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Trying to book a cheap flight for an upcoming family vacation? There are ways to save, from our favorite Southwest Low Fare Calendar hack to their Rapid Rewards and drink coupons. Flights may be more expensive than ever, but we’ll show you the best Southwest Airlines hacks to get you cheaper airfare next time you travel.
Sometimes families can feel intimidated by Southwest. For example, what if you can’t find seats to sit together when it’s time for your group to board? There are some pretty easy ways to make sure your flight is comfortable for everyone in your crew. It may require strategizing, but nothing beyond a bit of planning ahead.
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1. Try the Southwest Low Fare Calendar hack if you have flexible travel dates.
The first thing you should do is check the Southwest Airlines Low Fare Calendar. Having flexible travel dates means you can use this handy tool to find the dates when your flights are the cheapest.
In order to game the Southwest Low Far Calendar hacks, all you have to do is select your desired airports and the months you’re wanting to depart and return. Southwest will show you up to eight months of prices, and you can easily change the months using the tabs at the top.
You can do this for any Southwest destination—including direct flights to Hawaii! I found December flights to Hawaii for as little as $138 one way with the help of the low fare calendar … Merry Christmas to me!
2. Get Southwest promo codes weekly when you sign up for their emails.
Receive special Southwest promo codes, deals, contest announcements, giveaways notices, and the occasional free drink coupon when you sign up for Southwest’s free email newsletter.
Besides their sales, this is one of the best ways to get Southwest Airlines deals. You can also sign up for emails directly from your Southwest Rapid Rewards account profile. Which brings us to our next tip …
3. Sign up for Southwest Rapid Rewards to create your own Southwest flight deals.
This is one of the biggest tips for flying Southwest I can give you. Rapid Rewards is Southwest’s free mileage program and your golden ticket to free flights.
Here’s how many points you’ll get from buying tickets:
- Business Select Fares: Earn 12 points per $1 spent
- Anytime Fares: Earn 10 points per $1 spent
- Wanna Get Away Plus Fares: Earn eight points per $1 spent
- Wanna Get Away Fares: Earn six points per $1 spent
Rapid Rewards members can earn additional points by signing up for partner offers on dining, shopping, travel, and more (see Tip #10).
You can then redeem the points for Southwest flights. The number of points required depends on the flight — destination, time of booking, date of travel, time of day, how many flights, etc. If you have enough for a free flight, you’ll only pay taxes and fees, which can be as low as $5.60 one way.
TIP: As a Rapid Rewards member, you may sometimes get free drink coupons sent to you in the mail.
4. The more Southwest Rapid Rewards points you earn, the better the perks.
Southwest has three status tiers: A-List, A-List Preferred, and Companion Pass.
You reach this level when you buy 25 qualifying one-way flights or earn 35,000 points in a calendar year. When you’re an A-lister, you get priority boarding, earn 25% more Southwest Rapid Rewards points on each flight, get priority check-in, and receive a few other envious perks.
You reach this level when you buy 50 one-way flights or earn 70,000 points in a calendar year. It has the same perks as regular A-List with double the base points, free in-flight Wi-Fi, and a dedicated customer service number.
You reach this level when you buy 100 one-way flights or earn 125,000 points in a calendar year. At this level, you get the Southwest Companion Pass, good for over a year’s worth of free flights for a guest.
5. Earn the Southwest Companion Pass if you fly often or have the Southwest credit card.
The Southwest Companion Pass lets you choose one person to fly with you for free as long as you have the pass; you only have to pay taxes and fees, which start at $5.60 one way. You’ll need to have a Southwest Rapid Rewards account for this perk.
There are three main ways to earn a Southwest companion pass:
- Take 100 one-way flights in one calendar year.
- Earn 125,000 Rapid Rewards points in one calendar year. Without the credit card promotions, you’d need to spend at least $10,417 on fares.
- Sign up for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Credit Card to get bonus points, plus points for almost all purchases.
Once you’ve earned the pass, it’s valid for the rest of the calendar year and the entirety of the next year.
TIP: For the full rundown on what the companion pass is and the fastest ways to earn it, check out our Southwest Companion Pass Guide.
6. Southwest points don’t expire — unless you’re trying to get a Southwest Companion Pass.
Luckily, Southwest points don’t expire, but if you’re saving them for the coveted Southwest Companion Pass, then your progress resets every Jan. 1.
So if you were to earn 100,000 points in 2022, when 2023 rolls around, you’d still have 100,000 points to spend on flights, but you couldn’t count those towards a companion pass. More on this in Tip #15.
7. Pay attention to Southwest Black Friday deals.
Over the last few years, Southwest has consistently held a big Southwest Black Friday sale that lasts for either 24 hours or several days surrounding Black Friday. In 2021, the Southwest Black Friday sale included one-way flights starting at $39 from Cyber Monday through the Thursday that followed.
We’re still waiting to see what they’ve got planned for the Southwest Black Friday sale in 2022, as they just had a winter sale with flights as low as $39 (that sale ended Nov. 10).
Related: We put together a handy list of all the best Cyber Monday flight deals.
