«

»

How to Find Cheap Flights Like a Pro

How to FindWithout a doubt, the most common question I’m asked is “How do I find cheap flights?”. The sad answer is that there’s no secret website that has all of the cheap flights for sale, but if you’re willing to put in some work you can usually find some great deals.

Since I’m asked this so much, I decided to write a post detailing all of the ways I find affordable flights and show you how easy it is! I’ve included my best tips and resources, as well as tips and websites other travel bloggers use to get the cheapest flights possible.

 

Tip 1: Be Open to Going Anywhere That’s on Sale

norway

Toboggan Track in Norway

In 2014, I went to Oslo, Norway for 2 days. This was not a trip I was planning to take, nor was it a destination I had really thought of visiting. I went because the tickets were on sale for $250 round trip and, being January, the nicest hotels in town were dirt cheap. We had a great time tobogganing and visiting museums that were virtually tourist free.

chicago cheap flight

Chicago in January for $119? Bring it on!

Earlier this year, Husband and I spent a long weekend in Chicago…in January. Why did we take another trip up north in the dead of winter? Because we found tickets for $119 round trip and we were able to stay at the Intercontinental Hotel on the Magnificent Mile for $118 a night.

My first visit to Guatemala was the same story. My friend called me up and said he found tickets for $90 round trip and did I want to go? Hell yes I did! At that time I didn’t even know where Guatemala was on the map, but I knew I wanted to go there for $90. I loved it so much I went back the next year for a longer visit.

 

Tip 2: Be Willing to Travel During Off-Season

Everyone wants to travel to the Caribbean in winter,ski towns in winter and spring, Europe in the summer, Japan in spring for sakura season etc, etc. What I’m trying to say is that every destination has a high season and if you want to find cheap flights during that time you will probably be disappointed. However, if you’re willing to travel during low season, you’ll not only find cheap flights, but you could save a ton on your accommodation as well.

cheap flights Barbados

Low season in Barbados is terrible. Why would anyone come here?

For example, Barbados is extremely popular with the British crowd from late November through the end of April as everyone is trying to escape the dreary winter weather. It’s also the time of year where the weather is considered the nicest because it rarely rains. We spent an amazing week in Barbados in October. We found a vacation package that included round trip airfare, 8 nights in an all-inclusive resort as well as vouchers for free massages, a free sunset catamaran ride to swim with turtles, and $800 in “island credit” which we could use at attractions, restaurants and shops around the island. We felt like rock stars, and we only spent $2,000 total for all of that! The rates in high season are more than double.

 

Tip 3: If You Can’t be Flexible With Your Destination and Schedule, Start Planning ASAP

“Book around 8-9 months before you want to travel for the best deals. Flights are generally released for sale about 11 months in advance, and prices tend to start off higher. They then rise again closer to the flight date and getting ‘last minute deals’ is a thing of the past.” Heather of Conversant Traveller

Sometimes you just can’t be flexible. If you are dead-set on visiting a certain place and you can only go during a certain time of year, the best advice I can give is to start planning as soon as you decide to go. For airfare, use the ITA Matrix. This is the best tool for finding the cheapest airfare, in my opinion. You can specify a certain airline or search all airlines. They will come back with an entire month of airfare and you can see which days are cheaper

 

Tip 4: Some Flights Really Are Almost Free…Using Airline Miles. Get Loyal.

cheapflightsprice

This is how much I paid for 2 round trip tickets to Tahiti when I used my AAdvantage miles

I am a huge proponent of finding a frequent flier program and staying loyal to the airline and their partners. If you are a frequent flyer and don’t belong to a loyalty program you are missing out on free travel! In the past year I have flown to Tokyo, Seoul and Los Angeles and spent less than $100 total on all of those flights. I also recently purchased 2 round trip tickets to Tahiti for a grand total of $123.80. If you are planning an international trip and want to use miles, it’s good to start planning early as the airlines only allot a certain number of award tickets per flight and popular routes sell out fast.

