Booking a flight can be an exciting and frustrating experience, especially when there are so many places to look and choices to make. Once you’ve taken care of the accommodations and found yourself an awesome vacation rental or hotel, it’s time to figure out how you’re going to get there affordably and comfortably. The flight can be the most expensive part of the trip especially for overseas journeys during holidays seasons. If you’d like to cut down on that cost, you should take advantage of a few tips and tricks for getting a cheap flight.
From the best flight search engines to the optimal times to buy a flight, everything you need to know about getting the best deal on a flight is right here. We’ve gathered the best travel tips so you don’t have to search through Google and dozens of websites to find the best deals. Here are twelve ways to get the best deals on airline tickets whether you’re going on a getaway in the United States or an adventure across the world!
1. Be Flexible
If you want to score the cheapest flights, you’ll have to be a bit flexible with your flight times and dates. We’re not talking about cramming into tiny seats or sneaking into someone’s suitcase. You just need to be willing to alter your trip plans based on the flights available. Sometimes, leaving a few days earlier or later can drop ticket prices significantly.
AirfareWatchdog suggests that you’ll get the best deal flying out on a Tuesday or Thursday and returning on Sunday or Monday. Afternoon and red-eye flights will also typically be cheaper. Saving money on flights also means being flexible with your destination. If you know you want to go to the beach, try looking for destinations in more affordable cities that you wouldn’t think of at first.
For example, flights to Miami may be significantly higher priced than tickets to Fort Lauderdale. We’ll tell you how to know what destination offers the best price further down in the article. But being flexible and open to new ways of travel is the number one tip for getting cheap flights.
2. Buy Early
Don’t wait until the last minute to buy your tickets. While right before a flight an airline might offer discounted tickets, your best bet is to purchase six to eight weeks in advance for domestic flights. As you get closer to the day of the flight, the airline will generally raise their prices as people get more desperate to get a seat on the flight they want.
To avoid this, buy before your seat becomes a scarce commodity. For trans-Atlantic flights to Europe you’ll want to book at least five months ahead of your trip. According to The New York Times, the “golden hour” to buy a flight is on Tuesday at 3 p.m. This is when the airline departments create sales for sites like Expedia.com and competitors will adjust prices.
3. Check Back Often
Don’t just buy the first cheap ticket you see, unless it’s an exceptionally good deal. Instead, check prices, write them down and then come back the next day to see if prices dropped or increased. Be patient and check back every so often to truly find the cheapest flight possible.
Download the Hopper app or use Hipmunk to determine when the the best to buy is. You can even set up notifications on these sites to tell you when prices have dropped. PC Mag even tested the Hopper app and found that the site will even predict if prices will go up. Be sure to follow our tip several numbers down about clearing your cookies to be sure airlines aren’t charging more after multiple searches.
4. Try Out Different Search Engines
Different search engines work well for different reasons. This New York Times article gives a breakdown of how to use a variety of travel search engines to get what you’re looking for. There are plenty of flight-finding websites and apps out there, and you might miss out on a deal if you just stick to one or two.
Many of these websites, like Kayak, will even compare deals from multiple flight search engines with each other. Frommer’s Travel Guide named Momondo the best place to find cheap airfares, with Kayak also ranking well. Orbitz and Expedia fared poorly on Frommer’s list with high prices limited options. Tripping.com prides itself on being “the Kayak of vacation rentals,” giving you the ability to find the perfect getaway for the best price.
Looking to book a holiday getaway during Christmas or New Years? Industry experts at Skyscanner recommend booking your flight about 11 weeks ahead around October. However, keep in mind that holiday prices only get higher and higher the closer it gets, so if you see a fair price, snag it! Don’t forget to set up price alerts to watch the flights.
5. Don’t Disregard Budget Airlines
Some people might avoid budget airlines because they think they’re not safe or high quality. Sure, you might not get some of the perks of flying with bigger airlines, but you’ll get to your destination for much less money. Budget airlines are becoming more common and offering more flights to more destinations. Take advantage of those deals on different airlines and consider giving up the non-stop flight for even more savings.
A reporter with the Los Angeles Times did the hard work for you and tested out multiple budget airlines. The LA Times reporter rated an Allegiant Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu a B+ with a savings of nearly $200 for that specific flight. Although it was ranked the most comfortable experience, airlines can be worth it and allow you to allocate your money to other parts of your dream vacation.
6. Test Out Different Destinations
Another area in which being flexible can result in savings is the destination of your flight. While you don’t want to end up too far from your hotel or vacation rental, landing somewhere a bit further away and taking a bus or taxi could be cheaper than a direct flight.
Google Flights and Skyscanner both have flight maps that can show you affordable destinations all over the country and world from your hometown. This makes it easy to plan an affordable trip in advance. If you already know where you want to go, then consider using a flight map to see if there are any nearby airports to your destination that offer lower prices. For example, you can save nearly $100 each way if you fly into Providence, Rhode Island instead of the Boston-Logan International Airport. That is, in some cases you have to be willing to make a bit of a road trip.
According to OAG, an air travel intelligence website, 37% of all travelers are willing to wait for more than four hours on a layover to save $200. If you consider yourself one of those people, then you’re in luck. We all know non-stops flights cost more, but that doesn’t mean you need to spend the day sitting in the airport waiting for a connecting flight. You could book your own connecting flights, which can be cheaper than letting the airline find a connecting flight for you.
