3 Expert Tips for Booking a Cheap Airline Ticket

Booking Sites

Google Flights: Start with google flights to see when the cheapest days are. Google flights will highlight fares and how they change throughout the month.

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Google flights highlights prices on different days.

Skyscanner: After we have dates, we will compare Google Flights with ‘Skyscanner’. Skyscanner compares fares across a number of websites and also allows you to select multiple airports.

Change Your Country of Origin with a VPN. 

Many people don’t know that airlines price their tickets differently for citizens for different countries. They do this, as they know that they can squeeze more money from affluent citizens, but need to make tickets more affordable for developing country nationals. Often websites will have this feature within their platform, but it will not change the price of the ticket; merely it will give quick customizations for language and currency.

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Browsing ‘Skyscanner’ through a Vietnamese VPN.

To work around this, use a VPN or ‘virtual private network’. A VPN will let you browse the internet from another country.  Whereas this doesn’t always have cheaper fares, occasionally it does and I have often shaved a hundred dollars off a ticket by booking this way. Simply install your VPN (We use express VPN) and play around with the country of origin. I also find that fares are generally cheaper to book on a Wednesday or Tuesday verses the weekend.

Utilizing Travel Rewards Credit Cards

A couple of years ago, we opened up a ‘Chase Sapphire Reserve‘ credit cards which gives us 3 points per dollar spent on all travel related expenses and restaurants. It changed our life. Just last week, I booked $3,000 worth of tickets for Christmas and $1,200 worth of tickets for spring break which netted us 12,600 points which are then transferrable to airline and hotel partners.

The card also gives a $300 annual travel credit and Priority Pass Access for 1000 airline lounges around the world, so it’s saved us a ton of money!

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Transferring points to travel partners will get you cheap tickets. Here, tickets from Seoul to Hong Kong are only $25 a person and 20,000 miles within United Mileage Plus.  

The real guru of this is ‘The Points Guy‘ but through him and following others, we’ve been able to utilize lucrative sign up bonuses, and get beautiful (and free) hotel stays in Seoul, Rome, Palm Springs and Singapore just in the last 2 years.

Check it out!

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Portland: Quite possibly the best priority pass destination!

The Cat Conundrum

I think I just figured out a solution to one of our biggest problems leading up to this trip.

What to do with our cats while we’re away for a year has weighed heavily on us. Specifically, it was problem number four following money, storage and getting a job along the way.  Many international school teachers simply ‘give’ their pets to another family as the country they’re moving to won’t allow a four legged friend. However, in our case, our two cats are like family members. Not with the same rank or status as, say, a child, but definitely that of a mascot. Mascots, who routinely pee and crap all over the place.

Despite their misgivings, we love them. They’re affectionate. They’re well behaved. More importantly, serve as surrogate siblings for our daughter Ava. And with that love came the responsibility of imparting them on a family for a year.

My first consideration was to give them to another teacher family here in Seoul at our school, who I would then fly back to visit in order to pick up a year later. I thought this might be awkward to ask for our pets back, from someone. What if they got attached to them? What if the hosting family didn’t want to let them go? In my head, I viewed our cats as low level foreign exchange students, eventually going home to their true family after an adventure abroad. The roles were reversed in our case- we would go and they would stay…somewhere. With that, families that host foreign exchange students often put their best foot forward and children may learn that their original family is more dysfunctional then they originally thought, and take a new shine to their gracious hosts. “Do I really have to go back to them?” I imagine many students saying after a 5 month stint. (Reality checkAs I write this now, our family is lounging around the apartment in our underwear, trying to keep cool in the muggy, Korean heat of August. Any sensible visitor that walked in the door might think less of us and unfit to own a pet, much less raise a child)

In the end, our loving parents offered to watch them. This would work out well as we’d finish our trip in the states sometime in June 2020 before going to our next teaching post. Still, how would we get them there?

