Good To Know: How Changing Your Location Can Result in Cheaper Airfare

Some of the most common questions I’m asked are “when should I buy a flight” or “do you think this is a good price for this flight” and I never have a perfect answer. Airfare pricing is confusing – it changes up to 3x daily, it varies for no discernible reason to us outsiders as it is based on secret algorithms from the airlines and if someone tells you they know the best time to find the lowest price for a flight, they are lying to you (ya that whole 3pm on Tuesday is a myth).

However, a friend forwarded me an interesting article over at Map Happy about how changing where it appears you buy the ticket from can drastically lower the price of your flight. This works best for certain international flights and domestic flights within a different country (not the US). Let me explain.

When most people go to check prices for a flight, they might use popular sites like Kayak, Orbitz, Google ITA or even the airline’s own website. The one common denominator with all those sites is that it assumes you are purchasing the ticket from the US – as in your current, physical location is in the US when purchasing the flight.  That is obviously most likely true but what the author of the article pointed out is by tricking the computer into thinking you are in a different country, you might be able to get a lower price on the SAME EXACT flight.

I’ll let you click through to the article for more details but the author cites searching for a domestic flight within Colombia on the standard sites with a US-centric approach and then searching Google ITA by changing her location to Colombia. The US-centric approach produced an Avianca flight costing $137 while when searching Google ITA while appearing to be in Colombia, the price changed to 116,280 pesos (it prices in pesos since it thinks your in Colombia) which converted to USD is only $61.59! That’s a difference of $75.41 –  Over a 55% savings!!

The one problem with Google ITA is you can’t actually book the flights through them. The author recommends going to the airline’s website at this point that had the cheapest flight and finding the menu or drop down when you can select the location you used earlier (in this case Colombia). From there, she was basically able to get the same price on the flight and save herself a ton of money for the same exact flight!

Changing your location on LAN's website for example

Changing your location on LAN’s website for example

Here are some tips to make this work for you:

  • Use Google Chrome as your web browser and use the translate feature if the website is not in English
  • Always choose the country of the flight you are searching for (i.g. searching for Brazil flights? Choose Brazil as your location)
  • Remember this works best for domestic flights within a different country (sorry but not the US)
  • Always use a credit card with no foreign transaction fees as these sites will bill your credit card in pesos or whatever the local currency is

(H/T to Dale for sharing)

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Points & Miles 101: Different Types of Points & Miles

To recap thus far in the Points & Miles 101 series, we have discussed:

Today’s topic will discuss the different types of points and miles out there. As you will learn shortly, all points and miles are not equal.

101

1. Airline Miles – Ever hear the word “Skymile” or phrase “frequent flyer miles”? Airline miles are probably the most well-known type of points or miles out there. Every major carrier has them and calls them something different. Examples include Delta SkyMiles, American Airlines AAdvantage, United MileagePlus, JetBlue TrueBlue etc..

As the name suggests, these miles are best for flights but not much else. The old school way to earn airline miles is by flying paid tickets but I and many other travel hackers now primarily earn airline miles through credit card signup bonuses and spending on these credit cards.  For perspective, I could either earn 50,000 miles for signing up for a Citibank American Airlines Credit Card or by flying 50,000 miles in the air on American Airlines on tickets paid for by myself or others. I think I know what I would choose 🙂

2. Hotel Points – All major hotel chains have hotel loyalty programs such as Hilton HHonors, Marriott Rewards and Starwood Starpoints. Hotel points are generally more flexible then airline miles as you could use them for free hotel nights or convert them to airline miles. In some programs this can be very beneficial – for example Starwood will allow you to convert 20,000 Starpoints into 25,000 airlines miles. In others though, the ratio isn’t as great and the best use remains towards free nights at hotels.

3. Bank Reward Points  – There are two types within this category with one being significantly better than the other.

• Transferrable Rewards Points – These points are my favorite types of points and they include Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards. There are so many options on what to do with these points. You could book any flight or hotel room with these points directly and just pay the total cost in points or you could transfer these points to many different airlines or hotels. I personally love the 2nd option most because it gives me the most options for my trip and doesn’t lock me into one specific program. If I have 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points, I could transfer 25,000 points to United to book my flight and 50,000 points to Hyatt to book 3 free nights at a hotel and still have 25,000 left over to top off an account or save for a future trip. The flexibility here is what makes them so valuable.

• Fixed Value Rewards Points – This is the more traditional bank reward points and this is also what I’d guess many people have as this covers Capital One, Barclays and Bank of America points. These points are generally worth .01 each and they allow you to book any flight or hotel. So for example a $400 domestic flight will require 40,000 points but with United or Delta or American Airlines, a domestic flight is only 25,000 airline miles. Many people also redeem these points for cash back or merchandise which I personally would never do nor would I recommend. I generally stay away from these points as I can get a lot more value out of flexible points or even airline miles and hotel points.

