How to Find Cheap Flights

We’ve had a number of people recently ask how we manage to get such cheap flights in the past, so we thought we’d share 10 of the most important lessons we’ve learned along the way when booking our vacations. Particularly with international travel, flying is almost always the most expensive part of your travel, but it doesn’t have to be. Use some of our tips, and hopefully you will save money too!

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Flexibility

You need to be flexible on dates to get the best prices. This is the biggest and most valuable piece of advice. While not as feasible in the US, in Asia and Europe you can find flights for super cheap if you are patient. We booked multiple $20 flights on EasyJetRyanAir, and TigerAir discount airlines in the past. The landing time or amount of layover may not be ideal, but if you’re willing to sacrifice the perfect itinerary, you can find these gems.

Use Skyscanner.com to start your search. This is a handy flight search tool that gives you an idea on what days (and even months!) are the cheapest. For an extra dose of wanderlust you can even choose your current location, and put in “everywhere” as the destination. This will show you the cheapest flights anywhere in the world. How’s that for inspiration?! Kayak.com also has this feature, called “Explore”.

UPDATE: Google Flights has recently updated their search tool with easy to use features and more reliable results. It is now our 1st choice when researching!

We also love SkyScanner’s option to sign up for a daily email alert for the flight you want. We use this feature when we know where and when we want to fly, but are just waiting to see if the price will go down any further. A warning about Skyscanner though, is that we don’t recommend buying tickets from any of the budget booking websites that are the first to pop up, as many of them are small companies that cannot always be trusted. Always google reviews of the company and read the fine print. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

Check The Airline

Our first preference when actually booking the flight is directly with the airline. If you’re lucky, the airline’s official website will have special fare’s or promotions in your favor. Even if there isn’t, if we have a choice, we will always choose the airline over a 3rd party. We are careful when booking with a 3rd party because the airline is typically easier to handle when things go array during travel, such as a flight cancellation or delay. For better service, it can pay to go direct.

However, if the price we want isn’t available on that particular airline, we will book with Kayak, CheapOair, or Expedia. Typically, these are the only search engines we trust.

Forget The Extras

Discount airlines will most certainly try and make money from you at every step of the booking process. They have a reputation for this. We know someone who got charged $75 on RyanAir for not having a printed itinerary. It’s bananas.

If there is an extra cost for choosing your seat or priority boarding, resist the temptation. We’ve managed to find two seats together. If there isn’t overhead room for your bag, they will check it. Also, avoid purchasing airline food. For one, it’s always terrible. Two, we are confident you can buy better choices than a $12 sandwich. Obviously, most airports won’t let you bring water through security, but we’ve managed to avoid the overpriced ones at the gate by purchasing foldable reusable water bottles that we fill up at the water fountain and fold up in our carry on when empty. Every little bit counts!

Also, pack light. We’ve heard of people being cleared for weight on the first leg of their trip, but then were charged excess weight on the second leg because it was a different airline (with different rules), or worse, getting charged twice! Airlines are even starting to make you pay for just a carry-on. Avoid all this hassle and only carry what you need. Statistics show that people only use 20% of the clothes they pack for 80% of the trip anyway.

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Find A Coupon

We love CheapOair for their coupons, because they almost always have discount vouchers available online, making them a little cheaper than the competition. Google “cheapoair discount code” and choose the one you need. In the past, we’ve gotten $50-$100 off. Easy peasy.

Check Alternative Routes

If the flight has multiple stops or there are other airports in the vicinity, search alternatives. In Orlando, there is a lesser-known airport (called Orlando Sanford International Airport) that was previously used for cargo and flight training. It is now owned by a European company, offering flights to Europe for much cheaper. We’ve gone to Iceland for $600 and returned (one way) from the UK for $300. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense, but research all options and you might be surprised.

As a word of warning, make sure the alternative airport doesn’t cost you more in the end. For example, if the flight is a few hundred dollars cheaper but it is 3 hours from your destination, it might not be worth the money you’re saving. We often keep Google Maps open so we can calculate how long the extra transport might be.

