There is no secret formula on to how to find cheap flights. Some say it is cheaper to book on a Tuesday, others claim that it is cheapest to fly on a weekday. In my years of traveling and booking hundreds of flights, I have found none of this to be true! In order to find cheap flights you have to spend a bit of time searching through different sites, have a flexibility in your destination and time and make use of all the internet has to offer!
There are a few sites which I will always use before I book any flight. I make sure to search them all as they often return different prices and journeys. I recommend using:
SkyScanner has become one of the most popular websites for finding cheap flights. It is very good place to start as it allows you to search for flexible destinations, show prices over a month or even a year so you can find the cheapest flight and includes many budget airlines
Momondo is great because it is an independent site. Many of the websites today are all owned by a certain big brand like Expedia.It also includes many of the budget airlines that some of the larger sites don’t so it opens up more opportunity to find cheap flights.
Once again, this is another comprehensive search engine. One thing I love about Kayak is the map that it brings up to show you where you can fly from your destination and for what price.
SkipLagged is a somewhat controversial site. What it does is legal, it is however frowned upon by some airlines. Skiplagged finds you the cheapest flight by finding ‘hidden city’ fares. Basically, you book a flight from Point A to Point B which has a stopover in your desired destination. You disembark the plane at the stopover and do not board the flight destined for Point B. This is only possible if you do not have checked luggage and best only done if you are flying one way. Some airlines have been known to cancel your returning flight or charge you extra for the loophole
If you don’t like the waiting for search engines to return your search results, Google Flights offers a much faster service! It will highlight what it believes to be your best option considering both speed and price. It will give you a “tip” if there is a cheaper flight on a different date too which is great! You can also create alerts for when prices are going to skyrocket.
You cannot book through the ITA Matrix but it is a great way to find a cheap flight. It uses Google software and allows you to look for the cheapest flights using a type of code. It doesn’t look as user-friendly as other sites but it is a great way to find cheap fares. The Flight Deal gives a good explanation on how to use it. You can’t book through the ITA Matrix but once you find a cheap flight, you just head over to the airline’s site and book through there.
kiwi.com is another great site to check. It will create routes with different airline carriers in order to find the cheapest flight. This is fantastic but it can mean you will have to self-transfer in airports and have the possibility of missing a flight. Kiwi.com do offer their own protection against this, it is up to whoever is booking if they mind taking this risk or not
Now you know what sites to use, we can talk about the different ways you can make sure you are able to find the cheapest flight. There are a few different factors that you need to take into account in order to find the best price.
Timing can be everything when it comes to finding a cheap flight. You need to be slightly flexible, know what the season is and make sure you buy at the right time.
It really helps if you have to option of being flexible with your dates. Sometimes there can be hundreds of dollars difference in just a few days. Jump on any of the sites mentioned above, let your departure date be flexible and see what comes back. SkyScanner has a great graph to show you the prices over a month.
Know the Season
If you really want to find the cheapest flight, then make sure you know what season you are traveling in. If it is the high season for a destination, prices will be higher. If you are traveling in the shoulder or off season, you will most likely find a much cheaper flight.
Know When to Book
The timing of booking your flight can be very important. There is never any point in booking more than 4 months out, it is likely the prices will come down! The ideal time to book an international flight is between 8-12 weeks prior to departure. Set up a price alert with a few of the above sites and if a cheap price comes through, book it! When you find a more than fair price you need to book as waiting will often only result in paying more!
Getting the timing correct is super important when trying to book cheap flights. There are many other tips and tricks that come into play as well however.
If you book each leg of a long-distance journey separately then you can save yourself hundreds of dollars. It does involve a lot more coordination to ensure you can reach each flight on time, especially when you are dealing with different time zones but it is how I have booked almost all of my long haul flights.
Read the Fine Print
If you decide to book with a budget airline, then make sure you read the fine print! Budget airlines will rarely include luggage or meals in the ticket price, it will just be a ‘Bare Fare.’ Check how much it is to book luggage if you need it and if it is a long haul, see about booking meals also. It is always cheaper to book beforehand than it is to book once you’re at the airport. Also, check details such as checking in online and printing your own boarding pass. Ryanair is renowned for charging a hefty fee if you do not have your boarding pass already printed.
Frequent Flyer Programs
Sign up for frequent flyer programs if you travel often and if you are in North America, sign up for the Airpoints travel credit cards. By collecting points over the year through everyday expenses, you can save yourself a bunch of money on flights. There is a great book explaining the best way to use these to your advantage.
Sometimes it is cheaper to fly into a different airport For example when flying in or out of New York, instead of flying from JFK airport, fly from the older and more budget-friendly La Guardia. Often the budget airlines will fly into a different airport so it is always a good idea to check!