Flying is usually the most expensive part of any trip, whether it’s domestic or international. Which is why cutting the cost of that plate ticket can really shave some dollars off your trip expenses. There are tons of ideas swirling around online telling you how to find the cheapest flights, but as you’ll discover, not all of them are actually worth your time.
Ultimately, with the right tools, a little patience, and an open mind, you can definitely save some serious cash on airline tickets. Here’s our take on how to do it best:
Ever heard that Tuesdays are the magic day to buy cheap flights? Well, you heard wrong. The idea that flights are cheaper on Tuesdays is basically a myth. Flight prices are constantly changing based on many different factors apart from the day of the week.
Most airline tickets are organized by what are called fare buckets, in which a certain number of flights are sold at one price, and others at another price. These numbers fluctuate based on how many tickets have been purchased, the economy, global affairs, and so many other reasons. The airlines aren’t just changing their prices every Tuesday.
Another myth people talk about when it comes to the best way to find cheap flights is that clearing your cookies every time you start a new search will get you better prices. It turns out this doesn’t change a thing, and you don’t need to search incognito either. Like we said, airline prices are extremely volatile and depend on a lot of other factors that have nothing to do with your personal search engine data.
One of the best ways to find cheap flights is to be flexible. This goes for both your travel dates and your destination. You may be stoked about flying into Austin for a vacation, but then check the flight prices and realize it’s way out of your budget. Look at other destinations and see how they compare. Or, fly into a larger airport (which often has cheaper rates) that’s near your desired spot and drive there instead.
When it comes to the travel dates, this is where you can really play around and save some cash. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays are some of the cheapest days to travel, so try selecting those days and see what it costs you. Even shifting your trip by just one day or lengthening a 7-day vacation to an 8-day one can make a difference. If you search for flights in Google, for example, it will actually offer you tips on how to adjust your flight to get the best price.
Also, keep in mind that peak travel seasons may not be the best times to travel, especially if you’re looking to save money. Instead, try flying a few days before that big rush starts. If you work remotely, this is a really great option. Arrive a few days early, work from your new location, and head out on your adventure once it’s time for vacation.
If you’re wondering how to find extremely cheap last-minute flights, here’s our suggestion: Hope for the best.
Yes, there are last-minute deals and standby options, but they’re unreliable and you cannot plan your life around them. Wait around too long and what you’ll probably have to do is drop some serious unexpected cash.
In general, starting 21 days before your travel date is considered extremely last-minute.
When it comes time to buy your flight, you want to get the lay of the land and search multiple sites to find the best deals. Google is a great place to start, as it shows you when certain days are cheaper than others. You can also use the map feature to set your dates and see which destinations are the cheapest for your travel dates.
Search sites like Skyscanner, Kayak, Priceline, and Momond are other helpful sites to use to check prices and flight paths. They compare airlines and route combinations, and some also give you the option to simply find the cheapest destination from your departure airport during any month of the year.
Once you’ve searched these sites, double-check the specific flight with the airline website. You may find cheaper prices, and you’ll get a better idea of what’s included in the deal, such as carry-on and checked baggage allowances. Southwest Airlines, for example, doesn’t even show up on these aggregate sites.
Keep in mind that if you book through an aggregate site, you may have fewer guarantees in terms of cancellations and refunds. When in doubt, use them as a way to find specific routes and then book directly through the airline.
You probably don’t want to be checking travel websites every day to find the best deals, but luckily there are alternatives. Those same fare aggregator sites, along with Google, let you set price alerts for certain destinations and dates. You can get daily emails on how the flight price is fluctuating and get a better idea of the average fare for the flight.
One of the best things about airfare alerts is that they help you catch super-low mistake fares, which airlines accidentally publish and then have to honor. If you stumble upon an accidental “mistake fare,” book it. Any flight booked to and from the U.S. (or within) can be canceled for free within 24 hours. That gives you some time to ask your boss for the vacation time, or see if the date works with your travel buddy.
You may be hankering to get to your destination as soon as possible, but direct flights can be expensive. Include the option of layovers and stopovers in your search to see if you can find something cheaper. You can also look into stopover programs and visit a new city for a day.
It’s true, bigger airlines tend to be more reliable and consistent. But your goal is about saving money here, so budget airlines are definitely something to check out.
Airlines like Spirit and Frontier offer insanely cheap fares if you play your cards right. You will probably have to pay for bags, drinks, and the ability to select your seat, but it’s the best option if you’re trying to score the cheapest flights.
Whether it’s a budget airline or a traditional one, packing light for your trip can save you money on your airfare (and time). Many airlines have changed their policies on checked bags in the past few years, meaning you’re likely to pay for a checked bag on almost every flight.
Make sure you factor in the bag fees when you’re comparing prices. Southwest, for example, doesn’t charge for the first two checked bags. Even if the flight is a bit more expensive, it could easily be cheaper in the end if you’re checking luggage.
Once you get to your destination, you can save even bigger on transportation by borrowing a car with Avail. You’ll skip the rental car altogether — the hidden fees, confusing insurance policies, red tape — and use a car-sharing service with upfront, honest prices.
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