“So how do you find cheap flights?”
By far this is the most frequently asked question for those who live a wanderful life. But hold up, why are airline tickets so expensive nowadays?
Thanks to airline bankruptcies, mergers and partnerships in recent years, the span of competition within the industry has declined drastically. Airlines now have less of a need to offer cheaper flights to beat out their competitors. Combine this with a higher cost of fuel, increased airport and security fees, along with a reduction of routes post 9/11 in order to fly planes at a fuller capacity you get even more $$$ added to those ticket prices.
While there’s no doubt airline prices have skyrocketed in the last decade, we’ve put together 6 tips + tricks that may help you find a perfect flight at just the right price.
1. BECOME A SEARCH ENGINE MASTER
Finding cheap flights is like a scavenger hunt. While you’ll never be able to predict when the airlines will be offering their cheapest flights (unless you work in the pricing department for an airline, to which, please lets be friends), using multiple search engines is like reading the clues to find the prize.
I love Skyscanner. Period. It’s simple, straightforward, and so easy to use your technologically disadvantaged Grandma could figure it out. Skyscanner allows you to search not just big name airliners, but also budget airline companies as well. If your travel dates are flexible set a Skyscanner alert. They’ll email you anytime there has been a price change for the dates selected. Not only that but if your destination is also flexible, you can search for the cheapest flights to anywhere in the world!
I didn’t realize how lost I was before Rome2Rio came into my life. While I’ve mainly been using this wondrous website and app to look up travel times/distances between two cities, you can book any type of transportation imaginable through their search engine. Need a flight and then a ferry to an island? Rome2Rio uses your departure destination to give you all the possible routes available.
While it’s not a typical search engine and much more complex than the others listed here, ITA Matrix is definitely worth checking out. While it only searches major airlines, it gives you the ability to see prices over the course of an entire month.
2. BEAT SEARCH ENGINES AT THEIR OWN GAME
Okay so you’ve buddied up to all the major search engines, what else can you do to find those cheap tickets?
While this hasn’t been proven to work all the time, the idea behind browsing incognito is that the search engine or airline website can’t see your past browsing history and prices you’ve been offered by other couriers. Therefore you’re a blank slate coming to them.
Change Your Country Location
Using a pseudo location when booking fights many times shaves off extra costs if the airline offers different price points based on the booking location. This is especially true for domestic travel within a country while booking outside of that country. Be cautious though, many times it’ll make you navigate the site through the native language. That round trip flight to Europe may actually be a one-way ticket to Siberia. But hey, it’s nothing Google Translate can’t solve.
3. IT’S ALL ABOUT TIMING
The most obvious trick to finding the cheapest airfare is by booking during the off or shoulder season. By doing so you’ll not only save money on transportation, but also on accommodation and other associated travel costs as well. Another benefit to traveling off-season is avoiding the throngs of tourists.
See below for a handy dandy graph noting the high, shoulder, and low seasons of tourism in the some of the most popular travel regions in the world.
Best Times to Book Flights
If your travel dates are flexible, depart in the middle of the week rather than on a weekend. Since most people travel Friday – Sunday, the prices are generally higher. If the airline has a lowfare calendar (shout out to Norwegian Air), compare the prices over the course of a month.
Booking early doesn’t always mean the cheapest prices. While prices vary from day to day, studies show that the best time to book is 112 to 21 days in advance. If you see a great price during this span, book it immediately. Chances are you won’t find anything cheaper.
Some say Tuesday afternoon is the best time to book your flight but I’ve never seen a significant difference between this and say, a Thursday afternoon. However as a rule of thumb, book during a weekday. Theory is that most people have free time to book flights on the weekend and at night so airlines may hike up their prices.
4. YOU’VE GOT A FRIEND IN… BUDGET AIRLINES
Don’t knock it till you try it. Budget airlines offer some cheap thrills that many big name airline brands can’t offer. No, the service may not be as delightful and the food not so appetizing (but when is it ever?) but that extra mula you’re saving by flying on a budget airline could mean extra spending cash for your destination.
Check out these popular budget airlines before your next vacay:
- Norwegian Air – International/Domestic Europe
- easyJet – Domestic Europe
- Ryanair – Domestic Europe
- Vueling – Domestic Europe
- AirAsia – Domestic Asia
- IndiGo – India/Domestic Asia
- JetBlue – USA
- Southwest – USA
- Allegiant Air – USA
- West Jet – North America
- Jet Star – Australia/Pacific
- Fast Jet – Domestic Africa
- Mango – Domestic Africa
- WOW Air – Iceland/Europe
5. DON’T LET EXTRA FEES SNEAK BY
Sometimes you’ll find a ticket that seems just too good to be true. That’s because many times, it is. A lot of airlines, especially budget airlines, will creep in on you with additional fees not marked on the advertised ticket price.
For example, when I purchased my flight to Europe via Norwegian Air I didn’t realize that by upgrading to the next purchase tier to get a checked bag included I was also paying extra for an in-flight meal and seat selection. Read everything while making reservations to be sure you’re not getting shafted.
6. BECOME A PRO AT TRAVEL POINTS
Seeing as I just got my first travel credit card (Not to mention, my first credit card ever. Welp I know, I have an irrational fear of credit cards) I’m not going to even pretend like I understand the best way to save up those travel points. Maybe in good time I’ll get better at this but for now I highly suggest checking out The Points Guy, a website dedicated to just that – points.
UPDATE: Guys go get a credit travel card right now. Like seriously right this second. After some painstaking research I finally got my first ever credit card (at the ripe age of 24) and can’t believe I didn’t do this sooner.
By using my Capital One Venture One credit card for about 5 months including my 3 month backpacking trip to Europe, I managed to earn enough travel points to get a flight from Orlando to Dublin for $95! I basically card everything that I can to it and pay it off every week to accumulate travel points. Although the rewards aren’t as high, I went with the Venture One due to the zero annual fees, decent credit limit, and best of all no foreign transaction fees!
And there you have it folks. By following these guidelines you’ll be confident you’re making the best flight reservations on the market. Now get out there and soar away to your next getaway!