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How to Get Cheap Airfare Using Budget Airlines

Updated on July 14, 2017

What Are Budget Airlines

Budget Airlines are airlines that give you a significantly lower airfare rate than the larger commercial airlines. They employ many different methods in saving money and pass that savings on to the customer. Many of these airlines provide fewer comforts and freebies than the larger airlines. These airlines generally charge for things like luggage, on-board drinks, or checking in at the airport. You can save hundreds of dollars utilizing these airlines without losing a lot of comfort if you just know the basics. Below is a list of budget airlines in the United States and tips, tricks or hacks that will save you a ton of money.

Traveling on a limited budget is possible! You can find Cheap Fares as low as $29 one way!
Traveling on a limited budget is possible! You can find Cheap Fares as low as $29 one way! | Source

Universal Tips for Budget Airline Travel

There are a few universal tips that apply to any budget airline (or commercial for that matter) that will save you time and money on every trip.

Pack Light
Although it may seem that you need 25 sundresses for your week in the Bahamas, the reality is that you don't! Plan every single day's outfits and throw one or two extras in there just in case. Try to reuse staples in different outfits (my staple is always a simple black tank!). This will save you room in your suitcase.

If you must pack all 25 sundresses, put them in a vacuum storage bag and shrink them down flat! You can find these bags at any grocery or department store; usually in the laundry section. Pro tip: Do not use the bags where you need an actual vacuum. You probably won't have this at your destination and you DO have to pack to get back home; probably with added souvenirs! Use the bags that you flatten without any tools. They work just as well. Thank me later!

Not only will this save you space, it will also allow you to get everything into the free carry-on or personal item on discount airlines. It's amazing what you can fit into a backpack using vacuum storage saver bags! More about this later.

Get on the email list and sign up for rewards
Either use your own or make yourself a dedicated email address and get on every single airline email list straight from the airline. They will send you their specials directly and you will always have the latest promo codes or sale dates at your fingertips!

Also, sign up for the rewards and frequent flyer programs on all of the airlines. It costs nothing, only takes a few minutes, and you automatically get miles when you fly. You also often get exclusive fares and perks for members only! Pro tip: Keep up with all of them using Points.com. You can consolidate them from different airlines and use them to buy all sorts of things or even cash them in for Paypal money!

Do the math
A few discount airlines have fare saver "clubs" that you can join to get better fares. Every single airlines I've tried with this saved me on airfare on the first round trip! For example, Spirit Airlines has the $9 Fare Club and Frontier has the Discount Den membership. They are $50-$60 per year, but they generally yield a reduced fare of around $20 to $30 one way per person. The best part, only one traveler has to be a member. So for a family of 4, you pay $60 and end up saving $80 to $120 on average each way. The next time you fly, you get the discount paying nothing and save a ton! The math doesn't always add up, but my experience has shown that it almost always does. If you travel several times a year on the same airlines, it is a must have!

Read the fine print
I am a frequent traveler and always tell people to almost exclusively use budget airlines. The thing I hear most frequently is that that person had a bad experience on a budget airline and ended up paying more once they got there. Read the fine print! Almost all budget airlines put their fine print quite prominently on their web pages and make absolutely no secret of it. This is part of some of their advertising! Below, we will give you some of the fine print for each airline!

For more travel tips, tricks, hacks and deal, visit www.tripyourlist.com!

Southwest Airlines is the overall best budget airline for no extra fee travel.
Southwest Airlines is the overall best budget airline for no extra fee travel. | Source

The Definitive List of Discount Airlines

Let's get to the list then, shall we?

Allegiant Air
Fares as low as $29 on some routes.
Webpage: www.allegiantair.com
Where they fly: United States. Short routes, mostly in the southwest.
International flights: No
Reward Program: My Allegiant
Discount Club: None
The fine print:
You can bring one personal item for free: Maximum dimensions: 7 x 15 x 16 inches (17.8 x 38.1 x 40.6 centimeters) Strollers, car seats and assistive devices allowed free.
Carry-On Baggage: FEES: At time of booking (varies by airport): $10 to $20. Pre-departure (after booking but before arrival at the airport): $45. At the Airport: $50
Maximum dimensions: 9 x 14 x 22 inches (22.9 x 35.6 x 55.9 centimeters)
Checked Baggage: FEES: At Booking (varies by airport): $18-$25. Pre-departure: $45 At Airport: $50Up to 4 bags up to 80 linear inches (203.2cm)
Maximum weight of 40 lbs. Over 40lbs is an additional $50.00. Over 70 lbs or oversized is an additional $75.00
Seat Selection: Variable with flight. Some are free and others require a fee.
Food and drinks are available on board for a FEE of approximately $2-$7
Boarding passes that must be printed at the counter cost an additional FEE of $5. Avoid this by using online check in and a digital boarding pass or printing the pass at home.

