team that needs to travel, volunteer to organize it and your own flights may be discounted more than everyone else’s. What constitutes a “group” for airline discounts is usually spelled out in a buried part of the airline’s website, or you may have to call their group reservations phone number to find out. Most airlines require a minimum of 8 or 10 people to qualify for group rates.

Time needed to earn free or cheap airfare: typically requires booking with payment at least 21 days in advance, plus your time to round up enough people to qualify as a group.

How free is it? Group airfare discounts start at 10% off and varies by airline; you’ll most likely have to pay taxes and fees as well.

Read the detailed version: (article not ready yet, sign up to get an alert)

If none of the above are feasible for you…

Then take advantage of the cheap airfare rates we get from our travel partner. If you found this site useful, we’d really appreciate if you come back and use our links to book your flights, hotel, rental car, and attractions because it helps us keep this site going for everyone (see Disclaimers).

If you know of a method not mentioned above, please don’t keep it to yourself! Leave a comment below.

If you found this information useful, please share it, especially with your future travel companions!

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