Kyle is the writer behind The Travel Runner. He’s a full-time traveler and adventurer who’s visited over 20 countries, including places like Thailand, Mexico, Vietnam, and Albania. He prefers a slower pace to his travels to explore destinations more in-depth and to get a feel for what life is actually like there. When he’s not writing, he’s usually off exploring trails with his fiancée, Kaitlyn.
Find cheap flights and airline tickets to save money. Compare prices from hundreds of sites and book the cheapest flights to your favorite destinations.
In a time where air travel is seemingly getting more expensive, finding cheap flights feels like hitting the jackpot.
It’s about navigating through various factors, some controllable and others not so much, to land a deal that’s light on the wallet but heavy on value.
So, how do you cut through the noise and find those cheap flights?
With these tips, of course! From tools to booking strategies, I’ll help you skip what took me years to learn so you can do it much faster (and cheaper).
So, let’s dive into them.
- Use the best flight search engines
- Consider booking flights with budget airlines
- Find the best time to book for your travel times and destination
- Using airline rewards and credit cards to lower your fare
- Keeping an eye on flight deals
- Use the cancel function to your advantage
- Compare flights at different airports and routes
- Avoid peak travel times with domestic airlines
1. Use the best flight search engines
Saving money for travel begins with a smart flight search.
First, use search engines that aggregate flights from various places. Skyscanner, Momondo, and Google Flights are excellent choices. They pool fares from airlines, online travel agencies, and other booking platforms, giving you a complete picture.
Digging deeper, try using flexible search options.
You can find cheaper fares if you’re flexible with your travel dates or even your destination. You’ll find more flights if you’re able to choose various dates and destinations — it’s as simple as that.
Last, think about setting up flight alerts. Google Flights allows you to watch airfare for specific dates and destinations, pinging you when prices drop.
It’s a proactive way to snag a deal when the price is right.
2. Consider booking flights with budget airlines
Budget airlines can be a game-changer.
But they can also be a headache. Because of their no-frills approach, your fees can rack up quickly for extra baggage, seat selection, and even having them check you into a flight (I’ve had this happen with Spirit).
They often operate from smaller, lesser-known airports, passing on the savings from lower operating costs to travelers through cheaper tickets. So the balance between cheap flights and the amount of hassle you’re willing to go through is up to you.
First, start by identifying budget airlines that serve your region.
In Europe, carriers like Ryanair and EasyJet are popular choices. In the US, airlines like Southwest, Spirit, and Frontier offer cheaper tickets.
Reading the fine print is crucial with these airlines.
The moment you go a pound over the weight limit, or you can’t fit your bag in their tiny bin at the gate, they’ll slap you with a heavy fee. So, if you go this route, be prepared to spend nights weighing out your bag or pulling your credit card out of your wallet.
It’s likely to be one of ’em.
3. Find the best time to book for your travel times and destination
Timing is everything, right?
And it’s no different for flights. Now, you’ll often hear there’s a best day/time to book. It’s all a bunch of bullshit. There are many factors that play into a flight price. So the more you learn about that process, the more deals you can grab.
For that, I recommend listening to Scott Keyes’s (owner of Scott’s Cheap Flights/Going) book, Take More Vacations, to learn the ins and outs.
But historically, data suggests that booking flights about 54 days before departure might offer the best deals, especially for domestic flights. However, this window can extend from 21 to 121 days before departure, providing a wide range of potential savings.
International flights, on the other hand, typically have a window that’s further out.
Scout for deals 3 to 4 months before your preferred travel dates. But each destination and airline has its own pricing rhythm, so you keep up with checking regularly.
A tool like Google Flights is instrumental in understanding price trends. It shows price graphs over time to gauge the best time to book. Other platforms like Skyscanner and Momondo have alert features to keep tabs on fluctuations. Some services like WayAway even offer cashback on flights.
Also, think about the seasonality of your destination.
High travel seasons, holidays, and significant events cause flight prices to skyrocket. On the flip side, the “dead weeks” following major holidays often see a dip in flight prices, giving you a window to snag some major deals.
4. Using airline rewards and credit cards to lower your fare
Using airline rewards and credit cards is huge for getting cheaper (or free!) flights.
Frequent flyer programs give you points or miles for each flight booked with the airline. Over time, these accumulate and can be redeemed for free flights or upgrades. If possible, stick with an airline alliance, which allows you to earn and redeem points across several airlines.
On the other side are travel credit cards.
