Don’t ever pay full price for a flight ticket again.
If you apply just some of the tips and tactics I’m about to show you, you’ll likely save hundreds of dollars on every flight you book from now on.
Sounds good, right?
But, I need to warn you….
Like all good things, you need to work for it.
The airline industry is extremely cut-throat and competitive. They are under a lot of pressure to be profitable, and therefore don’t hand out free lunches.
But, if you can be flexible, patient, and do a little digging, you can get cheap flights to anywhere in the world, often at enormous discounts.
Let’s dive in!
Searching for cheap flights early won’t guarantee you discounted airline tickets, but you will GREATLY increase your chances of scoring a big deal. Of all the tips you’ll find on saving money on flights, this one is easily the best one (and one of the simplest, too!)
Why is that?
Airline companies are just like any competitive business. Prices “flex” depending on supply and demand. And in the airline industry, prices flex like crazy. If an airline feels they can’t fill a plane up, they will slash prices to attract customers (and they slash BIG TIME).
That’s why checking flights for your vacation early pays off BIG.
How early should you start checking for flights?
There’s no hard and fast rule, so here are some general guidelines:
Note: Don’t confuse “searching for flights” in advance with “purchasing your flights” in advance. You may or may not want buy early (I talk about strategies of when to buy your flight tickets a little later).
If searching for flights well in advance is the best tip for discovering discounted flights, then being flexible is the second best tip.
When I say “flexible,’ I mean planning your travels around super cheap flights.
For example, if you wanted to fly to Miami, Florida, departing for Miami on a Sunday could cost a couple hundred dollars MORE than leaving on a Monday.
If you are flying with a family of 5, that’s a $1000 difference. It’s huge.
If you can flex your travel date several days or even weeks away, you will typically find a dramatic range of flight prices. You can then plan your trip around the cheapest flight prices and make out like a bandit.
To do this: simply check different dates around the time you want to depart and come back on a site like Expedia. If you notice dates that are priced lower, you can dig deeper by comparing different search engine websites and directly with the airline.
Many websites will let you choose dates +/- 3 days of your chosen departure & return date, like kayak below.
Flight search engines compare flight prices of many airlines and travel agencies. They will then sort flights by price to make it easy for you to find the cheapest tickets.
Flight search engines don’t include every airline (most notably, they omit some smaller airlines), but they are fantastic at giving you the current going rate of most airlines flights.
Here are my favourite flight comparing websites:
The above websites are excellent for finding discounted domestic flights as well as discounted international flights.
If you are in Europe and you’re looking for cheap flights within Europe, make sure to use www.skyscanner.com. They seem to come up with the best prices for domestic European flights.
Websites that compare prices across multiple airlines are fantastic for finding cheap flight deals.
When you find the flight that fits your needs and price range, you will want to take the additional step of checking the airline price directly with the airline.
By going direct, you may find the airline offers the cheapest flight price. You may also discover unadvertised promotions that you won’t find on a flight comparing site like Kayak or Orbitz.
One thing to keep in mind: Checking directly with an airline will tell you THEIR cheapest round trip flights, but that’s not necessarily the best flight deal you can get. Sometimes, flying to your destination with United Airlines and coming back with American Airlines is cheapest route. Flight search engines like Expedia will tell you this, but not an individual airline.
Diffrent airports will have different taxes and fee’s that airlines need to pay. Some cities/airports are notoriously expensive for airlines, and that means airlines need to charge you higher flight prices to fly there.
Below is a snippet of the most expensive major airports to fly in/out of in the U.S.
A very popular way to get around this is to fly to a nearby city or airport and then either train or fly to your actual destination city.
That seems like extra work and time… and it is, however, you can save a few hundred dollars by doing this (yes, even with the extra flight/train transportation included).
The trick is to use a cheap budget airline in the neighbouring city to fly to your actual destination.
If you are taking a train (more relevant in Europe), it can cost very little to get from one destination to another.
How do you do this?
1. What you want to do is search nearby cities/airports when performing your flight search: Your flight search engine will spit out prices for your chosen destination. You may be shocked at how much prices differ when flying to a nearby (less costly) airport.
Below is a snippet from Kayak, where you can click boxes that will search nearby airports for you.
2. You then want to check out discount/low budget airlines that operate in the area: Ryanair and EasyJet are popular ones in Europe. A quick Google search will find you domestic discount airlines. Check flight times and prices from your neighbouring city to your actual destination. If you are taking a train in Europe, you can use raileurope.com to find rail times and prices.
