***Update (1/10/19): Southwest is offering the deal again – if you get their credit card between now and February 11, 2019 and spend $4000 in the first three months, you’ll get the companion pass through the end of the year!***
As some of you may know from my many travel posts last year, for 2018 I had the amazing perk of the Southwest Companion Pass. I earned it through a deal with the Southwest Credit Card in November of 2017 they offered all California residents that got the card a free pass for 2018. Normally you need to earn 110,000 miles on Southwest in order to get it. I jumped at this deal and secured the pass for all of last year. My husband and I quickly met the spend amount for the card bonus (spend $1000 in the first 3 months for 40,000 points) and then we were on our way.
I’m going to skip some of the nitty gritty details for the pass (though I’ve outlined quite a bit of it in this post if you are interested) and focus this post on what we were able to book and save by having the pass for a year. The basic premise is that as the cardholder, I could take one person with me anywhere I was flying on Southwest and pay just the taxes and fees (usually $5.60 per flight). It even works when you, the pass-holder, book with miles, which means you can pay just over $11 for both of you to fly each time. I choose my husband as my companion (you can change a few times a year) and off we flew!
Here’s a break down of how we used the pass and how much we saved (and spent!) on travel with Southwest this year.
1 trip, $150 Saved, $200 earned in credits, $5.60 Spent in fees
I fly for work a few times a year and typically it’s a fairly quick flight to a nearby destination. Occasionally I’ll fly to the east coast but most often it’s up to San Francisco. This year I needed to go to SF just for the weekend so my husband was able to join me. I booked my flight and expensed it through work and we added Sam as my companion for $5.60! This was one of the best trips we booked because it was almost completely free for both of us to go and then once we got there my hotel/meals were covered as well.
This was the only work trip that Sam accompanied me on this year and my flight was around $150, so I’m counting it as $150 already saved with the pass.
On this particular flight, we were super delayed and Southwest gave each of us a $100 voucher as an apology to use on a future flight. I was floored that Sam got this perk too even though he hadn’t paid for the flight!
3 trips, $723 Spent on Flights and fees, $695 Saved
We attended three weddings this year that included traveling out of our home state. We flew to Ohio, New Hampshire, and New Mexico and used the Southwest Companion pass for each one.
I got a little creative and booked our flight for the Ohio wedding into Indianapolis because Southwest offered a non-stop flight and we were going to have to rent a car regardless. Similarly, we flew into Albuquerque for the wedding we attended in Santa Fe because we could get the non-stop flight and there were so many great options for getting in between the two cities.
For New Hampshire (one of Laura’s weddings!), we flew into Boston and paired it with a trip up to Maine to see my husband’s family for 4th of July. This one was a bit tricky because due to scheduling we couldn’t fly there together so I booked one-way trips for us there and we flew together back with the companion pass. I bring this up because it is one of the biggest downsides to this otherwise incredible perk. You the pass-holder have to fly and you have to fly on the same flight as your companion. But we still saved money even by only flying one leg together.
I spent money on all three of these trips and did not use miles. The cool thing here is that without the Companion Pass, we would have spent twice as much money because we only paid for my flights and the fees for Sam’s flights but his base fare was covered!
“Just Because” Trips
3 trips, $114* and 30,562 Miles Spent on Flights and Fees
This was my favorite thing about the Companion Pass, we took “just because” trips. I tried to use miles to book these and to fly to destinations that we could get to in just a long weekend. We went to Oregon, Arizona, and Utah. I loved these quick trips. We would not have gone on them if we hadn’t had this pass as an excuse and we had a blast just getting out of town for the weekend. I don’t count these trips as saved money because we wouldn’t have gone to these places without the pass and we did spend vacation money while we were there.
*One quick note, I spent a combination of miles and money when booking these flights. I used the vouchers we earned on the delayed flight and also some price adjustment credits (yes, Southwest price adjusts!) as well. I would have easily spent more money or miles on this set of flights without those perks.
Home for the Holidays
1 trip, 40,199 Miles Spent and $33.60 Spent in Fees, $1,200 Saved
This was my biggest win and I completely count this as a creative way that we saved money in 2018. We usually spend around $1200 on flights home for the holidays at Christmas time. It’s the big trip we do to the East Coast each year and we try to visit both families during the busiest (and most expensive) time of the year. I always book these flights really far in advance and try to get a deal but even so I’ve rarely been able to get these two flights for us to be less than $1000 total for the two of us to travel to both Maine (his family) and North Carolina (my family) in late December. But this year, we had the companion pass! I spent 40,199 miles and $33.60 and we both flew to both destinations. We earned that many miles with the sign up bonus and the credit card annual fee was less than $100. This trip alone made the Companion Pass worth getting the credit card for.
It’s super important to remember that even when you are saving all this money, you are also spending. We spent money on hotels, ground transportation, eating out and attractions during our trips. And we also spent money on the credit card annual fee and spend on the card to earn miles and get the bonus.
The Southwest Companion Pass is an incredible deal for anyone that travels a lot and I am a travel-nerd so being able to get so much value out of it was a game to me. I hope I get the opportunity to do it again one day. I’d crush getting to wheel and deal my way through another year of this pass. 🙂
Has anyone else traveled with the companion pass? Let us know about your travels (or travel dreams) in the comments!