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Image courtesy of Creative Commons

Enter Asiana Airlines

Lisa suggested bringing them back with us for Christmas 6 months before. Doing so would allow us and the cats to spend time in their new environment with their new caretakers. A number of airlines do allow pets on flights, although I learned that this is only for certain legs of a trip and also on certain aircraft types. Asiana, one of Korea’s flagship airlines had a direct flight from Incheon Airport to LAX which allowed pets in the cabin and we got the last two seats that allowed them. All in, our three tickets were $2,956 and each feline would have a 200$ surcharge that we’d pay at the check in counter. Naturally, there is a gauntlet of forms, vaccinations and trips to the vet this fall, but we were locked and loaded.

How would the passengers react?

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Portland: Quite Possibly the Best Priority Pass Destination

Portland: Quite Possibly the Best Priority Pass Destination!

That card is awesome.” Our waitress told us while sitting down to eat at ‘Capers Cafe Le Bar’ at Portland international airport, PDX. “I’ll do my best to help you get your money’s worth.”

Utilizing credit cards for their rewards has been a big part of our travel over the last few years and saved us a ton of money. The Chase Sapphire credit card reserve gives you 3 points per dollar spent on travel and dining and the points are transferrable to a number of airlines and hotel chains for free stays and flights. The $450 annual fee puts some people off, but after you spend it, you are reimbursed for $300 of travel expenses so you’re left with $150 of an annual fee. The fee pays for itself as you’re given a priority pass which gives you access to 1,000 airline lounges with free food and booze so if you travel a lot, it’s a no brainer.

Portland Stop Number 1: Lunch

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Craft beer, Salmon risotto and a lamb gyro at ‘Capers Cafe Le Bar’

In addition to lounge access (PDX does have an Alaska Airlines lounge) the priority pass will compensate you for $28 of your total bill per person at a number of restaurants at PDX. As my wife, daughter and I sat down to lunch, we had $84 credit and our waitress told us she’d help us utilize it all. With an appetizer of oysters on the half shell, a couple of beers each (my wife and I, not my daughter) and entrees, the total bill was $82.35, completely free of charge. I did leave a $15.00 tip.

Portland Stop Number 2: Snacks

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Some of the snacks offered at ‘Capers Market’. (Child not included)

With food in our bellies, and our daughter hanging out with our parents at the gate, my wife and I then made the short walk to concourse ‘D’ to visit ‘Capers Market’ which sells pastries, wine and beer. Like before, priority pass members and their guests are entitled to a $28 dollar credit each, so my wife and I stocked up on snacks for the plane.

We got chocolate covered hazelnuts, brownies, granola bars and a host of of other goodness. (Who knew dried fruit would go so well with chocolate?) In the end, our total was $52.75 altogether, (just under my wife and my $56 limit) and we paid nothing. I was half expecting to hear security guards shouting, running towards us as we tried to make our getaway to gate A9.

Portland Stop Number 3: House Spirits Distillery

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The cocktails flight.

If the above wasn’t good enough, we decided to really get our money’s worth at the ‘House Spirits Distillery’ which serves flights of hand crafted cocktails and locally distilled whiskey.

We sat back and enjoyed two $28 dollar whiskey and cocktail flights for free. The Portland ‘mule’ and ‘Spring fling’ were extremely refreshing and the distillery sells all the ingredients if you want to recreate your favorites for your hosts you’re on your way to visit. We bought a nice bottle of whiskey for my father in law, but don’t tell him-it’s a secret.

All in, we got $56.00 of free drinks without swiping a credit card. 

The Bottom Line

If you’re a frequent traveller, this credit card pays for itself. Altogether, we got $191.10 of food and snacks for the price of a $150 annual fee. As many US carriers don’t provide complimentary food and snacks, the priority pass is great not only for eating at the airport before a food-less flights, but also for grabbing a snack or two to get you through to your destination.

One caveat- the ‘Points Guy’ wrote about this in 2017 and at the time, all arriving guests could utilize this feature, as when you arrive at PDX, you walk through the departures terminal on the way to the baggage claim. However, it’s since been discontinued and only guests with boarding passes for same day flights can take advantage of this wonderful perk.

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