If it costs several hundred dollars more to fly to London, it may be worth your while to fly into Amsterdam first, and then take another flight to London.
Related to this: You can also save money by departing from a cheaper airport that is further away from you (if it exists). You will need to drive/shuttle further away, But the less expensive flight out of the airport further away could be worth while.
Again, when searching for flights, check off airports that are near you (or perform separate searches if this option isn’t available). Don’t just choose the largest/closest airport to you!
Sometimes you can score big savings when you choose flights that have 1 or more connections.
Non-stop flights are obviously preferred and therefore more people demand them. More demand almost always means higher prices.
If you can be flexible and give up some time, you can typically find cheaper flights by forgoing non-stop flights. In fact, I’ve seen flights for as much as 50% cheaper going the connection flight route.
Below is a flight from San Diego to Honolulu filter option on Expedia. You can clearly see that the cheapest fight tickets available for non-stop and 1-stop flights vary by $90. If you are taking your family of 5, that’s a $450 difference. No chump change at all.
What you want to do is check the 1-stop flight options and see how much more time it adds on. If it’s just a few hours for the connection, it could be worth the dollars saved.
Studies have shown that booking on a Tuesday is the absolute best day to find cheap flight deals.
Airline companies like to put out “seat sales” and “promotions” on Tuesdays. Waiting until Tuesday for a discounted flight may pay off.
Booking your flights mid-week is “generally” cheaper than the other days, according to some flight experts. So Tuesdays and Wednesdays. And Saturdays as well (even though it’s not mid-week).
Note: Booking flights from 14-days to departure is the MOST expensive period to book a flight. Flight prices go up dramatically, and can as much as double sometimes.
Be diligent and don’t purchase your flights last minute.
Below is a graph courtesy of cheapair.com for domestic flights in the U.S. According to them, the sweet spot to get the cheapest domestic flights is about 29 – 104 days out.
And you probably noticed that prices of airfare with about 2 weeks or less are dramatically higher.
A small warning: Your best bet is still to begin searching early and be as flexible as possible. Don’t just start looking on day 54 because CheapAir says it’s “the best time to buy.” Other experts say it’s unpredictable, and there isn’t a best time. The best way to ensure you find the best flight prices is to diligently search early.
Generally speaking, the best time to fly is when other people don’t want to fly.
Very early in the morning, and around dinner time, and overnight flights are the least popular times to fly. You can usually see price differences during these flight times.
Tip: When searching for flights, don’t choose a preferred departure time. Leave it blank to see if there are any price differences. If there are significantly cheaper airline prices found during off peak times, consider taking one of those flights to save money.
Tip: Traveling to Canada? Check out this comprehensive guide on the best time to book flights to Canada.
Another reason to check flight times often is because the price of the same seat can change from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Price fluctuations throughout the day is not uncommon.
Seat sales could magically arise, someone who was previously holding 4 seats (at a low fare) for his family bailed out and now they are available, etc.
It’s a bit unnecessary to monitor flight prices every few hours when you begin searching months in advance, however, if you’re due to depart in a few days and want to get the cheapest flight possible, it’s worth doing.
Travel companies want to get every dollar they can from you. It adds to their bottom line and generates more revenue for them.
One of the ways they do that is to offer “flight and hotel” packages at a discount.
And sometimes these discounts are ridiculously good, so why not hop on them!
It’s the same idea if you are looking to book internationally.
You can expect to save a few hundred to up to $1000 or more on some packaged vacations.
Travel agencies are great at putting these packages together.
Expedia is one of my favourite places to find “flight and hotel” discount deals.
In the example below, clicking on “search for flight + hotel” can give you more savings than booking your flight and hotel separately.
Booking them together also takes the headache away from booking a separate transaction for your accommodation.
Virtually every booking website will give you this option. So take advantage of it if it makes sense.
Here’s a fact: People who travel a lot know a good flight deal when they see one.
The smart ones pounce as soon as they can, too.
You, too, can be the Tiger of the flight jungle.
Sign up for Twitter updates from airline companies, airline search websites, and low-fare websites.
When airlines offer up discounts, they will tweet about it. So will other companies that specialize in flights.
Since Twitter is real time information, you will be among the first to know about any seat sales or promotions on specific routes and destinations.
And if luck is on your side, it will be the route/destination your planning your travels to.
