How to find cheap flights - tried & tested tips!
Fortunately, gone are the days when the only way to book a flight was to rely on travel agents. There are so many strategies and search engines out there now that make it easy to save on airfare.
Flexibility is key when searching for cheap airfare. If your dates are locked in, or you can only travel during school holidays or weekends, know that it will be a challenge to find a great deal. But, it is not unimaginable. We are in the same boat more often than not ourselves.
"How do you find cheap flights?" This is by far the most commonly asked question we get. Certainly, learning how to search for airfare to anywhere in the world is the single best way to reduce your travel expense. Follow these tips the next time you're thinking travel and you'll be doing yourself a favor ;)
Tips on how to find cheap airfare to anywhere in the world:
1. Start searching as early as possilble
Typically, airlines release ticket prices about 10 to 11 months in advance so if you wanted to you could beging to search for airfares about that early. However, if you know what your destination is and approximate timeframe of when you'd like to go, start searching ASAP and check back about once a week.
Flight prices are in real time and ever changing, so my advice is if you see a good fare and it is within your budget, be ready to snag it.
2. Be aware of travel friendly days
If when you buy is not in your control, then you can certainly play around with what day your flights are on.
Travel gurus are unanimous in Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays being the most travel friendly days. These are days with typically the least amount of business travelers and airlines just have more spare seats to sell and so they generally offer their cheapest fares on these days.
- For domestic, if you can, try and fly on Saturdays and Mondays
- For international, try flying on Tuesdays and Wednesdays
- Fridays & Sundays have been found to be the most expensive days to fly
3. Know when to book it
Don't we all wish we had a travel genie? :P Oh well! Since we don't, our best bet is to rely on travel trends to decide when to buy airline tickets.
Travel studies have found that for domestic flights it is best to purchase tickets about 5 to 7 weeks in advance. For interntaional flights the range is about 10 to 12 weeks in advance. People have always been heard saying it is best to buy midweek like on a Tuesday, but I find that to be a bit of a myth and have found great prices sometimes on a weekend as well.
What is for sure is that you'll NEVER find the cheapest flight if you are purchasing with less than a couple of weeks till travel, or if you are buying too early, like say 6 months or so in advance.
4. Be willing to fly at odd hours
I know, I know, nobody likes inconveniences. We don't either. But, hey, I never said this blog post was about how to fly most comfortably (although we have some tricks up our sleeves for that too, another post perhaps on that ;))
Red-eye flights, and super duper early flights will always cost less. We have done it several times because the difference can be substantial.
5. Always check alternate airports
I know it kind of sounds like a no brainer, but I'm always surprised by the number of people who actually do not do this.
Your nearest airport may not always be the one with the cheapest flight to your destination. And, I am not even talking about two airports in the same city. I'll fly out of a nearby city 2 -3 hours drive away if it saves me enough $$$, especially for an international trip.
6. Do not put the cart before the horse
Instead of zeroing in on a destination and then spending weeks and sometimes months on finding a reasonable fare for it try flying to where the cheap flights already are! I love using Skyscanner for this because it lets me pick my departure city and search for deals to literally anywhere in the world.
This is exaclty how Thailand became our destination for Thanksgiving break this past November.
7. Use different airlines for different legs
This is something I have just recently learned myself. Always search for two separate one way fares on the days you want to travel after searching for a return trip, especially for domestic trips.
Last December, our return trip to California was coming out to be super expensive on both Delta and American (hello, holiday season :S) However, when I searched one way separately, we saved almost 50% booking Delta going there and returning on American. Strange, but savvy!
8. Book return even if you want one-way only
If you happen to find yourself in a situation where you just need a one way flight, especially to an international destination, you'll see that they can be insanely expensive. Do not know why, but return international flights can be more economical than one way international flights.
When we were moving back from France, we actually a booked return flight from France and just forfeited our return leg because it was way cheaper than booking a one way back to the US. C-R-A-Z-Y, but I am not making this up!
9. Consider Loooong Layovers
On the surface, it seems like a painstaking idea, but we have learned to love long layovers. I look at them as an opportunity to check out another city if the layover is long enough or just straighten our legs or freshen up if it is a long haul flight.
We had a 12 hour layover on way to Alaska, and we got to see Seattle and meet up with a friend :) While returning from Thailand, we had an 8 hour layover in Beijing and we were able to visit The Great Wall. How cool was that?! <3
10. Avoid busy travel times
I know I am being captain obvious here. But, this is a catch 21.
We all know that flying in peak holiday season or tourist season or school holidays will be pricier. However, there are some exceptions to this rule.
If you are willing an able you can sometimes find the best deals on Christmas day, or Thanksgiving day, (as an added bonus the airline staff is extra nice on these days and you might actually get peanuts AND pretzels...WHAT! :P) or 4th of July or even a day like 9/11.
11. Clear your cookies
This may be last on my list, but it is certainly not the least. Most search websites track and store you search history, and the more you search for the same fare, the higher the prices get.
Each time you return to search for the same fare, you are marked as more likely to purchase and may be offered a higher price than what was originally quoted to you. It is a scare tactic, so when you see the price increase you are more likely to book fearing another price increase.
Always remember to delete your cookies and try and browse incognito or in private mode. Another sure way of fooling the site into believing you are not the same customer is using a VPN, which essentially changes your IP address to a different location.
How do you find cheap flights? We'd love to hear if you have any tips or suggestions in the comments section below.
Please share this post if you have friends and family looking to save on flights!
Happy searching & safe travels!