Finding cheap flights sure is an art. But unlike most arts, you don’t need special talent to master this one. Scroll through this guide and learn how to book those cheap flights for your next trip!
Know A Good Deal When You See One
I’ve had so many people telling me how they got SUCH a great deal on a trip somewhere, followed by me thinking “you got robbed, hon” as soon as they reveal how much they spent. It’s so easy to get fooled these days, so how do you avoid that? Get to know your market.
Maybe it’s just a weird thing I do, but whenever I’m bored or can’t sleep I look up flights to different parts of the world I plan on visiting some day. This odd habit of mine (or symptom of insomnia perhaps) has helped me gain a certain idea on how much flights cost from Norway to basically anywhere. This comes in handy when I’m preparing to book tickets to my dream destination, as I know what a “great deal” really is.
I’m not suggesting you get insomnia and repeat my ritual. But you might save a few bucks by spending a couple of minutes each month checking flights to wherever you want to go, just to get a general idea of the average prices. This way you’ll know a steal when you see one!
Make sure you never miss a good deal again by following airlines and travel sites on social media. You can also sign up for their newsletter and you’ll receive an e-mail whenever they have a sale.
I can also recommend Scott’s Cheap Flights, an email service that will alert you whenever there are cheap international flights from your airport.
The Best Time To Book
There has always been this universal rumor among travelers that Tuesdays are the best day to book a flight. I’m not sure where this comes from so I can’t validate it or anything, but in my experience it is usually cheaper to book a flight in the beginning of the week.
When it comes to how far in advance you should book your tickets, the general rule of thumb is to book as early as possible. I usually book tickets for international trips two-three months in advance for the best prices.
The exception here are last minute deals, which are perfect if you have a flexible schedule, but you shouldn’t depend on this strategy if you’re planning on going somewhere for a specific time. That can get expensive real quick.
Be Flexible If You Can
Time of the year: Avoid popular dates as holidays and huge festivals, and fly to your destination off-season if you can. Traveling off-season has so many pros! It’s generally cheaper, there are less tourists and you won’t spent so much time stuck in lines everywhere. And even if it’s monsoon season in Vietnam, it doesn’t mean it rains all the time and shouldn’t visit – do proper research and you’ll see that most of the time, off-season travels are amazing.
Time of the month: Even if you had your heart set on London the first week of July, you might score tickets for a third of the price a few weeks earlier. On search engines like Momondo it’s easy to see when it’s cheaper to fly.
Time of the week: More people usually fly around the weekend, so sometimes a flight on a Wednesday might cost you a lot less than the same flight on a Friday or Sunday.
Time of the day: Sometimes you can get really cheap flights if you travel super early in the morning or very late in the evening. Just make sure you’re able to get to and from the airports that time of the day, or you might end up losing the money you saved to expensive taxi fares.
Flight Search Engines Are Your Friends
There are so many great flight search engines out there. The one I use the most is Momondo.com, which shows you the cheapest time to travel to a certain destination. It can even alert you when the price on a route goes down. It is such a versatile engine with many great features. I love their multi-city option, which is perfect whenever you don’t want to arrive and depart from the same destination – peeerfect for backpacking trips.
And if you want to see how far your money can get you, Momondo has an “anywhere” option for that as well. Just choose “anywhere” instead of picking a destination while searching the engine. So fun! After I check Momondo, I usually open some new tabs in my browser and check search engines like Google Flights, Kayak, Kiwi and Expedia for the same route. The reason why I do this is that different engines show different airlines and prices.
Spend some time playing around with different variables like travel dates and ticket types. Although it’s usually cheaper to book a round trip, I’ve occasionally saved a lot of money on booking two one-way tickets instead. I’ve also learned that I sometimes get an even better price at the airline’s website, so check the prices at the airline’s website before you purchase.
Ever noticed that whenever you’re looking at the same flight online, the price goes up each time? Then you get all stressed and rush to book tickets before the price goes up even more – which we both know it eventually will.
So annoying! But also super easy to fix: Delete your browser history and cookies ASAP. Check out this guide if you don’t know how to. You can also make things easier for yourself by using incognito mode in your browser next time.
I seriously cannot stress this enough! This is my most important tip on how to book cheap flights. I helped my grandma save roughly $200 (!) by ‘going incognito’ two days ago.
Check Other Airports
Sometimes you can save money on flying from a different airport than your local one. My co-bloggers Courtney and Samantha always book their Europe tickets from Toronto instead of their hometown Detroit, as it is so much cheaper. The same thing goes for me: I’m from a small town in arctic Norway and I usually save money by tracking international flights to and from Oslo instead of Bodø or Tromsø. And then I just book the domestic flights separately after.
The only con is if you miss a leg on ‘one of the trips’ you booked because of a delay on the ‘other trip’ you booked separately. Since you didn’t book the trip as one trip, the airlines won’t automatically book you on another flight for free if you miss a leg. So make sure you plan layovers with a bit of extra time and have travel insurance (which you totally should have anyways).
Beware Of Extra Fees
Most low cost airlines offer great prices these days and have for that reason become very popular among travelers. Keep in mind that most of them also charge you for basically any extra service you want. We’re talking luggage fees, seat reservations, meals and even water.
Stay clear of those extra fees while booking and you’ll be fine. If you’re on a tight budget you can even travel with carry-on only for cheaper tickets, and on the trip itself you can bring your own food and reusable water bottle to save some extra cash.
The best price usually comes with a catch, and a lot of the time that catch is a long layover on one or both of you flights. Although long layovers can be exhausting and annoying, they don’t have to be a bad thing. Sometimes you get to explore a new city! Just make sure the layover isn’t too long if you’re on a super tight budget – you might end up spending the money you saved on expensive airport food.
Recommended: Make The Most of A Layover In Hong Kong
Travel Hack Your Way Across The Globe
Earn bonus points and miles by signing up for rewards programs with various airlines. You can even earn points and miles by choosing the right credit card! I’m a EuroBonus member and I’ve received a lot of benefits because of it. I got a trip with SAS from Bodø to Chicago for basically nothing back in 2017, and I even got to bring my sis. SUCH a great trip.
Summary: How To Book Cheap Flights
- Follow airlines and travel sites on social media & sign up for newsletters like Scott’s Cheap Flights
- Join airline reward programs and earn bonus points & miles.
- Be as flexible as possible and travel off-season whenever you can. Accept layovers.
- Start looking for flights as early as possible, at least 2-3 months prior to a trip.
- Look for tickets early in the week if possible.
- Delete browser history, clear cookies and turn on incognito mode before searching for tickets.
- Research flights on search engines like Momondo and Google Flights. Play around with different variables like dates and one-way vs round-trip. Compare with prices on the airline websites.
- Check prices from nearby airports as well.
- Turn on price-alert on your Momondo and Google Flight apps.
- Keep ticket prices low by cutting extra costs like luggage fees, food and drinks on the plane, seat reservations, etc.
- Look out for last-minute deals!