After a recent Instagram poll, you guys mentioned that you wanted to see more travel tips on the blog for the new year. If you’ve been following this blog from the beginning you might remember I used to do an annual tip of the week. I got great feedback from this feature, however, when I went back to working full time the extra weekly posts proved to be quite the challenge. These days a post once a week is all I have to give. Although, my posts are much more detailed oriented and I thought about bringing back the weekly tips, however, I figured it would be better to post one detailed post where you can find all the info you need as opposed to dragging it out over weeks. So with that being said, when I first started traveling, I’m convinced I read every article about finding cheap flights in the history of the internet. I’ll often post about a cheap flight on my Facebook or Instagram page but these are the methods I use and find the most effective. I’m always still learning but any info I don’t know chances are I know someone who does, so after extensive research and interviews, these are my best recommendations for finding cheap flights.
Use a search engine
When looking for a flight it can be intimidating trying to look up what airlines to fly with beeing that there are so many options available. If you’re not loyal to a specific airline, i.e you don’t use miles and just want the cheapest flight, use a search engine. I’d recommend Google Flights or Skyscanner. I’m more partial to Skyscanner though because if I know I have time off and want to plan a vacation I’ll use the explore option and search for the cheapest flights then plan my vacation accordingly. The search engine will scan ever website for you and then provide you with every option available. You can search by, time, date, airline, layover preference, etc. Which leads me to my next tip…
Are you flexible on time or dates off? Flights are always cheaper if you leave on a Tuesday or Wednesday. Sunday is the most expensive day to fly back so if you can avoid it and fly back on Tuesday you can save hundreds of dollars. Be mindful of peak seasons. Traveling in the summer months are more expensive than in the offseason. Tropical places can still be enjoyable in the offseason and colder destinations can be just as nice in the Winter. Another good general rule of thumb is to avoid traveling during popular holidays. Everyone travels during Christmas time and airlines know that hence a larger than normal price tag.
It’s not necessary for every website, but in general, it’s a good idea to search incognito when you’re looking up flights, hotels, car rentals, etc. Several websites will use “cookies” to track your search history. Websites like Expedia will see that you are searching flights based on your history and will raise the price of flights because they know that you are looking to buy. By searching incognito, you’ll hide your search history so companies won’t have access to this information. You can open up an incognito window by opening up your search engine, I use google chrome, clicking on the “file” tab and then by clicking on “new incognito window.”
Embrace the Layover
Flights with long layovers tend to be lower in price than direct flights simply because most people hate them. If you’ve ever had to sleep overnight in an airport or book a stay in an airport hotel than you definitely know why it’s awful. However, sometimes long layovers can work to your advantage! For example, I recently found a $400 round-trip ticket to the Philippines from NYC with a 13/15-hour layover in Shanghai, China. Shanghai has been on my list for a while now so I was more than happy to entertain the idea of a quick pit stop. I arrive in Shanghai at 6 am and depart at 10 pm, giving me a full day of exploring Shanghai on the way there and back. I don’t need to book a hotel since I can sleep on the plane for my next flight and I can always check my carry-on luggage at the airport or check a bag and just take essentials in an easy to carry carry-on. This is a great way to explore a city and get a, as I like to say, “flavor,” to see if one day you’d like to come back. Sometimes airlines will even offer you free layovers as a special promotion to entice you to visit their country like Iceland air in Iceland or Etihad in Abu Dhabi.
Fly into a city outside of your destination
Have a destination in mind but flights are expensive? Do some research on Skyscanner and see if there’s an airport a bit outside of the main city that you can fly to and take a cheap train or bus to the main city. Popular budget airlines will typically do this but you could fly into Frankfurt, Germany for example and rent a car and drive to Paris. It’s not always that easy of course but definitely worth investigating if you are looking to save some money. When I flew to South Africa, for example, I flew into Johannesburg and rented a car and drove 8 hours to Kruger National park instead of taking an expensive connecting flight to Kruger.
Price difference refunds
This one can be tricky. I’ve personally never been able to pull this one off but I certainly know people who have. Essentially, if you are stalking airline tickets and see that a price has dropped you can call the airline and see if they’ll refund you the difference or negotiate a full refund and book a new ticket with the cheaper price. If you go through a second party agency website they might not refund you but a major airline might honor it, especially if you’re a loyal member.
Have a destination in mind that you’ve been dying to visit? Sign up for flight alerts! Google flights and Skyscanner offer this option for specific destinations that will email you when prices have gone up or down. This also works well if you are interested in negotiating for a price difference refund. Typically the best time to book a flight is three months prior to your planned departure. As you get closer to your departure date prices will start to increase. That’s not always the case in the wild west of flight booking but generally, that’s the most common trend.
Skip the last leg of your trip
To be honest, I haven’t personally tried this but know many people who have and they’ve saved tons of money. For those of you not as familiar, skipping the last leg of your trip refers to booking a flight with a layover and missing the second flight. The idea is that the layover is actually your intended destination and you simply miss the second flight. Now, this only works for the second flight as once you miss the first flight your whole itinerary gets canceled. Not to mention, you can’t travel with a checked bag as it will continue on to your final destination. Overall, this method provides a lot of finesse and would only recommend experienced travelers do this. Websites like Skiplagged are great for looking up these flights with their homepage alma mater saying, “Our flights are so cheap, United sued us…but we won.”
If you travel, even a little, you know exactly the kind of budget airlines I’m referring to…Spirit airline, Frontier, EasyJet, Ryan Air, etc. So let’s break down the pros and cons. Are you traveling in luxury? Absolutely not. Does everything cost extra? Sure does. So when is it beneficial to fly on a budget airline? If you’re traveling a short distance, as in anything under three hours, it’s worth it, in my opinion. If the trip is broken up with a short layover, it’s worth it. Some tips when flying budget airlines are: buy a checked bag as soon as you purchase the ticket. Checked bags are cheaper in price when you book in advance and carry-on’s typically aren’t included. Bring a snack with you. Snacks and food are extra so come prepared and buy a water bottle before you board. Print your boarding pass before your flight. Some budget airlines will charge you for this and it’s better to have it printed and not need it than get hit with an extra 15 dollar fee for printing the boarding pass.
Credit card points
Credit card points and miles are a great way to get credit towards flights from everyday spending. Of course, you have to be careful with credit cards as they can end up doing more damage than good, however, if you use them responsibly for everyday purchases you could earn a significant amount of miles and credits towards flights. This method is best for frequent travelers and long-term use but if you have one dream destination in mind and want to use those free sign-up miles this is a good option. The Points Guy is a great website for finding out more info on travel cards.
Have any other tips? Any questions? Leave a comment and let me know! Hope this helps you on your next vacation.