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how to maximize thrifty traveler premium+

How to Maximize Your Thrifty Traveler Premium+ Membership

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Last month, we rolled out our brand new, top-of-the-line flight deal alert service: Thrifty Traveler Premium+. And we think it's the best flight deal service on the market.

That's because it's the only one that sends members both cheap cash fares as well as deals to book flights using points and miles. That's right: cheap domestic and international tickets, discounted business and first class fares, and even award space alerts like Delta SkyMiles flash sales or a chance to book lie-flat business and first class seats abroad using miles.

Check out some of the best flight deals & alerts we sent Premium+ members last month!

This service is all about helping travelers fly more (and often more comfortably) for less … but there's no one right way to travel. Still, there are some things you can do to ensure you're getting the most out of a Thrifty Traveler Premium+ subscription … and getting all the best deals straight to your inbox.


Get Deals from More than Just Your Home Airport

We find flight deals from more than 200 U.S. and Canadian airports – more than any other service. Our Thrifty Traveler Premium+  and standard Premium members can get flight deal alerts from all 200-plus cities or just pick one.

Setting your departure city settings is one of the most important things you can do after signing up. Just log in to your Premium+ account anytime and adjust your filters. My overarching advice: Cast a wide net. Pick more than just your home airport. We find flight deals from all airports, big and small … but the more airports you pick, the more flight deals you get. It's just logic.

Thrifty Tip: Try selecting the *ALL Cities* option and get every flight deal we find. From there, you can fine-tune your preferences based upon which airports you care most about, if you want.

thrifty traveler premium+ city settings 

Here's an example. Say you live in Atlanta (ATL) and want to visit Athens (ATH) next year. Back in March, we sent our Atlanta subscribers a deal to Athens for $590 roundtrip!


Thrifty Traveler Premium


That's a pretty great deal, if you ask me – considering it's more than $400 off normal prices, you're immediately covering the cost of your Thrifty Traveler Premium+ membership. But if you picked some other major airports in the area, you'd have gotten an even better deal…


Cheap flights to Greece


Haven't joined Thrifty Traveler Premium+ yet? You'll come out ahead (and then some!) after booking your first deal!

That's right: Less than $400 for a roundtrip flight to Greece by starting just a few hundred miles south in Miami (MIA) – and flying Delta, to boot! At that price, it could be easily worth booking a separate positioning flight to get down to Miami in order to fly over to Athens for less.

This same pattern plays out again and again and again: Cheap flight deals can pop up from almost any airport in the country. The more airports you receive alerts for, the better your odds of catching the deal you want.

Whether you live near a major U.S. hub or a small regional airport, consider adding airports you can cheaply fly to (or quickly drive) to your departure city settings. No matter where you live, we'd also recommend adding at least a few of the major U.S. cities, like:

  • Atlanta
  • Boston
  • New York City
  • Chicago
  • Dallas
  • Los Angeles
  • Miami
  • San Francisco
  • Seattle
  • Washington, D.C.

But depending on where you're hoping to travel, you might want to fine-tune your preferences even more…


The Best Airports for Flight Deals to Hawaii, Mexico & the Caribbean

If you're looking for domestic airfare within the U.S., your home airport should suffice. If your home airport is one of the tinier regional airports, consider adding the nearest hub or the next closest city, too.

Thrifty Tip: If you have a domestic destination you're interested in visiting, choose it as a departure airport and check to see if any deal we feature has an airport close enough to you as well. This could be a crafty backdoor use of our service that could help you find a cheap way there fast.

If Hawaii is on your mind (and it obviously is), there are a few different ways to catch a Hawaii deal in your inbox fast. For one, you should have your home airport checked. We do see nationwide Hawaii flight deals from time to time, and I promise you you'll get it in your inbox if the prices drop. We watch Hawaii like hawks.

But if you are looking for other Hawaii flight deal hot spots, set a few of the California and other West Coast airports as your departure cities. These cities regularly see some of the cheapest fares to Hawaii:

  • Los Angeles
  • Oakland
  • Portland
  • San Diego
  • San Francisco
  • San Jose
  • Seattle


Cheap flights to Hawaii

OAK OGG fare

LAX OGG fare


These are three different dirt-cheap fares to Maui (OGG) that we've sent to Premium subscribers in California over the last few months. As you can see, some of these fares are insanely low, so if Maui is on your radar and you can fly to Los Angeles (LAX) or the Bay Area (OAK and SJC), you could be the beneficiary of these insane fares.