 

Tip 5: Look For New Routes on New and Major Airlines

wow

“When an airline enters a market (like WOW) or begins a new route (like Virgin between DC and Dallas), fares are as low as they can get. Plus, other carriers usually drop their fares to match the new player.” – Charles of McCool Travel

When a major airline begins a new service, it’s usually pretty big news and they’ll start hyping it months in advance. If you’re interested in the destination, it’s a good idea to keep checking in to see when tickets will be available for purchase. A lot of times the airlines will offer promotional fares for the first month or two to get the word out and build excitement. Husband and I got a great deal on flights to Seattle last year when Alaska Airlines began a new non-stop service from our home airport to the West Coast.

 

Tip 6: Search For Budget Airlines

spirit

Many times when you search for flights on a traditional travel services site, low-cost carriers will not show up in the search. Before you buy your ticket, especially flights within a country or to neighboring ones, check to see what low-cost airlines are in the area and then go to their sites and see if they have service to and from the cities you want to visit. Here’s a complete list of all low-cost carriers around the world.

 

Tip 7: Don’t Limit Yourself to the Closest Airport

multiairport

If you’re not finding flights in the price range you want, try searching from the next closest airport. You might be able to save hundreds, especially if a nearby airport is a much larger airport with more service. Of course, be sure to calculate how much it will cost in gas and parking if you do go to an airport further away.

 

Tip 8: Know the Best Days to Fly

“I’ve always found Thursdays a good day to fly, avoiding the weekends when prices tend to be higher, and also early in the week when people travel for business.” Heather of Conversant Traveller

Know that flying during the weekend will always be more expensive than during the week. If you can avoid weekend travel you could save a ton of money.

 

Tip 9: Clear Your Cookies and Go Incognito

incognito

A few years ago we couldn’t help but notice that when we spent weeks stalking flights on-line, that they would always creep up in price.
Although not fool-poof, some degree of price-hiking can be avoided if you search each time using an ‘incognito window’ on your web browser. Otherwise, the airline websites will know that you’ve been looking at the same flight for weeks, guess that you’re pretty set on travelling that route, and so hide the cheaper prices from you! –Andrew and Emily of Along Dusty Roads

When I search, I do it via incognito mode.  Browsers remembers cookies or trackers. The more you search for the same flight, the more it deems that you are in need, thus the prices go higher. In incognito mode, cookies are cleared and it is a fresh start every time.-Karla of Karla Round the World

 

Tip 10: Play around with your options

“Some ticketing ploys I regularly use include:
– One-ways. Instead of buying a round-trip (return) flight on one carrier. I will fly in one direction on one airline and back on another. I may even use different airports, creating an open jaw or circle itinerary.
-For more than one person, search rates for one passenger. I have saved money buying one or two tickets, then two other tickets on the same flights (rather than 3 or 4 together).
– Split tickets. For many routes that require a connection, it might be possible to buy separate round trips. For example, if it costs $1,900 to fly from NYC to Christchurch and there is a $999 special from LAX, then buy separate tickets between NYC-LAX and LAX-Christchurch. Besides saving money, you can pick preferred airlines and create stopover vacations (in both directions).” –Charles of McCool Travel
There are many ways to score a cheap airfare. I often take the “red eye” flights which are very late at night or very early in the morning.  Since, I can sleep throughout the flight anyway, this works for me. -Karla of Karla Round the World

 

Tip 11: If You Do Find a Cheap Flight, Make Sure You Don’t Miss It!

This is a serious nightmare. For some reason you think you know what time your flight leaves, but when you get to the airport you realize that you were looking at what time your flight arrives instead of departs, or you were just completely in your own world. This happened to me once and not only was it a shock, I almost lost my job because I was unable to get home until the next evening. Don’t let this happen to you.

{Make sure} you actually make it to your flight. I literally will set five or more alarms with labels on what I need to be doing (like calling Uber) before my flight. -Alyssa of My Life’s a Movie

 

The best websites to use to find cheap flights

Please note: I am not affiliated with or receiving compensation from any of these websites. I use all of these sites myself or they were recommended by fellow travelers.

