Every traveler knows how difficult 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 the cheapest flights to make your travel as affordable as possible.
We’ve rounded up the following tips to help you find deals on your next international, or domestic, flight. This way you can visit your loved ones, or just travel for fun, and save some of your hard earned money.
Keep Your Travel Dates Flexible
If you’re on a tight schedule, this is not necessarily an option, but allowing some flexibility with your desired dates can make a big difference in the price you pay for your plane ticket. There is a myth in the travel community that the cheapest day to fly is on a Tuesday, while Fridays and Sundays tend to be the most expensive. This is not always the case, but it is usually much cheaper to fly on a weekday rather than on the weekend, so keep that in mind when searching for flights.
Avoid Peak Buying Seasons
Some months are cheaper than others to book a ticket. The most expensive time to purchase a ticket is in the dead 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.
Don’t Purchase Your Ticket at the Last Minute
On that note, ticket fares tend to spike at the last minute, so make sure to book your ticket as far in advance as you can. If you’re flying domestic, give yourself around three months in advance if possible. If you’re flying internationally, booking at least six months in advance can help give you the cheapest ticket fares. This is especially true if you plan on flying during a peak season, as fares will already be higher than usual. Any additional padding for time can help you find the best price.
If you’re planning to travel during the off-season, you have more cheap ticket options. You may be able to find a great sale price just a month or two before a domestic trip, but you can’t always count on that to be an option.
Use Good Flight Booking Websites
There are thousands of websites to book flights through, but not all sites may be able to find you the best deals available. 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 travel options that may be better for your trip. For example, if you’re trying to extend a layover for one of your destinations, using AirWander is a good option. Also, don’t forget to check Southwest’s website. Southwest doesn’t show up on standard search engines, and they can have some great prices, especially for domestic flights.
You can also use a tool like Hopper that shows you the cheapest days to book your flight, gives you an estimate of how low the price is expected to go, and even alerts you when the price drops.
Keep Your Search Browser Incognito
When searching for flights, your browser records data in cookies stored in your computer so if you search for a flight multiple times, the prices will increase. This is a tactic from airlines to encourage you to book your ticket as soon as possible.
The best way to avoid seeing a price increase for your desired 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. Your browser resets itself each time you open an incognito tab, so make sure to close all of your private browser tabs when you start a new search.
Check for Airline Error Fares
Error fares are exactly what they sound like. Occasionally, an airline will post a flight fare that seems too good to be true, with tickets popping up at a very discounted rate. These deals usually occur due to human error, faulty conversion rates, or glitches with the website. No matter how they happen, if you can purchase your ticket before that fare is corrected by the airline, you could book a 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 the cheapest sales and error fares available. Another way to spot the error fares for yourself 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.
Check Multiple Airports and Local Airlines
Often flights will route you into the biggest airport near your destination, but that may not always be the cheapest option. Try searching the surrounding areas and neighboring cities for different airports. You may be able to save some money if you can fly to an alternative airport and use local transportation methods to get into your final destination.
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. If you’re flying domestically, local airlines can also be a great resource for cheaper flights. Check into the smaller, local airlines that fly into or near your destination, and you may be able to get a great deal.
Use Budget Airlines
Budget airlines are one of the cheapest ways to fly. This includes airlines like Frontier and RyanAir. There are multiple budget airline options in every part of the world, so search according to your destination.
When flying on a budget airline, keep in mind that they’re often very cheap for a reason. These flights have no frills, so don’t expect fancy snacks (or any snacks, for that matter). 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 comfortable seating.
Budget airlines may also charge you an extra fee to check your luggage. Make sure to do your research before your flight, so you can avoid having a bunch of surprise fees at the last minute, ultimately costing more than a regular airline.
If you are prepared and know what to expect, you could be flying to your destination for pennies compared to other airlines. Check out this list of budget airlines around the world to help get you started.
Get Creative with Your Travel Schedule
This is a tricky one, but it can definitely save you some cash. Many booking sites will automatically book each leg of your itinerary all at once with the same airline (or allied airlines), but this is not always the cheapest option. Sometimes, you may be able to 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 as one-way tickets for a discounted rate, rather than a round-trip.
The risk here is that if you miss a connection during your trip, you may end up losing a lot of money. When you have a complete itinerary with one airline, they have an obligation to help you find a connecting flight. But when you book connections one by one, the airlines are under no obligation to help you re-book. You may end up stuck in the airport with no choice but to shell out serious bucks for a new flight.
One way to avoid this is to make sure that you leave ample time in your layovers. It goes without saying that flights are often delayed for any number of reasons, but if you schedule enough time between flights, you can plan for the unexpected.
Try Hidden City Ticketing
This is another trick that involves a certain amount of risk, but it could end up being the cheapest option.
“Hidden city ticketing” is a term that describes 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. The final destination doesn’t necessarily matter; it’s all about the connecting flight in this case!
When traveling using the “hidden city ticketing” trick, you’ll get off the plane at your connecting flight location, but not return to the plane for the final leg of the trip. The risk with this 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.
Save Money and Fly More Often
No matter your destination, you can save serious money when you get creative with the 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.
If you have any other tips for saving money on flights, please feel free to share them with us in the comments.
Further reading: The Complete Guide to International Calling Codes