Book It! How I Bought a Round Trip Ticket to Europe for Free

CouponPal’s COO, Kevin Helms, and I just booked a flight halfway around the world and my ticket didn’t cost me a cent. Well, that’s a bit of an embellishment, but my bank account didn’t see any red. Check out how I saved enough to kick off a dream vacation and saved big on travel expenses.

Nearly six months ago, Kevin and I decided that we wanted to take our work on the road and put some stamps in our passports. We weren’t sure where we wanted to go, or when we could make the journey, but one thing was clear: I needed to save up quickly.

I started out with an old-fashioned favorite technique and dusted off the old piggy bank. I made it a habit of feeding piggy over the last several months and developed a few rules.

1) Piggy gets 20% of all Craigslist sales
2) All cash left in my wallet come Sunday goes to Piggy
3) Loans from Piggy must get paid back double
4) No peeking until it’s time to cash in

With Piggy eating up my cash, I made a commitment to using my credit card to earn reward points. I enrolled in seasonal offers giving me bonus points for food, gas, travel, and other purchases. Despite putting more costs on my card than ever, I refused to carry a balance from one month to the next. I simply couldn’t afford any fees setting back my dreams.

After five months of saving, it was time to get serious. Kevin and I committed to a March departure and settled on Eastern Europe as a destination. We began scouring the Internet for inexpensive flight options and comparing travel routes. I signed up for Travelzoo.com and airfarewatchdog.com price alerts out of Los Angeles, and when fares recently dropped following the end-of-year travel spike, we took action.

We hopped on a video-chat to book a flight using Travelocity headed from Los Angeles to Prague, and from Istanbul back to Los Angeles (with a stop in New York City for me). Total cost: $917.26. Then, I cashed in my credit card points to the tune of $350 and piggy bank savings for another $569 for a total of $919 and a profit of $2!

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