No matter whether you are a regular flyer or just love to take off on getaways now and then, you will know that prices on airlines, depending on a number of different factors, fluctuate like crazy. You can save some serious bucks if you are able to land the best flight deals for your travel.
But HOW can you book the cheapest flight for your destination? Yes, you know already that there are travel planners, airlines search engines, flight comparison tools, etc. But are you sure they are actually giving you the best deals every time? If it’s a short destination and it is only a matter of few bucks, you may not want to take the trouble to search thoroughly enough, which is understandable, too.
But with longer routes or a spread out travel plan, you can actually save hundreds of precious dollars if you have the know-how for landing with the best airfare deals. So, here’s my carefully curated list of the best tips on how to book the cheapest flight POSSIBLE. If you’re not an extravagant spender and value all that hard earned greenbacks of yours, we suggest you read on!
Here are our tips on how to book the cheapest flight.
1. Find The Best Time to Book
What is the best time to book if you are looking for the best price? By many accounts (backed by loads of relevant data and resources), the old wisdom of holding it back till the last minute does not hold water any more. That was true for the 90’s. Today, however, if you know exactly when and where you will be flying, your best bet to get a better price is to book as early as possible.
Best Time to Book
For domestic flights, book 1 to 3 months in advance. For international flights, book your ticket 4 to 7 months in advance. According to a study done by Cheapair, these times are your best times to get a cheaper fare.
A useful tool when checking fare is Skyscanner (my favorite search engine for finding best flight deals) ‘Price Alert’. Set up a price alert by simply logging into the website and by saving your destination and the day (or the date range) of departure. Based on that, you will receive alerts when prices increase or decrease.
Best Time to Fly
The best time to fly throughout the year is January through mid-May and September through early-December.
Also, see when is the best day of the week to book your flight. Analyzing the last three years of booking data, Skyscanner has found that MONDAY has been the cheapest day to book flights. But this comes from an overall survey and may not hold true for all destinations. Another source, for example, says (while admitting at the same time that there is no ‘one size fits all’ formula) Thursdays are often the best days to book cheapest deals. So, keep an eye out for yourself using the best flight search tools (See Tip #3).
2. Keep Searches Top Secret
Never assume that airlines are not keeping track of your web visiting data—BECAUSE THEY DO! So, if you are visiting one or more airlines’ websites to repeatedly check prices for a particular route, make sure to keep your searches secret. And the simple way to do that is going ‘incognito’ on your web browser whenever you are checking the prices. You have the option to go Incognito no matter what web browser you are using—chrome, safari, firefox and so on. Always use that option for checking flight prices.
3. Use the Best Flight Search Tools
When using flight search engines, remember that ALL OF THEM show more or less inflated prices since they get a cut from the airlines for doing so. That said, some search engines (Expedia, for example) inflate flight costs much more than the others. So, you need to make sure that you are using the right search engines. The following are the flight search tools I use and are the best ones out there:
Now, please keep in mind that the above list is not arbitrary. In other words, the list closely follows my preferences for best flight search tools. That said, the different search engines often come with one or a number of different useful tools.
JetRadar, for example, includes pretty much all budget airlines out there—something which is not done by other search engines. Again, Kiwi.com comes with the useful feature of creating a route combining different airlines to list the best prices for you. And Google Flights has a useful calendar option that shows the cheapest days to fly. It’s my starting point before I dive deeper in my searches. So, our suggestion is rather than depending on a single flight search tool, you combine a number of them in your bid to get the best flight deals.
4. Find The Cheapest Place to Fly
If you don’t have a specific destination in mind and is pretty much looking for the most cost-effective places to fly to, then I recommend using Kiwi.com to find the best prices on a huge number of destinations. You just enter your preferred date range and search for the cheapest places you can fly to during that time. The reason we suggest using Kiwi.com is, unlike most other flight search tools or apps, they mix and match different airlines in their bid to find the best prices for you on different routes.