8. Pay as little as $59 during Southwest Airlines sales in the spring, fall, and winter.
The lowest price for Southwest sales used to be $69 … but they’ve gone lower!
Over the past two years, Southwest Airlines has offered their famed low-price sales in the spring, fall, winter, and sometimes summer. Here are the dates the various sales were offered in 2022:
- Jan. 4 – 6
- Feb. 1 – 14
- June 7 – 9
- Aug. 16 – 26
Ticket prices during these sales usually start at $39 or $49 but vary depending on destinations and dates.
9. Buy your Southwest tickets cheaper on Tuesdays at 3 p.m.
Why Tuesdays? That’s when Southwest typically announces weekly special fares in their email newsletter.
These weekly Southwest Airlines deals only last about three days and usually end on Thursday of that week. Be one of the first to grab a special fare before seats sell out!
TIP: We know the best time to buy airline tickets for all the major carriers.
10. Get a ‘price adjustment’ if you see a lower fare after you’ve booked.
Keep an eye on the price of tickets after you buy them. If you see the price drop, Southwest will give you a refund for the difference.
In order to get a price adjustment, you’ll need to first make sure the special fare applies to your previously booked flight. Next, sign in to your Southwest account to view your reservation and select “Change Reservation.” Follow the prompts to choose your new flight.
If you paid with points, the difference will be returned to your account immediately. If you used cash, you’ll receive a travel fund credit for the difference, or they’ll credit your original form of payment.
TIP: If you booked over the phone, you’ll have to call the Southwest customer service number at 1-800-I-FLY-SWA.
11. It’s free to cancel your Southwest flight.
Yup, that’s right. Free.
You can cancel your Southwest flight up to 10 minutes before your scheduled departure time for no charge. You’ll get a reusable travel fund worth the cost of your ticket for future use. (And those funds usually expire one year from the date of your original booking.)
If you try to cancel within 10 minutes of departure, or you’ve missed your flight — which definitely isn’t the same thing as canceling — you forfeit your flight cost.
Related: Here’s what each airline owes you as compensation for a delayed flight.
12. It’s also free to do a Southwest flight change.
You can also change your Southwest flight up to 10 minutes before your scheduled departure time and pay zero fees.
This is a big deal because many airlines charge between $39 – $150 to change a flight, depending on the airline and the amount of time before departure.
With Southwest, you’ll have to pay any differences in fares, obviously. But if the new flight is cheaper, you’ll get a refund to your original form of payment or the difference will be put onto your account as a Southwest travel fund, typically valid up to a year from the date of your original booking.
13. Southwest’s baggage policy gives you two free checked bags every flight.
Southwest has the best baggage policy among U.S.-based airlines. You get a personal item, a free carry-on, and two free checked bags per ticket. They’re literally the only airline that doesn’t charge for one checked bag, let alone two. You can even count golf bags and skis toward your free checked bags.
Other airlines charge between $30 – $60 for that first bag and $35 – $52 for that second bag. You’re saving up to $112 just on baggage fees by flying Southwest. (Some airlines even charge for carry-on bags, too.)
Make sure your bags are under 50 pounds or smaller than 62 inches. Otherwise, it’ll cost you $75 per bag one way.
Related: Here’s our full breakdown of the airlines with the cheapest baggage fees.
14. Buy the Southwest Airlines EarlyBird Check-In for $15 if you’re picky about seating.
Southwest doesn’t do assigned seating, so if you want first dibs on seats, you’re better off buying EarlyBird Check-In for $15 – $25 one way. This ensures you’re checked in automatically 36 hours prior to your flight and gives you a better chance at getting into the A group for boarding.
15. Don’t upgrade your boarding position at the gate for $30 – $60.
If you upgrade your boarding position, you’ll get A-group boarding, but you won’t get any of the other cushy perks of Business Select, like premium Southwest drink vouchers.
Of course, you can upgrade your ticket to Business Select at the gate to get A-group boarding and the free drink, but you’ll also have to pay the difference in fare. You’re better off paying $15 – $25 for EarlyBird Check-In and buying a drink for $6 – $7.
16. Join the Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining program and earn extra points when you go out to eat.
For every dollar you spend at qualifying restaurants (and there are a lot of them — both local and national chains), you’ll get three Southwest Rapid Rewards points per dollar if you sign up for email notifications or a half-point per dollar if you aren’t signed up. You can earn up to 1,000 bonus points in your first 30 days.
Plus, the Rapid Rewards Dining program often has bonus offers like 500 extra points when you reach 1,500 points. And you’ll get an extra 300 bonus points every time you earn 1,000 points from dining.
TIP: Another easy trick for earning a quick 1,000 bonus points? During tax season, file your return with Turbo Tax and use the link on the Southwest Rapid Rewards Shopping page. The offer opens up in mid-January and expires on Tax Day (April 18, 2023).
17. Get early family boarding automatically if you’re flying with kids 6 years old or under.
You don’t need to worry about getting EarlyBird Check-In if you have kids 6 or under.
