The first step in booking a trip (unless you’re planning an epic road trip) is booking your flights. Flight prices play a huge role in your overall travel budget and knowing how to find cheap flights is the biggest way we’re able to travel as often as we do!
When wanderlust is on the rise and global travel is more accessible than ever, finding affordable airfares has become an absolute must for travelers. Whether you’re a budget-conscious traveler or a frequent flyer, mastering the art of how to find cheap flights can be a game changer for your travel plans.
Booking flights can be stressful. In fact, we often hear that it is the biggest stressor of trip planning. BUT once your flights are booked – the travel bug high sets in and the excitement can start. AFTER flights are booked is our favourite phase of traveling – the dreamy travel planning phase.
One of the biggest questions we get is “How to find cheap flights?”. After years of full time travel, we are now experts in how to find flight deals. Below we’re letting you in on all of our secrets and tips we’ve learned over the years and all the flights we’ve taken.
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How To Find Cheap Flights
Whether you’re a budget or a luxury traveler, finding the best flight deals will allow you to spend your money doing fun things on your vacation. Booking flights is often the most stressful part for travelers. After years of travel, we’ve become pros and we’re filling you in on everything we’ve learned about how to find cheap flights.
Keep reading – number 16 is a game changer!
1. Be flexible with your travel dates and times
Don’t tell your boss we said so but before you book your vacation with work book your holiday… or at least plan it! Many times a flight can be hundreds of dollars cheaper only being a day or two different than the time you selected. If you can afford yourself some flexibility in your dates, it could save you big and let you travel more often – something we love!
When you’re searching dates, most websites will have an “I’m flexible” section or a box you can tick for “+/- 5 days”. Use these to play with the dates your trips start and end to see if you can get some cheaper flight deals.
Using Google Flights is a good starting point. You can pull up the calendar and it will show the whole month to give you a good idea of what prices are like. This will give you a good idea of when to book.
2. Book In the off season (or at least shoulder seasons)
One of the golden rules of frugal travel is to be aware of your destination’s peak tourism seasons. Whether around Christmas in Mexico or Songkran in Thailand, all popular destinations will have their peak season when tourists flock to the area. Avoiding the peak travel season of your destination will save you huge amounts of money – and not just in airfare!
While you may expect cheap accommodation and fewer crowds in the off season, you can also get really good deals on airfare.
We know what you’re thinking, “Who wants to go to Indonesia in Typhoon season?”. Well, in order to score a deal you don’t have to commit to the lowest travel season, but finding a happy medium in the shoulder seasons will still save you some dough! Look for the months in between peak season and off season and book your flights there to save money while still getting nice weather.
For example: the Yucatan Peninsula’s off peak time is from June to October but it also coincides with hurricane season – not an ideal time to travel. Peak travel time is between December and April. Their “shoulder season” would be traveling in November, April, and May. During this time you’d get great deals on flights and accommodations without compromising on your experience.
3. Choose a midweek flight departure
Planning your flights for mid week is a great way to score some wicked flight deals. Like many things, prices on the weekend skyrocket as these are the busiest travel days. Instead, departing Tuesday to Thursday is a great way to save money.
4. Be flexible with your destination
If you’re seriously focused on how to find cheap flights, being flexible with where you go on your vacation is a great option. Unlocking truly affordable flight deals often involves expanding your horizons beyond your primary destination. You don’t have to compromise on how you vacation, but instead where you vacation. For example, if you want a destination with stunning beaches, lazy islands, and a ton of great culture, you may book a trip to Belize instead of Costa Rica.
5. Explore nearby airports
Many big cities will have multiple airports and choosing a smaller lesser known one can save you some serious cash. It can also be a great way to see a new area. Each airport will have its own set of airlines and pricing structures. Airport fees can be a huge driving factor in driving prices up.
When you’re booking your flight, start by typing in the city you want to travel to rather than the specific airport you’re looking for and then selecting “nearby airports”. Comparing fares from these nearby airports can reveal surprising differences in ticket prices.
We did this when we traveled to the UK. We looked at flying in and out of Gatwick International Airport instead of Heathrow International Airport. We decided to fly into Heathrow and out of Gatwick to get the cheapest flights.
While evaluating alternative airports, remember to factor in transportation costs to get to your main destination. Even if a nearby airport offers cheaper flights, the savings could be offset by higher transportation expenses, and take significantly longer, to reach your final stop. Mapping out costs for transit to your hotel should be a part of your considerations before jumping to the cheaper price.
