Traveling would be so much easier and cheaper if we didn’t have to worry about airfares. This is most of the time the largest expense of a trip. However, you can find hundreds of great deals online every day and even airline errors that can lead to ridiculously cheap flights. Throughout the years, I learned a few flight booking tips and tricks that can save you not only a lot of money, but also time and frustration. If you’re wondering how to find cheap flights, look no further!
The first thing I want to share with you is:
Flight booking tips: Ignore the myths
There are a lot of myths regarding cheap flights and a lot of websites on the internet that recycle the same content and this can oftentimes be misleading. The truth is, there’s no secret formula to getting cheap flights and it’s all about research. Airlines today use advanced systems and algorithms to set the airfare that depends on multiple different factors. Hence, no one can predict the airfare based on only historic information and everyone that claims to do that is probably just taking an educated shot in the dark. Flights aren’t cheapest on Tuesdays. Wee-hour flights aren’t always cheaper. Some of these things might have worked in the past but that’s not the case anymore. With that being said, let’s start with the basics.
Compare incognito, normal browsing, and VPN
I know this might sound contradictory with my first tip, as many people say incognito flight ticket booking being cheaper is a myth but the truth is there isn’t any evidence that supports this theory. That’s why my suggestion would be to try incognito browsing and compare it. It’s a fact that most websites on the internet today store your data in cookies and prices might change if you search the same route multiple times. That’s why you should try browsing in incognito (or from another device) and compare.
You might also want to try using a VPN to change your browsing location. Prices are oftentimes displayed differently in different regions and this approach can SOMETIMES help you save a few bucks on your flight. But don’t blindly stick to incognito and VPN. Research thoroughly and always compare. The next step is to…
Figure out what’s the cheapest day to fly out
As I mentioned in the beginning, there are a lot of myths regarding flying on Tuesdays and flying for the weekends. However, statistically, flying on Tuesdays isn’t always the cheapest and flying on weekends isn’t always the most expensive. If you ask me, the best strategy is to get a visual view of the whole month on Google Flights or some other search engine. This will help you identify the cheapest day to fly out. The next thing you’ll need to figure out is…
Find the cheapest place to fly to
Even if you know the exact location you’re flying to, you can oftentimes save a lot by flying to a nearby city and then making your way to your wanted destination. There are a lot of tools that can help you in identifying the cheapest nearby airport but you can also do this manually by checking the prices for flying to a nearby airport. Being flexible regarding your flight destination can almost always help you save more. Once you figure out the destination and the date, the next step is to…
Set price alerts
This is one of the main advantages of starting to look for your flight early. You have plenty of time and hence, you don’t need to book your ticket right away. Instead, you can set price alerts that will notify you when a ticket price decreases or increases. As you probably know, ticket prices vary on a daily basis and sometimes, even a small drop can potentially save you a fortune. With that being said, you might be wondering…
What’s the right time to book your flight?
We all know that airfare keeps rising the closer you get to your departure and that booking in advance can get you a lower price. But you don’t need to book way in advance. There’s a sweet spot date at which airlines start increasing their fare based on demand and supply at that particular moment. This usually happens 6-8 weeks before the departure or up to three months if you’re traveling somewhere in the peak season. Have this in mind when you’re booking your flight. Another alternative you should know about is…
Searching for airline error and sale fares
Even though airlines have sophisticated pricing determination systems, they still can make mistakes. This happens because of many different reasons, such as currency conversion errors, technical glitches, and of course, human error. There are a lot of companies out there that make a living from finding airline errors and notifying their subscribers for it. You can subscribe to some of these services or learn more about it and do this by yourself.
Book your own connecting flights
If you come across a cheap flight that involves a transfer, have in mind that you can almost always book the same route for cheaper. For example, if you see a Delta Airlines flight from L.A. to Rome that transits through Paris and continues to Rome with an Air France flight, you can probably book it for less if you buy a ticket from Delta Airlines for the same L.A. to Paris flight and another ticket from Air France for the Paris-Rome flight. However, keep in mind that if you take this approach, avoid tight layovers. If you miss the flight, there’s no way to get reimbursed for it.
