Last Updated on June 30, 2021 by Christine Kaaloa
Travel costs these days are getting expensive. I don’t have to tell you. It has pushed me to be more observant and resourceful in my travel hacks and airlines searches. Here’s 20 Tips for Booking Cheap Flights so you can splurge on your actual vacation!
Table of Contents: 20 Travel Tips for Booking Cheap Flights
- 1 20 Travel Tips for Booking Cheap Flights
- 1.1 1. Compare prices
- 1.2 2. Book Package Deals
- 1.3 3. Check the airlines website
- 1.4 4. Book early
- 1.5 5. Book late
- 1.6 6. Book connecting flights
- 1.7 7. Get two destinations for the price of one connecting flight.
- 1.8 8. Know optimum dates- Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday
- 1.9 9. Avoid peak travel times
- 1.10 10. Use a VPN: Book in local currency
- 1.11 11. Use mileage points and credit card rewards
- 1.12 12. Be flexible
- 1.13 13. Check budget airlines
- 1.14 14. Check hidden fees and read fine print
- 1.15 15. Get a refund for price drops
- 1.16 16. Have someone else book your flight tickets with Flight fox
- 1.17 17. Consider a less popular destination
- 1.18 18. Turn on your browser’s Incognito Window
- 1.19 19. Join a cheap flight mailing list
- 1.20 20. Skiplagged
20 Travel Tips for Booking Cheap Flights
1. Compare prices
Kayak is my all-time search engine for flights and I’m glad to tell you why. They show you a calendar and an estimated range of prices, so you can see which dates are cheapest. The Kayak Explore tool is awesome and allows you to see the going rates of destinations during seasons. If you have a flexible schedule and are open to destinations, then you could conceivably plan a trip around the cheapest destinations.
Google Flights is starting to compete with Kayak for me. Google is the biggest internet search engine so it scours the internet for the best deals. Generally, it has the same deals as Kayak, but it’s Google and the website is improving in showing you search dates and prices in advances so you can play with lower cost flights.
Skyscanner works great if you’re booking from a country abroad. They occasionally include low cost carriers and domestic airports that you might not find on normal search engines which only scour the well-known names.
Check out my list of Best Trip Planning Resources
2. Book Package Deals
If you are looking for a weekend getaway, then package deals might be your ideal. Search engine sites like Orbitz, Expedia and Hotwire generally pop up the same prices when it comes to flights. But what they are useful for is looking for budget package deals, like an all-inclusive weekend getaway or if you need to book a flight with a rental car or hotel. My mom stayed with me when i was living in Korea and I booked a weekend holiday to Jeju Island through Expedia. The package we got was insanely delicious and cost and booking– a Korean Airlines flight to five star hotel (one of the locations on a famous Korean drama Boys over Flowers; our hotel room opened to one of the Korean drama locations)
3. Check the airlines website
I have a confession to make… I search Kayak and after it calls up an itinerary I’m interested in, I head over to that airlines’ website to book it. Not only is the price occasionally cheaper but if I ever needed to change my flight, I only pay one direct change fee to the airlines and not to the aggregator site. It can be a pain to change your dates through an aggregator site like Orbitz, Hotwire and Expedia, because they’re third party sellers. This means that change fees are more expensive and you’ll need to go through their reservation agents in order to make changes.
4. Book early
If you’re headed to a popular destination and you’re planning to go during peak season, you’ll want to book your flights in advance. Popular routes get filled quickly. I’ve noticed fares on the rise one to two months before departure and closer to the date.
5. Book late
There are times airlines can’t fill their seats and when this happens, the fares drop, usually within that month of departure or the few weeks before. Yes, this means you could be booking a last-minute trip.
Tip: Your chances are better if you’re not booking a popular route or hoping to fly during peak season.
6. Book connecting flights
Connecting flights are always cheaper than direct flights for the reason that many prefer non-stop flights. Another place where you may notice a significant price drop, is if your connecting flight is with two different airlines carriers.
Tip: Avoid three or more connecting flights; your savings isn’t worth the extra discomfort.
7. Get two destinations for the price of one connecting flight.
Some connecting flights have layovers you can use to your advantage. It may take a bit of date crunching but you can sometimes, get a extra few days at your layover city if you schedule it right. For instance, on a trip to Korea, I was able to extend a stay in Japan for a week at no extra cost to me.
8. Know optimum dates- Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday
Tuesdays, Wednesdays and sometimes Saturdays are the best days to fly on. Friday and Sunday (sometimes, Sundays) are typically expensive days. It’s interesting to note that many airlines launch fare sales on Tuesdays.
