Cheap International Flights – My (Not So) Secret Weapon

Montmartre in Paris – Evening Sunset

Audience Disclaimer


So, you want to travel abroad? Most people think that only the rich can afford to travel outside of the country, but that’s not the case. I’m going to teach you my greatest trick that establishes a baseline for international travel planning. And it all begins with the flight that’ll be getting you to your destination and back.

Flexibility is Key

Two of the most important factors of the cost of a flight is the time of year and the day of the week. This is where flexibility comes into play. How long can you be away from your everyday lifestyle? This flexibility will render the most savings, as you can choose travel dates when tickets are cheaper, not just when it’s convenient for someone else (i.e.: your employer).

Convenience Sells

It’s no secret that convenience sells. Well, hear me out. This is going to hurt a little, but I promise it pays off. You’re going to have to drive to an airport that a very secret ingredient (read: a specific airline) flies out of. No, you can’t just drive 30-60 minutes to an airport that flies you to your beloved Myrtle Beach for $59. You’re going to have to drive in order to land these deals. Convenience sells, but inconvenience is cheaper. Flying from a local airport can cost more than double the airfares I’m introducing you to in this article.

Don’t Overpay – Choose PLAY

PLAY Airlines Airbus A32Xneo

Ok, so here’s the main ingredient: PLAY Airlines. You can stop reading here. Time to book the trip of your life! PLAY Airlines is an Icelandic airline formed in July 2019 by two former WOW air executives. Originally named WAB (“We Are Back”), then renamed PLAY in November 2019, who knew they would make international flights so cheap for us East Coasters?

I joke when I tell the story in person, but flying with PLAY Airlines is like flying at Spirit, Frontier, or Allegiant pricing, but with much better customer service, in-flight options, and comfort. I know that’s hard to picture, but you’ll see what I mean.

Why PLAY Airlines?

Let’s even the playing field here and consider that every airline departs and arrives on time (which isn’t always true). When you’re on the actual plane though, what do you value? The following things come to mind:

  • Comfort
  • Flight staff demeanor
  • Dining options
  • Wireless Internet
  • In-flight video (movies, TV)

PLAY Airlines has decent seats, an Icelandic flight staff with amazing attitudes, and dining options that I’ve never seen available on a plane. They do fall short in the ‘wireless Internet’ and ‘in-flight video’ categories, but those can be circumvented by downloading content to your devices before you leave home. No, you can’t text during your flight, but you can still enjoy your favorite shows and movies using this method.

Style Above the Competition

Dressed from head to toe in custom-branded PLAY Airlines attire, the flight staff is dressed to impress. They walk to and from the flight gates in a group, and even down to the shoestring tips of their Nikes, the PLAY Airlines staff means business.

Dining Options

The food and drink options that PLAY Airlines has on board is impressive. They take credit card payments, but your card must support offline transactions. They do not take any sort of physical currency. Take a look at their menu here:

Test Booking

Heading over to the PLAY Airlines website, we’re going to test out a theoretical trip to Paris. My favorite airport is BWI in Baltimore, Maryland, so I’m going to use that in my example. PLAY Airlines has terminals at Charles de Gaulle (CDG) in France. So our source airport is BWI, and our destination airport is CDG. Click Search flights.

Sample flight from BWI (Baltimore) to CDG (France)
The preliminary search results we received after clicking Search flights

Immediately, we’re greeted with many low fares, but I doubt you want to leave today. So it’s time to hone in on that theoretical vacation time away from work, then use our flexibility to make it even cheaper.

Fare calendar – Select a date

Let’s say we want to go to Paris in March of 2024. Just glancing at the dollar values on the fare calendar, I’m going to choose March 12th, 2024 as my departure date. Because it’ll take quite a bit of flight time to travel from the USA to France, know that your flights will eat into vacation time. So be sure to book enough actual days in the country you want to visit, not just time away from home (and in the air). I’m going to choose a return date of March 19th, 2024. That will give us a good five or six days in Paris after subtracting time in the air. Once you’ve chosen your dates, click Great – See flights.

Next, you’re greeted with booking options for the exact dates you’ve chosen. Looks cheap enough, but there are more savings to be had…

Default options for a flight from BWI to CDG

Enjoy Bonus Days At Almost No Cost

This is where your flexibility comes into play. See the horizontal calendar above each leg of the flight? That’s where you can see when an adjacent day may be cheaper. In the case of our departing flight, there’s nothing to gain. But on the return flight, it looks like March 20th and March 21st are cheaper days to fly back. By a whopping $65! If two people are flying, that’s $130.

Ask youself the following questions:

  • What’s the value of overspending on airfare for the sake of getting back early?
  • In contrast, what’s the value of taking that $130 savings and spending an extra night in a beautiful country?

The latter sounds like a better deal to me. I’m choosing March 20th to enjoy an extra day in Paris!

Flight Options – PLAY basic / PLAY value / PLAY flex

Most of the time, PLAY value will be your best choice. But, if you’re planning on backpacking it across the country you’re visiting and can do without a checked bag, seat selection, and priority boarding, PLAY basic can be a great money saving selection instead. I just completed a hybrid version of this in London. I traveled with PLAY basic to London for 10 days, and my base airfare was $350 USD ROUND TRIP! Then, I added a carry-on bag only. I traveled solo and lightweight, so I didn’t care about choosing my seat or checking a bag.

What Destinations Can I Fly To?

Here’s their route map:

Other Airlines Are So Expensive!

Google Flights is a great tool when looking at airfare. I removed PLAY Airlines from this screenshot just to show you how much more expensive it is to book a traditional flight.

Let’s see what it would cost for me to fly from a local airport…

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    March 23, 2024

    About the Author

    It’s a huge world out there, and my goal is to experience as much of it as possible.