We’ve all had the experience of tedious and repeated research trying to book the cheapest possible flights to a given destination. With endless search engines and constantly fluctuating prices, the search is overwhelming. Here are some key tips that will save you time, frustration and above all money when booking your next flight. Find out how to find cheap (or the cheapest possible) flights to any destination in the world.
1. Ignore the myths
The first thing to know about finding a cheap flight is that there is no magic bullet or secret ninja trick to doing it. There are many myths online about how to find cheap flights. In fact, you’ve probably come across a ton of them in your search for the best flight deal!
Most websites hire journalists who recycle common and outdated myths. Here are the most common that are not 100% true:
• It is NOT cheaper to buy a plane ticket on a Tuesday
• There is NO evidence that searching incognito (removing cookies) leads to cheaper offers (although it doesn’t hurt to try)
• You can’t predict airline prices and the websites that do this are essentially offering an estimate (which is probably wrong)
Airlines used advanced computing and pricing algorithms to determine prices and manage sales based on time of year, passenger demand, weather, major events/festivals, time of day of the day, competitor prices, fuel prices and much more. These so-called “tricks” no longer work. The system is too smart. Forget them.
And don’t listen to anyone who tells you otherwise.
2. Be flexible with your travel dates and times
Airline ticket prices vary widely depending on the day of the week, time of year, and upcoming holidays, such as Christmas, New Year’s Eve, or July 4th. August is a month when a lot of people travel, and everyone wants to go somewhere warm in the winter or travel when the kids are on vacation.
In a nutshell, if you travel when everyone else travels, your ticket will cost more.
Try to be flexible with your dates. If you’re determined to visit London, go to London in the spring or fall, as fewer people travel during this time and airfares are cheaper. But if you want to leave in mid-August? You are unlucky. Guadeloupe at Christmas? Good luck ! Prices will be at their highest.
The solution is to fly out of season. Look for other dates to get the best price. The more rigid your plans, the less likely you are to find a good price.
Also, it’s almost always cheaper to travel mid-week than on weekends, since most people travel on weekends and airlines raise their prices at that time. Prices are also cheaper if you are traveling after a major holiday, as are early morning or late night flights, as fewer people want to travel at these times.
In short, a day’s difference can mean hundreds of dollars in savings.
Airlines are not stupid. They know when a festival, holiday, major sporting event or school break is coming up – and they raise prices accordingly.
Be flexible with your dates and you can probably save some money.
3. Be flexible with your destinations
If you can’t be flexible with when you fly, at least be flexible with where you’re going. It’s better to be flexible on both, but if you really want to save the most money and get a cheap flight for your trip, you need to at least be flexible with one or the other.
Airline search engines have made it very easy to search around the world to find the cheapest ticket. You no longer have to search manually, city by city, day after day. Websites such as Skyscanner , Momondo , and Google Flights all offer explorer tools that allow you to sit at your home airport and see a map of the world with all the flights. This allows you to easily compare multiple destinations without having to think through all the possible options. You will probably even find interesting destinations that you hadn’t even thought of!
If you’re flexible about where you want to go (i.e. anywhere but home), use this tool (Google Flights) to figure out where to go:
Step 1: Go to Google Flights and click anywhere on the map.
Step 2: You can now view a wide variety of options on the map.
The truth about airfare is that there is always an offer for a destination, even if it may not be your first choice. However, if you are flexible about your destination, you will always get a good price and save a lot of money.
When you only have one destination in mind, you’re stuck with the price displayed. Nothing can change that. But when you become flexible, suddenly the whole world opens up to you and you will find incredibly cheap airfares!
4. Budget Carriers
Years ago, if you wanted to fly between continents, you were mostly stuck with expensive traditional airlines. This is no longer true. Budget airlines now serve many long-haul routes, making it possible to fly around the world for very little money.
Norwegian Airlines lets you fly between Europe and Bangkok for just €250 each way. AirAsia offers incredibly cheap deals to Asia and Australia for less than 100 euros each way. Indian and Middle Eastern airlines offer cheap flights throughout the subcontinent and Africa.
These days, you can fly most flights around the world with a budget airline. Sure, they might not be as comfortable and you might have to pay for premium upgrades like checked bags and meals, but they bring the world to your doorstep without breaking the bank.
Tip: If you’re not sure which budget airlines fly to which destinations, check your departure airport’s website for a list of airlines there.
Be careful of the fees though. This is how they make money! Budget airlines often charge fees for checked baggage, carry-on baggage, printing your boarding pass, using a credit card, and whatever else they can do without. Be sure to add up the cost of the ticket AND the fees to ensure the price is lower than a larger carrier.
