There are a few unwritten rules of non-rev travel many of us adhere to. For instance, don’t bother trying to get to Hawaii in the summer. Avoid taking trips during weeks such as spring break or winter holidays. Look for less popular destinations to take your family, and so on.

J.R., who works for an airline in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area has broken all of them. His wife and two sons have traveled with him to Hawaii nearly every summer for the past six years—sometimes, they even get to fly first class! They’ve also enjoyed spring break in locations such as Cabo San Lucas and Costa Rica.

While other airline employees (especially those of us with children) are complaining of high load factors or waiting for the shoulder season in order to travel, J.R. and his family are adding stamps to their passports. They’re crossing off US States on their quest to visit all 50. I wanted to find out his secrets, to learn how one airline employee takes full advantage of one of the best employee privileges there is.

Meeting The Man With Non-Rev Secrets

On the day of our interview, J.R. was just returning from a winter weekend in sunny San Diego—a trip he had planned for his family of four at 4:30 on a Friday afternoon when wanderlust struck. As a beach-lover, he searched his employee travel site for a somewhat close beach destination with a low load factor. The last flight from Dallas to San Diego looked promising, so he called his wife from work and had her pack bags for the four of them. What might have been a weekend of errands and sweater-weather instead provided his 8 and 11-year-old sons with bragging rights for having eaten sea urchin, fresh from the ocean, right from its spiny shell.

Which brings me to the first tip J.R offered on how to be a non-rev rock star:

Spontaneity Is Key for Non-Rev Travel

Be Spontaneous. Being able to hop on a flight just hours after planning a trip is a definite benefit of being an airline employee. Remember, the rest of the traveling world gets penalized for buying tickets late in the game. J.R. regularly looks at flight loads in places he and his family want to visit. If the seats are there and they can swing it, they’ll just get up and go. Keep your passports updated and learn to pack on the fly; an adventure might be just hours away.

Take Days Less Traveled: Midweek Getaways

Remember the spring break in Cabo I mentioned earlier? J.R. made it happen by avoiding flights over the busy spring-break weekend. A Monday departure and a Thursday return made the trip happen. Mid-week flights can be a non-revers best friend.

Leverage Priority Status

Make sure to use priority status during peak times. I was amazed when I learned about all the summer trips J.R. has taken to Hawaii. Not only does J.R. research the days and flights with the best possibility for securing seats, J.R. admits he will reserve the family’s twice-per-year priority passes for summer trips to popular destinations. This gives his likelihood of getting on the flight a nice boost during key vacation periods.

Be a Schedule Snoop

J.R would search his employee travel site and find the one day a week when his airline has a direct flight to a Caribbean destination. For instance, researching lesser-known airport connection routes to popular destinations like Orlando and Los Angeles has helped him snag incredibly difficult trips during peak season. Spend time searching your employee travel site, get to know your airline, learn about partner airlines schedules and study their routes.

Realize there is a Whole World Out There

J.R. is an adventurous traveler. I mean, once he even traveled to the North Pole to compete in a marathon! But he’s willing to give a destination a try just because there’s an open flight. That’s key: keeping an open mind to see the world when the opportunity is right. That’s how his family ended up visiting Ohio. “If I had to pay, I might not have gone” he said. He admits that the ability to exploit open flights to unthought of destinations is one of the best flight privilege perks he has.

Are you taking full advantage of your travel privileges? There’s a world of adventure out there. Hopefully, J.R’s tips can help you take advantage of one of the greatest privileges of working for an airline. And we’ll help you get there. When you finally decide where to go, you can always book exclusive airline hotel rates for your stay with ID90 Travel.

Author: Roger Ximenez

Roger Ximenez is the Director of Product at ID90 Travel. He has over 5+ years experience working alongside engineering teams to build the next generation of features. He is also the data and automation evangelist, promoting the use of data to streamline automation strategies.