*BEST LOWEST FARE/DISCOUNT CLUB AIRLINE*
Frontier Airlines
Fares as low as $29 on some routes.
Webpage: www.flyfrontier.com
Where they fly: US domestic and limited international
International flights: Yes. Dominican Republic and Mexico
Reward Program: Early Returns
Discount Club: Discount Den $49.00 per year. Exclusive fares on flights. (Recommend)
The fine print:
You can bring one personal item for free: Maximum dimensions: 8 x 18 x 14 inches Strollers, car seats, diaper bags when traveling with an infant, and assistive devices allowed free.
Carry-On Baggage: FEES: At time of booking and up to 24 hours before departure on flyfrontier.com: $30/$35. When calling the call center or at web check in: $40. At the Airport: $45. At the Gate: $60
Maximum dimensions: 24x16x10. Max weight: 35lb
Checked Baggage: FEES: At Booking and up to 24 hours prior to flight at flyfrontier.com: $25/$35 ($38 when done after booking up to 24 hours prior to flight) for first bag, $45 for second bag and $75 for third bag. Call Center or at Web Check in: $45, $50, $75. At Airport: $45/$50/$80. At Gate: One only $60
Up to 4 bags up to 62 linear inches. Maximum weight of 50 lbs. Over 50 lbs or oversized is an additional $75.00. Bags over 100lbs or 110 linear inches will not be allowed. Baggage included for free with The Works and The Perks packages. See below for details.
Seat Selection: At time of Booking: $6 $20 for Stretch Seating; From Call Center $8/$20; At Web Check-in: $11/$25; At Counter $11/25.
Food and drinks are available on board for a FEE of approximately $2-$10
Boarding passes: Free

The Works: Only available at time of booking! Includes refundability, no change fees, seat selection, one carry on and one checked bag and priority boarding. Charge is variable and available to see and select at time of booking.
The Perks: Select your seat, one carry on and one checked bag and priority boarding. Can be purchased after booking. Charge is variable and is available to see at booking and after.

Jet Blue
Fares as low as $59 on some routes.
Webpage: www.jetblue.com
Where they fly: United States and international
International flights: Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, South America
Reward Program: True Blue
Discount Club: None
The fine print:
You can bring one personal item and one checked bag for free: Maximum dimensions: 17x13x8 inches for personal item and 22x14x9 for carry on. Strollers, car seats, diaper bags when traveling with an infant, and assistive devices allowed free.
Carry-On Baggage: Free
Checked Baggage: Fares available that include checked baggage. On base fares, $25 for first checked bag; $35.00 for second checked bag and $100 for 3rd and additional bags. Maximum weight 50 lbs. Max size: 62 linear inches. Overweight and oversize bags additional $100 fee.
Seat Selection: Free. Even More Space seat available for a fee of $10+ each way.
Food and drinks are available on board for a FEE of approximately $2-$10
Boarding passes: Free
Food and Drinks: Free plus items available for purchase.
Of Note: Can pool True Blue miles with Family Pooling. Can use partial points and partial pay to book flights. (Money saver!)

*BEST FEE FREE AIRLINE DISCOUNT AIRLINE*
Southwest Airlines (now including Airtran Airlines)

Note: Southwest merged with Airtran airlines and now offers Airtran's routes through Southwest.
Fares as low as $59 on some routes.
Webpage: www.southwest.com
Where they fly: United States and some international
International flights: Caribbean, Mexico
Reward Club: Rapid Rewards
Discount Club: None, but offers Bing! app
The fine print:
You can bring one personal item, one carry bag, and TWO checked bags for free: Maximum dimensions: 24x16x10 for carry on. Strollers, car seats, diaper bags when traveling with an infant, and assistive devices allowed free.
Carry-On Baggage: Free
Checked Baggage: TWO free checked bags. Maximum weight 50 lbs. Max size: 62 linear inches. Overweight and oversize bags additional $75 fee.
Seat Selection: Open seating on most flights.
Boarding passes: Free. You can automate your check in with early bird check in for a fee of $15 one way.
Food and Drinks: Free plus items available for purchase.

