Airfare is often the most costly aspect of a trip, and although prices for transatlantic flights have decreased in recent years, they can still significantly impact a travel budget.
Finding a cheap flight deal can be crucial for both solo budget travelers and families vacationing abroad. Expensive flights can cause travelers to postpone their trip. However, airlines often have a variety of deals available, from mistakenly published fares to special promotions to price cuts to compete with other airlines. Cheap fares can make a dream trip possible if you know where to find them. Here are the steps that have been used for a decade to find the cheapest airfare for every flight, so that you never have to pay more than you have to.
1- Ignore the Myths
When searching for a cheap flight, it's important to be aware that there is no guaranteed way to find the best deal. Many myths circulating online claim to have the secret to cheap flights, but these are often false and misleading.
Websites may hire poor reporters who spread these myths, which can lead you in the wrong direction. Some common myths include the idea that it's cheaper to buy airfare on a specific day of the week, that searching incognito results in better deals, or that there's a specific date or time period in which to book airfare. In reality, airline prices are determined by advanced algorithms taking into account various factors such as passenger demand, time of year, weather, and more.
These so-called "tricks" are no longer effective and should be ignored. Don't be swayed by misinformation, as it can steer you away from finding a cheap flight.
2- Be flexible with your date
To find a cheap flight, it's important to be flexible with your travel dates and times. Airline prices fluctuate based on factors such as the day of the week, season, and upcoming holidays. For example, flying during peak travel times like Christmas or summer will result in higher ticket prices.
To save money, consider travelling during off-peak times, such as spring or fall, or on weekdays instead of weekends. Additionally, flying after or on a major holiday or during early morning or late night can also result in cheaper prices.
This can be seen by looking at the calendar view of flight prices on various search engines, showing how prices can vary greatly depending on travel dates. Be adaptable with your travel plan and you may find a better deal.
Airlines are aware of significant events such as festivals, holidays, sports events, and school breaks and adjust their prices accordingly. By being adaptable with your travel dates and times, you can save a considerable amount of money.
3- Be flexible with your destination
Being flexible with both your travel dates and destination can lead to the best deals on airfare. If that's not possible, being open to either one can still help you find a cheaper flight.
Using flight search engines like CheapOair and Google Flights to search for flights from your home airport to multiple destinations and compare prices.
These tools can also reveal unexpected destination options. An example of how to do this on Google Flights is to click on the map and expand your search.
Step 1: Go to Google Flights and click on the map:
Step 2: After entering your departure city and preferred date on Google Flights, you can view a wide range of options on the map. If you don't have a specific destination or travel dates in mind, you can also use the "Flexible dates" option to search for the cheapest available flights.
If you have a preferred length of time for your trip but are flexible on the travel dates, you can use filters to narrow down your options on Google Flights. This includes options such as weekend, 1-week or 2-week trip.
Being flexible with your travel destination and dates can lead to significant savings on airfare. If you are open to different destinations and travel times, you will have more options for finding deals and discounts. However, if you have a set location and schedule, you may have to pay the full price for your flight.
4- Fly Budget Carriers
In the past, traveling between continents often meant using expensive traditional airlines. However, this is no longer the case.
Today, it is possible to fly to many places around the world using budget airlines, which offer more affordable prices. These airlines may not have the same level of comfort and amenities as traditional airlines, but they make international travel more accessible and affordable.
They mainly operate on short and medium-haul routes and some of them have to stop the Long haul route due to COVID-19 but they might return as the travel industry recovers.
For now, it's easy to find cheap flights on budget airlines, even during a time of increased prices. Some of the largest budget airlines in the world include:
Air Canada Rouge
Sun Country Airlines
Hong Kong Express
Budget airlines can be a great option for saving money on flights, but it's important to be aware of additional fees. These airlines may charge for things like checked bags, carry-ons, and even printing your boarding pass, so be sure to factor these costs in when comparing prices to traditional airlines.