You can get very very cheap flights this way.
You will have to check Twitter every now and then to stay updated, but when airlines offer up a few hundred dollars in savings per flight, it’s worth it.
You can also follow airlines themselves, and aggregate flight sites like Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, and Momodo.
Remember, some of these deals are the “last minute” variety and come at a KILLER discount. I highly recommend signing up for Twitter fight updates.
Below is a cheap flight deal tweet from airfare watchdog.
Much like getting real time updates from Twitter, you can also get updates through email.
I recommend doing both.
Emails can be more personalized to you (companies have ways of doing this) and they can send out specific flight promotions that they know you are interested in.
You’ll also get more information about what they are offering, compared to a 160 character tweet.
They will pretty much continue to send out discount codes and promo’s to get you to fly with them/use their service. Once you’re a customer, you’re more likely to use them again. Airlines know that so they sometimes offer some dirt cheap flights to hook you in.
Related to the above, Sites like Expedia like to offer coupon codes to get you to try them out.
You can get these when you sign up to their email list, as well as searching for them in google.
For example, type in “Expedia coupon codes” to see current special flight discounts you can take advantage of.
Below is a coupon code I just found on Expedia that encourages you to download their app and book a flight with a $25 discount.
Generally speaking, bigger airports mean bigger discounts to you. They are big hubs and have a lot of over head costs.
They need traffic, and what better way to get people into their airport than to make the end user (you!) pay less by giving you great cheap flight deals.
But don’t automatically rule out small airports. Some of the cheapest flights are found flying through these lesser-known getaways.
Tip: The best way to find cheap flights is to search all available airports in your area and in your destination area when performing searches.
Below is a snippet from Business Insider listing the 10 cheapest domestic airports in the U.S. Compared to the most expensive (Honolulu International $842 average airfare), you can guarantee lower prices flying in and out of these airports.
Getting last minute flight deals is insanely easy to do. Before I get into that, I want to tell you why cheap last minute flights exist.
Let’s say a flight is almost full at 200/250 seats filled. How much do you think it costs the airline to fly an additional 50 people?
When we’re talking several hundreds of dollars per additional person, you can sure as hell bet airlines will do whatever they can to fill those remaining 50 seats.
These super cheap flight websites offer up big discounts on remaining seats and pass on the savings to you.
I don’t recommend using last minute travel deals to plan your travels, but if you haven’t really planned anything and are open to “going anywhere” sort to speak, you will get cheap last minute flights by just hopping on those sites and seeing what’s currently being offered.
Note: These last minute sites these days are looking more and more like any other online travel agency. But deep discounted deals can still be found. Most of the time, it’s totally irrelevant to you, because a flight from Orlando to Paris doesn’t interest you when you’re looking for vacations to Panama. But because they can significantly slash airfare prices, they are still worth checking out.
I just searched lastminute.com and found these cheap last minute flights in Europe (note that these flights are from London to European destinations, which is why they are so cheap).
Airlines will reward you for being loyal to them. They do this by giving you special treatment if you are one of their members, as well as flight discounts rewards.
I feel you should sign up for a rewards program even if you fly infrequently. I see it as building up a savings account. Eventually, you will accumulate enough rewards to get discounted/free flights – even if you hardly ever fly.
So why not!
Choose an airline you like, fly frequently with, or plan to fly with in the future. They ALL offer loyalty programs to reward their valued customers.
If you google “airline company + frequent flyer,” you’ll get to their travel rewards page.
One of my favourite travel saving tips is using travel rewards credit cards. Forget “cash back” on groceries.
I have a credit card that gives me points towards free flights. For every dollar I spend, I get 1 point.
I put everything I can onto that card. I bought my dads car on it, pay for all my flights and hotels on it, and even stuff from the dollar store goes on it.
I accumulated enough points to take my family to Alaska, for free!
(well, I still had to pay the flight taxes, but I saved $350 per flight).
That’s no chump change. The savings are huge.
Point? Sign up for a premium travel credit card.
Tips: Anytime you spend money, use your credit card. Pay it off every month (to avoid interest costs and bad credit). Sit back and watch your points grow.
You will eventually accumulate enough points to buy round trip tickets to Europe, Asia, or L.A to watch Kobe and the Lakers.
A well known and trusted student travel agency is STA Travel. They offer cheap flights around the world specifically for students aged 26 and younger.