These cards reward every dollar spent, which converts into miles. Some even come with hefty sign-up bonuses or a spending threshold, which can often be enough for a free flight. Travel credit cards often come with other perks depending on the company.
If it’s an airline, you can get free checked bags, priority boarding, and access to airport lounges, adding more value to your travel experience.
I strongly recommend the Capital One Venture Card because of its 2x miles, reimbursement for Global Entry (a serious game-changer), and plenty of other perks.
But do your research and find what works for you!
5. Keeping an eye on flight deals
A good deal can appear in the blink of an eye — and vanish just as quickly.
Subscribing to flight deal notifications helps solve some of these problems.
Platforms like Scott’s Cheap Flights (now Going) or Dollar Flight Club send alerts on deeply discounted prices, often due to airline errors or fare wars between carriers. Even better, you can choose your preferred departure airport, making the deals even more relevant.
There are also apps like Hopper where you can watch flights and then book when the timing is right.
Don’t forget to join airline newsletters as well.
They often offer exclusive offers to their subscribers, giving you a heads-up on sales before the general public.
6. Use the cancel function to your advantage
The cancel function is an underused feature in travel.
Most airlines and booking platforms have a grace period during which you can cancel your booking without a penalty.
This typically ranges from 24 to 48 hours after purchase.
And using this feature is something you should start doing immediately.
Say you stumble upon a flight but aren’t quite ready to commit. What if another deal comes up? You can lock in the current price by booking the flight and then continue searching during the grace period.
If a cheaper fare pops up, cancel the initial booking and snag the better deal.
However, tread carefully. Carefully read the cancellation policy of the platform you’re booking through. Some budget airlines might not offer this feature, or the terms might vary.
Ultimately, know what you’re getting yourself into if you play this game.
7. Compare flights at different airports and routes
Sometimes, the flight path less taken leads to surprising savings.
Exploring nearby or alternative airports is a wise move. Major hubs often have higher landing fees, translating to pricier tickets.
Instead, try flying into a smaller, nearby airport and take public transportation or rent a car to reach your final destination.
Similarly, being open to alternative routes can also yield cheaper fares. Direct flights are more convenient but come with a hefty price tag. On the other hand, flights with layovers, especially in less popular airports, significantly reduce the cost.
It might add to your travel time, but the savings are worth it.
Use Skyscanner and Momondo are handy when exploring different route options. They show you all the possible flight paths, including those with layovers in alternative airports.
8. Avoid peak travel times with domestic airlines
Domestic travel tends to skyrocket during popular travel times such as holidays and school vacations.
Airlines are well aware that these are the times families and individuals are most likely to travel to catch up with loved ones or to take a break from the routine, so simple supply and demand comes in, and prices go up.
Interestingly, while domestic airfares are soaring, you’ll find some great international flight prices.
The rationale is simple: fewer locals travel abroad during national holidays, prompting airlines to lure travelers with lower fares.
Especially if it’s a country that’s nearby, then it’s definitely worth scouting out prices.
Busting cheap flight myths
There are more flight myths than flavors of Gatorade.
This is the day to book.
Book at this time in Incognito mode, and you get the best deals.
We’ve all heard our fair share. But most (if not all) have no evidence behind them. So, here are some common myths that need addressing:
- There’s a magical hour or a specific day of the week: The reality is far from this myth. Flight prices fluctuate due to many factors, including demand, day of the week, season, airline competition, etc. The notion of a universal “best time” to book flights is a misconception, as confirmed by Going (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights).
- Booking a round-trip ticket from the same airline saves you money: While it can be convenient, it’s not always the cheapest option. Splitting your trip and booking one-way tickets with different airlines could save you some money.
- Last-minute bookings lead to cheaper fares: There might be occasional last-minute deals, but booking your flight in advance is generally more cost-effective, as prices tend to skyrocket closer to the departure date.
Busting these myths is the first step towards a more informed and effective flight search.
It frees you from the following common misconceptions, paving the way for a more flexible and savvy approach to finding cheap flights.
Ready to find the cheapest plane ticket?
Finding a cheap flight is more of an art form than anything.
The more you do it, the more you pick up on the tips and tricks that work for you.
After all, what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for everybody. But, if you follow a few tried and tested rules, you’ll do alright in the end.
If you’ve got a tip to book cheap flights, let me know in the comments so we can help everyone!
The more great tips we share, the better we all do in our search to find the best deals.