Also, be mindful of the location of the budget airline's airport at your destination, as they may be situated further away from the city center with fewer and more expensive transportation options to get to the city.
5- Don’t Always Fly Direct
Being flexible with the route you take can also lead to finding cheaper flights. For example, it could be less expensive to fly to a nearby airport and then take a budget airline or take a train to your final destination instead of flying directly there.
This can be especially effective when traveling to Europe, where budget airlines can offer significant savings.
To use this method, check the cost of flying directly to your destination and then compare prices for nearby airports using a website like Google Flights.
If the difference is more than $150, consider how much it would cost to get from the nearby airport to your final destination using a budget airline or train, you can use Rome2Rio to check for your options.
You can also apply this method to your departure flights as well. It may be cheaper to fly out from a nearby airport, so it's worth checking the prices of other airports in the area.
This can be especially effective for long international flights, as the added time may be worth it to save money. If you decide to book separate segments, be sure to leave at least a three-hour buffer between connections, as this will give you some leeway in case of delays, and it can also cover you for an insurance claim in case of major delay.
However, this method requires more research and effort as you need to check different routes and airlines, but it can lower the price of your flight and it could be worth the extra effort if you end up saving a significant amount of money.
Note: If you ever have a delayed flight to or from Europe, you might be owed additional compensation (upwards of 600 EUR) Here’s how to find out if you’re entitled to compensation!
6- Keep an Eye for Special Deals
One way to ensure you don't miss out on the best flight deals is to sign up for newsletters from airlines and travel deal websites. By subscribing to these newsletters, you'll have access to exclusive deals and promotions that may not be available elsewhere.
Keep in mind that many of these deals are only available for a short period of time (often 24 hours) so you'll want to keep an eye out for them. This method also helps you to know all the discounts that are available and pick what fits your itinerary.
Also, many airlines' newsletters offer frequent flier bonuses and if you're a travel hacker, those points and miles can add up to free flights and upgrades which can save you a lot of money.
7- Remember Not All Search Engines are Equal
Finding the best deal on a flight requires searching multiple websites. Some major search sites may not list budget carriers or lesser-known foreign airlines, as these airlines may not want to pay a booking commission.
Other search sites may not include booking sites that are not in English or display prices only from a select group of airlines.
Therefore, it's important to compare prices from different search engines as each have their own limitations and may not provide all the options.
However, some search engines tend to consistently have the best results. Some of the most popular and reliable websites to find cheap flights are:
CheapOair– The best booking site out there. They have a great user interface (and a great app for mobile)
Google Flights – Great search engine that lets you see prices for multiple destinations.
I usually begin my flight search with CheapOair, as it searches through all major airlines, budget airlines and different language websites. CheapOair has strict criteria when it comes to the sites they partner with, which ensures they offer a comprehensive range of options.
The site offers the lowest prices on a regular basis and I have been using them since 2008, many travel experts I know also use CheapOair as their go-to search engine.
8- Take Advantage of Student Discounts
If you are a student or under 26, there are many discounts available to you. You can often find prices that are 10-20% cheaper than the standard fare. Travel agencies such as Flight Centre and Student Universe can help you find a cheap ticket, so don't overlook them.
It's also important to remember that student discounts can also apply to airline partners. For example, Lufthansa offers a student discount, which you can use on partner airlines like Swiss Airlines and Austrian Airlines. This can allow you to travel further while still saving money.
To know which airlines offer student discounts, visit their website or call them. It may take some effort to find the information, but the savings (which could be over 20%) will be worth it.
9- Mix and Match Airlines
Booking directly with an airline limits your options and may not always provide the best deal, especially if you're looking to find the perfect itinerary or save money.
Instead, consider booking with different airlines for each leg of your trip. For example, if you are flying from New York to Paris with a stopover in London, booking both legs as one ticket may not be the most cost-effective option.
Booking your New York to London flight separately with one airline, and then your London to Paris flight with another airline allows you to compare prices and find the best deal. It takes more work, but the savings and flexibility can be worth it.