If you want a cheap flight to Mexico and the Caribbean, you should look the other direction for the best fares. Instead of California, look hard at some departure airports in Texas, along the East Coast, and down in Florida for the best rates.

This deal to St. Lucia (UVF) is the perfect example:


UVF flight deal


Those are some of the most usual suspects that offer cheap flights to the Caribbean. If a place like St. Lucia, the U.S. Virgin Islands (STX, STT), Puerto Rico (SJU), or the Bahamas (NAS) are on your radar for a trip this year or next, I'd at least start with Atlanta (ATL), New York (JFK, LGA & EWR), and Miami (MIA).

Miami is almost always the single cheapest airport to find airfare to the Caribbean by a wide margin. If you can find a cheap flight to Miami, chances are you'll be able to get to the Caribbean for cheap.


The Best Airports for Cheap Flights to Europe & Africa

Everyone wants to go to Europe. With cheap fares to Europe like this nationwide deal popping up in 2023, we can hardly blame you.


Cheap flights to Ireland


If you live in Billings, Montana (BIL), Cedar Rapids, Iowa (CID), or Corpus Christi, Texas (CRP), you could have nabbed one of these sub-$500 flights to Ireland for St. Paddy's Day 2023. No positioning flights needed!

But there's no doubt that some cities benefit from more frequent (and cheaper) Europe flight deals than others. If I had to make a short list of places you should keep on your radar when looking for Europe flights, here's what I would come up with:

  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Miami
  • New York
  • Toronto
  • Washington, D.C.

Here's an example. By making sure you're getting flight deals from Washington, D.C., you can catch business class deals like this one in your web.


Brussels Airlines business class


Thrifty Traveler Premium+ members get cheap business class fares and award alerts to use points and miles, too!

So keep a few of those East Coast cities on your list if you're looking for a comfy ride to Europe this year or next.

If you're located further west in the U.S., I would consider adding Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco to your list, as well. While more rare than the East Coast strongholds, those airports are very competitive and will often feature great deals to Europe, too.


The Best Airports for Australia and Asia Deals

Most of these things are pretty intuitive geographically. If you're looking for deals to Australia and Asia, keep your eyes peeled on the west coast airports to find those deals.




For Australia, I'd recommend the following airports which airlines offer nonstop service to the land down under, including:

  • Dallas
  • Houston
  • Los Angeles
  • San Francisco
  • Vancouver

If Tahiti (PPT), Fiji (NAN), or New Zealand (AKL) are what you're after, airports with those nonstops include:

  • Chicago
  • Dallas
  • Houston
  • Los Angeles
  • New York
  • San Francisco
  • Seattle
  • Vancouver

Trips to Asia were on hold for a number of years due to the pandemic, but most of Asia has reopened to North American travelers. That means destinations like Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines are open to travelers again … and ripe for fresh flight deals. For any trip to Asia, you need to have these western airports on your list:

  • Los Angeles
  • San Francisco
  • Seattle
  • Vancouver

With these cities on your list, you'd receive the regular points and miles award alerts we send to Thrifty Traveler Premium+ members. While it can be tricky to pull off, using points and miles is the best way to get to Australia for a good value, hands down.


Business Class flights


Haven't joined Thrifty Traveler Premium+ yet? Sign up now to get deals like this one in your inbox!

Doesn't that look like a comfortable way to spend 12-plus hours in the sky? If you can get yourself a cheap flight to either Los Angeles or San Francisco, in this case, you could have booked the rest of this journey to Australia, Fiji, or New Zealand on your stashed points and miles.


Cheap flights to Australia and New Zealand


Like any destination, cheap flights from your home airport are not out of the realm of possibility. We've found widespread sales to Australia before. Check out this one from just a few months ago.


Cheap flights to Australia


But by checking some of these western airports into your departure cities list, you're doubling or tripling the number of deals you'll see to help you book cheaper and faster this year or next.


