With constant ads bombarding us with low prices, companies offering to price match and all the new apps that help save money, we’ve harshly internalized the message that we MUST find the lowest price possibly on virtually everything. We may even feel guilty if we don’t.
When I find a good deal I feel like a modern day pirate. I still brag about my $5 ticket to Mexico and my $11 ticket to Spain. It’s no secret I prefer using airline miles earned from credit cards to buy a plane ticket. It’s the cheapest way I’ve ever been able to buy tickets. You’re just not going to find tickets that cheap by searching online.
Before I get started, let me just say that you have to let go of some of that pressure. There’s always going to be a lower price somewhere. The market is flooded with service providers, search engines and apps. There’s just too much to keep track of. Just inform yourself, be an astute consumer, and plan.
You can only do the best you can, and when you can do better, do better.
If you don’t want to play the credit card game, no matter the reason, I don’t blame you. It can be overwhelming. Like I say in my Bio, I’m a class A Cheapskate so I’ve been keeping my eye on various ways to save money on airfare. You won’t find any $5 flights this way, but here are eight other tips to help you find reasonably priced airline tickets.
It’s the first rule of scoring inexpensive fights.
The more variables in your trip that are flexible the better; your travel dates or arrival airport, for example. If you have a lot os specific requirements and constraints, you’ll generally pay a lot more.
If you’re flexible on a destination, you can just use Kayak’s explore tool to find the least expensive flights for your vacation time and just go there.
If you’re anything like me, you want to go everywhere so the order and timing doesn’t matter as much. Fly when there are promotions or specials.
If you’re just going to search online for inexpensive flights, remember a few things:
Don’t start shopping around until you’re ready to buy. As great as it is to watch and wait for the right fare, it’s equally important to pounce when the deal strikes. “Be ready to act as soon as the price you are happy with is available. You’ll be satisfied and won’t have regrets,” says Kaz Makepeace of YTravelBlog.
Browse in private/incognito mode and make sure to erase cookies. Airfare sites track how many times you check on the same flight. Reasoning that you want a flight the more you check, they’ll rise the price.
SITES TO CHECK FIRST
Airfarewatchdog.com- sends you alerts when a deal to either your departure or arrival airport pops up.
Skyscanner.com- As a visual person, I love seeing the bar graph of the rise and fall of ticket prices to a particular location.
Google and Expedia Explore- if you’re flexible, you can search flights to and from anywhere based on price.
Skiplagged.com- find less expensive flights by getting off on the layover destination of your flight. More below.
What you have to remember about budget airlines is that you must read the fine print. They want to tack on extra charges for every little thing. A girl we met in Barcelona said she was charged extra for not printing her boarding pass ahead of time. But in the end, is it so bad to print your ticket to save a wad of cash? Here are the most common budget airlines.
Spirit Airlines- this budget airlines has a bare naked fare that is usually very inexpensive. However, the base fare only allows you to take one personal item, like a purse, and pay for extra bags. This is actually a good deal because when a carry-on is included in the price, you know the airline is charging everyone a higher base fare. If you’re one of the few people that travel ultra-light, you know you’re really getting the cheapest price.
FLY TO HUBS
See if you can fly out of a popular hub like New York or LA. If you can take budget airline, or a bus or train to a hub, tickets out of the hub will be less expensive. Travel expert, Andy Graham, says Bangkok is the cheapest hub in the world.
CONNECT AND SUBSCRIBE
You can get deals sent to your inbox that the airline may not put up on their website.
It’s also a good idea to follow airlines on Social Media.
BECOME A FREQUENT FLIER
Star Alliance, One World and Sky Team are the three airline alliances that cover the world. Each alliance has dozens of airline companies under them so your frequent flier miles can usually transfer to partner airlines.
Create an account with Award Wallet to help keep track of all your miles and points across various programs.
The minds behind YTravelBlog taught me this trick as well. If you’re going to use a site like Expedia, try a foreign version of the site. Start with expedia.co.jp, the Japanese Expedia site, and click on the word “English” so you can search for flights. Results will pop up in Yen of course, but after a quick conversion, sometimes the flights are a little less than they would have been normally.
A NOTE ON AIRFARE TRENDS
Airfare resources from all over will give you different information about when is cheapest to fly and when to book. It’s overwhelming when every website gives you a different number. In a massive study done by CheapAir.com, they found that a ticket can change prices 70 times in a 4 ½ day window.
In all my research, I’ve heard that you should buy tickets 47 days, 11 weeks or 17 days before departure to get the best price.
I don’t think there is any magic number but generally prices will be a little higher if you book super far in advance because that’s when business travelers book their flights. Airlines know that these travelers will fly regardless of price so they can charge whatever they want. Once you get closer to the departure date, the airline is looking to make any profit they can because that plane is leaving no matter how many seats are filled.
Try to avoid traveling at peak times, like holidays and summertime. If you must travel during these times, or go somewhere popular like Hawaii, it’s usually better to buy the tickets sooner rather than later.
Just keep an eye on your flight and pounce when you see a price that meets your standards.
If you’re still worried about dropping that much money on a fantastic life experience you’ll cherish forever, remember that the airfare is the most expensive part of most trips. You can find inexpensive or free accommodations and many other ways to cut expenses.
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