- Being flexible about travel times and dates is the most effective way to find cheap flights.
- Aggregator sites such as Google Flights can help travelers find the most affordable fares.
- Some websites can send automatic alerts when prices drop, and it’s best to purchase bargain tickets as quickly as possible.
If you’ve ever tried searching for cheap flights online, you’ve probably noticed that prices can change dramatically from day to day — or even hour to hour. These fluctuations can leave travelers feeling confused about whether to purchase right away or hold off in the hope that the price drops. Fortunately, there are a few simple tricks you can use to make sure you get a good deal every time you fly.
12. Be Open-Minded About Location
Most travelers decide where they want to go before booking flights, but you could save a lot of money by being flexible. Checking prices to multiple destinations on sites like Google Flights can help you find the most affordable destinations for your travel dates. Alternatively, you could try finding the cost of flights to places relatively near your dream destination. You may be able to get to a nearby city for considerably less and book a budget domestic flight for the final leg.
11. Experiment With Different Travel Dates
Your flight dates can affect the cost of your trip as much as the location, and shifting the dates by just a day or so can sometimes result in considerable savings. Google Flights lets you view ticket costs over a 2-month window to pick the most affordable travel dates. It’s also worth changing your trip length to see if a slightly longer or shorter vacation could cost you less. Sometimes, it’s actually more cost-effective in terms of flight costs to book a longer trip.
10. Select the Cheapest Days
It’s hardly surprising that flight costs peak on Fridays and Sundays, so avoid traveling on these days to avoid sky-high prices. Generally, it’s cheaper to fly on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, when the demand for tickets is usually lower. Flying during peak travel times, such as summer vacation and the holiday season, is almost always more expensive. You can often book much cheaper flights if you fly between January and mid-May or September and the beginning of December.
9. Don’t Book Too Late
There are numerous myths about when it’s best to book cheap flights — perhaps you’ve heard that flights are always cheapest if you buy late at night or on a Tuesday afternoon. In reality, there’s actually no magic window for finding budget-friendly tickets. However, prices tend to rise sharply around 21 days before departure, making last-minute bookings an expensive way to travel. Contrary to popular belief, booking flights the night before is often the most costly choice. As a rule of thumb, aim to book domestic flights no later than a month before departure. Meanwhile, international flights are usually cheaper if you book a minimum of two months in advance.
8. Take Advantage of Fare Alerts
Many travel sites offer fare notifications that alert you when fares to your preferred locations drop. Therefore, signing up for alerts with Google Flights and similar services can help you snag cheaper fares if you’re prepared to hold off on booking your trip. It’s worth signing up for alerts for several locations near your intended destination. Doing so helps you avoid missing out on even cheaper flights to nearby places, from which you could book a budget flight to complete your journey.
7. Don’t Rule Out Budget Airlines
Some budget airlines have a poor reputation, but that doesn’t mean you should rule them out altogether. Many newer, affordable companies offer a significantly better service than their older counterparts, and they’re usually considerably cheaper than big-name airlines. A no-frills flight may not be the best option for a transcontinental journey, but they’re often ideal for shorter trips. However, it’s worth checking customer reviews for any budget airline you’re considering to find out what other passengers think of its service quality.
6. Snap Up Bargains
It can be worth holding out for cheaper fares, but it’s usually not a good idea to wait for prices to drop even lower when you see a great deal. It’s impossible to guess how long airlines will sell tickets for a particular price, but you can be reasonably certain that budget-friendly fares won’t hang around for long. Occasionally, airlines offer exceptionally low fares by accident and correct the price within minutes, so it’s usually best to snap up bargain flights as soon as you see them.
5. Book Tickets Individually
Booking tickets for multiple passengers simultaneously can often be more expensive than booking each ticket separately. Many airlines only sell multi-ticket bookings for the same fare, which means you can’t access lower prices if there aren’t enough tickets available for your whole group.
For example, imagine you’re booking flights for yourself and a friend, and the airline only has one cheaper ticket left. In this situation, it will bypass the cheaper fare and sell you two tickets at the higher price. Booking each seat individually would allow you to buy one cheap and one more expensive ticket.
4. Check Prices in Other Currencies
It’s sometimes cheaper to book tickets in foreign currency than U.S. dollars. It’s unclear exactly why some airlines charge inconsistent fares, but it’s worth checking several foreign versions of their sites to see how much the same ticket costs in different currencies. This method doesn’t always work, but you could get lucky and enjoy significant savings. Check with your card provider to ensure that any foreign transaction fees don’t exceed the price difference between the fares.
3. Check for Hidden Flights
Using a flight search engine or aggregator is a convenient way to check fares on multiple airlines. However, over-reliance on these sites could cause you to miss out on a potential bargain. Some airlines don’t allow specific sites to sell or list their flights, and even big aggregators can miss airlines in their search results. For example, Southwest doesn’t allow other sites to display its flight prices, and you can often snag cheap domestic flights by purchasing directly from its website.
2. Don’t Limit Yourself to Non-Stop Flights
In an ideal world, most travelers would choose direct flights to get to their destination as quickly as possible. While direct flights are much more convenient and allow you to avoid lengthy pit stops, they tend to be the most expensive options because they’re so popular. Changing your search terms to include flights with one or more stops can shave an impressive amount from the overall cost. Avoiding direct flights is a particularly effective cost-saving measure for transcontinental flights.
1. Consult an Aggregator Site Before Booking With an OTA
Buying plane tickets from online travel agencies (OTAs) such as Expedia can help you save money. However, they won’t always offer the most affordable tickets, even if they show you prices from multiple airlines. It’s always best to compare an OTA’s quote to prices listed on a flight aggregator site to see if there’s a cheaper option. It’s also worth checking the OTA’s customer reviews, as many don’t have the infrastructure to effectively deal with issues such as cancellations and schedule changes.