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Trying to book a cheap flight for an upcoming family vacation? From the low fare calendar and Southwest sales to Rapid Rewards and drink coupons, we’ll show you the best tried-and-true tips to get you cheaper Southwest flights (and some hacks to save your sanity) next time you travel.
If you want to find more great ways to save on your next vacation, check out KCL’s travel tips.
1. Check the Southwest low fare calendar 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 easily use this calendar to find the dates where your flights are the cheapest!
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 5 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 brand-new direct flights to Hawaii and Alaska! 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 Click ‘N Save emails.
Receive special Southwest promo codes, deals, contest announcements, notices of giveaways, and the occasional free drink coupon when you sign up for Southwest’s free Click ‘N Save weekly emails.
Outside of sales, this is one of the best ways to get Southwest Airlines deals. You must be a Southwest Rapid Rewards member to sign up. Which means you should. . .
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 Fares: Earn 6 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).
The points can then be redeemed 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.
As a Rapid Rewards member, you get four alcoholic drink coupons for every 10 one-way flights you take in a calendar year. Alcohol service is still suspended on Southwest flights, but your drink coupons will be good through Dec. 31, 2022.
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.
Attained by buying 25 qualifying one-way flights or earning 35,000 points in a year. When you’re an A-lister, you get priority boarding, earn 25% more Southwest Rapid Rewards points on each flight, priority check-in, and a few other envious perks.
Attained by buying 50 one-way flights or earning 70,000 points in a year. It has the same perks as regular A-List, with double the base points, free in-flight WiFi, and a dedicated customer service number.
Attained by buying 100 one-way flights or earning 125K points in a year. This is where you achieve Southwest Companion Pass status and get 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.
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.
For the full rundown on what the companion pass is and the best 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 do not expire, but if you’re saving them for the coveted Southwest Companion Pass, then your progress resets every Jan. 1.
So if you earn 100,000 points in 2021, when 2022 rolls around you’ll still have 100,000 points to spend on flights, but you can’t count those towards a companion pass. More on this in tip #15.
7. Get great Southwest Airlines deals during their Black Friday sale.
Over the last few years, Southwest has consistently held a big Black Friday sale that lasts for either 24 hours or several days surrounding Black Friday.
In the past couple of years, they’ve been offering up to $250 off one-way tickets to select destinations.
8. Pay as little as $39 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, and winter. Here are the dates the sales were offered:
- 2021 – Aug 10-12, Sep. 13-27 & Nov. 9-11
- 2020 – Jan. 17-23, June 23-25 & Dec. 10-13
Southwest’s ticket prices during these sales usually start at $39 or $49 but vary depending on destinations and dates. In January 2021 we even saw a Southwest spring break sale with flights as low as $29 to encourage travel — but no guarantees that we’ll ever see prices that cheap again.
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 Click ‘N Save emails.
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!
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 for your flight as time goes on, because if you see the price drop then you can get a refund for the difference.
First, make sure the special fare applies to your previously booked flight. Then, sign in to your Southwest account to view your reservation and select the “Change Reservation” link. 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.
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.
Although United, Alaska, Delta, and Frontier have some free cancellations, many airlines charge between $50 and $200 to cancel.
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 usable up to a year from the date of your original booking.
13. Southwest’s baggage policy gives you 2 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 2 free checked bags per ticket. They’re literally the only airline that doesn’t charge for one checked bag, let alone two.
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.
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 puts you into the A group for boarding.
15. Don’t upgrade your boarding position at the gate for $30 – $50.
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.
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 if you sign up for email notifications, or two points if you aren’t signed up. You can earn up to 1,000 bonus points in your first 30 days.
Plus, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining program often has bonus offers like 500 extra points when you spend at least $25 at your first restaurant. And you’ll get an extra 300 bonus points every time you accrue 1,000 points from dining.
17. Get early family boarding automatically if you’re flying with kids under six.
You don’t need to worry about getting the Southwest Airlines EarlyBird Check-In if you have kids under six.
After the A group boards, families with children under the age of six will be allowed to board next, allowing you all to sit together for the ride.
Check Southwest’s Traveling with Children page for more information.
Better yet, make your life easier by using our best tips for flying with kids.
18. Babies fly free with Southwest, and children under 11 may get cheaper tickets.
Babies fly free with Southwest if they’re between 14 days and 2 years old if they sit in your lap (not occupying a seat). You’ll need a boarding verification document, not a boarding pass.
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 up front.
- 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.
More questions? Check out Southwest’s Customer of Size FAQ.
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 significantly increases.
But really, if you wait even 2 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 and update reservations, access your boarding pass, view your boarding position, gate information, and more right from the Southwest Airlines app. It’s free to download and is an essential tool for all frequent fliers, especially if you want to access Southwest’s free entertainment.
You’ll also use the Southwest app to watch free movies, shows, and play free games on Southwest flights with WiFi. Channels include Food Network, ESPN, Bravo, and Disney; you can even text!
22. Save up to 6% when you buy discounted Southwest Airlines gift cards.
To get an even better Southwest Airlines deal, head to Target or Target.com and use your RedCard to save an automatic 5% on a Southwest gift card.
Or, go to Sam’s Club where they’ll often sell three $50 Southwest gift cards for only $143.
Raise.com also sells discounted Southwest cards for up to 6% off or 5% cashback.
23. Follow Southwest Airlines on Facebook to stay up to date on their sales.
Never miss a flash sale or program update again by “liking” and 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. Get parking and restaurant coupons from Southwest Airlines’ magazine.
Bored and have nothing to do on your flight? Read “The Magazine” (not the catchiest name) in front of you! You’ll frequently find airport parking and restaurant coupons, like 10% off airport parking at The Parking Spot.
25. 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!
26. Purchase extra Southwest Rapid Rewards drink coupons on eBay.
Need more in-flight drink tickets? Buy them on eBay. They cost an average of $15 for four unused tickets! Normally, drinks cost $6 – $7 each. Note that selling them is risky, as Southwest (if they find out) has the right to revoke your membership.
27. 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.
28. 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 five-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.
Your next trip will be easier if you follow our 18 Travel Tips from an Experienced Flight Attendant.
29. 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.
30. Maybe the free holiday libations will return someday.
Due to Covid-19, Southwest isn’t doing food or beverage service on any flights. But, pre-pandemic, you could check out the onboard drink menu to see what boozy freebie you get when flying on one of these holidays:
- New Year’s Day
- Valentine’s Day
- St. Patrick’s Day
- June 18th (Southwest’s birthday)
- September 20th (Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card’s birthday)