Some third-party booking websites like Kiwi.com do this by piecing together multiple flights to find the cheapest price for you, so it could be a good option for you if you're looking for the lowest price possible.
10- Use Points and Miles
If you're a frequent traveler, signing up for a travel rewards credit card is a great way to earn free flights, travel perks, and hotel stays.
Airline rewards programs offer a wide range of benefits such as flight upgrades, welcome bonuses, credit for rideshares like Uber or Lyft, free access to events and airport lounges.
Even if you don't fly often, signing up for a rewards program can be beneficial. Through careful management of your finances, it is possible to accumulate points and miles that can be used to travel the world at a significantly reduced cost or even for free.
This strategy is known as "travel hacking."
11- Search Ticket Prices for Individual Travelers
When traveling with friends or family, it is generally more cost-effective to book separate tickets rather than buying them all in a single purchase. When searching for multiple tickets together, airlines typically show the highest ticket price in the group which can result in paying more.
Airlines have various price points for tickets, and they aim to sell tickets at the highest fare bucket possible, so when tickets are grouped together, the prices are based on the highest fare bucket.
For example, if you are a family of four searching for four seats together and Seat A is $200, Seats B and C are $300, and Seat D is $400, the fare will be based on $400 per ticket instead of adding the individual ticket prices.
Therefore, it is usually more beneficial to search for tickets as a single person, and then pick your seats during the checkout process to ensure you and your family will be sitting together. Even if you don't end up sitting next to each other, it's worth it for the savings.
12- Look for Tickets in Other Currencies
When the currency of your country is strong compared to other countries, it can be beneficial to search for airfare in a country where the currency is weaker.
For instance, if the US dollar is strong and the currency of another country is weaker, like New Zealand. In this case, it may be cheaper to book the same flight, class and airline but pay with the weaker currency.
While it is not always the case, it is worth trying when your currency is performing well in the market.
13- Book Early (But Not Too Early)
The price of airline tickets tends to increase as the departure date approaches. To get the best deal, it is important to book your flight at the right time.
Generally, the sweet spot for booking is 2-3 months before your departure, or around five months in advance if you are traveling to your destination during its peak season. This timing can vary and it's not a strict rule, but it can serve as a general guide. It's worth noting that last-minute booking can be expensive as many of these bookings are done by business travelers who are less sensitive to price.
Therefore, it is advisable to avoid last-minute booking to save money on your flight.
14. Book Hidden City Fares
One way to find cheaper flights is by searching for hidden city fares, which involves booking a flight that has a layover in your desired destination, then getting off the plane at the layover city and not continuing on to the final destination.
For example, if you want to fly from Austin to Atlanta, it may be cheaper to book a flight from Austin to New Orleans with a stop in Atlanta instead of booking a flight from Austin to Atlanta directly.
This method can be complicated and risky, as airlines do not approve of this practice and may flag or cancel your entire itinerary if they suspect you are using hidden city fares.
Additionally, you cannot check bags as they will not be transported to your final destination. It is only legal if you follow the terms and conditions of the airline and bookings and laws.
It is also important to keep in mind that this is a more advanced method and can save you hundreds of dollars if done correctly. Websites like Skiplagged can help you search for hidden city fares, but use at your own risk.
In general, being flexible and creative in your search for flights is the key to finding great deals. It may take some effort, but deals can be found if you're willing to look. Use the tips above to get started, but don't spend too much time searching, and remember to book immediately once you find a deal you're happy with as prices can change by the minute.
Find Your Cheap Flights Today: I usually start all my searches with CheapOair because they search all major AND budget airlines, non-English websites, English websites, and everything in between. Even if you aren’t sure your plans, it’s best to start searching for flights today. People who wait to book are people who end up spending the most.
Use this widget to plan your next trip:
Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase. If you have any questions about the companies or my status as an affiliate, please don’t hesitate to e-mail me.