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The Ultimate Guide To Cheap Flights From Columbus

Last November, I was doing my annual Black Friday Christmas shopping (online, as usual), when I came across an Air New Zealand fare mistake on a blog I follow.

$600 to Auckland. Round Trip.

New Zealand has always been a place I’d like to visit, but to say it wasn’t on my radar right now with an 8 and 10 year old would be understating things. 18+ hours of flying was something I wanted to wait until they were older to tackle.

But $600 for a flight that usually costs $2,000 or more? That’s an amount of savings that’s tough to pass on when multiplying by four tickets.

To make a long story short, we just returned from two weeks on New Zealand’s North Island, and it was the trip of a lifetime.

My wife and I have just eight years left of our kids being at home, and a long list of places we’d like to take them, but like most people our funds are not unlimited. I’ve done an embarrassing amount of reading on cheap travel in the last year while loosely planning the places we would like to fly to from Columbus, and this successful trip to New Zealand seems like an appropriate time to share with you what I’ve learned.

The Most Important Thing: Scott’s Cheap Flights

How about this AirBnB view?

If you take anything away from this article, please make it Scott’s Cheap Flights. Even if you think international travel might be out of reach or just not in the cards for you right now, sign up anyway.

Scott’s Cheap Flights is an email newsletter that is one of the more stunning internet success stories of the past several years, growing to over 1.3 million subscribers as of this month.

The viral success has come because the newsletter is singlehandedly the most useful thing you will find online if you are even vaguely interested in international travel.

How Scott’s Cheap Flights Works

  • Sign up for the newsletter here.
  • Pay the $39 a year for the premium subscription. (I previously had this at $25, but that’s only a half year – it may be worth doing a shorter period to make sure it’s for you.) If you book one flight a year, it will pay for itself 10x over (probably more.) This will allow you to receive all the deals available, and you will receive them in an earlier window of time compared to free subscribers. This is crucial particularly for prices which might be mistake fares.
  • Be sure to select all the airports you could conceivably fly from (at least Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh.) Many deals are good enough to find a way to get to an airport 2-3 hours away.

Typical Deals I Have Been Sent Recently (Prices Listed Are Round Trip)

  • Cancun: $272
  • Belize: $372
  • Turks & Caicos: $339
  • Beijing: $572

This just a sprinkling of deals I have seen in the last month and shouldn’t be taken as indicators of the absolute best deals the newsletter will send you (although all four of those are very solid prices.)

Be Decisive. Be Flexible.

New Zealand Beach

The fares that Scott’s Cheap Flights sends out sometimes sell out in hours. At best, they are usually only available for a day or two. You have to be prepared to act, which is why it’s a good idea to have a very loose and general plan of where you’d like to go in the near future, and what you’d be willing to pay.

Flexibility should also be considered beforehand. Vacation time is hit or miss depending on careers, but maximum savings come to those who can be maximally flexible.

The good thing is that most fares Scott’s Cheap Flights sends will have windows of available booking time, i.e. the prices aren’t for a specific day or week. Instead they are usually blocks of months (say, August 2018 – February 2019 as one example I recently received) giving you some time to plan things out once you’ve bought your ticket.

Other Websites To Watch

New Zealand Waterfall

Scott’s Cheap Flights is my favorite (as you might have guessed), but there are other websites that are useful as well.

I prefer Scott’s because it’s passive. I don’t have to remember to check prices or sign up to an email list to be alerted when a certain fare drops in price. I had no idea a trip New Zealand was even a possibility right now, so there’s no world where I would have been signed up to watch prices on Air New Zealand. Probably the next trip I take will also be to a destination I wasn’t really considering.

But you might feel differently. Perhaps there’s a trip you take yearly to see family, or maybe you know for a fact that you really want to go to London if you can go roundtrip for under $700. This is what to do.

  • Airfare Watchdog: sign up for email alerts for specific fares. The front page also has daily top fares from Columbus, and their Twitter isn’t bad to watch either.
  • Kayak Explore (CMH): Make sure you click “nearby airports”, then select the time you want to travel. This is a great way of exploring domestic ideas. You can also sign up for price alerts here. I just did a test run and saw a $123 round trip fare to Las Vegas in June – so this definitely works.
  • Two more solid travel search engines: Hipmunk and SecretFlying.

Play The Credit Card Game

New Zealand Hills

Probably you know this one already, but do all of your spending on a rewards travel card that you then pay off every month. It will add up to free flights yearly, and the sign-up bonuses alone are usually good for at least one free flight.

I’m a fan of Chase’s Sapphire cards (Preferred or Reserve) because the points are transferrable to Southwest, the most common airline I fly. If you want to keep it extremely simple, a card like the Capital One Venture is good. There’s no messing around with point transfers or rewards programs, you simply book your travel and then redeem points for a statement credit.

If you want to get more complex, be aware it’s a very deep rabbit hole, but one that can have great rewards. A blog called Doctor of Credit is what you’ll need to get started.

Discounted Travel Gift cards

Huka Falls

Want a quick 8-10% off your next trip? Check eBay.

eBay often has digital gift cards on sale at 90% or 92% of the full price. I’ve used this to load up on Southwest cards, and there are other ways to play it as well (including hotel specific cards and AirBnB). Every bit of savings adds up, and the amount of work is minimal. Doctor of Credit is great to see when these go on sale – this works best if you can add it to a feed reader or sign up for their email newsletter so you don’t have to remember to visit. I’m all about passive info and not having to make travel search into a dedicated routine.

Get To Know Airlines Flying Out Of Columbus

Whangarei Falls

It is helpful to know exactly what airlines fly out of Columbus, and consider signing up for their email newsletters so that you can receive their sales announcements. Getting to know where these airlines fly is also helpful, and can help you pick domestic destinations that don’t require stopovers.

Airlines to watch:

  • Southwest
  • Spirit
  • Frontier
  • Allegiant
  • American Airlines
  • United
  • Delta

When it comes to direct flights, if you have any interest in Milwaukee watch OneJet, and if you would like to go to Toronto keep an eye on Air Canada.

Spirit, Frontier, and Allegiant have copious rules on things like carry-on and checked baggage, sometimes questionable customer service, and generally make flying unpleasant, but most flying these days isn’t exactly luxurious, so why not save your money? These three airlines are the key to getting the absolute rock bottom prices on domestic US routes from Columbus in 2018.

Did I miss anything? Have any travel tips or hacks you want to share? This article will see updates over time, so let us know. And if you happen to book a deal as a result of this article, definitely send us a photo. Happy CMH and LCK flying. ✈️✈️✈️