5. Don’t always fly direct
Not only is it helpful to be flexible with dates and destinations, but being flexible with the route you take is another way to find a cheap flight. For example, sometimes it is cheaper to fly to New York and then take a low-cost airline to Boston than to fly directly to Boston from your departure city. This is precisely what I did when I was in New York. The flight from Paris was €900, but I found a flight to Dublin for €60 from where I could catch another flight to New York for only €600. There was more flight time, but the 240 euros I saved was worth it.
To use this method, find out how much it costs to go directly to your destination. Next, open Google Flights and enter the continent of that destination to see prices for nearby airports. If the difference is more than €150, I look at how much it takes to get from the second airport to my main destination (either by economy flight or by train, if it’s not too far).
If you book separate flights, make sure you have at least three hours between connections. This will give you time in case there is a delay, because your second flight won’t be waiting for you (you booked with another airline, so they don’t care if you’re late or not) .
Having a three hour lag will also cover you for an insurance claim, as most insurance companies require you to be at least 3 hours late before you can make a claim.
This method is more labor intensive, as you have to find many different routes and check different airlines. But it can lower the price of your flight, which is well worth it if you end up saving a few hundred bucks.
6. Keep an eye out for special offers
Before you start searching for specific airline tickets, make sure you have signed up for some newsletters. Joining the mailing list of airlines and last minute deals websites will give you access to the absolute best deals. Sure, 99% of the deals might not fit your itinerary, but keeping an eye out for deals will ensure you don’t miss a good one.
More often than not, cheap flights are only available for a limited window of time (usually 24 hours). If you’re not always scouring the web for sales, you’re probably missing out on the best deals.
Additionally, airline newsletters often offer frequent flyer bonuses. If you’re a fan of mile-hunting , those points and miles can add up to awesome free flights and upgrades.
In addition to joining airline newsletters, shop around on websites such as Voyages Pirates to find great travel deals!
7. Remember that not all search engines are created equal
In order to find the best offer, you have to search on several websites. Many major search sites do not list low cost carriers or pay attention to foreign carriers because these airlines do not want to pay booking commission. Ohers still only display the prices collected directly from the airlines. In short, not all flight search websites are equal and all have their pros and cons.
Since there is no perfect airline search engine, you need to broaden your search. Even the best have their flaws. That said, I have a few favorites that I always start with as they always tend to show the best results.
8. Take advantage of student discounts
If you are a student (or under 26), there are many reductions available to you. You can usually find prices 20-30% cheaper than the standard fare.
Also, keep in mind that most student discounts pass through to airline partners. For example, Delta offers a student discount, which means you can use this discount on partner airlines such as KLM and Air France. This will allow you to go much further while saving money.
If you don’t know which airlines offer discounts, visit their website or call them. Doing a little research to save 20% (or more) will be worth it!
9. Mix and mingle airlines
When you book directly with an airline, you will only be able to use that airline and the partner airlines it has. This means your options will be limited when it comes to finding the perfect route or saving the most money.
If you’re looking for bigger savings, try booking your plane tickets on different airlines. For example, if you are traveling from New York to Paris, you might have a stopover in London. Booking both legs with one ticket will be simple, but it probably won’t save you money. Instead, book your New York-London flight as one ticket and then your London-Paris ticket with another airline. This will allow you to find the best deal. it’s more work, but the savings (and flexibility) can be worth it.
This is what most third-party booking sites like Kiwi.com do . They organize trips using all the flights they can find to get the cheapest price.
If you’re looking for the lowest possible price and aren’t happy with what you find on the airline’s website, try booking separate flights.
10. Research ticket prices for individual travelers
If you are traveling with friends or family, do not purchase multiple tickets in one purchase. Airlines always show the highest ticket price for a group of tickets, which means you will end up paying more.
For example, if you are a family of four and are looking for four seats, the airline will find four seats together and display your fare based on the highest price. If the price difference is significant, this translates into a considerable additional expense.
For this reason, always search for tickets as a single person. Then, during the ordering process, you can choose your seats for you and your family to sit together. And even if you don’t end up side by side, it’s an effective way to save a few hundred dollars.
11. Book early…but not too early
Airfares will continue to increase as you get closer to departure, but there is a perfect time when airlines start lowering or raising fares based on demand. Don’t wait until the last second but don’t book too early. The best time to book your flight is between 6 and 8 weeks before your departure, or around three months before if you are going to your destination during the high season.
This is not a hard and fast rule, however, use it as a guide. When you find a decent price, just book it. It might not be the price you were hoping for, but it’s better than paying more when the price inevitably goes up
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