The Best Airports for South America Deals

If you want to fly to South America in 2023 or beyond, there are a few airports that you need to have on your list. I would start with these:

  • Atlanta
  • Dallas
  • Fort Lauderdale
  • Los Angeles
  • Miami
  • New York

South America flight deals come in all shapes and sizes and follow fewer patterns than the likes of Europe and Hawaii. But we find home airport South America deals from time-to-time, including this one from just last week with huge savings on flights down to Chile!


Chile flight deal


Dozens of U.S. airports from Seattle (SEA), to Kalispell (FCA), to Aberdeen, South Dakota (ABR) got in on the action in the $500s down to Santiago (SCL), but that's not necessarily the norm. Most South America deals feature a more select number of U.S. airports, like this sweet Thrifty Traveler Premium+ deal flying premium economy for the normal price of coach.


Premium Economy flight deal


In this case, this fare was only available from Miami (MIA). If you have Miami on your list, you would have caught this one to get down to Brazil in comfort for much less.


Toggle on All Business Class Deals

Whether you're using points and miles or booking a sub-$1,000 fare, the savings when booking first and business class seats can be astounding. That's where the biggest value of our Thrifty Traveler Premium+ service lies.

If you want to make sure you don't miss a single deal on premium cabin seats, we've made it easy: Just log in to your Premium+ account and turn on the “Business Class from ALL Airports” filter!


premium+ filter settings


If you're not interested in flights departing from New York, Dallas, or Los Angeles … unless it's a great award deal or ultra-cheap cash fare on lie-flat seats, this is how you do it. That way, you'll never miss deals like this dirt-cheap business class fare to Europe and Africa…


air france business class fare premium


… or this one to fly Aer Lingus business class to Dublin next year …


thrifty traveler premium plus dublin


… or a chance to fly EVA Air business class to Southeast Asia!


eva air business class alert


You can also toggle off all economy deals if you're only interested in premium cabin fares.


Earn Transferrable Credit Card Points

We tell all travelers to stop swiping their airline credit cards day in, day out and to focus instead on earning transferable points like Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Capital One Venture Miles, and even Citi ThankYou points.

For Thrifty Traveler Premium+ members looking to take advantage of the best points and miles deals we send, it's paramount. Having a pool of flexible points that you can quickly transfer to the right airline is the difference between booking a great award deal … or watching it sail by, wishing you could.

Take, for example, this alert to fly from Seattle (SEA) to Istanbul (IST) in Turkish Airlines business class for just 45,000 miles each way. While you may not have Turkish Airlines miles on hand, you could have easily transferred either Capital One Venture Miles or Citi ThankYou points to Turkish to book lie-flat seats to one of the most exciting cities on the planet.

But if you're only earning American AAdvantage miles? While those are great, they won't help you here.


turkish airlines business class alert


Or how about one of the many Delta SkyMiles flash sales available from a number of cities to Banff … starting at just 18,000 SkyMiles roundtrip? Even if you don't have Delta SkyMiles on hand, you could have easily transferred American Express Membership Rewards points into your Delta account to book.


delta skymiles flash sale banff


Not feeling a trip to Alberta? No problem: That same stash of Amex points could have allowed you to jump on this incredibly rare ANA first class award fare to Tokyo next year for just 55,000 points each way.


ana first class deal


We could go on and on: We send Thrifty Traveler Premium+ members several award alerts every single week – and we're the only flight deal service that sends both these points deals as well as cheap cash fares. Earning flexible points allow you to be versatile, opening up a world (literally) of opportunities to take those deals and run with them.

Read More: The Master List of Credit Card Transfer Partners


Book Now, Ask Questions Later

You've built out the stable of airports you want alerts for … but ultimately, booking these cheap flights comes down to you.

We have a mantra here at Thrifty Traveler: The hotter the flight deal, the shorter it lasts. And while it may seem risky to be booking flight deals on a whim, it's really not if you follow the right rules. And one rule is more important than all of them: The 24-Hour Rule.

On any flight that touches U.S. soil – no matter the airline, where you're coming from, or heading to – you can cancel your flight for free within 24 hours of when you booked it and get a full refund. There are a few exceptions for tickets purchased just days before departure but, in general, this is your excuse to book now and ask questions later. If things don't pan out, cancel your ticket and get a full refund.

Let me use an example from my own life that I put into action just last week when we sent Thrifty Traveler Premium+ members a jaw-dropping sale on Delta Premium Select fares to Europe and North Africa just a few weeks ago.