6. Be on alert for special deals
Whenever possible, start your planning early so that you have some time to watch prices before booking your flight. Airfare prices change frequently and quickly and depend on a lot of different factors. Staying up to date on these fluctuations is a great proactive strategy for scoring awesome flight deals. Having a reference of what the average flight price to your destination is will help you identify a great deal.
One of the best tricks on how to find cheap flights is to set up fare alerts for your trip. With this, you will specify your intended departure and destination dates along with your travel dates. You can go about your daily life without monitoring flights and will be emailed with price fluctuations. You can do this by using a flight search engine (wait for number 9).
As prices move quickly, you will want to have a price in mind and be ready to move quickly when you get alerted to an option that works for you. Flight prices change so quickly, the last thing you want is to find a good flight deal – and then miss it!
7. Fly budget carriers
A great way of getting cheaper flights is to avoid the big name airlines which have a lot of extra bells and whistles that come with an inflated price tag. Budget airlines often get a bad rep. While you can’t go in expecting luxury, this is a top travel tip for budget travelers who really want to know how to find cheap flights.
Called “budget airlines” for a reason, airlines like Ryanair, Swoop, Tiger Air, Southwest, and Flair have a more a la carte approach to air travel allowing you to get great deals if you don’t need modern luxuries. For short distances, we have had some great success using budget airlines. Our rule of thumb typically is flights under 4 hours we have no problem with a low cost airline whereas overseas flights might be more uncomfortable.
One thing to consider is baggage fees! You can get hit with some MAJOR hidden costs with a cheap airline – particularly when it comes to luggage. While we always recommend packing as light as possible, this is especially important with low cost airlines. If you can pack light (both in the number of bags and overall bag weight) then you will have less surprises at the airport.
As we said before, don’t expect bells and whistles with these airlines. You’ll typically not have an easy to reach customer service center to call if you need to change any flight details. You will also not be offered in flight meals or access to TVs and the chairs are often a lot more cramped and uncomfortable. Don’t worry though – soon enough you’ll be at your destination.
8. Don't always fly direct
Layovers are viewed by some as an inconvenience. We see them as the ultimate travel hack. Direct flights are often preferred and seen as more convenient but they can come with a premium price tag. On the other hand, flights with layovers tend to be more affordable, and with careful planning, they can add a whole lot of fun and experience to your journey abroad.
If you’re wondering how to find cheap flights and travel to multiple destinations, this is it! Check out how we get two vacations for the price of one.
Open jaw flights are becoming more popular and are a great way to see more while you travel. This is when you fly from city A to city B, travel via train or rental car to city C, and then fly home to city A. For example, if your home city is Chicago (city A) and you’re flying into San Francisco (city B), then renting a car and driving to San Diego (city C), and flying out of there back to Chicago.
This allows you to travel without having to return to the place you flew into and can help maximize your time spent in other countries. We do this a lot and find it not only saves us money on flights but also on transportation costs.
9. Not all flight search engines are equal
Flight search engines are an essential tool for finding cheap flights. Just as you shop around for other big ticket items, you will definitely want to do so with flights. The worst thing you can do is book with the first search engine you look at. Instead, shop around and compare prices using the different features different search engines offer.
Google Flights: Flexibility Meets Insights
Google Flights provides a valuable feature that displays price trends over several months. This allows travelers to pinpoint the best time to book their flights based on historical data, ensuring they secure tickets when prices are likely to be at their lowest.
- If you know you want to travel but aren’t set on a specific destination, have some fun and compare prices. You can put in your preferred departure airport and then for destination type “Anywhere”. This will pull up a world map with prices hovering over each destination. You can add filters to pinpoint travel length, layovers, airlines, etc. This is one of the best features for trip planning and one of our absolute favourite starting points for trip planning.
Kayak: Your All-in-One Travel Companion
Kayak simplifies the flight search process by aggregating and comparing prices from multiple travel sites, allowing users to view a comprehensive range of options all in one place. This saves time and ensures that you’re not missing out on any potential savings. Kayak’s straightforward interface makes it easy to filter and sort results based on your preferences.
