Frequent flyer programs are one of those things that, like cell phone plans, can seem hard to crack at first glance. And as a student traveler, you may think that frequent flyer programs aren’t worth it as they seem aimed at heavy business class suits racking up miles on their way to and from Embassy Suites hotels. Not so: frequent flyer programs are also for students who travel – in fact, you will be surprised how many miles you can accumulate in a short time with the way you travel; A study trip abroad can help you get free tickets for a couple more excursions.
Just as a quick example, you must have flown 20,000 miles on American to get a free roundtrip ticket to a destination in the US, Canada, the Caribbean, and Mexico. A flight to Hanoi, one of the jumping spots for the backpacking trail in Southeast Asia, gets you roughly 15,300 miles. Fly home on Christmas just once (for example, Los Angeles to Boston is 5,200 miles) and you have a free ticket on American’s frequent flyer program.
On top of that, you probably already know that credit cards offer a tremendous amount of miles as sign-up bonuses for using their cards. You will be able to enter 20,000 miles or more on some cards, and often the only stipulation is that you spend a thousand dollars on something in your first month. Save by opening one for when you need to buy a new laptop or make a big purchase, and you get free flights as a bonus for spending that money.
You can also get frequent flier miles through hundreds of programs partners: rental cars, hotels, restaurants and more, and it becomes complicated. The real community of experts on frequent flyer miles programs can be found on a website called Flyer Talk, which has a ton of frequently asked questions on the site for new travelers. Also, you can get a lot of information about the various programs from our air travel expert here at Trip Savvy
- Air Travel: Frequent Flyer Program Specifications
Student Air Travel Deals and Discounts
In addition to getting free flights because you tend to travel long distances, you are also in a special class dedicated to you: traveling students. Traveling students are defined as anyone under the age of 26 or a student enrolled full-time at an accredited university. Student airfares exist only for this group.
Remember to check student airfares with an aggregator to make sure you’ve found the best deal. Some of my favorites include Skyscanner and Momondo. Just enter where you want to go and your dates, and virtually every airline in the world is screened to give you the best possible deals. I especially love these sites, as you can search by country instead of city (or “everywhere” on Skyscanner), and you can choose a range of dates over several weeks and months. When you can check so many dates and destinations at once, you can be sure to get a bargain for your flights.
More ways to get air deals
Those flights you need to track the miles? They can be very cheap if you really start paying attention to online offers. For example, “big toe” rates happen (so called because they are the result of a typo by a poor employee), and you will only be able to rate these error rates if you are quick.
I’m a huge fan of Secret Flying, and while they tend to focus more on great deals than fares by mistake, the prices I’ve seen have been incredible. This year alone, I was able to get flights from Copenhagen to Los Angeles for $ 120, Rome to Tokyo for $ 350 back, London to Zanzibar to Kigali to London for $ 300, Lisbon to Cape Town for $ 250. In short If you’re looking to save money and get a fantastic bargain on flights, Secret Flying is the site to keep monitoring. It won’t necessarily help improve your frequent flyer status as you won’t be able to choose which airline you fly with, but when you’re flying this cheap anyway it’s still a bonus.
Vacation airfare problems
Certain times of the year (the most popular) may mean you have to fly, even when it’s not the best time to go, for example Thanksgiving and Christmas. Taking comfort in the frequent flyer miles you’ll earn can ease the pain of paying (probably too much) for an airfare during the most expensive travel days of the year, and if you’ve already focused on increasing your mileage balance, even you can rate your flight home for free!
This article has been edited and updated by Lauren Juliff.