There is a complicated science when it comes to booking flights, and it is not understood by many. A lot of people assume flights, especially to international destinations, are unaffordable because a lot of times, they really are. Often, this can discourage people from taking trips to places they’ve always dreamed of visiting and to where their soul is calling them to go and experience. However, it shouldn’t discourage you! Airlines have a lot of tricks up their sleeves, but if you’re savvy enough and willing to put in some time and effort, you can catch great deals, save tons of money, and visit every faraway place your heart desires.
Historically, flight fares have usually been correlated to gas prices. However, the current market is very different and it’s important to be aware of this. Recently gas prices have plummeted yet there has been no reflection of this in ticket prices. This is due to the lack of competition among major airlines. They don’t budge on reducing prices because they don’t have to – they know we have no choice. So airline executives enjoy record profits at our expense. Can you say UGH? In addition, there are more taxes and fees tacked onto each flight than ever before, which spike up costs a few hundred dollars. Some of it can be justified in order to ensure better security for travelers. However, a lot of it is total nonsense in my opinion. It is because of these reasons I am so passionate about finding deals on flights and helping others to do the same.
Over the years, I have learned some tricks and hacks when it comes to booking flights on a budget, and I am happy to pass these along in hopes that you may also find them helpful in booking some awesome trips.
- Book midweek – This doesn’t always hold true, but usually the best deals can be found late night on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, since more people are likely to be online checking flights during other days.
- Book during peak times – For domestic flights, 54 days before takeoff is said to be the magic number when flights drop to their lowest. However, anytime between 112 to 21 days is a good window. For international flights, it’s even more in advance (2-4 months). Some believe you may be able to find cheap flights at the last minute, but this is almost always a horrible idea since flight prices can more than double, if they don’t sell out. Plus this doesn’t work for those of us who are OCD and need to plan in advance. So it’s definitely best to keep in mind the best times to book.
- Set price alerts – There are not many resources that allow you to set price alerts so you’ll get notified when fares drop. I like to use Airfare Watchdog and Trip Advisor. However, my favorite is this nifty little app called Hopper, which will do all the dirty work for you and will predict the best window to book the cheapest flights.
- Monitor prices daily – You can’t always rely on price alerts, so if you’re adamant about catching the best deal, it’s necessary to check every single day for yourself. There have been times when I caught a large drop that my alerts never notified me of. All of this is time consuming, but definitely worth it when you catch a glitch fare or huge price drop.
- Use a variety of search engines – There are a plethora of travel booking sites and apps out there now, but none are perfect so it’s important that you use more than one and compare findings. My favorites are Sky Scanner, Cheapoair and Expedia. However, sometimes going directly with the airline is best so be sure to check that too.
- Reset your browser during flight searches – Airline sites have a sneaky way of raising prices for frequent lurkers, since they track who searches for what. So be sure to delete your cookies when searching for flights or set your browser to private mode where your information is not tracked.
- Redeem airline points/mileage whenever possible – This is without a doubt the biggest secret to cheap or free flights. Check out my other blog post, which is dedicated entirely to this topic and lists info on this in detail.
- Be flexible – If possible, changing your dates and times can lead to lower prices. Flight times that are less in demand, such as midday, are typically cheaper.
- Avoid flying on weekends – Most people try to get weekend flights whenever possible, so if you’re able to fly midweek, fares are usually much better.
- Consider a different airport – If there’s other airports nearby, it may be significantly cheaper to fly to/from there and drive the distance.
- Fly on holidays – Since most people try to avoid these days because they want to be at their destinations on the actual day of a holiday, flying on these days can save you a ton. Similarly, avoid peak days before/after holidays, such as the days before Thanksgiving or Christmas, which are the busiest and most expensive travel days of the year.
- Try Standby – This is harder these days since most flights tend to be full now. However, if you have this option and can be flexible with the time of your flight and whether or not you’ll actually even get a seat, plus don’t mind waiting around airports, it can save you a ton.
- Take every opportunity to get airline credits/vouchers – This includes when your flight is overbooked and they offer up credits to anyone willing to take a later flight. If you can, go for it! Sometimes if they’re desperate, they will offer a TON of money up! Also, sharing your experiences is another way to get credits/vouchers. If you have had negative experiences on flights, you should always provide feedback to the airline. Not only does it give them opportunities to correct or address issues you’ve had, but usually they will offer you a voucher for money off your next flight. This definitely comes in handy and has saved me hundreds over the years.
- Consider budget airlines but beware – While their roundtrip fare might look good, they may tack on baggage fees that add tons to the cost. Also, sometimes the downgrade in quality of the flight experience (no leg room, not even water provided, uncomfortable seats, bad service) is just not worth saving a few bucks – for me anyway. I’m not saying don’t use them, because you can save a lot with them and it may not be bad, especially for shorter trips. Just do your research on the airline before booking. Spirit Airlines was a nightmare for me and I wish I knew better.
I hope some of these tips were helpful for you and will possibly help you save some money so you can travel the world. Let me know in the comments if you enjoyed these tips or have any others to add!