My 2016 Journeys – How I Travel on a Mid-Range Budget using Points and Deals

It has been a great year for me traveling. Airfares are inexpensive this year and I am trying to make the most of it, because who knows when that will no longer be the case.

I generally used resources like Google Flights, Airfarewatchdog, and Kayak Alerts, but my big discovery this year has been The Flight Deal, which offers just those extra-special fares from a given city instead of searching through generic lists of all fares. To be honest, I am pretty open to where my next destination will be, so if something interesting strikes my eye, I may just  opt for that destination:

2016 Journeys:

  1. Granada, Nicaragua
  2. San Jose & Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
  3. Quito & the Andean Highlands, Ecuador
  4. Israel
  5. Palestine
  6. Jordan
  7. Lisbon & Porto, Portugal
  8. Madrid & Toledo, Spain
  9. Bar Harbor & Acadia National Park, Maine
  10. Montreal, Canada
  11. Iceland
  12. London, England
  13. Tallinn, Estonia
  14. St. Petersburg, Russia
  15. Helsinki, Finland

NICARAGUA – COSTA RICA – ECUADOR

  • For Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Ecuador, I spent 45,000 miles with United. A typical USA-Central America award flight is 35,000 miles, so I had to add another 10,000 miles to fly from San Jose, Costa Rica to Quito, Ecuador.
    • It was worth it to be honest, because paying in cash for point-to-point flights in Central and South America can be ridiculously expensive – possibly even more than your trip to Central or South America in the first place
    • I did have to spend on NatureAir to fly from SJO to Manuel Antonio/Quepos Airport and back, but the $154 roundtrip fare was worth not needing to spend 8 hours in a shuttle service.

 

ISRAEL-JORDAN-PORTUGAL

  • For Israel and Jordan, I decided to experiment with Aeroflot for the first time. For $350 one way, I connected through Moscow to Tel Aviv. I did end that trip meeting up with my S.O. in Lisbon – I booked two separate budget flights on Jetairfly and Ryanair and he kindly spent 30,000 miles to fly me home from Lisbon (The one-way fares on TAP or other airlines worked out to about the same as a round-trip ticket)
    • A direct flight from TLV to LIS could run $500-600 and isn’t scheduled for everyday either, so as much as connecting in Brussels airport in the middle of the night was not ideal, it made sense – the only downside was flying two short connecting flights in the middle of the night was not great for a good night’s sleep!
  • Madrid, Spain was done through a TAP deal which showed up on The Points Guy for $250 roundtrip! The downside was that we had long layovers in Lisbon, but we did use one to hop back into the city for a quick walk.
  • Flying into Acadia National Park ran around $300+ roundtrip on Delta Airlines. On the one hand, it was more expensive than Portland, Maine, but I think I would drive up next time rather than deal with these express carriers.
  • Montreal, Canada was done by flying into Burlington, Vermont on United for only $180 roundtrip (far less expensive than flying directly to YUL, which can run $300-400 in the summer).
    • Again, the express portions of Delta, United, etc. have a high cancellation and delay rate and I would rather just drive next time.
  • To visit Iceland – London – Baltics, I took advantage of an Icelandair flight for approximately $440. This flew me to London with a long 1-day layover in Iceland, then eventually from London back to Iceland where I spent a few days before flying back to EWR.
    • I just had to tack on flights from LGW-Tallinn on Easyjet and then from Helsinki to LHR on British Airways, each running me about $100.
    • In the grand scheme of things, other Icelandair fares I had been looking at for my trip were $1,100 – $1,200 so some of the annoyances were well worth the cost saving.
  • To visit Poland, I used The Flight Deal again and spent approximately $330 to fly from EWR-Warsaw via Vienna on Austrian, and then back from Krakow-EWR via Zurich on Swissair. Both airlines charged me $25-35 to reserve a seat, but again, the overall cost is far less than I would pay to go to Poland some other way, such as LOT.
    • Going into Warsaw and out of Krakow just requires a fairly inexpensive rail trip
  • To visit Southeast Asia, I spent $800 to book an open jaw on EVA (a great airline that has some amazing fares this year; So does Cathay Pacfic). Going into Denpasar, Bali (DPS) and flying out of Hanoi, Vietnam (HAN).
    • The only part that hurts is that a TigerAir flight from DPS-SGN with a layover in SIN was $280.
    • My three internal flights in Vietnam were all less than $50, with a reserved seat and bag.

Upcoming Journeys This Year:

  1. Bali, Indonesia
  2. Vietnam

Top Picks for 2017:

  1. Ethiopia
  2. Uzbekistan
  3. Croatia
  4. New Zealand
  5. Egypt

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