How to Get Cheap Flights to Latin America and Europe

cheap flights to latin america and europe

People are typically stunned when I tell them that I got my one way plane tickets to Europe for $300 total, and they were actually two separate tickets, the first to Iceland and the second to Norway. If you go the easy route and type in Point A to Point B on (I shudder to think if you’re typing that in on you will probably pay way more than is really necessary to get to your destination. I don’t have any amazing tricks to get cheap flights to Latin America and Europe because I don’t use gimmicks, I use strategies that you can apply each time you look for a trip.

Check Out Rewards Credit Cards to Go the Traditional Route

If you don’t plan on buying a house within the next year, you can sign up for rewards cards through the airlines and get major bonus miles to use towards reward travel. The reason I mentioned buying a house is because signing up for a card to get the bonus and then dumping it slightly hurts your credit score, but I think it’s worth it unless you are trying to get a big loan within a few months. The other catch is these cards charge annual fees of around $100 but that’s usually worth it even for one trip. If you get 50,000 miles for signing up that’s 2 roundtrip domestic airfares, worth close to $1000 if you fly out of smaller regional airports like I do frequently. The key is to signup, use the reward, then cancel.

I got 100,000 miles this way and paid for a $500 round-trip flight from Philadelphia to Pensacola with 25,000 rewards miles from my credit card. Right now the American Airlines card is offering 30,000 miles to signup, but sometimes that goes as high as 50,000 like when I grabbed it. You have to monitor promotions and jump when they boost the bonus. If you want a comprehensive guide to credit card rewards, I’d check out this one from Mr. Money Mustache because I think it’s one of the better and less biased guides out there.

Again if you get a card and then cancel it after you’ve used the bonus miles, your credit score will temporarily dip.  That should only matter if you are planning on getting a mortgage in the next year. If you aren’t, you’ll be sitting on some major miles you can use to protect yourself from the ridiculous price gouging the airlines are doing right now with oil at multi-year lows. 

Be Willing to Take Risks on Budget Airlines to Get to Hubs, and Travel Light

The way that Frontier, Spirit, and other budget airlines make their profit is baggage fees.  I’m traveling Europe with a 10 pound backpack and 3 lbs of that is my computer and charger. The folks lugging around 40 pound bags of rocks look at me with disbelief, but the flexibility I get from having a lighter pack is so much more important than anything I could possibly be bringing so I make do with less. Next weekend trip you take, try bringing a bag that you can throw over your shoulder. No more forced luggage checks and waiting at baggage claim. Also, you are virtually guaranteed the airlines won’t lose anything since it will be in the overhead bin.

Another reason to travel light is that the budget airlines charge crazy fees for having heavy bags, which takes away from their awesome cost advantage. You’ll need to bring your own snacks and water bottle to fill up in the airport and have a flexible travel schedule but if you do, the sky’s the limit (pun intended). You can find trips with Frontier from the Northeast US to Florida for around $100 which is insanely cheap. 

Latin American Flights

Miami is going to have all the best flights to anywhere in Latin America, period. Miami usually has the highest population concentration of every Latin American country out of US cities, so they have great flights since there’s a ton of demand. If I wanted a cheap flight, I’d probably book 2 separate trips, one to get me there with a budget airline, and another with the national carrier of whatever country I was trying to get to. Unfortunately, the cheapest non-stop flights with branded US airlines will be to boring all inclusive touristy places like Punta Cana or Cancun. I’d avoid these like the plague because everything you see is a fake creation meant to appease Americans. 

Check out cheap ways to get to Miami.  Frontier and Spirit have good deals from Northeastern cities which is where I usually would fly from. Once you’re in the airport, I’d have a separate flight booked to take me to Peru, Brazil, Mexico, or wherever you’re going. You can probably find direct flights from Miami for a few hundred bucks I bet, especially if you plan a few months ahead.

European Flights

I think the best value right now in International air travel by far is Wow Air. You can use them to get to continental Europe through a connection in Reykjavik or just get to Iceland to take another European carrier to the continent itself. Basically Iceland discovered they could fly smaller airlines you’d normally use for domestic air routes in the US to get from the American Northeast to Iceland. The dramatically lower capital cost for these smaller airplanes means they can charge way less and take more frequent flights to meet smaller demand. That means flights for as low as $99, which is a wild price that you could even take a weekend getaway for. When I was writing this article I found a flight on their website from BWI Baltimore International to Paris for $199 one-way including taxes and fees. That’s pretty incredible. I used them to fly to Europe this past July.

Once you’re in Iceland, you’re in a European country technically so the budget airline options start kicking in and you can take one of these to the major city you were trying to get to. If you’re traveling as a couple, the savings could be at least $1000 or more. Right now Wow Air is only flying out of Boston and Baltimore, but more flights could be in their future and I’d seriously consider using them if you’re trying to get to Europe on a budget. Also, they have pretty intense baggage charges so you’ll need to pack super light to take advantage of all the savings. However, the lighter you travel the more fun you’ll have so you should do it.

Make Risk Your Friend to Get Cheap Flights to Latin America and Europe

Most people are afraid to try new things, or take risks, and airlines know this. That’s why they will let you take up to two bags free to international locations, and they’ll package your flight together from a random small airport to the big international hub you’re trying to get to so you don’t have to think about it.

When you take chances on smaller airlines with budget models, you might get delayed, have a canceled flight, or have trouble getting to your destination. However, you could have all these problems with a $2000 ticket to Paris too! My favorite joke about airline travel is the guy who sits up in first class who is informed that while his seat will be going to London, economy is going to Paris and he better switch to make sure he gets there. In other words all routes get you to the same place and you might as well bring your own Coca-Cola and save a few hundred bucks with lower in flight service quality because you will arrive at the same destination.

So to review, get a rewards credit card to have miles to get you out of tight situations, fly budget airlines to get to cheap hubs like Miami for Latin America and NYC, Boston, or Washington DC area for Europe. Also try out newer budget airlines like Wow Air to Europe because they save you tons of money.

In the meantime may you take risks you never thought possible and travel to build your life experience! I’m off on a night bus to Belgrade, Serbia. 

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