You’ve chosen your next holiday destination, worked out a budget, started a savings plan and begun putting together your itinerary. The next step in the travel planning process is booking your flights. And how to find cheap flights can be one of the toughest parts of the process.
But don’t stress just yet, I’ve had lots of practice over the years having travelled on hundreds of flights. I know most of the tricks for finding cheap flights and getting the best flight deal possible. And I want to share them with you so you too can learn how to find cheap flights for all of your future travel.
How to Find Cheap Flights: 10 Tips and Tricks
1. Start Your Research Early
My first trick to get cheap flights is that most airlines generally release seats 11 months in advance. As soon as you know you’ll potentially be travelling you should start your research then.
Start by figuring out rough dates of travel and monitoring the prices. You can do this by regularly checking your favourite airfare search engine or airline website and keeping an eye out for good deals.
Signing up for email alerts is also a good idea. Most of the major airfare search engines and airline websites have this facility available.
Keep a spreadsheet of the prices you find and check regularly to update it so you are ready to pounce as soon as the flight prices reach their lowest point.
2. Search Multiple Websites
One of the best tips to find cheap flights I learnt early on was to not just search on one website when looking for flights. You see, not all airlines will be represented on all websites, so shopping around will not only get you the best price but it will also give you more options.
Check at least two of the big name flight search websites like Expedia, CheapOair and BookingBuddy and then check out the websites of the airlines that fly that route. You can find out which airlines fly from and to where on your departure cities airport website.
3. Book at the Right Time
Of all the tricks to find cheap flights this is probably one of the toughest as there is no real ‘right time” to book as airlines can announce sales at any moment.
However, past trends do tell us a little about when the right time to book a flight is. The website CheapAir.com completes a study each year and most recently they determined 64 days in advance was the cheapest time to book domestic fares. And as for international fares, they concluded that the time frames varied wildly based on where you are flying to with the number of days ranging from 58-120 days in advance.
I find that if I follow my first trick to get cheap flights mentioned above by starting my research early and not jumping in to book too early, I generally get the best price. Educating yourself is key to booking at the right time.
4. Travel on a Cheaper Day
It is said that mid-week, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, are the cheapest days of the week to fly but I have found this theory to be a little inconsistent at times, especially if flying a route that is used heavily by business travellers.
To find the cheapest day of the week to fly I use Expedia. Here are the steps that I would take:
- Do a standard search, selected where you are travelling from and to and some rough dates that you have in mind.
- Once the results appear, near the top of the screen you will see FLEXIBLE DATES. Click on that.
- A calendar will appear allowing you to see the average return price for nearby days.
- To change dates, simply click on the price for the corresponding days you want to view.
By simply following these steps you’ll easily be able to see a pattern of what is the cheapest day of the week to fly.
5. Be Flexible
In just about everything we do in life, being flexible will see you saving money. So this trick to get cheap flights is all about being as flexible as possible, without compromising other parts of your trip to help you save money.
When booking flights you can save by being flexible with the dates you travel and even with the airport you fly into. Also considering flights with lay-overs or multiple stops could save you hundreds of dollars. The more flexible you can be the cheaper your flights will be.
I’ll give you an example. On a trip to Canada, I originally wanted to fly direct from Sydney to Vancouver. Despite my extensive travel experience I am not a good flyer so anything I can do to limit the number of take-offs (my most hated part of the flight) the better.
However, once I researched flight prices, I found that stopping over in LA was going to save me a massive $1,200. The direct flight was $2,200 and I ended up paying just under $1,000 by choosing to stopover route.
Being a budget travelling, I would have been crazy to pay almost double just so I didn’t have to deal with two take-offs in one day. That $1,200 went towards fun experiences in Canada and was absolutely worth the small amount of discomfort.
But remember that sometimes it isn’t always worth it to be flexible. If having more quality time in your destination is the most important thing then a flight with multiple stops that takes half a day longer might not be right for you. You always need to weigh up your options, just like I did.
6. Browse Incognito
This one is one of the simplest tricks to getting cheap flights you can do in this list.
Search engines and booking sites store your previous search history so that they know what they offered you last time. To get around this and ensure you are getting the best deal possible, turn your internet browser incognito so they can’t see you’ve been searching previously.
This way you will get fresh prices, not prices based on what you have browsed for before. I know, it seems crazy that they would do this, but it happens.
7. Fly To/From Alternate Airports
Some of the biggest cities around the world don’t just have one major airport, they might have multiple airports. Checking out whether it is cheaper to fly to an alternate airport could potentially save you a bit of money.
London for example has five airports within 50 km of the city centre. All of which are well connected to public transport. While Heathrow Airport is the biggest, most budget airlines will fly into the smaller Luton or Stanstead Airports.
One thing to consider though is just how far away these alternate airports are. If they are significantly further from the city than the major airport and have limited transport options then it might still be cheaper to fly to/from the closest one even if the flights are more expensive.
8. Use Frequent Flyer Miles
If you are a frequent flier then being a member of a frequent flyer program is a must. Each program is a little different but basically how they work is for every mile you fly you earn a certain amount of points which once accumulated can be used instead of cash to book future flights.
There are also many other ways to earn miles these days too, not just by being a frequent flyer. Using certain affiliated credit cards will earn you points just for day to day spending and some programs have special bonuses for shopping and booking with their affiliated partners.
Sign up bonuses with major credit cards could also start you off with a stack of points. In the past I signed up for a card where I got a bonus 90,000 points just for signing up and using my card for three months.
I use my card for everything I can, even rent, and find that my points are growing rapidly.
You just need to make sure when using a credit card that you are not spending beyond your means. I keep a budget spreadsheet to make sure I’m not spending more than I can afford each month and pay the card off in full so I don’t incur hefty interest charges.
NOTE: This in no way constitutes financial advise. I recommend you doing a self-assessment or better yet, speak to a financial professional before deciding if applying for a credit card is right for your current and future financial situation.
9. Consider Budget Airlines & Forgo In-flight Luxuries
At least one budget airline services just about every airport in the world these days. Using them might mean you have to forgo some of those in-flight luxuries like meals and entertainment but if saving money is your number one priority then you can easily go without.
Bring your own device loaded with TV shows and movies or a book/magazine to keep you entertained. Have a substantial meal pre-flight and pack plenty of snacks and water to last you the duration of the flight.
Also consider travelling with only carry-on baggage to avoid the hefty checked baggage fees that budget airlines are famous for enforcing. And if you have good quality travel insurance (which you should) then cancellations, while still a hassle, will be covered. Check out my article on buying travel insurance here.
I think this is one of the more obvious tricks to buy cheap flights, however I find it is often overlooked due to the reputation of some budget airlines.
10. Follow the Airline on Social Media
The final item on my list of tricks for cheap flights involves you doing something that most people do multiple times a day, mindlessly scroll through social media. Yes, you really can find great flight deals on social media!
Everyone and thing is on at least one social media platform these day and that is not exception for all airlines around the world. They use their platforms to share some of the juiciest sales, sometimes offering exclusives to those who follow them.
So if you want to be the first to know when their biggest sales are happening you need to be following them on platforms like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter to hear about these deals first.
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Over to you!
Do you have any tips and tricks to add on how to find cheap flights? Which of these tricks to get cheap flights are you going to use for your next vacation?
Let me know using the comments section below or join me on social media to start a conversation.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this post.