What kind of points or miles do you plan to collect?

Roundup of Four Offers for Free Points & Miles!

This has been a good week for free points and miles as several deals appeared this week. I’ll give a brief rundown of each.

1) Create a Southwest Frequent Flyer Account and Earn 750 Miles! Hopefully most of you followed my advice previously and created your frequent flyer accounts already but if not, Southwest is offering 750 miles for signing up for an account. I have a referral link I can send you directly to signup in which you will receive the 750 miles and I will receive 500 miles for referring you. Please contact me if you’d like me to refer you!

2) 500 United Miles –  United has a dining program in which you can earn 500 miles just for signing up! I’ll go more in-depth on airline dining programs in another post but basically you link your frequent flyer number and credit card and if you go out to eat at a participating restaurant, you get extra miles! Once you signup and link a credit card, there is no extra work – just pay with that credit card at the restaurant!

3) 2,000 Marriott Points Per Month via Social Media. Marriott just launched a new program called “Plus Points” in which members can earn up to 2,000 Rewards Points per 30 days for participating in specific social media tasks on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Foursquare. This includes liking hotels on Facebook, tweeting certain hashtags and more. The Points Guy has a good rundown of the info here. If you did this for a few minutes each month, you could potentially earn 24,000 points a year which is a free hotel room up to category 5!

Free hotel room for playing around on social media!

Free hotel room for playing around on social media!

4) 500 IHG Points! The hotel program for Intercontinental, Holiday Inns and more is offering 500 free points for taking 3 really short quizzes (seriously it takes 20 seconds each). Here are the links to the quizzes (below just click the quiz) and here is a separate link to the answers (c’mon how easy can this get).

1. 300 Point Quiz 

2. 100 Point Quiz 

3. 100 Point Quiz (#2)

Now of course none of these deals alone will get you enough miles for a free trip but every little bit helps. You never know when you might be 500 or 1,000 points short. Remember the points and miles game is a marathon, not a sprint and every little bit helps.

Now This is Travel Hacking! $13 Rooms at a 5 Star Resort in Phuket Thailand

I can’t take credit for this travel hacking deal but user chokdee on Flyertalk posted an amazing mistake hotel deal for a 5 star resort in Phuket, Thailand starting at about $13 per night!! And for a few bucks more, you could book yourself in a junior suite or cabana room with direct pool access – again truly an amazing find!

I'd say this is a pretty good deal...no?

I’d say this is a pretty good deal…no?

Now the part that makes this great travel hacking is that people didn’t simply stop at booking this room at the discounted rates. They wanted to get the room even cheaper and they did!

The original poster stated he found the room for 25 pounds per night on Expedia which is about $42 per night. Obviously a great rate but not good enough apparently for some. I recommend reading through the thread but here some key components that shows just how great travel hacking can be.

1) Some travel hackers started looking on foreign travel sites (in the US we typically think of Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity) and found even better rates on ebookers.com (UK), ebookers.de (Germany) and asiarooms.com

2) To make an amazing deal even better, someone noticed suites or higher level rooms were pricing for only a few bucks more. Why get a standard room for 8 pounds when you could get a cabana room for 18 pounds?

3) Icing on the cake, for me at least, was a 20% off discount code that could be applied to the reservation. Using code EBK20HOTEL on ebookers.de (use Google Chrome to translate the webpage). Seriously who needs another 20% off these rates?!?! 

In the end I booked 5 nights in a Cabana room that has a private outdoor jacuzzi and direct access to the pool for 169 Euros ($213 USD) TOTAL. That’s $43 dollars a night for a 5 star hotel in an upgraded room!

My Reservation... UNBEATABLE

My Reservation… UNBEATABLE

This deal is slowly dying but I was able to find standard rooms for about $35 a night as of 9pm, weirdly on hotels.com

Good luck if anyone books this!

My Interview with the Long Island Business News

This is a few months old now and honestly, I’m not sure how I failed to mention this before on the blog but PointsCentric was featured in an article in the Long Island Business News on travel hacking.

The article is here but it’s locked behind their paywall (boo!). However, the video interview that was shot at Long Island MacArthur airport is NOT behind the paywall and can be seen here. 

I discuss a bit how I got in the hobby, some of the places I’ve been with miles and other ways to earn miles outside of credit card spend. And I give the easiest but yet most important tip – always pay with a credit card that earns points or miles.

 

At MacArthur Airport

At MacArthur Airport