Air travel can be expensive, exhausting, and uncomfortable Thankfully, there are ways to make your time spent in airports — and in the air — cheaper and easier!
Curious what it’s like flying to Europe in 2022? Masks? Vaccines? Negative tests? Forms? Watch our video of our flight experience from Nashville, Tennessee, USA to Geneva, Switzerland on SWISS in May 2022!
Here’s what you can expect in this post:
- TSA PreCheck (& Global Entry): How to get this for FREE so you can have a smoother airport security experience
- Positioning Flights: How to take advantage of better flight options and prices.
- Priority Pass Membership: Learn how to gain FREE access to lounges so you can relax (or work) with complimentary food, drinks, and wifi.
- Flying to Europe: Earn FREE flight to Europe using travel credit card points and miles.
1. Get TSA PreCheck (and Global Entry) FREE with a Travel Credit Card
You know the drill: long lines, stressful encounters with airport security personnel, fumbling with your liquids bag, and pulling out your electronics while trying to take off your shoes…if only this process didn’t have to be so painful. Well, it doesn’t have to be!
TSA PreCheck allows you to waltz through your own (shorter) security line, while keeping your shoes on your feet, your liquids in your bag, and your electronics stored away. The last few times we’ve flown, we’ve breezed through security in about 5 minutes!
But don’t be satisfied with PreCheck alone — apply for Global Entry, and get PreCheck thrown in along with it! Global Entry takes removes many of the normal hassles of coming back to the U.S. from abroad, making the customs process almost pleasant. You’ll never wait in those long lines again!
And since we’re all about flying to Europe and how to travel Europe on a budget, both TSA PreCheck and Global Entry make our travel days extra smooth.
NOTE: Global Entry only applies when re-entering the U.S., so it won’t help you when entering other countries. Similarly, TSA PreCheck is only valid when going through security at U.S. airports.
It costs $100 to apply for Global Entry (which also grants you TSA PreCheck). But if you pay with a travel credit card that offers to reimburse this fee, you’ll technically receive it for FREE! You’ll enjoy a VIP-like airport experience for five years before having to renew.
Below is a list of some travel credit cards offering a Global Entry/PreCheck reimbursement benefit (as of May 2022).
HINT: two of these cards are included in our 3 Best Travel Credit Cards for 2022!
- The Platinum Card® from American Express
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card
- Delta SkyMiles® Business Platinum American Express Card
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
- Delta SkyMiles® Business Reserve American Express Card
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card
BANK of AMERICA
- Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card
- Capital One Spark Miles for Business
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
- Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
- Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card
- United Club℠ Infinite Card
- United℠ Explorer Card
- Citi Prestige® Card (no longer available to new applicants at this time)
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®
2. Book a Cheap Positioning Flight (if necessary)
If you live near a major international airport, this point won’t apply to you. But for the rest of us, we normally have to make a connecting flight in the U.S. before we can fly overseas — especially flying to Europe!
For example, our brother lives in Washington D.C. near a handful of international airports. On the other hand, we live near Nashville, Tennessee, so we always have to fly from Nashville to another international airport before we can fly to Europe.
Sometimes it’s simple: you find a solid flight itinerary for a good price (either with credit card points or cash). But often, this isn’t the case — especially if you’re trying to book fairly last-minute. This is where a positioning flight comes in.
A positioning flight is simply a flight purchased for the purpose of getting you to another airport where (in this case) you can find a better deal.
Sometimes we book our positioning flights with points. But there are plenty of scenarios in which these flights are cheap enough that we choose to pay for them with cash (well, actually, we usually pay with one of our travel credit cards!). This allow us to save our precious points for another flight when they’ll bring us more value.
When I looked for flights from Nashville to Switzerland for May 2022, there just weren’t great options available for booking the route on a single ticket with points or cash. But I found a super affordable option from Nashville to JFK for only 4,500 points and $5.60 per person on JetBlue.
Better yet, this put us in position to take advantage of a ridiculous steal of a deal for our flights from JFK to Geneva! (more on that in #4)
My favorite airlines for booking positioning flights in the U.S. are JetBlue & Southwest. Both airlines tend to have competitive cash rates, but can also be booked with points. And to put icing on the cake, Citi ThankYou points can be used to book JetBlue, while Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be used to book both — meaning you have lots of options to book a great positioning flight with little to no cash out-of-pocket!
3. Relax in Airport Lounges with Priority Pass (FREE w/ a Travel Credit Card)
I really enjoy flying, but — let’s face it — the airport experience can really stink! Terminals are rarely setup to be comfy, you often get limited time with super slow wifi, and the food is EXPENSIVE.
We used to stuff our bags with snacks so we didn’t have to buy food in the airport — until we discovered the Priority Pass.
With a Priority Pass, you gain access to 1,300+ airport lounges all over the world. Some are very basic, but a few are pretty luxurious (hello showers, made-to-order meals, and self-serve bars!). Most will provide a quieter, more comfortable space to work or nap, along with cleaner bathrooms, and at least a standard assortment of food and drinks.
Normally, you’d pay $299-$429 per year to purchase a Priority Pass, and that would only grant free lounge access to the individual member who purchased it. Guests would cost an additional $32 (per person) — and even spouses aren’t included in the membership!
But, as you’ve come to expect with us, there’s a way to get an even better deal. How? You guessed it! With a travel credit card.
Some of the more premium credit cards on the market include a complimentary Priority Pass for as long as you’re a cardmember. And some of those even allow you to bring 2 guests into a lounge with you for FREE, for an unlimited number of times each year! That makes this benefit even more valuable than the $429 per year Priority Pass membership!
Here’s a list of the best travel credit cards offering complimentary Priority Pass membership to cardmembers (as of May 2022):
- Amex Platinum (Business & Personal cards)
- Hilton Honors Aspire
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant
These AMEX cards currently grant unlimited access to cardmembers and up to two guest per visit (but it sounds like this might change in 2023).
- Venture X Rewards
The Venture X grants unlimited access to cardmembers and up to two guests per visit.
- Sapphire Reserve
The Sapphire Reserve takes this perk to a whole new level, granting Priority Pass membership to cardmembers AND authorized users. In addition, each member can bring up to two guests per lounge visit.
HINT: Gain Priority Pass membership + Global Entry/TSA PreCheck with the AMEX Platinum, AMEX Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant, Capital One Venture X Rewards, or Chase Sapphire Reserve!
4. Fly to Europe for (nearly) FREE with Points & Miles
We might be banging the drum too loudly (because credit cards certainly aren’t for everyone), but we really can’t over-exaggerate how much of our travels over the past 7 years have been made possible by travel credit cards.
We’ve written about using points and miles to travel Europe on a budget, and to book Turkish Airlines Business Class for FREE! But the reality is that opening just a single travel credit card will make your next trip more affordable than it otherwise would be.
Normally, one-way flights to Europe can be booked starting around 30,000 points. But the only thing better than a good deal is a great deal, and I think we found one for our flight to Geneva this May.
You’ll remember from #2 above that we booked a positioning flight to JFK to take advantage of one of the cheapest award tickets to Europe using points that I’ve ever seen.
We were able to book an economy flight on Swiss from JFK to Geneva for just 13,200 points and $50.30 per person! We took advantage of a 25% limited-time bonus on transfers from the Citi ThankYou points program; but even without the bonus, it would have only cost 16,500 points.
HINT: Not all flights from JFK to Geneva can be booked with so few points. In fact, you won’t even find this deal when booking with Swiss directly. But don’t worry! I spilled all the beans in this post where I show you exactly how you can do it, too.