For Quick Reference

(click column header to sort results)
Airline  
Discount Club?  
Carry On Fee  
1st Checked Baggage Fee  
Fee for Seat Select  
Complimentary Drink/Snack  
Alligiant Air
None
$10-20 at booking
$18-25 at booking
Varies. Some Free
No
Frontier Airlines
Discount Den $49.00 per year
$30
$25
Yes
No
JetBlue
None
Included
$25
No
Yes
Southwest
None
Included
2 Free checked bags
No
Yes
Spirit Airlines
$9 Fare Club
$20-35 at booking (varies
$25-$40 at booking (Varies)
Yes
No
Sun Country Airlines
None
Included
$25
No
Yes
Virgin America/Alaska Air
None
Included
$25
No
Yes

*MY PERSONAL FAVORITE*
Spirit Airlines
Fares as low as $9 on some routes (No I'm not kidding. But they do add applicable taxes and fees required outside the airline so it is more than $9)
Webpage: www.spirit.com
Where they fly: US domestic and limited international
International flights: Caribbean, Mexico, Columbia, Peru
Reward Program: Free Spirit
Discount Club: $9 Fare Club 59.99 per year offers discounted checked bags and exclusive fares (Recommend)
The fine print:
You can bring one personal item for free: Maximum dimensions: 8 x 18 x 14 inches Strollers, car seats, diaper bags when traveling with an infant, and assistive devices allowed free.
Carry-On Baggage: Maximum dimensions: 22x18x10. FEES: This is now variable based on your flight and dates. Generally, without $9 fare club membership, fees are around $35.00 per checked back at time of booking; $50 at web check in; $60 at airport; and $65-100 at the gate.
Checked Baggage: FEES: Now variable based on flight and dates, but generally 1st bag is $30-$38 at booking, $40 at web check in. $50 at airport counter. Second bag is $40/$50/$60. 3rd to 5th bags: $85/$95/$100 Fare club membership gives you up to 1/2 off your baggage fees.
Up to 62 linear inches. Maximum weight of 40 lbs. 41-50bs: Add $30 to checked back fee. $51-70 Add $55. 71-100 or 63-80 linear inches Add $100. Bags over 100lbs or 80 linear inches will not be allowed.
Seat Selection: This is also now variable. On a sample fare from DFW to Atlanta, it offered me options from $9 to $37 (for extra legroom seats).
Food and drinks are available on board for a FEE of approximately $2-$10.
Boarding passes: Free if digital or printed at home. $10.00 fee at airport.
Why it is my favorite. Spirit allows its Free Spirit members to earn points through all sorts of different programs such as Free Spirit Dining Miles for thoughts (surveys), Swagbucks, MyPoints, and several more. It has the most miles earning network that I've seen. They also have 99% off fare sales on occasion and really great international fares to their international destinations. If you know how to avoid the "small fees" (see my tips on baggage), you can fly for next to nothing.

*Great for Stable Fares and Low/No Fee*
Sun Country
Reliable low fares that do not vary! This is a huge plus!
Webpage: www.suncountry.com
Where they fly: US domestic and limited international
International flights: Mexico and Caribbean
Reward Program: Ufly Rewards
Discount Club:None
The fine print:
You can bring one personal item and one carry on bag for free: Maximum dimensions: 9 x 16 x 11 inches Strollers, car seats, diaper bags when traveling with an infant, and assistive devices allowed free.
Carry-On Baggage: FREE Maximum dimensions: 24x16x11. Maxiumum weight: 35lbs
Checked Baggage: FEES: 1st Bag: $25.00; 2nd Bag: $35.00, $75 each additional bag.
Up to 4 bags up to 62 linear inches. Maximum weight of 50 lbs. Over 50 lbs or oversized is an additional $75.00. Bags over 100lbs or 110 linear inches will not be allowed.
Seat Selection: No Fee.
Food and drinks: Free with extras available for purchase.
Boarding passes: Free

Virgin America and Alaska Air (Partners)
Note: When you search on Virgin America, it will pop up comparable fares on Alaska Airlines and vice versa. They are heavily linked.

Fares as low as $39 on some routes.
Webpage: www.virginamerica.com www.alaskaair.com
Where they fly: US domestic. Alaska Air flies to Cuba
International flights: via Alaska Air: Cuba
Reward Program: Elevate/Mileage Plan
Discount Club: None
The fine print:
You can bring one personal item and one carry on for free. Strollers, car seats, diaper bags when traveling with an infant, and assistive devices allowed free.
Carry-On Baggage: Free Maximum dimensions:51 linear inches.. Max weight: 30lbs
Checked Baggage: $25.00 for up to 10 bags up to 62 linear inches. Maximum weight of 50 lbs. Oversized is an additional $75.00. Bags 51-70lbs: add $50. 71-100lbs: Add$100.
Seat Selection: Free
Food and drinks are available on board for a FEE of approximately $2-$10
Boarding passes: Free
The Works: Only available at time of booking! Includes refundability, no change fees, seat selection, one carry on and one checked bag and priority boarding. Charge is variable and available to see and select at time of booking.
The Perks: Select your seat, one carry on and one checked bag and priority boarding. Can be purchased after booking. Charge is variable and is available to see at booking and after.

Have you ever flown a discount airline?

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