How to Get Cheap Flights

Cheap Flights

Everyone knows the key to finding cheap airfare is to always look for flights on Tuesdays, right? Well, not necessarily. Although searching only on Tuesdays might work at times, there are tons of different ways to find cheap flights online. Here are some of our favorite tips!

First off, some essential things you need to be willing to do to get the absolute cheapest flights:

Say Goodbye to Comfort

Finding the absolute cheapest airfare usually means flying budget airlines at less-desirable times (1 am flights) or doing long layovers. It for sure means no comfy add-ons, like extra legroom and priority boarding, and minimal complimentary drinks and snacks (pack your own snacks!). Be prepared to make some sacrifices to pay less, including flying personal item or carry-on only to avoid those hefty baggage fees. Check out our page on Packing Light for more information.

Focus on the Price, not the Destination

Be flexible with your destination and pick a location based on price. Use Kayak’s Explore map to find cheap flights to destinations all over the world. This is a great tool because you can filter by location, cost, and flight length and search the map for something that matches your ideal trip length and budget.

If you are absolutely set on going to a specific location, you should sign up for Fare Alerts on Kayak or Google Flights. They will notify you via email when the flight price drops to fit your budget.

Another way to save money is to open up your flight search to include nearby major cities or less desirable airports. If you live in San Diego, fly out of Los Angeles (LAX) to save tons on your next international flight. If you’re headed to Costa Rica, save by flying into Liberia (LIR), instead of the capital, San Jose.

Be Flexible with Dates

It’s generally cheapest to fly mid-week, especially Wednesday. Flying out on a Wednesday night, instead of a Friday or Saturday morning, could save you hundreds of dollars. The cheapest flights depart either early morning or late night. The more inconvenient the time, the cheaper the flight.  Some airlines even have calendars which can give you a nice view of the price differences.  

As a general rule, avoid flying on holidays or during high season. “High season” is the tourist industry’s polite term for “forcing-tourists-to-over-pay-for-everything-season.” It’s usually during the time when the weather is considered to be ideal for tourists. For cheaper flights, avoid Mexico during the winter months and France in the summertime. The best way to find flights during the off-season is to use the “search by month” option in flight search engines to get a good idea of when prices go up and avoid those months. Southwest’s Low Fare calendar is a great example.  

If you are willing to put the above principles into practice, then you are ready to learn the steps to finding the cheapest flights. 

1. Search Incognito

Websites and flight search engines rely on “cookies” to track your browsing history. Most people agree that airlines use this as a tool to increase prices for the flights you are searching for repeatedly. This may or may not be true, but why risk it and end up paying more? To prevent airlines from tracking your searches and raising prices for the flights you want, use the “Incognito” or “Private” mode on your browser. To do this in Chrome, go to “File” and then “New Incognito Window.” Make sure to open a new window for each search.

2. Do Your Research

Use the flight search engines listed below to start your search. Use the “search by month” function to get a better idea of the what the standard airfare is. Once you know what the normal cost is, you can easily spot a good deal. Remember to check several different search engines and the official airline website. 

Top Flight Search Engines

You can also find amazing airfare deals by signing up for the newsletters listed below:

Top Cheap Airfare Newsletters

  • Budget Airline Newsletters
  • AirfareWatchdog
  • The Flight Deal
  • Holiday Pirates.com
  • SecretFlying.com

3. Book Smart

The best time to buy your flight is rumored to be between 5-7 weeks in advance. Make sure to always buy at least 2 weeks in advance.

Do NOT wait to buy if you find an amazingly low price! You can always cancel for a full refund within 24 hours if you change your mind or find a cheaper flight (NOTE: this only applies to flights to and from the U.S.).

Check to see if it’s less expensive to book flight legs separately, as in fly with one airline and then another. Sometimes it’s cheaper to fly roundtrip instead of one-way or vice versa. Explore all of the options, but don’t spend too much time and energy on this.  And if you plan to check luggage, don’t forget that you’ll have to get your luggage and check back in if you switch carries in the middle of your route.  Another great reason to stick to carry-on only.

Earn airline rewards points by entering your rewards account number before you buy your tickets and make sure to use a travel rewards credit card, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Preferred, for the purchase.

4. Celebrate!

It’s a done deal! You’ve found a great deal on flights and you’re going on a trip soon! Start booking your accommodations as soon as you can.

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