Flash back several years ago and see if this sounds like you or your family. Living on a modest income as self-employed business owners and renting our home, we rarely traveled.

Travel throughout our year might look like a road trip (if we had enough money saved) to someplace warmer than Indianapolis for Spring Break, a car trip to see family in Kentucky and Georgia, and every couple of years, a trip to Walt Disney World.

We tried to save and scrimp to fly for that Disney vacation, because it’s quite a haul from Indianapolis, and that was really the only time my kids had ever flown. It was always at least $1,000 out of pocket for four of us to fly at best.

Cheap Flights on Southwest Airlines

Only a few times since getting married and having kids (starting in 2004) had my husband and I taken a trip on our own: once to a family-owned condo in Colorado before our second son was born, once to Southern California for my 40th and once to New York City for my husband’s 40th.

Travel was not a regular part of our lives, and we thought that unless we had a big unexpected windfall, it probably never would be.

Can you relate?

Cheap flights on Southwest airlines
Maroon Bells, Aspen, Colorado

Flash forward to today and boy have things changed!

Since fall 2015, my family of four (I have two school-age boys) has traveled to: San Diego; Naples/Marco Island, Florida; Anaheim, California; Sonoma, California; Chicago (multiple times by car); New York City; Beaver Creek (twice), Denver, Telluride, Aspen and Colorado Springs, Colorado; Orlando and Utah’s National Parks by way of Las Vegas; Grand Cayman; the Dominican Republic; Palm Springs; Paris; Rome; Tuscany; Dublin; Comic Con in San Diego… and the list goes on. Insane!!

 

Travel’s Impact on My Kids

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Hiking in Beaver Creek, Colorado

My children are now seasoned flyers and understand how to travel without being giant whiners (that’s an entirely different post!), and we have literally opened up the world to them! 

I think there is no better gift to give kids than travel.

We want to inspire in them a love of adventure, of trying new things, of talking with people they don’t know and being uncomfortable with something different.

I hope I have instilled in them the travel bug that they will carry with them throughout life.

 

Travel FREE
First Cubs game thanks to SPG Moments; the Cubs happened to win the World Series that year!

We’ve done all sorts of amazing things like:

School of Rock with SPG Moments
Second-row seats for “School of Rock” on Broadway

I say all this not to brag, but to inspire you about what’s possible with just a few simple steps. If I can do it as a busy mom and business owner, YOU CAN TOO!

Travel FREE
Hiking in Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah

To say my family’s ability to travel has done a complete 180 would be an understatement. What changed?

It wasn’t my income, which is essentially the same as it was in 2015, and I don’t work for Southwest Airlines and get free flights :). Ninety percent of this is a result of ONE THING: the Southwest Companion Pass.

 

The Southwest Companion Pass Equals FREE Travel 

Travel FREE

How did this ONE THING change my life? By providing my family with a means to fly almost entirely on Southwest Rapid Rewards points, the airline’s loyalty program.

I have not calculated how much we have saved by paying with points instead of cash, but if US flights are on average $350 round-trip, multiply that times four (for each of us) for $1,400 and again by the six destinations we traveled in a year and that alone is $8,400.

The Southwest Companion Pass is an amazing deal offered by Southwest Airlines that lets one person fly free with you from the time you earn it until the END OF THE FOLLOWING YEAR. To earn the pass, you need to accumulate 125,000 of their Rapid Rewards points.

Sounds daunting to collect 125,000 points, doesn’t it? 

But, it’s not! There’s a simple way to quickly and EASILY earn these 125,000 points.

Once you have those points one person ALWAYS travels FREE, meaning you don’t have to redeem points or pay cash for their ticket. AND you have 125,000 points to use to book FREE FLIGHTS for everyone else who is flying with you.

Over the course of that first year, we stretched those points + 59,000 more we earned by applying for Chase Sapphire Preferred (more about that in a minute) to get us to SIX DESTINATIONS for less than $100 PER FLIGHT for all four of us!

And you could easily spend less than that; we added some cost by purchasing points early on in the process so we had enough to get to our first destination.

 

The Simplest Way to Earn the Southwest Companion Pass

Southwest Companion Pass
Swimming with stingrays in Grand Cayman

My tagline is “miles and points made easy so you can travel free,” because I like to keep things simple. No complicated math and checking every 10 minutes for award tickets to open up on other airlines for me!

