You have your eye on your next destination, but of course, the flights are overpriced. Should you consider a closer destination? Maybe put the flights on a credit card? Should you just cancel the trip all together? HELL NO! You just need to follow these tips on how to book the cheapest flights for your next adventure.
Pick a booking service
I am the self-proclaimed queen of finding cheap flights. People are constantly asking me how I’m able to find flights to Greece for under $300 or vacations to Indonesia for less than what I’ve spent on shoes. My trick is simple; monitor discount booking sites.
Hopper (app) is my preferred booking service as you can see what dates are offering the cheapest options before booking them. If your dates are flexible, this allows you to have the best chances at scoring extremely cheap tickets. You can either book directly off hopper, or book right through the airlines listed. One thing I like about Hopper is that they don’t list third party discount sites, which are always something I try to stay away from in case of scams.
Another perk of Hopper is the ability to monitor flight prices set on certain dates and receive notifications when those flight prices have fluctuated. After viewing the prices, it will let you know if the prices are likely to increase or decrease based on airfare trends. Finally, if you see a cheap flight, but aren’t ready to book it yet, you can use their “Price Freeze” feature to secure the price is set in stone until you're ready to purchase simply by paying a small fee (usually around $50).
Skyscanner is another booking tool I often check in addition to Hopper. While you can’t book your flights through Skyscanner, they redirect you to either the airline or a third party discount site. Make sure to do your research before booking on these third party platforms - you want to make sure there are no catches or hidden fees.
If you're a student traveler, there are an assortment of discounts you can receive on your adventures, one of them being flights. StudentUniverse is a great resource to find flights that offer student discounts, making these flights often cheaper than the booking tools above. A friend of mine was able to find flights to Barcelona for nearly $100 cheaper than I was able to on either SkyScanner or Hopper with this website.
Having flexible booking dates while booking a trip can change the price point dramatically. For example, it’s much cheaper to travel to many European cities in the spring and fall than it is to visit in their peak summer season. Also, avoid traveling during holidays or events such as Oktoberfest if that’s not your reason for visiting. Prices during those times are almost always higher, if not doubled.
Moving your flight back or up even a day or two can save you money. For example, flying out on a Tuesday is usually much cheaper than flying out on a weekend. Consider checking multiple days of the week to see if there is a price difference.
Fly low-cost airlines:
While not all discount airlines are created equally, they’re a great option for if you’re trying to save money. However, keep in mind that most of these airlines charge for food and drinks (even on long international flights), and they often only include a free carry-on bag.
Some discount airlines I’ve flown both in Europe and in the U.S. include:
Fly out of major airports
One of my major tips to everyone who is traveling internationally is to fly out of a major metropolitan airport such as JFK or LAX. By avoiding smaller city airports, you can usually save hundreds, even thousands of dollars on flights. When booking your flights, check all the airports within two hours of you to see who offers the lowest priced airfare - often taking a train or driving to a further airport can be a cheaper option.
Search in an incognito browser
By searching flights on an incognito browser, websites that change prices based on your cookies are unable to track your online behavior. It's a good idea to do this while searching for hotels, as well.
Use airline miles
Sign up for a credit card that offers miles and use them to purchase flights. In addition to gaining points for flights, many credit card memberships allow you to use special airport amenities such as private lounges (I want to live forever in the JFK Delta Sky Club).
Also, take advantage of free mile offerings. While on a flight back from Florida, my sister was offered a special in-flight deal to sign up for an American Airlines credit card (this card has an annual fee of $99) and receive 60,0000 free miles. She was able to use these miles to book a flight from New York to Rome, Italy for completely free.
Don’t wait until the last minute, but don’t rush to book.
Booking flights 2 months in advance is usually a safe bet while planning a trip. You want to make sure you snag any insane deals you see, but also don’t jump the gun and book something six or seven months out in fear the ticket prices will rise. Prices for flights are usually at their cheapest 6-12 weeks before the flight.
Want to find out how to plan a trip after booking cheap flights? Check out my blog on how to plan a trip in 6 easy steps.