How to find a cheap flight in 10 tips.
Never pay too much for your flight.
A lot of people have been asking me recently how to find a cheap flight. Since the price of the flight for most people represents the biggest part of their trip expenses, finding the best flight is just as important as finding the right destination. After all, the money you can save on your flight, creates an extra budget for your stay, or leaves you with more options regarding your accommodation. I will try to provide you with some tips so that you can try to find your cheapest option!
First of all, there are many reasons why prices can be expensive. Understanding this gives you the knowledge to avoid unnecessary expenses. Recently there have been quite a few bankruptcies amongst airlines. Limited competition naturally gives companies less incentive to lower prices. Additionally, since airlines have been cutting routes and capacity, they are flying with full planes and also this means less discounts. Even though oil prices have fallen, and prices have been updated in the past, for the first time since long airline companies are making better profits, and are unlikely to lower their fares more.
However, there are several opportunities to find good deals! Every day there are many new deals, from mistakenly published eroor fares, to other deals competing with competitive airlines. The only difficulty is knowing where to find them.
Here are 10 golden tips!
You will find many tips on the internet, some more valuable as others. You will read for example that the cheapest day to travel is a Tuesday. This is of course variable, and can change from period to period. Dates outside public holidays are better than during holidays. Knowing this it is always better to travel outside the big mass tourism.
search the web incognito
When you are visiting websites looking for tickets, you will often notice that these websites are asking you to accept cookies. Although this hasn’t been proven, you will notice that two people looking on a different computer, even when the destination and the period are exactly the same, prices will be different. Metadata keeps track of your previous travels and search results, and can adapt the prices on your search history. So if you start searching, try to search in your private-browsing mode.
Choose flexible travel dates, and travel destinations
DATES – Ticket prices depend on the days of the week, the time of year, and as just mentioned: the holidays. July and August for example are busy, and therefore expensive travel months. During the winter holidays a lot of people want to go skeeing, or try to get some extra sun in a nice and warm country. Try to travel outside these periods if you want to cut in your flight costs.
If you want to see your favourite city, it is often cheaper to fly in spring or during the fall, as it will be during winter or summer. On top of it, you will enjoy a more quiet and authentic city, less loaded with tourists.
The same goes for weekends: since more people are traveling during weekends, the cheaper option is to avoid weekends and make it a visit during the week. If you fly shortly after a major public holiday, you can even save up to hundreds of dollars in just one flight!
Another trick: flights early in the morning or late at night, are much more attractive pricewise, since most people prefer to travel comfortably during the day.
The key is to fly when nobody else is flying. Airliners raise prices accordingly the demand on the market.
DESTINATIONS – Of course we all have our bucket list with favourite destinations where we would all like to go to. But try to be flexible, some destinations can be hyped, and can be more expensive today as they will be the next time you look. Nowadays it’s very easy to let search engines do the work, and show you the cheaper destinations.
Kayak offers the “Explore” tool: you can put in your airport of departure, and it will show you all the possible flights on a map. Google Flights has a similar and even better feature. Try to be flexible about where you’re going, and you can again save some extra money. There are always good deals on some destinations, but not necessarily on that one destination you had in mind.
Step 1: Go to Google Flights and click the map.
Step 2: Put in your dates and departure airport and see all your options.
Choose cheaper carriers, don’t always fly direct
Some years ago, it was quite expensive to travel intercontinental, since it was only traditional airlines flying at higher rates. Today however there are many low cost airlines flying intercontinental. In Europe and Asia there are several low cost airlines, keeping the prices low due to their competition. Indian and Middle Eastern airlines often are offering cheap flights throughout the subcontinent and Africa. There are not that many in the United States, but if you look you will find some. You can maybe have to cut in some luxury, but you can save some money there.
Just always be careful with the fees they are charging. Low cost airlines are trying to make their profit with checked bags, printing boarding cards, credit card fees, etc. Always carefully read before you book. If you are not sure which airliners are flying to your destination, check the destinations airport list of airliners.
Another good tip, is to check the alternatives. Sometimes it’s cheaper to fly by another airport, rather than to fly direct. Or check the alternative airports around. You can always get a taxi, a train, or a bus to another airport, if the prices from there are more interesting. Sometimes you will be traveling a little longer, but you can cut in your expenses. I recently took a direct flight from Paris to New Delhi and back, costing only 360€ including the train to Paris, while the flight from Brussels was much more expensive.
It may take some extra time, but it is worth checking several airports and several airlines, comparing prices before you book.
Different search engines give different results
Because low cost airlines are usually not paying extra commission to booking sites, they are often left out in the search results. Because of that, it is important to check several search engines. The best search engines are those that are not depending on bookings and commissions, but on advertising. Besides that, not all search engines are covering all areas. On large websites like Kayak or Expedia you will not find Ryanair or AirAsia for example. Some US sites are not showing foreign airliners, that you will find on Skyscanner or Momondo.
Try to make sure you check these ones at least:
Sign up for discounts and frequent flyer programs
If you are a student, always make sure to use that position. Many agencies will offer you discounts for this reason.
Sign up for airline reward programs. No matter how much you fly or not, it’s a good way to get free flights or upgrades. Also keep a close look on the alliances: a lot of different airlines are connected to an alliance, that can provide you with free air miles on your rewards account. By collecting miles and points, you can start traveling the world for little money, or even for free!
- Sign up for the company newsletters: from time to time they will offer you special promotions, adding up after a while.
- Get a travel rewards credit card. Sometimes you will earn free baggage checks or priority boarding. Also, these cards come with high sign-up bonuses.
- Use airline shopping portals: if you shop with companies that are connected with airlines, you can receive free points. These points you can later on use for your travels.
- Dining rewards program. Similar to the shopping portals, there are also restaurants participating in the network of the airliners. When you sign up with your frequent flyer number and register your credit card, you get extra points. In the movie Up in the Air, George Clooney said, “I don’t do anything if it doesn’t benefit my miles account.” That’s the way to go.
Try to join a few mailing lists
Nobody likes a bulky mailbox, but signing up for a few mailing lists from airlines and search engines, can spare you some work crawling the internet. Some deals are limited in time or availability, and it will give you the opportunity not to miss out on them. These three websites are usually offering some interesting deals:
Sign up for our newsletter on wanderlustvlog.com too, we will start collecting and sending interesting deals we stumble upon somewhere soon, without spamming your mailbox too much!
Search ticket prices as one person
Never search for multiple persons, whether you are travelling with your partner or with an entire family. The airline will always look for more expensive seats together, and give you a higher price. So always look as a single person when you book, and in the checkout process, manually pick your seats together so you are sitting next to each other.
Look for tickets in other currencies
Sometimes, not always, it is useful to look in another currency, especially when the currency of your country is strong. Depending on the strength of your currency, changing from dollars into euros, or vice versa, can make a price difference in the end. However, always use a no-foreign-transaction-fee card to avoid paying a surcharge.
Book early, but not too early. Know your price
What happens, is that people intend to wait too long, or book too early, and in the end pay too much. Prices of tickets can vary from day to day, and it is important to realize what a realistic price is. If you wait to long, you might just miss the cheap price. Just always try to feel comfortable with the price you pay.
Mostly the airlines will slowly raise the price, until a certain point where they start adapting the fares depending on the demand. At this point prices can go up or lower. Try to be aware when there are sudden changes in the prices. The best is to book around 6 to 8 weeks in advance, or even three months when we are talking peak season.
Try to take these 10 tips in mind. Overall, don’t spend too much time looking for flights neither. If you find a good price, don’t let it go. Decide what you want to pay, and book. Good luck finding the flight of your dreams!