Finding cheap flights is tough. They are often the most expensive part of your trip. What’s more, searching the vast depths of the internet for a deal can be tiresome and frustrating.
Fortunately, there are a few tips that you can use to ensure you don’t miss out.
In this article, I’ll show you exactly how to find cheap airfares, so you never need to fret or overpay again.
Finding Cheap Flights
I have traveled extensively, and have been using these exact steps to find the cheapest possible flights since I started back in 2009.
Gone are the days when travel agents would find you the best deals on airfares. You can now easily find these yourself as you plan your trip! This step-by-step guide will walk you through the process and give you the only tips you need for finding cheap flights.
Book as soon as you know where you want to go
In my experience, airline tickets very rarely get cheaper as you get closer to your departure date. This is especially true if you have a set travel date in mind. Generally speaking, airlines (particularly the budget ones) will offer tickets at a base price and begin to increase fares as more tickets sell.
As such, if you know when you want to fly, don’t wait. The earlier you book, the more money you will save.
Don’t wait for flights to get cheaper
Granted, there have been a few instances over the years where I have seen flights for slightly cheaper after I had already booked. While this can be frustrating, in my opinion, waiting is still not worth the risk of missing out. It’s very rare. When you know where you want to go and have found a cheap flight, book it and move on. Don’t obsess or wait; it’s more than likely you’ll end up overpaying.
Search for flights in incognito to avoid inflated prices
Keeping your searches secret is important for finding cheap flights.
Flight search engines and ticket sites use tracking cookies to monitor your browsing history. If they see you repeatedly searching for the same routes, they might increase prices to scare you into booking the flight before it gets even higher.
By searching in a private session, there will be no tracking cookies, and you guarantee you will see the lowest price.
How to get into incognito/private mode
Open the browser
Hit Command (Mac)/Control (PC), Shift, “N”
Incognito will open in a new window
Mozilla Firefox/Internet Explorer
Open the browser
Hit Command (Mac)/Control (PC), Shift, “P”
Private mode will open in a new window
Each time you come back to search your route, restart with a new incognito session, as this clears all cookies.
Use the best flight search engines to cover all corners
There are several airline search engines out there, all of which have different and useful features. That being said, below are my preferred sites for finding cheap flights. They seem to consistently produce the best results.
Skyscanner – a broad comparison site that lets you search with flexible travel dates.
Momondo – another broad search engine that shows all major AND budget airlines including non-English websites.
Kiwi.com – combines all airlines to create routes that are cheaper than booking with just 1 airline.
Google Flights – has an excellent map view for a flexible destination search.
Use multiple comparison sites
Many of the above sites don’t include all budget airlines. The reason for this is budget airlines don’t want to pay commission to booking sites.
Search across all the above sites to ensure you find the best deal.
Book directly through the airline
Flight search engines will sometimes bring up third party booking sites as the cheapest option for your flight.
Avoid these when possible.
Booking with the airline itself is the most secure!
There are numerous online “budget” travel agents offering cheap tickets – sometimes cheaper than the airlines themselves. However, they may be selling seats on flights before they have even secured them with the airlines. Should they fail to lock these down, you could lose your booking.
You don’t want to find yourself in a struggle to reclaim your money AND having to rebook flights (which would most likely have increased in price by this time).
Book directly through the airline if possible, or use well-known, widely trusted travel sites.
Search with flexible dates to find the cheapest tickets
Airfare prices can change significantly depending on your travel date.
So, what does this mean?
It pays to be flexible. Even adjusting either your departure or arrival date by a few days could save you money and help with finding cheap flights.
Avoid busy periods
This may be easier said than done depending on family and work commitments. But if you can, avoid booking flights around popular holidays such as Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Thanksgiving, Summer Holidays, etc.
Airlines are smart and know that these are popular times to travel.
They hike up the ticket prices.
It’s also often cheaper to fly during the middle of the week than on a weekend.
How to search with flexible dates
You’ll likely know roughly when you want to travel and can narrow it down to a specific period. The best strategy from here is to search within a whole month for the cheapest date for your route.
Open up Skyscanner
Select ‘one-way’ rather than ‘roundtrip’ (this is simply to determine the cheapest days to fly out first – you can look for the return leg after
Enter your departure and arrival destinations
Under “Depart”, select “Whole Month”,
Hit “Cheapest Month” for the cheapest option available for your route or select the month you wish to fly
Hit “Search flights”
This will give you a calendar view with the price for each date, allowing you to easily select the cheapest.
You can also search with Kiwi.com and Google Flights. Both of these sites will automatically give you a calendar view of the flights available and their price.
Search multiple destinations to find the cheapest route
Being flexible with where you fly could also save you money on flights.
If you don’t yet have a concrete plan, certain sites make it easy to search for flights to anywhere. This allows you to browse various routes and choose a cheap flight.
Need inspiration for a destination?
You can search for flights to “everywhere” in Skyscanner.
Enter your departure city
Select a date range to fly
Under “To” type “Everywhere
Skyscanner will show you a list of destinations by price
What’s more, you may not necessarily need to fly to an exact location, even to get to a specific destination. There are often multiple airports within striking distance of one another. It may be cheaper to fly elsewhere and take public transport/drive a hire car to your destination.
My parents live in France. I recently went to see them, and it was significantly cheaper to fly to Paris and take the train than to fly to the airport closest to them (La Rochelle).
A flight to La Rochelle was $110. The flight to Paris was only $40 and the train from Paris to La Rochelle was $30 – $70 in total. My travel time was a couple of hours longer, however, I saved myself $40!
How to search with multiple destinations
Open up Google Flights
Enter your departure city
Select a date range
Google flights will show available routes and their costs in a map view.