Avoid Weekends

Most people know that if you choose an inbound and outbound flight date that lands on a weekend it will be more expensive, but did you know that weekends will also affect the price when you purchase your ticket? Avoid researching on weekends. Flights will typically be their cheapest midweek. It’s not a 100% bulletproof theory, but we’ve seen it happen enough times to advise against it.

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1 Person vs. Family price

Always choose the 1 person price before you check multiple seats. Many airlines will price seats differently and charge you the higher price if you are requiring more then one seat. Sometimes if you choose the 1 seat, view the price, and then change your quantity, you can lock in the cheaper price for all the seats you require.

Do It Yourself

We know people who have used travel agents for round the world trips in the past, deciding it was worth the extra money to avoid booking all of the legs themselves. It was more convenient. However, if you have the time and energy to do it yourself, you can typically find the same flights for cheaper. Remember, they need to make money! They often won’t check the low-cost airlines or check multiple days and/or separate legs.

Sign up for the Newsletter

While it is rare that we join newsletters, we have to admit that they can be helpful. If you go to a specific region regularly, join an email list through the airline. By doing this, you will get regular notices about the special deals and promotions they have, putting you first in line to grab those great deals.

Stop Searching

This is a tough one for us both. After the amount of energy we put into researching flights, we try our best not to go back and look at how the prices have changed. While we love that awesome feeling of victory in beating the system, on the flip side it can also leave you super bummed out if the cost is lower.

The hardest part of purchasing a flight is clicking that booking button. You feel dread at first with the money you’re about to spend, slowing evolving into relief that you’ve done it, and lastly an overwhelming amount of excitement over all the adventure to be had. Don’t ruin that! You’ve made the commitment. Don’t look back. You’ve done your best, be happy with the price you’ve chosen. This is just the beginning of your journey. Go research other things!

What’s your favorite tip for finding cheap flights?

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9 responses to “How to Find Cheap Flights

  1. Oooo, great info! I’ve been on the hunt for cheap tickets to Europe for fall, but I think all the prices are hiked right now because it’s summer. Thanks for the great post. 🙂

  2. This is great!! I’ve never used skyscanner and it’s true about only wearing 20% of what you bring! What about when traveling to places when you won’t really know the weather. How do you handle that in terms of clothes?

    • Thank you, Linda! My tactic is to always pack layers. I pack a lot of solid colored shirts, dresses, and pants so that I can layer them with cardigans, jackets, and accessories. I end up bringing too many scarves, but they instantly warm me up and can change an outfit easily. Depending on the region, I will also throw in a rain jacket and/or gloves and beanie (those were life savers in Iceland!). I almost always end up wearing boots on the plane, and packing flats and sandals in my check in. Of course, I find a lot of my information on travel discussion boards as well. 🙂

  3. scanner works great although i would double note your comment on avoiding booking through it but go directly to the airlines website, I’ve heard several stories about third party websites where you get tickets for half the price, have you tried any of them>? can you recommend any that can be trusted?
    http://www.my-interlude.com

    • Agreed, Basel. We prefer to book directly with the airline or using well known trusted sites such as Expedia, Kayak, etc, as a quick search of the reliability of some of those 3rd party websites look shady. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is!

  4. Yes, this is really a great and well thought out post even as we approach July 4th, 2015!. As most of my travel is international, one additional comment is don’t always assume you have to settle for economy class without looking at business class. Sometimes, business class can sell for less than economy!. It’s hard to believe but it’s true. A recent EXAMPLE is New York-Paris for just $474 round trip business class with American. A quick search on http://www.1st-air.net also showed Dallas-Beijing for $1,574 round trip business class and economy at $1,800!.

    The trick is finding out when fares are on the cheap, and when today’s fare may actually become cheaper later. There is a service, http://www.passportpremiere.com that helps travelers fly business class for economy class prices. It ‘s subscription based but is well worth it. REMEMBER, YOU ARE THE BUYER!. Don’t settle for CRAP….

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