What about hidden city ticketing?
If you did your fair share of traveling you probably heard about hidden city ticketing. Let’s say you want to visit London and you come across a flight from New York to Paris that transits through London that’s cheaper than any flight from NYC to London. If you book the flight to Paris, you can save a significant amount but there are a couple of things you should be careful about. If you choose this approach, you should travel only with hand luggage because your luggage will probably continue to the final destination. You might not be allowed to get off the plain if you’re taking a transit flight. Finally, the two countries might have different visa regulations and you might end up getting deported. Apparently, this strategy has a lot of limitations, but if done right, it can save you a lot of money on your flight ticket booking.
A 23-hour check-back strategy
Every time after I book my flight, I check the price 23 hours later (because most airlines allow full refunds up to 24 hours after booking). I clear my cookies, start browsing, compare the prices and check if it dropped. If this happened, I’ll either cancel my flight and book again or just update my booking. I have actually saved a lot using this approach throughout the years and this is one of the best flight booking tips I can give you. Another strategy I often use is…
Mix and match
Most of the time when you book a flight that includes a stopover, you’re flying with two different airlines. For example, my last flight from Sofia to Delhi transited through Amsterdam. If I booked this flight with KLM, I was to fly from Sofia to Amsterdam with Bulgaria Air and from Amsterdam to Delhi with Jet Airways. I wouldn’t take a single flight with KLM but would have to pay their prices. Instead, I checked the prices for the flights separately with Bulgaria Air and Jet Airways and ended up saving $125 on this flight!
What about group ticket booking?
If you’re traveling with a family, I suggest avoiding to buy all of the tickets in a single purchase. If you do, the airlines will always show you the highest price for a group of tickets. For example, if you’re booking tickets for three people and the three tickets cost $100, $150, and $200 perspectively, the system will always display the $200 price tag for all three tickets. The difference won’t be that drastic most of the time, but you get the point. Instead, I would book all three tickets separately and choose the seats later in the checkout process.
Explore more travel portals
In a few of the above-mentioned points, I said that booking through an airline’s website directly can oftentimes save you money. However, I also can’t complete this article about mentioning travel portals. Obviously, sometimes you can get a lot of good deals on third-party websites. However, keep in mind that there’s no travel portal that always provides the best prices. As I mentioned several times throughout this article, you need to research thoroughly and compare. This can always help you find cheaper flights.
Decrease your costs with miles and airline credit cards
Even if you’re not a frequent flyer, you probably know about the advantages of miles and airline credit cards and that no list of flight booking tips can be complete without mentioning them. If you’re flying frequently, I suggest getting airline credit cards from as many different airlines as you can. This can help you earn bonuses with every purchase and exchange this for baggage fees if needed, or if even get free flights if you have enough points. I have airline credit cards from a lot of different airlines and participate in a lot of different miles programs. This way, I always keep my options open but also earn points with every purchase I make, regardless of which airline I fly with.
Finally, my last piece of advice for you on how to find cheap flights is…
Figuring out the cheapest payment method
Choosing the payment method is another very important step in finding a cheaper flight ticket booking. Using your credit card isn’t always ideal and sometimes you can save when using online money transfer apps. However, keep in mind that this isn’t bringing you any extra points or miles because it isn’t done with your credit card.
Additionally, if you come from a country with a stronger currency, try searching for flights with airlines from countries where the currency is weaker. You can also change the currency when booking and compare the prices. If you’re lucky, you might even come across a rare airline error. This doesn’t always work but can sometimes save you a lot of money. I saved over $300 on my flight from Chicago to Istanbul by switching the currency from USD to EUR.
Just keep in mind that you should always use a no-foreign-transaction-fee card when using this approach.
Are there some other flight booking tips and tricks on how to find cheap flights you think I forgot to mention? Share your experience and let me know in the comments!
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