Hopper: Top Flight Smartphone App
If you’re like us and use your smartphone to find and book flights, Hopper is a great travel app to have. When you type in your departure and arrival airport it will pull up the calendar for you to select your desired dates.. It has different colours for each day indicating which days are cheapest for that location. You can use this to play with the length of your trip to get the best deals.
We love using Hopper for its “Watching” tool. This handy feature will activate notifications for your searched trip. Not only will it let you know when it thinks prices will go up and down, but it will even send you notifications straight to your phone on price fluctuations. This can help you decide whether to buy now or wait for prices to drop.
10. Mix and match airlines
Sometimes it’s cheaper to book two one-way tickets instead of a round-trip ticket. We often find booking two one way tickets to end up saving us hundreds in airline costs. You should also be open to mixing and matching airlines here to see if you can find a better deal. Just make sure to watch for hidden costs for different airlines (mostly in the way of baggage fees).
If you want to get really intricate you can buy 2 tickets to get you to your destination. This works better in places with cheap intercontinental flights (ie. Europe and Asia).
For example: If you’re flying from Vancouver Canada and looking to go to Ibiza, it may be cheaper to first fly into a major airport like Frankfurt Germany, and then book an additional ticket with a budget airline to take you down to Ibiza.
11. Use points and miles
Most people have a credit card and if you don’t get points with yours you’re missing out big time. Some higher end credit cards have amazing point programs that allow you to fly for free multiple times a year. Most allow you to book any flight with any airline. The cherry on top is most of these credit cards have sign up bonuses that can equal up to $1000’s of dollars in points.
In many cases, you can even combine your credit card points with your airmiles points to get massive savings. Check with your credit card provider and make sure to read the fine print. You can also use websites like AwardHacker or AwardWallet to compare and manage your points and miles. And if you don’t already have a points credit card – get one!
Some credit cards even give you access to exclusive airport lounges that include free meals and drinks.
12. Search ticket prices for individual travelers
Some airlines offer lower prices for solo travelers than for groups. Try searching for tickets as an individual traveler to see if you can find a better deal. Make sure to check that you are still on the same flight as your group. This could be a good way to keep costs down – especially if you are willing to not sit together.
13. Other currencies
Sometimes it’s cheaper to buy tickets in other currencies than in your own currency. This is especially true if you have a strong currency (like the US dollar). Try searching for tickets in other currencies to see if you can find a better deal.
You will definitely want to check your credit card or bank’s exchange rate before buying your tickets. An unfavourable exchange rate might eat away at your savings and even backfire making the flight more expensive.
14. Book early (or last minute)
Booking your flight too early or too late can sometimes result in higher prices. Try booking your flight 2-3 months in advance to get the best deal. Last minute bookings used to be a great way to score a deal but nowadays can lead to inflated prices – especially around holidays. This is where price alerts come in handy and can tell you when the best time to book is. You can also use Google Flights to plan out the best time to book your flight to maximize your chances of cheap flights.
15. Book hidden city fares
Hidden city fares are when you book a flight with a layover but get off at the layover instead of continuing on to the final destination. This is common with flights in Canada. If you are hoping to fly from Kelowna to Vancouver, it can sometimes be cheaper to buy a ticket from Kelowna to Edmonton with a layover in Vancouver and then just don’t take your second flight.
While this can result in lower prices, it’s important to check as this practice is against some airlines’ policies.
16. Search using Incognito or Private mode
This is one of our biggest money saving hacks! Websites use your search history against you. When you search a flight multiple times you may notice the price keeps increasing. To combat this you can use the incognito or private mode so travel companies can’t track you. You should also clear your browser cache – this will make it look like it’s the first time you’re searching for those flights.
When we first started traveling, we didn’t know that using our browsers incognito mode to search and book flights would save us so much and we ended up paying way more! This is one of our biggest tips! Wipe your cookies and use incognito mode to get the best deals.
17. Check the Flight Price the next day
Most booking companies let you cancel or change your flight within 24 hours of buying your plane ticket. After you’ve booked your ticket, spend the next day or so watching flight costs to make sure they don’t drop. If they do, you can change or alter your tickets to get a better deal.
Thanks for stopping by!
It is no secret that we love to live to travel. Our goal, and the reason we made this website, is to help inspire others to get out and travel and explore this world more. We’ve been on hundreds of flights and now we’re letting you in on all the travel secrets we’ve learned to keep costs down. Now all that’s left to do is book your holiday!
Bon Voyage, travelers!
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