How to Use a Buddy Pass for Travel Savings

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Hey, friends!

I’m back in action.

I was away for a hot minute while preparing to attend the #FinCon16 conference in San Diego. FinCon is a huge financial conference that happens every year where money nerds get together to talk about media.

Since the conference, I’ve been scheming and plotting about what I want to do with this blog and how I can best serve you.

But, that’s not why you’re here.

Let’s get into the good stuff – flying on a budget.

Since the conference was in San Diego, I knew it would be pretty costly for me to attend.

The lowest regular fare from Atlanta to San Diego (with a layover) that I could find was about $500.

Thankfully, I have a cousin that works for an airline and I was able to get a buddy pass. With the buddy pass, I got a round trip flight (with a layover) for $193.

That’s a savings of $300!

Can’t be mad at that type of savings, right?

This was my first time using a buddy pass and flying standby for a commercial flight, so I was a little wet behind the ears.

Heading to San Diego was a breeze. Coming back wasn’t as breezy.

Nevertheless, using a buddy pass was a fantastic way for me to find some savings in an otherwise fairly expensive trip.

If you plan on using a buddy pass to save on airfare, I put together four things you’re going to want to know before booking to avoid hassle.

1. Plan Around High Traffic Days

The big mistake I made coming back from San Diego was booking my flight back home on a Sunday morning.

Seriously, the worst move ever.

If you’re new to how a buddy pass works, it’s flying on standby. Standby passengers only get on a flight if there’s available space. So, it’s a waiting game from flight to flight.

On busy days (like Sunday when everyone is trying to get home), flights are booked or sometimes even overbooked which is what happened to my friend Jason Butler’s flight.

He blogs over at The Butler Journal, check him out!

If there’s not enough room on your first scheduled flight, your name gets bumped down the list to other flights to your destination until there’s an available seat.

For me, the flights were booked all day Sunday.

Womp womp.

What does that mean for you?

Buddy passes are still worthwhile if you book on the right days. My flight to San Diego on a Thursday was nice and empty, so I had no problem getting onto the first scheduled flight.

Make sure that you consider demand when you book your flight including the day of the week you will travel and if a holiday is right around the corner.

Otherwise, you’ll get stuck in the airport.

2. Get to the Airport Early

The standby list is first come, first serve. It’s smart to head to the airport a few hours before the first flight to your destination to make sure you’re at the beginning of the standby list.

You never know when someone will arrive late to a packed flight. If you’re first on the list, you’ll be the first one called to board.

3. Pack Light and Carry On

If you check luggage onto a flight that’s full, your luggage will end up at the final destination even if you don’t make it. This will be a problem if you have to wait until the next day for an available flight. Pack small to keep your luggage with you in case you get stuck.

4. Know the Rules and Dynamic

Each airline has different rules for standby passengers.

Some airlines allow you to make changes to your flight at the gate. Some make you call into a special employee number for flight adjustments.

There may also be a dress code requirement. For example, the airline that I flew with didn’t let standby passengers wear black leggings on the flight because standby passengers are considered employees.

Ultimately, these rules are a small price to pay for big savings.

Just be aware of all the fine print to make sure your standby experience runs smoothly.


Besides the minor setback of waiting for a flight, the savings from a buddy pass is great if you have flexibility in your departure and arrival time.

Just be prepared to possibly sit in the airport for a while.

I was hugely fortunate that my friend Jason decided to take an airline credit and gave up his seat to someone else when his flight was full.

We spent a few solid hours at the airport bar rehashing the conference and masterminding ideas to take our businesses to the next level.

Cheers to that!

Have you ever used a buddy pass to fly for cheap? What was your experience? Do you have any other hacks for budget travel?

— This post or page may contain affiliate links. Don’t worry, though. I only promote products that I’ve used or truly believe in.

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Taylor K. Gordon is a writer and money blogger. She writes on how to live your best life without going broke.

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