Tips & Tricks:
How to Find Cheap Flights
“So how do you find such cheap flights Alex?”
If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me this question. I could probably fly to Paris and back. Jk maybe Reno and back.
*please note the below was written pre-pandemic*
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 competitors. This with the rising cost of fuel, increased airport and security fees, and overall global uncertainty has caused ticket prices to soar.
While there’s no doubt the price to travel like a bird has skyrocketed in the last decade, here’s 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 airlines will offer their cheapest flights (unless you work in the pricing department for an airline, to which, would you like to be friends?), using multiple search engines is like reading the clues to find the prize.
I love Skyscanner. It’s simple, straightforward, and very easy to use. Skyscanner allows you to search through 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!
Regardless of where I end up making the final purchase (whether that’s through Skyscanner or directly through an airline), I double check flight prices with Google Flights.
Google flights has the same functionality as Skyscanner but sometimes doesn’t pick on all the route available, so I always make sure to check both.
Rome 2 Rio
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 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 on airline site
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 your destinations 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.
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 as a lowefare 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 budget airlines before your next vacay:
- Norwegian Air – International and Domestic Europe
- easyJet – Domestic Europe
- Ryanair – Domestic Europe
- Vueling – Domestic Europe
- AirAsia – Domestic Asia
- IndiGo – India/Domestic Asia
- JetBlue – USA
- Southwest – USA
- Frontier – USA
- Spirit – USA
- Allegiant Air – USA
- West Jet – North America
- Jet Star – Australia/Pacific
- Fast Jet – Domestic Africa
- Mango – Domestic Africa
- Wow – Iceland/Europe
5. Don’t Let Extra Fees Sneak In
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
I haven’t paid full price for a transcontinental flight in over 3 years thanks to my travel credit cards.
When I have to spend $$$ on a big purchase (like my new MacBook Pro I purchased last year before a big trip), I’ll open a new credit card line in order to get the signing bonus. Then put every single purchase, from food to toilet paper, on that card. Pay your card off weekly to help keep track of your spending habits. So in retrospect, I’m solely using credit cards to build points – not to purchase things I don’t already have money for.
Stay tuned for a post dedicated on this topic, there’s tons to learn about finangling the system to maximize those travel reward points! Until then, check out my post on 37 frugal tipcs and tricks to save money for travel!
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!
Tips & Tricks: How to Find Cheap Flights
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Thanks for advice and useful tips. You have managed to introduce fresh ideas useful for budget travel 🙂