January 5, 2020

How to Find Cheap Flights

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Don't let the cost of airfare keep you from your dream vacation. Here are smart ways to find cheap flights, no matter where and when.

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Choose the Right Search Engine

Compare several search engines to ensure you are getting the best price. It also helps to check the airline's website. Sometimes the rates you find on the direct website are better than via search engines.

Some search engines add to the price of the ticket to make money. So always check the fine print before you purchase.

Here's a list of search engines to get you started:

  • Skyscanner
    Skyscanner is consistently one of the top-ranked travel booking sites. It includes many of the budget airlines in their searches and does not add additional fees when booking. It also offers international flight deals and daily deals.

  • Google Flights
    Google Flights has a lot of features to help you narrow down the cheapest flights (see our detailed Google Flights guide). The calendar date grid is especially useful to cherry-pick the cheapest departure and return dates.

  • Airfare Watchdog
    Not sure where you want to go? Airfare Watchdog gives you a list of the day's best deals to different destinations from your home airport. You can also set up alerts from certain cities. This website is also great for passing along error fares (more on those below).

  • Kiwi.com
    Kiwi.com finds the best flight deals available by building itineraries using multiple airlines for one trip. But it's not a great option if you're a nervous traveler. The itineraries often include multiple airports, one or more layovers, and plane changes.

    See more favorites on our list of top websites to find the cheapest flights.

Pick the Cheapest Day and Time to Fly

Being flexible on the days and times you travel can save you a lot of money.

Typically, the cheapest days to fly are Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Overnight "red-eye" flights are usually the best overall value—plus, you'll save money by skipping one hotel night.

Your best bet is to use an airline's fare calendar to compare days. Skyscanner, for example, allows you to search by the cheapest month. Google Flights will show you the all prices across a calendar grid so you can select the cheapest departure and return dates.

Typically, the more layovers there are, the cheaper the flight. Sometimes, having layovers can save you hundreds. But sometimes, the savings is minimal and may not be worth it. For example, it may not be worth saving $30 when you have an 8-hour layover that will cut into your vacation time.

When to Avoid Flying
Fridays, Mondays, and early evenings are some of the most popular times to fly. Flights will be more expensive at these times.

Departing later in the day increases your chances of a delayed flight. Try to book flights early in the day so you're one of the first flights out.

Check out the Hopper app to see additional price analysis and track fluctuations in airline tickets.

Keep Your Flight Searches Secret

The price of a certain route will often increase if you are searching repeatedly. This is because the site is trying to make you think prices are increasing so you buy.

It's best to do all your flight searches in "incognito," or private browsing mode, so your browsing info is not being tracked. Or clear your cookies and browser history after every search.

For Google Chrome or Safari, click on Command (or Control), Shift and "N" to open an incognito window.

Search Local and Budget Airlines

Budget airlines might not show up in the major travel search engines. But they are worth checking out before you book.

But remember that when it comes to budget airlines, you get what you pay for. The low price often means no extras. Budget airlines usually come with:

  • Additional fees for checked and carry-on luggage
  • Extra costs for additional legroom
  • No free food or drinks
  • Fees for not printing your boarding pass before arriving at the airport
  • Strict weight and size restrictions on luggage

Double-check the location of the airport before you book. Some cheap airline airports are far from the city, which means additional money for transportation costs.

Here's a list of some local budget airlines from around the world:

Canada

  • Flair Airlines
  • Swoop
  • Jetlines
  • Air Canada Rouge
  • Spirit Airlines
  • Porter
  • Air Transat

United States

  • Southwest
  • Allegiant Air
  • Frontier
  • Spirit Airlines
  • Sun Country Airlines
  • JetBlue

Southwest is one of the best budget airlines because you get the first 2 checked bags free. You can also bring one free carry-on bag and one smaller bag for personal items.

Australia

  • Jetstar
  • Tiger Air
  • Scoot

New Zealand

  • Jetstar
  • Air New Zealand

Asia

  • Air Asia
  • Tiger Air
  • Jetstar
  • Hong Kong Express
  • Scoot
  • Spring Airlines
  • Vietnam Airlines
  • Nok Air
  • T'Way Airlines
  • Vanilla Air

Europe

  • Easyjet
  • Ryanair
  • Vueling
  • Iberia Express
  • Aer Lingus
  • Aigle Azur
  • Eurowings
  • Flybe
  • Norwegian Air (great rates for flying between Europe and North America)
  • Wizz Air

Consider Local Airlines
Flight search engines usually don't include smaller, local airlines. But it's worth doing a quick search to see if any local airlines service your destination area. Local airlines have deals just like the major carriers. You just have to look.

Take Advantage of Mistake Fares

Airlines can make mistakes when posting prices. If you're lucky, you can catch them yourself. But it's a lot easier to use a website that specializes in finding mistake fares.

Airfare Watchdog and Secret Flying both compile all the best error fares in one place. Keep an eye on them for super-amazing deals.

Create Your Own Itinerary

Airlines create itineraries based on the most convenient or shortest routes when multiple legs are needed. But that's not always the cheapest option.

With a little time and effort, you can piece together one-way flights to save you money across your entire itinerary. You don't have to stick to just one airline when you create your own itinerary.

But here are some things to remember:

  • Double-check times, dates, and arriving and departing airports before booking. One little mistake can cost you, negating any savings you created.

