No one ever believes me when I tell them I have flown (many times) for less money than a public bus ticket would cost me. I kid you not; I have gotten one penny flights. Seriously.
It isn’t because I’m a travel blogger, and I’m not using points, in fact, I didn’t even have a credit card until recently.
People are usually skeptical and ask me, “Yeah, but aren’t there conditions?
Hell, yeah there are conditions! I do sacrifice by flying on these cheapy airlines that many people say they hate. I’ve read plenty of articles where people complain that you have to pay extra for things like water and other things, but let’s be clear; I have no problem buying a bottle of water if I’m flying to a gorgeous beach paradise from NYC for one cent. And I understand that I’m probably going to be squished in a tiny little seat way too small for my “voluptuous” (but I’ve been told, very sexy) arse, but I’m okay with that.
Below I’ll tell you all of the conditions with these ultr-low fares so that you can decide whether you feel it’s worth it for you to pass on certain things travelers tend to expect, and I’ll give you my flying hacks so you aren’t hit with hidden fees.
First, let’s begin with my list of which airlines that I have gotten either one penny or incredibly low fares from. I’ll explain the best way to find super cheap flights, but it will take a bit of digging and some time to get the type of dirt cheap fares that I’m talking about. (Hey, I’ve got more time than money.) But if you’re patient, it can be done.
Super Cheap Airlines
First, let me tell you the process I go through every time I’m looking for a flight.
It’s simple; I do a Google search. I know I won’t usually find flights for a penny this way, but I will find out which airlines fly from/ to my location choices. Since I live in NY, I’ve actually got quite a few airports to choose from, including Stewart-Newburgh, and airport I recently found and absolutely love, but I’m also willing to take a Megabus (for a dollar) trip to Boston, DC or Philly if I were to find a flight worth it. Luckily, I almost always find flights at the airports closer to me.
Next, I go on Skyscanner. The reason I love Skyscanner is that while most of the time you need to have set dates in mind in order to search for flights, on Skyscanner I can see fares by the month, and even ask Skyscanner to tell me which months and days offer the cheapest fares.
And finally, I go directly to the airlines. Many of these budget airlines don’t show up on Skyscanner (or Airfare Watchdog, another cool site for getting great fares).
Once you go to a site, you can check for your ideal itinerary for a direct roundtrip flight, but most likely you’re not going to get the best fare.
Multi-City/ Open Jaw Tickets
Whether I’m on Spirit Airline’s site (my favorite ultra-low-cost carrier for one penny flights) or Skyscanner, or any other website, I always check the box that says “Multi-City”. This is called Open Jaw tickets.
Find the Cheapest Connecting Flight/ Airport
For example, if I’m going to Mexico, Guatemala, or Jamaica (all places I have flown to for a penny), I know that the cheapest place for me to fly out of is Fort Lauderdale where Spirit’s headquarters is located. I type in From NYC (all airports) to FLL (Ft. Lauderdale), and from FLL to Mexico.
When I did this for the Caribbean destinations I’ve traveled to, I didn’t always get flights for one penny, but I have gotten super cheap flights (like $19 to Puerto Rico). I also use this hack to get incredible deals in Europe and in Asia. I paid $20 from Bali, Indonesia to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and this is actually quite common.
Sign Up For Airline Newsletters
Although I am signed up for Spirit’s newsletter to be alerted to Bare Fare Sales, I almost always find these deals by simply looking anytime I feel like traveling. Spirit is so successful (although many would vehemently disagree with that statement) because they offer the best deals they can without all the frills. While many don’t consider a bottle of water or at least one free bag or carry on as a “frill”, by charging extra for these things Spirit is able to offer unbelievable deals. So don’t wait for their special sales to check fares.
$9 Fare Club
I’m not a member of their $9 Fare Club. If you travel often and you will be taking Spirit, it is worth it. However, before you actually pay for your flight you will usually be given the opportunity to sign up for a 60 day trial period for a small fee. You can either remain a member or just cancel within two months and be able to take advantage of the special rates.
Buy Your Ticket at the Airport
This won’t always work for me because in NYC if you take public transportation it will cost almost $3.00 for the subway, plus $5.00 for the AirTrain shuttle, so $16 plus the time it takes to get there and to stand in line. However, you’ll save at least $35.00 by always buying at the airport.
Never Pay to Choose Your Seat
I never pay to choose my seat. That is unless I’m going on a 17-hour long haul flight to Asia. But for domestic trips, I have a little hack that often works.
When you get to the gate, ask the person there if they need any volunteers to sit in the Exit Row seats. I get there early and let them know right away that I’m willing. There’s so much extra room, and you can often get a window seat.
Flight Attendant Gifts
Now, this is something I do because I think flight attendants have an extremely difficult, stressful job. I don’t do it to get upgraded or special treatment, however, they’re often really stunned that someone is thinking of them and let’s just say that sometimes I have ended up in first class unexpectedly. And although I don’t do it expecting that, I do have an ulterior motive. I put together a little goodie bag and include my business card so that they might check out my blog. If you’re going to give them a gift, just know that they’re not able to accept anything edible.
Don’t Check a Bag
Don’t check a bag unless you absolutely must. However, if you’re on Spirit, a carry on bag is not free, and it is actually cheaper to check a bag than it is for a carry-on. But I don’t usually even take a carry on. I use the biggest, baddest purse I can find for my personal item. I also bring an extremely lightweight raincoat that rolls up in a tiny ball, but I wear it on flights because it has tons of pockets that I can stash s* in. I look like a crazy person with stuff bulging all over the place, and I’m certainly not going to have any fine men hitting on me at the gate. But once I get on the plane I roll that baby up and stuff everything, including the raincoat, into a tiny travel bag.
If you aren’t as ghetto-fabulous as I am and want to pay a little bit in order to save in the long run, consider buying a travel vest or jacket. These are specifically made for travelers who want to avoid paying luggage fees. But still, I recommend just buying a mesh photographer’s or fisherman’s vest, which also have tons of deep pockets for you to carry everything.
Be Prepared for Taxes/ Fees
Of course, ultra-low-cost carriers like Spirit and the other airlines do charge taxes and fees. But when I went to Mexico and found one penny fares each day (make sure you’re flexible with travel dates) I ended up paying almost $50 once the government taxes and fees were added in. But $50 to go to Cancun was a pretty sweet deal. Especially when I had a really amazing time by sitting in on a timeshare spiel and ended up getting a free trip to Xcaret Eco Amusement Park, including an all you can eat lobster/ seafood buffet.
So if you are willing to put in the time and effort this takes and you’re aware of the conditions you can find fantastic deals, maybe not always for a penny, but pretty damn cheap.
Do you have any travel hacks or favorite airlines for cheap fares? Please comment below!