After the A group boards, families with children ages 6 or under will be allowed to board next, allowing you all to sit together for the ride.
TIP: Make your life easier by using our best tips for flying with kids.
18. Babies fly free with Southwest, but children over 2 won’t usually get cheaper fares.
Babies fly free with Southwest if they’re between 14 days and two years old, and if they sit in your lap (not occupying a seat). You’ll need to verify their age at the airport with a government-issued ID.
If baby needs a seat, Southwest even offers affordable infant fares for babies under the age of two. Just remember to compare child fares with “Wanna Get Away” prices, as those are often cheaper.
Not all Southwest flights offer special rates for accompanied children, but it’s worth checking. Find out if your flight offers a cheap child fare by calling the Southwest Customer service number: 1-800-I-FLY-SWA (1-800-435-9792).
19. Southwest is size-inclusive; they offer free extra seats to customers of size.
We love when companies are size-inclusive, and Southwest Airlines is no exception.
If you cannot sit comfortably and safely in a single seat (because plane seats are really narrow!), then it’s easy to request a free extra seat or two on a Southwest flight. Their Customer of Size policy is one of the most generous in the industry.
There are two ways to do this:
- Purchase an extra seat or two when booking your flight, then contact Southwest for a refund of those extra seat costs after traveling. This helps guarantee there will be enough seats for you, but it does cost more upfront.
- Purchase your flight with only one seat, then request an extra seat or two at the gate from a Customer Service Agent, but there is no guarantee they have the space. This is a riskier option for popular flights but doesn’t cost you any extra.
Their definition of a Customer of Size is someone who cannot comfortably fit between the armrests, which are generally 17 inches apart.
20. Set your alarm for 24 hours before a flight to get better seating.
Check-in opens exactly 24 hours before you fly, and you’ll want to be ready. Jump on it, and the chances of you getting an aisle or window seat will significantly increase.
But really, if you wait even two minutes after the 24-hour mark, you may end up in the dreaded inevitable-middle-seat C group
21. Manage your flights and watch free movies with the Southwest app for your phone or tablet.
Cancel or change flights, access your boarding pass, view your boarding position, look up gate information, and more right from the Southwest Airlines app (iOS / Android). It’s free to download and is the easiest way to access Southwest’s free in-flight entertainment.
You’ll use the Southwest app to stream free movies, shows, and live TV, including channels like Bravo, HGTV, and ESPN.
22. Save up to 10% when you buy discounted Southwest Airlines gift cards.
Costco and Sam’s Club often knock 10% off the price of a Southwest Airlines gift card, selling a $500 e-gift card for only $449.99. With the Costco offer, you can buy up to five at a time; Sam’s Club only lets you buy three.
Current Southwest gift card deal at Costco:Target RedCard, you can save an automatic 5% when you buy a Southwest gift card from Target.com.
TIP: Raise.com also sells discounted Southwest cards for up to 5% off.
23. Follow Southwest Airlines on Facebook to stay up-to-date on their sales.
Never miss a flash sale again by following Southwest Airlines on Facebook. You’ll get a Facebook notification when they post a new sale. Way better than sifting through countless emails.
24. Check your carry-on bag at the gate if you’re boarding in a late-B or lower boarding group.
If you’re on a full flight and find yourself in a late boarding group, there’s a high chance there won’t be any more space for your carry-on bag in the overhead compartment.
Instead of discovering this only after reaching the back of the plane, hand your carry-on over at the gate before you board.
Do this, and you won’t have to worry about stowing your luggage in limited overhead bin space; park yourself in the first available seat you see!
25. Purchase extra Southwest Rapid Rewards drink coupons on eBay.
Need more in-flight drink tickets? Buy them on eBay. They cost an average of $17 for four unused tickets, and normally, drinks cost $6 – $7 each. Note that selling them is risky, as Southwest (if they find out) has the right to revoke your rewards membership.
26. Sit in rows 1, 9, or 17 to get served drinks first.
Typically flight attendants will stop and serve these rows first because they’re at the front of their respective sections.
27. Pack a snack because no hot meals or sandwiches are served on any Southwest flights.
A small package or two of peanuts and pretzels will only take you so far on a 5-hour flight.
Make sure to pack a snack or buy something at the terminal to save yourself from hunger pangs—especially when traveling with the kiddos.
TIP: Your next trip will be easier if you follow our travel tips from an experienced flight attendant.
28. Aisle seat armrests can be lifted up for easy exiting and comfort.
This one BLEW MY MIND.
There’s a hidden latch underneath the rear of the armrest that can be pushed so the armrest will raise. This is perfect for when you need more legroom or need to get up in flight.
29. You could get free special drinks if you fly on certain holidays.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Southwest offered free drinks if you traveled on select holidays. Keep in mind, you probably won’t reap a cheaper flight from the Southwest Low Fare Calendar hack on a holiday. If you’re traveling on one of these special days, you may just get a boozy freebie (let us know if you do!):
- New Year’s Day
- Valentine’s Day
- St. Patrick’s Day
- June 18 (Southwest’s birthday)
- September 20 (Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card’s birthday)