  • Watch layover times and give yourself plenty of time in between flights, especially at extra busy airports.

  • Use a website like Kiwi.com or AirWander if you don't want to do the work yourself.

  • Compare flight times. Sometimes, paying the extra money is worth it to avoid extra hours traveling.

Understand and evaluate the risks of creating your own itinerary. Booking with multiple airlines can create headaches if flights are cancelled or delayed. Each airline will only provide assistance to get you to the destination on that leg of the trip, which is not necessarily your final destination.

Be Spontaneous in Your Destination

Not sure where you want to go? If you're feeling spontaneous, why not decide based on flight prices?

Skyscanner, Google Flights, and Kiwi.com all have "search anywhere" features that let you enter your departure city and time period and see all the flights and their prices from that city. You can choose a destination based on what's within your budget.

If you're looking to travel but don't have a specific place in mind, this is a great way to have an inexpensive adventure.

The U.S. Department of Transportation requires all airlines to allow you to hold a reservation for 24 hours without a penalty for canceling. If you see a good deal, book it and give yourself 24 hours to decide if you want to keep it or not.

Look for Last-Minute Cheap Flights

Typically, the closer you get to departure, the more expensive flights will be. But if you're itching for an impromptu getaway and are flexible with your dates and destination, you can score some good last-minute deals.

Every day, Airfare Watchdog gives you a list of the day's best deals from your home airport. These deals span the next few months, so don't worry, they're not always extremely last minute.

Are last-minute flights really cheaper?
Not always. Usually, flights will be more expensive closer to takeoff because most last-minute flyers are business travelers whose companies can afford to pay. However, it is possible to find price drops on routes not popular for business travel.

Try Alternate Airports

Large cities often have more than one airport. Sometimes a flight into or out of a less central location can save you money.

For example, you can fly into Fort Lauderdale or West Palm Beach instead of Miami. Or flying into Newark is often cheaper than JFK in New York.

The website AlternateAirports.com lays out all the different options. Most flight search engines also have the option to choose alternate airports.

Use Miles and Points

Use your stockpiled miles and points to book your flight for cheap (or even free). Most of your travel rewards from credit card points to airline miles can be put toward flights.

Many of the major airlines have partner airlines and alliances that give you even more options when redeeming miles.

Some hotel reward programs and credit card reward programs, like Chase and American Express, allow you to transfer their points to different airlines. Check out our article on discussing what your airline miles are worth to get the most bang for your buck.

New to airline miles?
Start with our complete guide for airline miles for beginners. There are a ton of ways to earn miles without flying. Then you can redeem them for a future vacation.

Purchase With Another Currency

Sometimes you have the option to pay for an international flight using the local currency. Check the exchange rates to see if the local currency would be cheaper than paying in U.S. dollars.

Just be sure to use a credit card with no foreign transaction fees. Otherwise, those fees can negate any savings.

Sign Up for Ticket Alerts and Promotional Emails

Many travel search websites allow you to sign up for free price alerts on a specific route or just general good deals. You can also subscribe to email newsletters and promotions from your favorite airlines.

Often, they'll send the latest deals on flights. You can even personalize these based on your home airport and/or destinations you're interested in.

Many airlines also share flight deals on social media, especially Twitter. Follow and Like your favorite airlines to find the most current deals.

Hire a Travel Agent

Using a travel agent will cost you money—fees start at $25. But those agents often have access to deals that consumers do not.

That could save you hundreds of dollars, especially when booking expensive international or long-haul flights. In other words, the fee could be well worth it.

Find Cheap Flights

Las Vegas
Flights to Las Vegas are typically the cheapest in January, February, October, and November. It's best to book your flight about 1 month before your trip.

Florida (Orlando, Miami, Fort Lauderdale)
Whether you're visiting Florida's beaches or Disney World, the cheapest months for flights are usually October through February. Southwest, JetBlue, Spirit, and Frontier all offer budget fares to Florida.

Hawaii
The cheapest months to fly to Hawaii are September through November (with June and December being the peak months). January also offers significant price drops. Oahu is usually the cheapest city to fly to in Hawaii. It's best to book your flight about 5 months in advance.

Europe (London, Paris, Ireland, Italy, Iceland)
The cheapest time to travel to Europe is during the winter months from November to March (avoiding Christmas time). You'll find even better deals if flying mid-week. It's best to book your flight 3–6 months before your trip.

New York
Flights to New York are typically the cheapest in January and February. But anywhere from October to April (avoiding the major holidays) will offer great deals. It's best to book your flight about 3 months in advance.

India
Generally, the cheapest months to fly to India are October and November. February through March also offer cheaper prices. Avoid the peak season in December and the summer months. Flying into Mumbai or New Delhi will usually be the cheapest.

Cancun
You can typically find the cheapest flights to Cancun in September and October (November to March is the high season). However, this is also the rainy season.

Japan
The best flight prices to Japan are usually in October and November. The winter months can be expensive due to ski season, but you can also find good deals in January and February. The high season is from April (cherry blossom season) to the end of summer.

Bottom Line

Cheap flights are out there if you're motivated to find them. Use these tips and tricks to save on your next trip.

But remember: Cheaper doesn't always mean better. Make sure the savings are worth any extra travel time, hassle, or stress that may come with a less expensive ticket.

More from CreditDonkey:


Best Website for Flights


Google Flights


Priceline Flights


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