  • For airfare, use Google’s ITA Matrix. This, along with Google Flights is the best tool for finding the cheapest airfare, in my opinion. You can specify a certain airline or search all airlines. They will come back with an entire month of airfare and you can see which days are cheaper. If your travel schedule is flexible this is a great way to decide when to go on your trip. The only downside is that you can’t actually book your flights through the site, but you can get the details and be able to quickly book the fight from the airline’s website.

 

“Easily the best resource I have found to discover cheap flights is subscribing to The Flight Deal daily newsletter. We have flown round trip from Portland to Chicago for $100 and just took a trip from Seattle to Hong Kong for $450 round trip, taxes included. This can be a great resource when you don’t know where you want to travel to next, as long as it’s cheap. The Flight Deal will direct you to ITA Software Matrix Airfare Search and will detail how to search and find the cheapest fare.  The ITA Software can be easy to navigate or you can use advanced routing codes to find flights that don’t show up on normal flight searches. Another great resource is Google Flights. I love that it gives the flexibility to search for flights to a general region such as “Europe” or more specific like “Central Europe.” The Explore Map on Google Flights is really fun to play with as well, you can find flights to airports you didn’t know exist which may be cheaper to fly into.” –Valerie of Dailey Adventurers

 

  • I also like to use Kayak and Hipmunk because they search tons of travel websites at once to bring you the best deals from all over the web. You can also sign up for airfare price alerts on routes you’re interested in and they will notify you if the ticket price changes.

 

Skyscanner is a great website that allows you to search for flights without knowing your destination. Just type ‘everywhere’ into the destination box and it will display all available flights from your chosen airport. Perfect if you have specific dates and just want to see how far your money will take you!” – Heather of Conversant Traveller

Skyscanner is a seriously beloved website…

“Skyscanner- Awesome app! You can choose your destination as “Everywhere” and literally see flight costs for all over the world at the lowest available rates for the dates you select. There was another time I was searching, and was able to do a reverse lookup for a flight. I had chosen my destination and searched backwards for the cheapest available travel dates…I still can’t remember how I ended up doing it!” –Winter of Winter Travels the World

  • For crazy good flight deals you need to follow The Points Guy. He is always posting airline sales and mistake fares (which go fast). We got our $119 Chicago tickets after seeing his post about the sale on Facebook. You can also find out about the latest credit card sign-up offers and any changes to airline or hotel loyalty programs.

 

Dial-a-Flight have often come up with some cracking deals for me, and unusually for sales staff the team there are a lovely bunch, really knowledgeable and helpful rather than trying to give you the hard sell. Chances are they’ll have visited your destination themselves and it’s fun chatting and listening to their insider tips. You need to call them around 10-11 months in advance for the best deals, and don’t just look at the ones on their website as these do change.” Heather of Conversant Traveller 

 

Hopefully you found this guide to find cheap flights helpful and informative. Do you have any tips to share that aren’t on the list? What are some of the best flight deals you’ve found?

 

5 comments

Skip to comment form

  1. Charles McCool

    Useful collection of air travel strategies and tips.
    Charles McCool recently posted…8 Great Ways to Get Lower AirfaresMy Profile

  2. Michelle

    Great tips! I love travelling during off peak season for that reason 😀 Plus less crowds!
    Michelle recently posted…Is German customer service really that bad? (My experiences including a horrifying story involving Clever Fit München Mitte)My Profile

  3. A Swede Abroad

    I book all my flights, hotels etc. with a incognito browser. It makes a such of difference and I’m surprised that not more people use it.

    1. Katrina H.

      That’s awesome! I didn’t used to and once I learned about it it was crazy what flights/prices I was able to find!

  4. Roland Fortino

    Do be careful, as some budget airlines will charge a fee for any changes. Flag carrying airlines like British Airways often release cheap flights months in advance, with cheap international flights becoming available five and a half months before departure. If you’ve always dreamed of flying to New York, Thailand, or Australia, then don’t wait until the last minute to book the trip of a lifetime. Alternatively you can check http://www.flight-hotel.com for updated cheap deals.

Comments have been disabled.