Choose one close to your final destination
From this point, it is important to do your research. There is no point in booking a super cheap flight if it will cost you a $100 cab fare to get to your final destination!
Check there is affordable transport. Airports often offer a bus/skytrain/shuttle service directly into nearby city centers. Airport websites provide information on this.
Consider indirect flights
While it might not be the quickest or most eco-friendly option, it is sometimes cheaper to take a flight somewhere else and then a second flight from there to your final destination.
My friends recently came to visit me in Canada from the UK. Direct flights were roughly $1000. However, I found flights to Dublin for $60 and flights from Dublin to Vancouver for $700 – a total of $760. Their journey time was longer, but they made a significant saving.
How to book indirect flights
Kiwi.com and AirWander both show routes that involve multiple airlines and might work out cheaper. Alternatively, you can search manually. I have often found my manual searches produce the best results.
The manual method
This method requires more work as it involves manually checking out different route options and airlines, however, it could ultimately save you money on your flight.
Use a search engine to find out how much a direct flight is to your destination
Open up Google Flights
Enter your departure city
In “Where to?”, enter your destination continent eg. ‘Europe’
Examine the prices of flights to nearby airports in the map view
If there is a significantly cheaper option, use a search engine to check the price of a flight from that airport to your final destination
Compare the total of the two flights with the cost of the initial direct flight result
Prioritize larger city airports. They usually have more destinations and carriers meaning more chance of a secondary cheap flight ticket
Leave enough time between flights
When booking indirect flights with different airlines, ensure you leave enough time in between.
Why is this so important?
Unfortunately, the second airline is unlikely to be too understanding if something were to go wrong with your first flight.
It is better to wait a few hours than to stress or miss your second flight.
I would advise leaving a minimum of 4 hours between connections. If you can wait longer, do it. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Better yet, make it an overnight stopover and see an additional destination. Not only is this a great opportunity to see somewhere else on your trip, but it is often even cheaper than a regular flight.
Enter your departure location, final destination, and travel dates
Hit the red box between the departure and arrival to add a stopover
Amend the number of days you want to stopover.
Choose from the list of places available for a stopover
Side note: Don’t forget you might need a visa for your stopover, even if you don’t leave the airport!
Use a Budget Airline
Flight comparison sites are an effective tool for finding cheap flights, but they don’t always include budget airlines.
These airlines now provide both long and short-haul routes all over the world, meaning they often have the cheapest flight options.
Ryanair, for example, offers absurdly cheap fares all over Europe, sometimes from as little as $10. The same goes for Air Asia around Asia and Australia.
Here is a full list of budget airlines by location:
Air Canada Rouge
Hong Kong Express
Watch out for add-ons with budget airlines
When booking through a budget airline, the price quoted is usually just for the flight itself. Always read the fine print before booking. There could be additional costs for anything else, including:
choosing a seat
printing your boarding pass
using a credit card to pay
For this reason, ensure to include any additional fees when weighing up the cost of a budget airline ticket.
Budget airlines can be strict with restrictions. Don’t risk trying to get your hand luggage through if it’s over the size or weight limits as they will charge you excessively at the airport!
Use a flight rewards credit card to get discounted fares
Points and rewards are an excellent means of finding cheap flights.
You can sign up for a specific rewards card that earns points with a particular airline, or a more general travel rewards card that lets you redeem points across a variety of airlines.
Sign up for mailing deals and specials
This is a nice simple method that might get you a great deal.
The best part?
They do the work for you!
Sign up for mailing lists from airlines and search engines to get deals and last-minute specials. Airlines occasionally have flash sales where cheap fares are only available for a short period. By signing up to mailing lists, you ensure you don’t miss out.
Here are some mailing lists that I recommend joining:
Airfarewatchdog – lists error and sale fares
The Flight Deal – Great for flight deals all over the globe
Holiday Pirates – Great for European flight deals
Scott’s Cheap Flights – Great for US flight deals
Jacks flight club – Perfect for inspiration and cheap flight deals for those flexible on destination
Already have a specific route and date in mind, but not ready to commit?
Sign up for a Skyscanner price alert.
Enter your route and date information into Skyscanner
Hit “Get Price Alerts”
Sign up with either Facebook or your email
Wait for updates
Search for a single ticket regardless of how big the group is
Avoid searching for multiple tickets in a single transaction, regardless of your group size.
Airlines charge the highest ticket price in a group of tickets, for the whole group.
Let’s break this down:
We already know that ticket prices are tiered depending on availability. But, the airline will show you 4 fares based on the highest ticket price.
Let’s say you are a group of 4 friends searching for tickets. If ticket 1 is $100, tickets 2 and 3 are $125, and ticket 4 is $150, the airline will price all 4 tickets at $150 each.
That’s not fair, right?
To avoid this, start your search for a single ticket. This will guarantee you see the cheapest available seat. You can book the remaining seats after.
It pays to be smart when finding cheap flights.
Check the price in other currencies
Consider if the price is cheaper in another currency.
Budget airlines tend to charge you in the currency of your departure country, but you can sometimes change this. Do a quick check to see if the ticket is cheaper in your home currency or the local one. Sometimes this won’t make a difference, but depending on how the 2 currencies have been doing in the market, there is sometimes a significant difference.
If you pay in another currency, use a credit card that has no foreign transaction fees!
So there you have it. 11 sure-fire ways to find cheap flights. Now it’s your turn.
Which tip are you going to try first?
Do you have any more helpful tips for finding cheap flight tickets?
Either way, leave a comment below and let us know!
Whilst you’re here…
We have some new Travel Tips articles you might be interested in including an awesome article on planning a trip. Feel free to check them out!