How I Saved $800 on International, Intercontinental Flights – And YOU Can, too!

My biggest travel-related expense each year is always the same: flight tickets to Israel to visit my husband’s homeland, family, and friends.

Israel Visa Stamp Card

Usually, the ticket prices hover around $1200ish. Definitely not an impulse purchase.

In 2017, we were flying in September (one of the most popular travel months), timed specifically for a friend’s wedding (September is also one of the most popular months to get married). We couldn’t find tickets for less than $1600. Ouch!

My husband, on a strict vacation time allotment due to work, went ahead and got his ticket (with some help from airline points – thanks United!)

I, on the other hand, have more flexibility in my schedule due to working remotely full time as a blogger and editorial assistant/copyeditor, so I tried to see if I could play with the dates, flights, and layovers, to get more for my money.

Oh boy did I ever!

I tried using Skyscanner, Kayak, and Kiwi… but with my open schedule and almost total flexibility (aside from NEEDING to be in Israel on September 3), Kiwi ended up being by far the best choice, as they allow for the most flexibility in terms of destinations, date ranges, search radii (and offer a guarantee for flights booked by them, even if on different airlines).

This is how I worked it out:

I spent $546.31 on the main bulk of my tickets with Kiwi, getting me a sort of mishmashed roundtrip ticket: from Mexico City all the way to Europe, and from Europe back to Mexico City. My landing and departure points were different within Europe, though.

Layover in Detroit
a Detroit layover well-spent (except for that bloody mary, who does a fruit garnish?)

I flew from Mexico City to Detroit (where I spent a night relaxing and hanging out with my sister), Detroit to New York, New York to Dublin.

Where to stay in Dublin: 9 Reasons to Choose Dylan Hotel Dublin
getting my grub on in Dublin

I took a bus from Belfast to Dublin, and flew from Belfast to Tel Aviv (flight cost: $169.46).

Stephanie Kempker Edri, Covered in Dead Sea Mud, Israel
me, husband, and sister with our Dead Sea mud on

I spent the same week as my husband (and sister) in Israel, and then flew to Riga for a few days, took a bus to Vilnius, and then flew to Stockholm (both flights total: $97.50).

Hotel Birger Jarl Stockholm Sweden
living that robe life in Stockholm

From Stockholm I flew to Los Angeles and then to Mexico City, which was included in the first wonky roundtrip ticket I bought.

In total, I spent $813.27, half of what my husband’s ticket cost, saving me more than $800 and allowing me to spend time in 6 new cities! If I’d had even more time, I probably would have tried to bus across more of Europe (it’s so cheap!), saving even more money before taking a flight from Greece (or some other European country nearer to the Middle East) to Israel.


How can you save crazy money on long-distance flight tickets using Kiwi.com?

Here are the steps you need to follow.

1. Choose multi-stop, roundtrip tickets on Kiwi.com

2. Decide on your final destination and any dates you NEED to be there.

Now’s the time to do a bit of research. Can you make your final destination even cheaper by flying in to a less expensive airport/nearby city and take a bus?

How flexible can you be with your arrival and departure dates? Be as flexible as possible for the best prices. Be sure to allow for as big of a date range as possible (and remember: weekday flights tend to be cheapest).

3. Choose potential inexpensive or desirable layover spots using the “radius search” and “show cheapest” – both for going AND coming back.

You can use a mix of countries, exact locations, and radius searches. If you don’t know where to go, click “Show cheapest” and use that as your stopover.

In this example, it would be cheapest for me to fly from Israel to London for this leg, and then I’ll do a radius search around London (because I can take a cheap bus or flight to the next city, if not London) back to Mexico City.

If you don’t land in the exact layover city you’re looking for, it’s almost even better! You’ll get to experience ANOTHER new city, and can take a cheap bus to the city you’re really after.

Play around for a bit to try different combinations and see what exciting itinerary you can cook up!

4. Book those cheap tickets and get ready for an adventure!


Why should you do this?

1. See destinations you otherwise wouldn’t.

Stephanie Kempker Edri in Vilnius Park in Lithuania
wandering around Vilnius

I never would have planned a trip around Latvia, Lithuania… and honestly: probably not Sweden, either. Europe really isn’t appealing to me, as it seems to have high prices and bad weather. I thought I prefered Southeast Asia and Latin America.

I absolutely loved Stockholm (though the prices are high!) and realized I would move there, like, yesterday.

Riga and Vilnius were probably the two most interesting, life-changing places I’ve visited all year. I learned so much about the Soviet occupation of the Baltic nations, which I’d never even really heard of or considered. Since then, I’ve been researching the history of the area for my own knowledge, and I am absolutely fascinated by these resilient, friendly, GORGEOUS cities.

2. See more places in one trip.

Dylan Hotel Dublin Location
on a “normal” ticket, I never would have visited Dublin

If I had taken a more direct route to Israel, the only other place I would’ve spent time in, aside from my departure and destination points, would have been the inside of the airport and the cabin of an airplane.

3. Save money.

This one’s obvious. My main motivation in this whole experiment was to save some cash, of course.

4. Break up long flights.

Starlet-Style Stay at Haymarket by Scandic, Stockholm: 48 Hours of Fame
breaking a sweat in style in Stockholm

Long, long flights (like the ones from Mexico City to Tel Aviv) are monotonous and even unhealthy, especially if you resist the urge to get up from your seat like I do. I always opt for the window seat, and feel bad bothering other passengers to let me out. I also hating waiting in long bathroom lines, or looking like a weirdo doing calisthenics in the aisle even though I know it’s important for maintaining proper circulation and preventing blood clots.

By going this convuluted flight route, you’re only in a plane for a few hours at a time, breaking up long flight stretches with enjoyable sightseeing and exploration and maybe most importantly: exercise.


Pin it for Later: How to Save Hundreds of Dollars on Your Next International Flight


Do you have a favorite flight hack? I’d love to hear it!

 

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