For some reason I love checking flight rates and deals. I guess it’s kind of like window shopping – I’m not actually buying the flights most of the time, but I like to imagine the freedom of being in another country as I look through prices. From checking flight rates consistently for the past year, I’ve learned many secrets to finding the best deals. Through this practice I’ve also figured out standards for prices to most countries. I have a good sense of what are cheap international and domestic flight rates to different locations.
You might not think it’s a huge deal to find the most affordable rates for flights, but when you think about all of the travel costs that add up, you’ll realize the importance of being careful with your spending. Every penny counts!
So without further ado, here are 8 secrets to finding the cheapest flights:
1. Let Deals Plan Your Trips
There’s the saying that you should buy what you need, not what you want. Travel though, is usually a luxury, something you don’t exactly ‘need’. So if you’re going to go on these leisurely trips you might as well fly cheap and plan them according to flight prices. Too many people jump on travel plans after deliberation with friends and deciding they HAVE to go to a certain location at a certain time. Let the deal take you. Pay attention to flight deals for ideas on where to go, and once there’s an appealing deal, jump on it solo or suggest the deal to your friends. With this mindset, I’ve gone on weekend trips from the Bay Area, California to Las Vegas or Phoenix, Arizona for around $110 or less without taking days off work. I’ve also bought roundtrip flights to Hong Kong and Dubai for $600. Studying flight prices I am aware of what is considered a good deal and what isn’t.
2. Buy and Fly at the Right Time
If you HAVE to purchase a flight for a special occasion like a wedding or family event, make sure to buy your tickets at the right time and fly at the right time (if you can).
- Multiple sources state that Sunday and Tuesday afternoon are the best times to buy tickets.
- Tuesday and Wednesday are the cheapest days to fly.
- Based on 1.5 billion airfares, cheapair.com found that booking 47 days in advance is usually the sweet spot for cheapest airfare (Feb. 2015 report).
- Personally, my rule is to not book too early or too late – but usually I swoop on flight deals so it doesn’t really matter for me.
3. Take Advantage of Google Flights
Google Flights is by far my FAVORITE tool for looking up flights. In fact it’s one of the only tools I use when searching for prices. Reasons being:
- Ability to search multiple airports: Being from the bay area, I can fly out of three nearby airports (SFO, SJC, OAK). Google Flights allows you to select up to 5 origin airports to search for.
- Easy-to-use fare calendar: Once you search for flights, Google will provide a calendar of fares for you so you can easily compare flight prices. For example, if you enter a round trip search with 3 days in between, the fare calendar will base off of this and show you fares for each day. Other flight aggregators (for example kayak.com and orbitz.com) make it hard to compare prices for different days.
- Includes most airlines: Google Flights even includes cheap domestic airlines like JetBlue, Virgin America, and RyanAir. The only airline I’ve noticed that’s left out is Southwest Airlines (so make sure to check their rates when you’re doing your flight shopping). I’ve also found that a lot of the extreme flight deals you randomly come across are normally included on Google Flights as well.
- Simple Interface: Google Flights is very clean and simple, unlike many other flight aggregators!
Check out my detailed post on why Google Flights is superior.
4. Check One Way Flights
Sometimes you can find better deals by searching one way flights rather than round trip flights, reason being that round trip searches do NOT include different airlines for the flight there and flight back. Here is a strategy I like to use with Google Flights: open up two browsers and search one way flights for each way. Occasionally, the cheapest flights will be from two different airlines going each way and you’ll grab a deal that’s better than a roundtrip flight.
5. Monitor Deal Sites
My favorite deal sites are theflightdeal.com and thepointsguy.com. They’re both very clear and concise. I normally stick with The Flight Deal but I’ve noticed The Points Guy has occasionally posted offers I hadn’t noticed before.
6. Follow These Twitter Users
To stay even more on top of flight deals, follow these Twitter Users:
These accounts are constantly posting deals like this:
7. Stay Aware of the Cheapest Airports
Sometimes it’s cheaper to fly to certain countries within the same continent of where you’re going, and travel country to country within that continent. For example, RyanAir is a cheap airline that allows you to fly within Europe usually around $10-50 per trip. If you were flying to Europe, it may be beneficial to fly into a ‘cheaper’ airport like Malpensa Airport in Milan, Italy and then RyanAir it to your destination. Here’s an example of the cheapest European airports to fly into.
8. Become a Master Travel Hacker
This is something I’m still working on. Travel hacking is basically the art of collecting and spending frequent flyer miles and points for free travel. If you sign up for loyalty programs and specific credit cards you can obtain a lot of free flights (and hotel stays). Through this method, I’ve been able to acquire a handful of free Hong Kong flights. The Points Guy has a great beginner’s guide on getting started with travel hacking.
We hope these tips will help you in finding the cheapest flights out there! If you have any other tips, please don’t hesitate to comment below. We’d love to hear from you!