This also gives you the freedom to make your vacation an around-the-world trip with layovers in multiple cities. Momondo suggests giving yourself plenty of time to get back into the airport and through security. For connecting flight in New York City it’s recommended to give yourself at least an hour and a half between flights. John F. Kennedy International Airport is the fifth-busiest airport in the United States and it’s important to give yourself plenty of time if you decide to book your own connection.
If you’re feeling really adventurous, give yourself a full day in the city to explore before a connecting flight. This can save you money on trips overseas to places like London and give you more flexibility on flight times.
7. Join Points Programs
If you fly a lot, joining a frequent flyer program can save you some serious bucks. Frugal Travel Guy says the point program offered by JetBlue is one of the best because it has fare-based rewards instead of by miles. These points can add up overtime without any extra work and have tons of perks. TrueBlue gives members three points per $1 spent on Amazon purchases and deals on restaurants and retail partners. This saves you money in the long-run and gives you the chance to get a free flight.
Even if you don’t fly all that much, you can get points toward flights by opening up a credit card that offers them. You might even end up getting a flight for free or be able to use the points towards gift cards or electronics. Southwest Airlines offers 60,000 points for signing up for their credit card, which can get you a round-trip flight to almost anywhere in the U.S. and even Canada. Southwest also offers two free checked bags, which can save you almost $100 per person and special perks if you’re a frequent flyer. According to The Simple Dollar, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is good for those looking to get creative with their airline miles. If you’re looking to travel to Asia or Australia, this may be the point system for you. The Chase Card allows point transfers to a variety of airlines including Korean Air, United Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic.
You may also want to sign up for your favorite airline’s email list for last-minute deals and promotions. This will be a good reminder to look for flights and use those points you’ve been saving up! You can also sign up for emails from aggregate sites like Kayak that will go straight to your inbox right when your dream destination goes on sale.
8. Avoid Busy Times
Generally, flights during the busiest times are the most expensive because of the higher demand. Book yours during off-times to find better deals. Lots of people fly out at the end of the week for vacations, so Wednesdays are usually the cheapest days.
Flights around holiday also tend to be more expensive, even Labor Day and Valentine’s Day. Business Insider says the Sunday after Fourth of July is the most expensive day to travel in the summer. Cheap Flights recommends traveling on the actual holiday to save big bucks. You also need to consider that flights to a certain city might even get more expensive when there’s a popular event going on there like the Super Bowl or a large conference.
Of course, everyone wants to book a weekend trip to Vegas from around Friday to Sunday. If you’re searching for the best flights to Sin City, you’ll save a lot of money traveling on weekdays. Plus, you’ll beat the crowds and find discounts on hotels and shows.
Bakpak Guide recommends traveling in the off-season to get even lower prices. This depends on where you’re traveling to, but destinations in Europe during the winter can be up to a third of the price off, according to the travel expert. Talking to a travel agent and getting their opinion on times and airlines is another great way to get an industry insider perspective and save money.
9. Consider One-Way Flights
Sometimes, booking a round trip is the cheapest way to go. Other times, it’s not. The only way to know which it is to test out both options. Look up round trips and note the prices. According to SmarterTravel, airlines like JetBlue, Southwest and Aer Lingus are affordable for one-way travel.
This is helpful when you find a good deal going one-way or have other plans for the way home. Many airlines want you to book roundtrip, however, these airlines charge the same or less for one-way seats.
10. Search Separately
Buying tickets in groups can make them more expensive. That’s because airlines will take the highest priced ticket and charge you that much for each ticket. You’ll get a better deal by searching for each individually, and then trying to pick seats that are together after you check out. You do run the risk of sitting separately, but you’ll save a good deal of money.
For families that need to sit together consider booking with an airline that has first come, first served seating. This way, you’re getting the best deal without paying for the group pricing. Be sure to triple-check that everyone in your party is on the same flight going to the same place!
11. Clear Your Cookies
Everything is based on supply and demand, and airlines take advantage of that with your browser history. If you’re constantly searching that trip to San Francisco, the airline will know you really want it and raise the prices. It’s usually an easy process to delete cookies off a browser and it can’t hurt your flight results. Smart Travel also advises to try searching on your phone or work computer to see if different prices come up.
12. Look at the Fees
This may sound like a no-brainer but different airlines have extra fees and taxes added on to the initial ticket price on the site. This AirfareWatchdog article gives you a breakdown of all of the fees major airlines charge and how much. Note that Southwest Airlines has a free ticket change fee. This is a great deal if you’re not sure of the dates you want to book or find a better price. It also is a relief that the price you see when you search on Southwest Airlines is the price you pay.
You probably won’t find Southwest Airlines on many flight aggregators mentioned above, so it’s good to check their site if you’re looking for this airline. Choosing which airline to fly all depends on how you prefer to fly and whether you’re certain about your dates.
We hope these tips gave you valuable insight on the best sites, times and tips to book cheap airfare. Using these tools and tactics could save you hundreds on your flight, leaving you room to do and see even more on your family vacation. Show off your trip on social media guilt-free knowing that you got the lowest prices on your flights.
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