Finding the cheapest flights is an art that most travelers want to master. You can save a lot if you dedicate some time to research and follow a couple of simple steps.
There is a lot of information about this topic, so I decided to verify the best ones for you, so you don't have to. I spend a lot of time researching and testing a couple of known myths around finding cheap flights, and I'm happy to share my findings with you.
Let's dive into it.
1. Try to be flexible with your travel dates
With flexible dates, you can quickly identify the cheapest days to fly. When choosing your dates, also consider the peak seasons and holidays in the destinations you are heading to.
The easiest way to identify the cheapest dates to fly is to use Skyscanner's full month view. So let me guide you through 3 simple steps you need to do:
- Navigate to the Skyscanner website, or open their mobile app.
- Enter the departure and arrival city
- When selecting the Depart/Return dates, select the Whole Month option. You can even go so far as to select the Cheapest Month option.
⚠️ Fact check: Some myths are going around that Tuesday is the cheapest day to fly in the week. We are frequent flyers, and we booked many flights, and there is no proof that this is accurate. However, we can confirm that flying during the weekends can be slightly more expensive than flying during the weekdays.
But we can also quickly check this. Let's look at our open Skyscanner site and see if there is some correlation between the price of the flights and the days.
My test is quite simple, but I guess we got quite an obvious result - Tuesday's flights are not cheaper than any other day.
2. Look for the cheapest day to fly
To identify the cheapest day to fly out, follow the steps described above and select the one-way flight only (without a return flight), even though you are looking for a round trip. In this way, you will find the most optimal day in the month to fly out from your origin city without checking the return dates.
⚠️ Fact check: There are a lot of rumors around that you should search for your flights in incognito mode only. However, there is no confirmed evidence that this is true and will lead you to get cheaper flight deals. Furthermore, there is no evidence that a particular airline or booking service would track the search queries and adjust the prices according to that.
Time for another fact check? I say yes.
Again we can use our Skyscanner site and compare the prices when looking incognito and not. Let's take the same example flight, New York to Cancun. I've set the same settings for both searches: English Language, location US, and price in US dollars.
Both returned the same prices. Of course, we can't say for sure that incognito mode makes or doesn't make a difference, but I would not count on dramatic price dump with incognito mode.
3. Step out of the comfort and don't search for direct flights only
Flying directly will most of the time be more costly when booking flights with some stop-overs. Depending on the nature of your trip and how fast you need to be from point A to B, you can find connection flights that will save you a lot of money but not necessarily cost you much more.
I've heard people are buying hidden-city tickets as well. Still, I don't think that's the best solution. It can complicate your trip and causes unnecessary inconveniences that can cost you more money.
A hidden city ticket is when you book a ticket for a flight that goes from city A to B with a stop-over in city A1, where it's your intended stay. E.g., you book a flight from Cancun to Istanbul with a stop-over in Venice, where you want to go initially. But the flight to Istanbul was cheaper than flying directly to Venice.
The advantage of taking this route is that you can get considerable savings for flying directly, as most probably, the flight directly to Venice is more expensive.
However, on the other side, the disadvantage is that you shouldn't take check-in luggage, as it can get checked through the final destination. It could also happen that the plane would have only a technical stop. You would not be able to leave the aircraft; however, this is usually communicated upfront. You see it when booking the flight.
In some cases, the flight might get rerouted due to bad weather or some other reason, so the plane would not stop in the city of your intent.
4. Save money and book connection flights by yourself
When snot flying directly (because it's usually more expensive), your option is to buy or search for the connection flights, with layovers in different cities on the way to your destination. With all websites, you can buy all connecting flights with one purchase.
You could get cheaper options if you buy each leg of the trip separately, combining different airlines that offer the best prices.
Let’s say you fly from Vienna to Cancun. You find a flight between these 2 with a layover in Madrid.
You also see that Madrid has a lot of for flying directly to Cancun, and also you know that you can fly very cheaply from Vienna to Madrid with a low-cost airline, like Ryanair, so you instead find a flight from Vienna to Madrid with low-cost, and from there you search for the cheapest option to fly directly to Cancun.
💡 Tip: Make sure that you have enough time in between the flights, especially if you are traveling with check-in luggage, as it will not be checked through to your final destination - Cancun, in our case.
👍 Do's: Booking flights with longer waiting times also gives you a perfect opportunity to add additional country flags to your list.
E.g., if you have eight hours' in Milano, you can leave the airport and have a stroll and coffee around the city. However, this can also mean that you will not save so much. It can get expensive, especially if you are transferring through a more expensive city.
5. Adjust your departure city and destination to save more
If you live close to other bigger cities, keep your departure airport flexible and check nearby airports. This is incredibly convenient when living in Europe. You are always a bus ride away from a few other capital cities.
E.g., flying from Ljubljana, Slovenia, is always more expensive, as there are not so many airlines, especially low-cost providers. But Ljubljana is one hour away from Zagreb, four h away from Vienna, a couple of hours from Trieste, Venice, and a bit further from Budapest.
These are all the cities that offer way better flight options to any destination, so it's worth checking it out and booking a bus to the airport.