5. Spot Error Fares
It is not uncommon for airlines to commit mistakes when posting fares for different routes. The mistakes can occur due to a number of reasons—human error, technical glitches, currency conversion fiascos and so on. Whatever the reason, if you are able to spot error fares, you stand a good chance of getting huge discounts on your booking. The two most helpful sites when it comes to spotting airline error fares are Secret Flying and AirFare Watchdog. Both do a great job of stalking airlines’ websites to find errors in sale pricing and listing.
6. Buy Flights in Bulk
It stands to reason that you will get better prices if you buy flights in bulk, but only so long as you are buying from the same airline (or airlines that are all part of an alliance). It’s common knowledge, for example, that it will be cheaper for you to buy a return ticket from Washington to Tokyo than if you bought two one-way tickets.
However, you can also save a cartload of greenbacks if you bought bulk flight deals such as ‘multi-city flights’, ‘regional passes’ or ’round the world’ tickets. Airlines offer serious discounts on such bulk purposes. Skyscanner again is a good place to search for such profitable deals.
7. Go Local
If you’re flying to remote or relatively obscure regions or routes, it is always advisable that you look for smaller, local airlines which are often not listed on flight search tools. With local airlines, you can often find some pretty good deals especially when you are traveling somewhat out-of-the-way routes or regions. A good example is the Hawk Air which operates in the Western Canada region only. Some of these airlines will even offer you some attractive online deals, so make sure to check their own website to find if you can land with some such lucrative deal.
8. Check if it’s cheaper to pay in other currencies
Sometimes, you can save decent amounts if you pay for your flight ticket in a foreign currency. Most budget airlines do not permit this, but there are also some that do. So, be sure to double check. However, if you are paying in a currency that is not native to the place you are flying from, you MUST make sure that, for this purpose, you are only using a credit card which doesn’t charge you foreign transaction fees. Otherwise, whatever savings you may make using this route will be lost!
So, when checking local sites, use a VPN. I use Express VPN a lot and it’s fantastic! It has an app, browser extensions and other supported devices like Apple TV, Playstation, and many more.
9. Use Flight Points When Possible
What about all those Air Miles or Aeroplan points you had been saving (chiefly through your company or personal credit cards) for all these years? Use them to get better prices on your air travel. You can get best value from Flight Points when you are traveling in-country or domestic. But if you’ve already racked up loads of those points, you may very well consider them for flights abroad.
10. Subscribe to Airlines
If you fly more or less frequently, then it could be a good idea to subscribe to different airline subscription plans. This pretty much started back in 2013 and has been popular with frequent travelers since. Most of these are monthly plans, though there are bi-monthly or quarterly plans available as well. These plans would normally include unlimited scheduled travel among a number of chosen destinations (for instance, three or four major cities in a state) for the period of the plan/subscription.
11. Try Hidden City Ticketing
Finally, Hidden City Ticketing! Skiplagged had introduced the idea sometime back and ever since, it has been popular with individuals looking to get an easier price on their destination.
According to the ‘hidden city’ method, you take a flight which connects to the city/destination of your choice en route to some other destination. And if you happen to find that you can actually get a better price on any of these ‘connected’ flights than if you had taken a direct flight to your destination, you simply go for one of those and discontinue your journey once your city is reached.
Seems quite convenient, huh? Yes; however, there are some obvious downsides attached to it:
- If the same airplane is continuing all the way to its final destination, the airlines personnel may not allow you to get off the plane.
- The airlines route checked baggage directly to the final destination, so your only option is carry-on!
The airlines also have gotten wind of it already and are looking for ways to prevent travelers from using this method. So, this option may not be available to you in near future. That said, while it lasts, you may as well consider this little cheat to save some extra dollars—but only as long as you are fully aware of the risks and know exactly what you are doing!
Continue Planning Your Trip
This post is a part of How To Plan a Trip For Beginners Guide
In the following posts, we will look at more important steps in the planning stages of a trip that are necessary for you to plan with ease and enjoy your travels.
I invite you to continue following along by checking out the next step in planning a trip by learning how to create the perfect travel itinerary.
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