All the cheap flight booking hacks you’ll ever need to know
A cheap flight can be as hard to find as your luggage lock keys, but when you do find one it feels so, SO good.
With a little bit of effort and a bit of flexibility you’ll be flying for cheap in no time. Combine as many tricks as you can for maximum savings.
Direct flights are divine, but you definitely pay for the convenience. If a longer travel time doesn’t bother you, opt to include some connections along the way and you’ll save some cash. Plus, you’ll get a short airport visit in a new place (to add to your ‘countries I’ve visited’ list) with cool souvenirs and food to try while you wait for your next flight.
Be flexible with your dates and times
Flying during the week is generally cheaper than flying on a Friday or on the weekend, so a mid-week trip is often the cheapest option. Flight prices can also vary in a single day depending on the time of the flight, so check out the earliest and latest options for a deal. Red eye flights are often cheapest, so opt to catch some zzzs in the air if you can.
Travel during low season
It definitely varies depending on your destination, but most places have a peak tourism season and often see a lot of visitors during certain holidays. If your days off are flexible, opt for an off-season trip or a trip directly after a holiday for a cheap flight.
Opt to fly in or out of a smaller airport
Most of the time we forget that our own cities and most other major destinations have more than one airport, and flying in and out of these smaller options can often save you some dough.
Book sooner rather than later if you are limited to specific travel days
If you HAVE to leave on a specific day and you find a rate that you are willing to pay, book it. It is often better to be safe than sorry, and the odds of the rate going up are always higher than the odds of a price drop. Regardless, you’re really going to be in a pickle if the seats sell out for the day you NEED to leave, so just bite the bullet and book it if the price is right.
Book at the right time
If you’re feeling really lucky waiting for last minute flight deals can pay off, but in general you will pay more by booking too early or too late. In general most sites recommend booking flights 6 to 8 weeks before your departure for the lowest fares. There are also a lot of people who swear by booking on a Tuesday for the cheapest rates – who knew?
Start with cheaper flight destinations and go from there
If your #1 priority is just getting away and the specific destination is less important, check out what the cheapest cities are to fly to from your city and plan your trip from there. If London is your best bet for a cheap flight to Europe then see if any trips starting in London appeal to your wanderlust.
Book in the early morning or in the evening
Lots of people search for flights during work hours, so many people swear by browsing in the evening or first thing in the morning for the cheapest rates. Try looking at different times of the day to see if you can find a better rate.
Don’t forget about baggage fees
When comparing airlines you may notice that one is consistently lower than another, but hidden fees may eliminate that gap pretty quickly. If an airline always charges $50 for a checked bag, make sure you are adding in that $50 to your budgeting when you compare rates.
Use student discounts
Many airlines and travel agents offer great student rates that can save you some cash on top of their lowest deal. That student card has its perks, so don’t forget to mention your student status when booking.
Sign up for rewards programs
We love collecting points, but USING points is even better. Sign up for rewards programs with the major airlines and alliances, plus get a credit card that earns you points and start earning cash towards your trip with every swipe.
Fly one way
Airlines often have great deals on one-way flights rather than round trips, you know, for all those lucky people who vacation and have no set date for when they plan on coming home. In theory this doesn’t really help out those of us with school, jobs and lives to return to after our little getaway… This does mean however that you can get crafty and save some money by booking two separate one-way flights with the same or even different airlines.
Start with a road trip
If you live close to another city, state/ province or even country it may actually be cheaper to rent a car, drive across the border and take a flight from elsewhere. It seems like a lot of work if an airport is already close by but the savings can be significant.
Book each leg separately
If you’re gonna be connecting in a city anyways, look at the cost of booking each portion separately. It may actually be cheaper to do so – just keep your connection times in mind and don’t book them too close together.
Consider smaller airlines
There are tons of airlines out there besides the big ones we know by name and they may offer cheaper rates than the big-wigs. It’s always worth a peek.
Check your routes
Different routes will have different rates in general. Check out all of the options and see what works best in your budget.
Flight booking engines are a great source and save time by pulling rates from multiple airlines and websites (Kayak, Airfarewatchdog and Skyscanner and some great options), but don’t forget about the airline’s website as well. They often offer their own deals to compete with the search engines.
Phone a friend
Sometimes it’s all about who you know… A friend/ family member who works for an airline or in the travel industry may have a way to hook you up with a discount or special rate. It doesn’t hurt to ask!
It may seem crazy, but so many people swear that fares actually go up when they’ve searched for the same thing a few times on their computer. Edit your browser settings and browse privately or clear your cache so that your search history isn’t recorded. Alternatively, try looking at the same flight on a different device – you might be surprised by the price difference.
Sign up and subscribe
By opting-in for emails and alerts from airlines and search engines you’ll be the first to know about flash sales and new promotions that are going on. It’ll save you quality time from deal browsing.
Get on social media
Airlines usually advertise really good deals on their Twitter and Facebook feeds, and many of them can be limited time offers, so give them a follow and you might be pleasantly surprised.