The Southwest Companion Pass is the simplest and easiest way to get you — and your family — to free travel FAST!

 

The Credit Card Method

travel credit cards

 

The quickest way to get the Southwest Companion Pass is to sign up for TWO of Southwest’s Rapid Rewards Chase credit cards.

Now, if that just stopped you in your tracks, because you don’t believe in credit cards… hold on a minute…

It takes a re-framing of credit cards.

Yes, you heard it right. YOU HAVE TO GET A NEW MINDSET ABOUT CREDIT CARDS.

Credit cards are not inherently bad. Sure, the companies really want you to overextend yourself, go into debt and pay them tons of interest, but who says you have to do that?!

You’re smart! Don’t do it! Instead, maximize these cards to YOUR advantage to earn a HUGE RETURN: free travel!

Use the cards ONLY to purchase things you are going to buy anyway and pay them off every FEW DAYS. If you can’t pay it off in a few days (or 30 days MAX), don’t put it on the card.

But, by putting your everyday expenses on the card, you can earn HUGE credit card bonus miles and points simply by meeting the minimum spend. And if you want to continue beyond the minimum spend to earn additional points and miles on your day-to-day expenses, you can.

Just don’t get yourself in debt or it’s no longer a good deal!

Note: To apply for any travel credit cards and to help support Go to Travel Gal at NO COST to you, please use the links within this post or click TRAVEL CREDIT CARDS on the main menu shown in the image below. This allows us to earn a commission to support our free content. I sincerely appreciate you taking this step!

travel credit cards

 

OK, enough said. On to the nitty-gritty of how to earn the pass:

  1. Sign up for the Southwest Rapid Rewards program at Southwest.com.
  2. Sign up for two of Southwest’s Rapid Rewards credit cards — either one personal and one business; or two personal — when they are offering 40,000-75,000-point bonuses. NOTE: These cards charge between a $69 and $199 annual fee, which is where some of the $100 cost I quoted above comes in (the rest is a $5.60 per person per way mandatory government fee you must pay for every flight even if booking with miles or points). Here are your credit card options:
  3. Meet the minimum spend, which is typically $1,000-$3,000, within 3 months. You will earn an additional point per dollar spent on the cards, so that’s another 2,000-3,000 points ON TOP of the bonus points.
  4. Your credit card bonus points will show up in your Southwest Rapid Rewards account within one to two card cycles after you meet the minimum spend along with the 1 point per dollar spent for the minimum spend. You should now have close to — if not ALL of — the 125,000 points needed to earn the Southwest Companion Pass. This will depend on what the credit card bonuses were when you applied. Right now you can earn the pass in just TWO STEPS.
  5. If you have all your points, BOOM you’ll get an email from Southwest notifying you that you now hold Companion Pass status through the END OF NEXT YEAR. Now all you have to do is choose your Companion (which you can change 3 more times in 1 year by calling Southwest) in your Rapid Rewards account.
  6. If you don’t have all the points, you can continue to use the cards for your daily expenses until you reach the needed points, shop through the Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal to earn up to 10X points for every dollar spent at online retailers, enroll in the Rapid Rewards Dining program to earn points just for eating out, and follow my posts on easy and cheap ways to earn LOTS of Rapid Rewards points like signing up for a $12 Wall Street Journal subscription and earning 700 qualifying Southwest points. You’ll also want to check out my post on 101 Ways to Earn Southwest Points.

Got it? Good!

 

In Summary

San Diego Hotel del Coronado at sunset
Hotel del Coronado, San Diego; our first trip flying with the Southwest Companion Pass

Our lives have changed completely from a trip here or there, usually by car, to traveling six to eight times every year.

We work from home, so I realize that’s easier for us than others (though we do still have to follow school schedules), but you can still make the most of the time off you DO HAVE by traveling FREE as much as possible.

Oh, and here’s  7 ideas for how to immediately make more time to travel.

Thank you Southwest Companion Pass! Now, go get yourself one 🙂

Happy travels!

 

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Author

  • Lyn Mettler

    Lyn Mettler is a longtime travel writer for US News & World Report, USA Today 10Best and The TODAY Show who created Families Fly Free, a program which teaches families her simple system to use travel rewards to fly for free.

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