Airfare is one of the most expensive parts of travel, and pricey flights mean fewer funds for meaningful travel experiences. Cheap travel is possible even if tickets aren’t on sale, but only if you have the right strategy. Otherwise, you’ll waste time tediously jumping between flight search engines as flight prices steadily increase before your eyes.
Although many hacks are obsolete in the face of modern airline technology and algorithms, there are still a few tricks that may help you find cost-effective flights. Check out these six hacks for finding and booking cheap flights.
1. Go Incognito While Researching
Consider browsing in incognito mode or regularly clearing your cookies while researching flights. As you browse airline websites and travel search engines, cookies track your activity and searches. Then, they return information about your activity to the server for the host to access. This way, airlines can see if you’ve searched a flight or route repeatedly and may increase prices to pressure you into booking.
To browse incognito:
- Google Chrome: Type Command for Mac or Control for PC, Shift, N
- Mozilla Firefox: Type Command for Mac or Control for PC, Shift, P
- Safari: Type Command for Mac or Control for PC, Shift, N
Flight prices are highly volatile, and sometimes price increases can happen even if you’re diligently hiding your activity.
2. Don’t Rely on Big-Name Airlines When Flying Internationally
Many people look to the top airlines when booking flights, but bigger doesn’t always mean better savings. Big-name airlines generally have more international destinations and flight amenities, but a portion of your ticket price represents the airline brand more than the flight value.
Instead, look to small or budget airlines for cheap flights. Budget airlines sometimes offer ticket price differences with hundreds of dollars in savings compared to big-name airlines. Even if they don’t have access to the same international hub network, local airlines can help you travel to more obscure locations.
Check out these small and budget-friendly airlines:
3. Look Out for Fifth-Freedom Flights
There are seven Freedom of the Air commercial aviation rights, and the fifth freedom allows airlines to carry revenue traffic between foreign countries to connect to the airline’s originating country.
Airlines generally fly between their home country and foreign countries, but their routes sometimes take them between two foreign countries. Since airlines typically treat these flights as auxiliary routes to their main destination, they are often heavily discounted.
Even if heavily discounted fifth-freedom flights aren’t necessarily cheaper than other tickets you may find, they provide the opportunity to fly with more prestigious airlines and newer airplanes.
4. Use Points Loyalty Wallet to Trade and/or Buy Points and Miles
Points is a points exchange service that allows members to trade and buy points and miles. In addition to tracking your balance and finding promotional offers, you can redeem your points for miles or other travel rewards. This platform also allows you to trade and combine points from other frequent flier programs, which means you can earn travel rewards even if you don’t otherwise have enough points in individual programs.
It’s free to sign up, and members can use their points loyalty wallet to redeem flights and other rewards such as hotel stays, car rentals and shopping.
5. Red-Eye Flights (Almost) Always Happen To Be Cheaper
Red-eye flights depart late at night and arrive early the following day. Overnight travel may be less comfortable, but it tends to be much more affordable.
Overnight traveling is less attractive and in demand since many people struggle to get quality sleep on planes. As such, airlines usually incentivize these off-peak flights with cheaper ticket prices.
Red-eye flights are also typically less crowded than daytime flights due to the off-peak schedule, which can offset the discomfort of flying when you’d rather be sleeping. They can also save you valuable vacation time since you arrive at your destination in the morning rather than in the evening.
Search your route on an airline or travel search engine website to find red-eye flights. Filtering the results by the lowest prices will usually show red-eye flights. You can also narrow your search between certain times to only show red-eye flight options.
6. Group Flight Tickets Are Always More Expensive
Although group vacation bookings generally come with discounts and are more cost-effective than purchasing single tickets, cheap group tickets only work for flights if you’re booking with a travel agent. They’re almost always more expensive if you try to book group tickets online.
If you’re searching an airline or search engine for multiple seats, the algorithm will find a flight with the total number of indicated seats together. The total booking price represents the highest priced ticket of the whole group multiplied by the number of seats, which may disregard that individual seats in the booking are less valuable than others.