The same goes for the city of arrival. If you fly from the US to any European city, you can check destination cities around your original destination. In this way, you can find better price options.
💡Tip: Flixbus is a top-rated and affordable bus company in Europe that connects most cities
6. Search for Low-Cost/Budget Airlines
Each continent is flooded with many low-cost airlines, offering you budget flights sometimes cheaper than a bus or train ride.
Depending on where you are located and where you want to travel, you should look into budget airlines to find cheap flights.
Here is the list of the most known budget airlines, divided by the continent:
- Norwegian Air
- AirAsia - the most popular one, that will get you anywhere
- Nok Air
- VietJet Air
- Spring Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
- Air Canada rouge
- Spirit Airlines
- Sun Country Airlines
- Frontier Airlines
- Allegiant Air
- Avelo Airlines
- lair Airlines
- Sky Airline
- Viva Air
7. Sign up for airline error fares notifications
You can get some of the cheapest airfares with the lowest price if you sign up and set some notifications to notify you when the price for some destination dumps remarkably.
Error fares, also known as mistake airfares or airline price glitches, are super cheap flight tickets, representing unusually large deviations from the usual price range for a particular destination. Goopti.com
Here are some websites worth checking or signing up for their alerts:
- Secret Flying
- The Flight Deal
- Error Fare Alerts
- Hack flight
- Airfare Watchdog
- Secret Travel
- Fare First
💡Tip: When booking an error flight, monitor it closely, as it might get canceled in the next couple of days. It happened to us once. We booked an error flight to Peru for less than 200 USD from Vienna; however, the airlines canceled it a couple of days after. The funny part is that we didn't notice it :) But that's already a different story to share on some other occasion.
8. When traveling in a group - search for tickets for each individual
I've heard that you can get cheaper options when booking for each passenger separately vs. booking for a group. I was unaware of this, and I can't confirm or deny it, so I guess the only way is to try it here and now!
Time for another ⚠️ Fact Check!
Our group of 4 friends is flying from Madrid to Cancun in April.
We will choose fixed dates for this fact check, as we want to confirm if booking for each passenger separately is cheaper is a fact or a myth.
When searching for a ticket for one person, we got the best price for $298/person:
When searching for the whole group at once, the price was $283/person:
The price per person was higher if you booked separately. It doeast make sense in this case, but keep it in mind when you book next time. It might actually work on some flights.
9. Know when to book - early but not too early
Book your flights in advance but not too early. This is especially valid for low-cost airlines. Also, be aware of the seasonality because the prices vary accordingly.
You know that if you decide to fly (anywhere) during Christmas, you have to expect to pay more. The general rule of thumb is to book about six months in advance to get the best value for international flights and 1 to 3 months for domestic.
What I usually like to do, is when I know that I'll be flying to a destination in some time, I start to check the prices to see how it moves.
I have the Skyscanner app on my phone and occasionally throw the dates in to see the current price. Of course, you can't predict what happens, but it gives you a good idea of how the price moves and what you can expect.
I would not advise relying on this point too much during the pandemic. The situation with restrictions in each country and the possibility of flight cancellation makes it harder to plan your trip way. You could buy the ticket now to fly in 3 months. Still, the chance of flight cancelation or more extensive restrictions in the destination country is higher.
I would wait a bit longer in this case and maybe rather risk paying a bit more than deal with any cancelations on the way.
10. Use different airlines for your connection flights
Book your flights using different airlines. This goes hand in hand when booking your connecting flights separately. Other airlines will have different rates of flying to various destinations. Little research will save you money if you replace one leg of your flight with some low-cost airlines to that destination.
Usually, there are some destinations where low-cost airlines (Point #6) have frequent flights, so it will be easy to combine the flights.
11. Collect points & miles to fly for free
You can collect points and miles by using your credit card for various payments, hotel points, or collecting miles to purchase your next ticket. This is especially great for frequent travelers, as you can book some more comfortable flights in a better class than when paying cash, as it's too expensive.
Most credit cards have programs that allow you to collect points, however, this doesn't work with debit cards.
The higher you get, the better benefits you receive, from paying only a fraction of the price for a hotel or a flight, to even getting entirely them for free.
12. Before booking, check the prices in different currencies
Depending on your local currency's strength, you can switch to a different (weaker) currency to check if the price changes.
This doesn't work all the time but is worth checking if possible.
13. Compare different flight seach engines when searching for flights
To find the most optimal flight for your next trip, you will need to check different platforms. Remember, not all are the same, so it'S good to compare different ones and use the best offer at the end.
When booking flights, we usually use a couple of the biggest ones. No worries, you don't need to check 10 of them; just a couple of the best ones will already give you great options to choose from.
The ones we use:
These are 13 ideas you can use to find cheap flights for your next travel.
Be aware that flight prices can vary greatly, and many sites offer their best prices. Unfortunately, some of them are also shadier, and if anything goes wrong, you will never reach their customer service.
Have patience, check the reviews, especially when booking through some third-party website, to reduce the risk of having any troubles. But don't rush into it, and have fun exploring!