Every traveler knows how hard it can be to find cheap plane tickets, especially if you’re flying overseas. It’s even more difficult if you make multiple trips a year, are traveling to more than one destination, or are traveling around a holiday. The costs can easily add up, but if you know a few easy tricks, you can find cheap international flights to make your next trip as affordable as possible.
We’ve rounded up the following tips to help you find cheap international flights to your destination. This way, you can visit friends and family, spend the holidays with loved ones, or simply travel for fun, all while saving some of your hard-earned money.
1. Keep your travel dates flexible.
If you’re on a tight schedule, this isn’t always an option, but allowing for some flexibility can make a difference in the price you pay for your international airline ticket. When possible, check flight prices before making any car rental or hotel bookings, because moving your trip by a day or two could result in lower fares.
There’s a myth in the travel community that the cheapest day to fly is on Tuesday, and that Fridays and Sundays are the most expensive. This isn’t always the case, but it is true that you’ll usually find the lowest fares on a weekday instead of the weekend, so keep that in mind when shopping around for tickets.
2. Avoid peak buying seasons.
Some times of the year are better for buying cheap airline tickets than others. The most expensive time to purchase a ticket is in the middle of summer and around the holidays in December. This is when most people are traveling, and airlines know it.
Ticket prices skyrocket in July and August and in the days before and after Christmas and New Year’s. But the least expensive time, according to Business Insider, is at the end of August. Try to purchase your tickets during the least busy buying seasons to avoid high prices, and you could save some serious cash on your flight.
3. Don’t purchase your ticket at the last minute.
On that note, ticket fares tend to spike at the last minute, so be sure to book your ticket as far in advance as possible.
One report by Google Flights found that domestic flights tend to be cheapest 21-60 days before departure, but flights to Europe were cheapest around 129 days in advance—so book that flight to London or Paris early!
You’ll especially want to get a head start if you intend to fly during a peak season, as fares will already be higher than usual. Booking early will help you get the best flight for your money, as long as you’re comfortable with the airline’s cancellation policy.
If you’re planning to travel during the off-season, you’ll have more opportunities to find a cheap international flight.
4. Use comparison websites to find cheap international flights.
There are thousands of booking websites you can use to book flights and find the best prices.
Some sites to check out are Skyscanner, Momondo, Kiwi.com, CheapOair, and Google Flights. No matter which you choose to book from, it’s a good idea to check multiple sites and search engines to find the best and cheapest options.
Some sites offer special features and travel deals. For example, Hopper shows you the cheapest days to book your flight, gives you an estimate of how low the price might go, and even alerts you when the price drops.
You may find better deals than booking with an airline directly—but keep in mind that if you need to make any changes to your booking, you’ll have to reach out to the site you booked on, rather than, say, United Airlines or American Airlines.
Also, don’t forget to check out Southwest’s website. Southwest flights don’t show up on standard search engines.
5. Set your browser to incognito mode.
When you search for flights, your browser keeps a record of your search using cookies, so if you search for a flight multiple times, the prices will increase.
This is a tactic that airlines use to encourage you to “book now” rather than wait for lower fares.
The best way to avoid seeing a price increase for your flight is to keep your browser on “incognito” or private browsing mode. This will ensure that your searches do not impact the prices you see, and you’ll be able to find the cheapest options available.
6. Use a virtual private network (VPN).
Another trick for finding cheap international flights is to use a VPN, which can make the airline or booking website think you’re located in a different country.
NordVPN points out that airlines adjust prices based on how in-demand a destination is and the spending power of the country where you’re located.
By setting your VPN location to your destination country, you may be able to get “local” pricing rather than inflated fares aimed at tourists. A flight to India may cost less if your VPN location is set to Delhi rather than New York or Toronto.
7. Check for airline error fares.
Occasionally, an airline will post a fare that seems way too good to be true. These deals usually occur due to human error, faulty currency conversion rates, or glitches with the website.
No matter how they happen, if you can purchase your ticket before the airline corrects the fare, you could get a cheap international flight for an amazing deal.
Error fares don’t happen too often, so you have to be able to take advantage of these deals when they pop up. Check out AirFare Watchdog and Secret Flying to find error fares and set up deal alerts for specific cities.
Another way to spot the error fares is to search for flights over an entire month at a time. This way, when you see the overview of fares, you can easily spot the dates that have the cheapest flights and you can take advantage of them.
8. Check multiple airports and airlines.
Often, booking websites will route you into the biggest airport near your destination, but that may not be the cheapest option. You may be able to save some money if you can fly to an alternative airport and use local transport to get to your final destination.
If you’re flying into NYC, you can choose from JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark. If you’re flying into Los Angeles, look for fares into Burbank instead of LAX.
You can do this for departure flights, too. If you live near multiple airports, check all of them to see which departure point has the cheapest fares.
Look for smaller, local airlines that fly to your destination and you may be able to get a great deal.
9. Use budget airlines.
Flying with a budget airline can be a great way to book cheap international flights. This includes airlines such as Ryanair in Europe and Jetstar in Australia. There are budget airlines in every part of the world, so search according to your destination.
Keep in mind that budget airlines are cheap for a reason. These flights have no frills, so don’t expect fancy snacks (or any snacks, for that matter) unless you pay more to sit in business class or premium economy.
If you’re planning to take a flight that lasts more than a few hours or if you have medical issues, you may want to spring for an airline that has slightly more space and more comfortable seating.
Budget airlines may also charge you a fee to check your luggage. Make sure to do your research before your flight, so you can avoid paying a bunch of service fees when you check in at the airport, ultimately costing you more than a regular airline.
But if you’re prepared and know what to expect, you could be flying to your destination for pennies compared to other airlines.
10. Get creative with your travel schedule.
Many booking sites will book each leg of your itinerary all at once with the same airline (or allied airlines), but this isn’t always the cheapest option. Sometimes, you can book each leg of your trip separately with different airlines for a much lower cost.
Another alternative is to book the flights to and from your destination separately, if you can find one-way tickets for a lower rate than a round-trip ticket.
The risk is that if you miss a connection during your trip, you may end up losing money. When you have a layover or multi-city itinerary with the same airline, they have an obligation to help you find a connecting flight.
But when you book your connections one by one, the airlines are under no obligation to help you re-book. You might end up stuck in the airport with no choice but to shell out more money for a new flight.
One way to avoid this problem is to make sure that you leave enough time for your layovers. If you schedule enough time between flights, you can be prepared for the unexpected.
This is another trick that involves a certain amount of risk, but it could end up being the cheapest option. “Hidden city ticketing” is when you book a flight that has a connecting flight (layover), but the connecting flight is the location where you actually want to travel to and the ticket is cheaper than a direct flight to your location.
Let’s say you want to fly from Chicago to San Francisco, but it’s cheaper to book a flight to Las Vegas with a layover in SF. By using hidden city ticketing, you’d get off the plane in San Francisco, and you wouldn’t get on the flight for the final leg of the trip.
The risk here is that your checked luggage could end up at your final destination, so it’s best to use this tip when you’re only traveling with carry-ons. It may also be against your airline’s conditions of carriage, and if you have any more legs on your itinerary (such as a return flight), the airline might cancel them if it catches on to your plan.
Save money and travel more
No matter what your destination is, you can save serious money when you get creative with where, when, and how you book your flights.
And the best part about saving all that money? You have that much more to spend once you reach your destination or to share with your family and friends.
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