They work out special deals with airlines and pass on the savings to you. If you are a student, you MUST check them out!
And guess what? Even if you AREN’T a student, you can still use STA Travel because they offer discount flight deals to non-students as well.
So you’ve been checking for cheap flights well in advance and finally see a deal that you know is good, but you’re unsure how good it truly is…
Will the price go down even more? Should you wait a bit more? Or is this one of those rare discount seats that don’t come by often, and you need to pounce NOW?
It’s a tough call when you’re not used to looking at flight prices, but thankfully, there’s a website called Hopper.
Hopper tells you what a “good price” is for your flight destination, and also gives you some cool data to help you make your buying decision.
Just enter your departing and destination city and Hopper will do the rest.
On a related note, once you found your flight, head over to Hipmunk to check the “agony” score of flights to your destination. It factors in things like flight time and layovers to rank flights. Sometimes the cheapest flight isn’t the most convenient one, and spending a few extra dollars may be more comfortable for you/your family.
You aren’t obligated to buy from your travel agent when he/she puts together a flight/vacation package for you.
What I sometimes like to do is visit/call a travel agency and tell them exactly what I’m looking for, and tell the to find me the cheapest flight deal they can get.
I’ll also go ahead and do my own research. If the travel agent can come up with something better, I go with them (though that’s never happened).
Their knowledge and access to exclusive deals not accessible to the general public (they can get special discounts/promotions we don’t see) can help you get cheaper flight/vacation prices.
Not only that, they will save you A LOT of time of researching and planning your much needed trip, and give you cool travel tips.
How should you use travel agents?
Tell them where you want to fly to and what flight requirements you need (like non-stop, cheapest flight possible, specific airlines, etc.) and let them do their work. You do the work too. Whoever comes up with the best deal wins.
There are websites where you “name your own price” for flights. You put down what you are willing to pay for a flight and hopefully it’s enough.
www.priceline.com is a very popular one.
To use it, click on the flights tab and enter your departing and arriving destination. Then Click the “Name Your Own Price” tab.
After that, just fill out the form and submit. Priceline will let you know if your bid was high enough.
The bad part is, in exchange for a very low flight fare, you can’t choose what time you depart or what airline you will fly on. You don’t get this information until you’ve paid.
It’s a big money saver though, and worth exploring if you’re just looking for the best flight deal.
A site like Yapta.com watches prices for you. You’ll want to use it after you have purchased your flights.
If your flight price drops, you will be alerted and you may be entitled to the price difference or get “credit dollars” towards a future flight.
Each airline will have their own policy. Unfortunately, some of them require a large fee to refund you the difference, which is sometimes more than the difference in the price drop.
Still, using Yapta will help ensure you get the best flight price possible.
Going along with the above, if you book an itinerary with Orbitz, they will refund the difference in price if another Orbitz user purchases the same itinerary for a lower cost.
Websites will track you when you visit by this thing called a “cookie.” They know how often you visit, what page you visit, and how often you come back.
And some of them do this dirty little thing of raising prices when you come back.
I have a quick person story to share with you: When I was booking a flight from Bali, Indonesia to Phuket, Thailand, I was at a internet cafe and I ended up paying an extra $110 on my flight because of this. I checked back to the same website and every time I did, the flight price went up. I didn’t know any better at the time and thought seats were filling up. Had I just cleared my cookies and cache, or jumped on another computer, I would have paid the “normal” rate. Lesson learned!
Economy seats can dramatically vary in price, even though they are all the same class. Typically those who book earlier will get access to cheaper flight prices.
Sometimes, there is only one, or a few seats left at the bargain discounted price. If you are booking your flight for multiple people (like your entire family), your airline won’t take into consideration the few cheaper seats available. They will quote you a price for seats that will accommodate everyone you’re booking for, at the next level up price.
You end up paying more, even though cheaper seats are available.
To get around this? Perform a flight search using 1 adult. If you get a notice like “only 2 seats left at this price” or something to that tune, book those seats for 2 people, and then book the remaining seats at whatever the next cheapest price is. This way, you take advantage of the existing 2 cheaper seats.
Economy airline tickets can vary by $100 or more, so taking this extra step can save you a few hundred dollars.
Are there any tips you have for finding cheap flights?
If you know how to get cheap flights and want to share your thoughts, tell me about it in the comment section below. I’ll include it in this article.
Also, if you found this article useful, share it with others. I appreciate the love.