Premium Select flight deal


The deal included fares from our home airport of Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to Copenhagen (CPH) for just $678 roundtrip. I've never seen a Premium Select fare that low, so I knew it wouldn't last long.

I ran downstairs and asked my wife if she had any interest at all in spending Valentine's Day in Denmark. She said maybe. I ran back upstairs and booked two tickets because I knew I had at least 24 hours to figure things out and cancel for a full refund. Airfare, taxes, and fees – all of it – back onto my credit card. No questions asked.

So we dug into our calendars and plotted out what a Copenhagen weekend would look like. After a little bit of research that night, we decided it was a great idea!

And I'm glad I booked when I did: When I checked the fares again six or seven hours later, those incredible prices were gone – those same Premium Select seats were going for about $1,300 roundtrip. If I had waited, I would've paid double. But with the security blanket that is the 24-hour rule, I made out like a bandit on a comfortable Valentine's Day trip for my wife and myself.


How to Book Delta Flights With Miles


Follow the Flight First Rule

Booking flights fast is important, but one rule trumps them all: The Flight First Rule.

This is the #1 way to save on travel, and it's exactly what it sounds like. If you lock in your dates, book a hotel, plan a bunch of excursion and then start looking for flights to fit your itinerary, you're going to pay for it.


flight pricing


Flights are often the most expensive portion of any travel itinerary, and they're definitely the most fickle aspect of any trip. The difference between flying on a Wednesday and a Friday could be thousands of dollars. So before you ask for time off work, book that tour, or lock down any lodging, you're going to need to book the cheapest flights possible to save money.

Or just let the Thrifty Traveler Premium+ flight deals come to you and go from there. That's what I did for flights to Copenhagen: Before I ever looked at hotels, asked my boss for a few days off, or even considered going to Denmark in the first place, I locked in the best flight price thanks to a stellar deal. If I had to adjust those flights by just one day in either direction, the price would have been over $1,000 per ticket.

We've heard it from thousands of subscribers over the years: Letting great flight deals dictate their travels has been the difference between being able to travel once a year or five times.


Use Premium+ to Build Your Bucket List

Thrifty Traveler Premium+ is a flight deal alert service, but it's also maybe the best way to build your bucket list. 

I scan the globe looking for cheap flights every day, but I'm still sometimes blown away by the destinations I find and research for our subscribers. I even wrote a list of the places I'd never heard of until I started finding cheap flights for our subscribers. Here's an example:


Zanzibar flight deal


This flight deal from last year flying Qatar Airways took travelers from New York (JFK) to Zanzibar (ZNZ) for just $729. That fare put Zanzibar, a place I had only ever heard of, firmly on my shortlist for honeymoon getaway destinations. I banked Zanzibar in the back of my mind because it would be the perfect, exotic, romantic trip for after my wedding this past summer.

But Qatar Airways also offers arguably the best business class seat in the world: QSuites. What's better than Qatar Airways Business Class to kick off a honeymoon? I wasn't ready to book flights halfway across the world when that deal first came out in 2021, but it earned its spot on my list. Come 2022, I was ready to book business class seats from Chicago-O'Hare (ORD) all the way down to Zanzibar when we unearthed a deal like this recent gem.


QSuites flight deal


When new Thrifty Traveler Premium+ emails hit your inbox, use them to build out a list of places you want to go. You could even make a separate folder in your inbox to store some of your favorite deals, whether you actually book them or not. It will both help you build a list, and make a tentative budget for future travel.

Here's what my Premium folder of my inbox looks like as I write this. It's a smorgasbord of unreal airfare and points and miles deals.


Thrifty Traveler Premium


While some of the deals we send out are rare, many destinations we feature on Thrifty Traveler Premium+ come around more than once a year. So use your Premium emails as inspiration for future travel.

Even if you're not ready to book that Belize or Stockholm fare when you got the email this week, you can be ready next time!


Bottom Line

By tuning your departure cities to the correct airports, you can cast a wide net and catch more deals to the places you want to go. By following the Flight First Rule and keeping the 24-hour rule in mind, you can make quick and flexible bookings and potentially save thousands.

Plus, every time you get a Thrifty Traveler Premium+ email in your inbox, it can serve as travel inspiration, filling your bucket list with cost-effective travel goals. That's the key to get you on that dream trip this year or next.


Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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