9. Avoid peak travel times
Avoiding peak travel times means to avoid periods such as festivals and holidays. In the U.S., peak holidays are Christmas, Thanksgiving and occasionally, New Year’s. Spring and summer breaks are also period to avoid as you’ll be competing with college vacation bookings.
Peak travel times can vary by the specific destination, so it is important to note holiday differences such as Chinese New Year, which is the Asian sister to western New Year, but held on a different date.
Check out my Ultimate Packing List for Solo Travel
10. Use a VPN: Book in local currency
A lesser known travel hack is to use a VPN to score low and local airfares .
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a software or app, which cloaks your location when you’re sharing a public/hotel wifi, to protect identity. It connects via an IP address located in a different country. Countries charge locals a “local airfare” relative to their country economy and this can vary greatly if you are booking from fares from a western country, like the U.S. For instance, booking Air Asia from Malaysia (to Thailand) may be significantly cheaper if you are in the U.S. and book the same route (Malaysia to Thailand).
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11. Use mileage points and credit card rewards
How to fly for free or travel first class for almost free? Travel hacking, also known as credit card hacking, are a way to use your credit card mileage points towards flight upgrades. I signed up with a Capital One Venture card for 50,000 point signup rewards (sign up with my referral here) and made my first free trip in that year.
12. Be flexible
Check departures out of lesser known cities and transit hubs. The fares can occasionally be lower. However, keep in mind, there are probably less carriers and routes at that location. The airport will likely have working hours and won’t be open 24 hours.
Having a flexible schedule also helps. Prices change by the day, so if you can book the cheaper day or hour, that will shave dollars off of your flight seat.
13. Check budget airlines
Usually the budget airlines will show at the top of the ‘cheap list. But there’s always a trade-off. With budget airlines, the seats may offer less leg room and you’ll be charged for the smallest things, such as: booking your seat assignment, extra baggage, water (complimentary water is surprisingly, not a requirement for flights) and renting a blanket if you get cold. Check out my experience with booking travel through a budget airlines.
Read the fine print before booking a cheap ticket. If a ticket price is too good to be true, it probably means it comes with an itinerary that few find desirable. Sometimes, there’s too many connecting flights. Or maybe there’s a 14 hour layover …or a 5am departure. On occasion, my connecting flight was even out of a different airport!
Tip: Here’s connecting flight tricks to beware of when booking cheap or last-minute trips.
15. Get a refund for price drops
If you’ve booked a flight and the price drops after you’ve booked it, give the vendor a call and ask for a refund. Some search engines like Orbitz has a low price assurance and some airlines have that built into their policy, as well.
16. Have someone else book your flight tickets with Flight fox
If you don’t want the hassle and stress of searching for an affordable booking, why not pay an expert to do it for you? Flightfox is a service in which someone else will find your cheapest booking and route for you. You tell them what you want in dates, rules and exceptions. Pay the fee ($29 for domestic U.S.; $49 for International) and let them give you an option of itineraries. This service is said to have the potential to save you a considerable amount. Read the Flightfox New York Times review.
17. Consider a less popular destination
If you just need a getaway and aren’t set on where you want to go, then let your decision rest on the cheapest destination. Why not make it your magic 8 ball and let it decide where you’ll be flying to next.
Tip: I used Kayak Explore. It shows you a range of price options ranging from destination, month, season. It’s what I use to check out what destinations are in my price range.
18. Turn on your browser’s Incognito Window
You’ve been searching a specific route and then it happens- you noticed how your flight price changed after a few times of searching it in your web browser! This is because each time you perform a search the website lodges a cookie into your browser tracking your search, the computer you are on (FYI Mac users are often charged a higher price than PC users) and more. In order to avoid this, close all your windows and open your browser’s Incognito or Private Window. This allows you to search in secret. These days, technology has gotten pretty savvy and even an Incognito window won’t guarantee searches.
19. Join a cheap flight mailing list
Scott’s Cheap Flights offers free and paid subscription newsletters on best priced flight searches. He’ll even find flights that are airlines pricing mistakes! Scott’s Cheap Flights finds them. I signed up for his newsletters, but finding cheap outbound flights from Hawaiian Islands is not easy on the whole. Still a good mailing list though!
Skipplagged is a website that allows travelers to book cheap flights. The way it does this is by finding a route, which loops through your destination by way of lesser known connections. Skiplagged only books one way flights. This way, you will book the route it finds and fly up to your city, then drop the rest of the connection. You are actually paying less for a full fare flight by discarding half of it. Make sense? Head over to Skiplagged to test it out.