A common misconception is that travel is expensive and should only be viewed as a luxury, but I believe that everyone should have access to see the world!
What I have noticed on my own adventures is that your airfare will usually be the most expensive part of your trip. Getting yourself to your destination is the first step, and over the years I have discovered some really sneaky ways to find the best deals on plane tickets.
Ready to start exploring? Here are my top tips and tricks on how to find the cheapest flights:
Utilize Search Engines (But Book Directly with the Airline)
Helpful tip: Always search for flights in “Private” or “In Cognito” mode!
3rd party airfare search engines are heaven-sent. There really is no easier way to compare prices across multiple airlines and departure cities!
I usually start my search with Skyscanner. Skyscanner has been my favorite bargain hunting tool since my very first solo trip – I found my roundtrip flight to Phuket, Thailand for $500 USD this way! Even if I don’t know exactly where I want to go yet, or when, I use this site to simply browse what’s available and see if I can come across any deals I just can’t pass up.
What I love about this site in particular is the search options it gives you. If you have flexibility with your schedule, you can search for the best deals to your destination by cheapest month. If you have even more flexibility and aren’t set on any specific destination, you can even search “Everywhere” and scope out all flights leaving your departure city in any given month!
Here are some of my favorite 3rd party search engines for airfare:
Additionally, I think a good practice would be to utilize these search engines, but book the flight you find directly with the airline. If something comes up during your travels and you need to modify your flight, or say your flight gets delayed and you miss your layover, it will be much easier to walk up directly to the airline counter at the airport to speak with them than to get on the phone with customer service for the company you bought your ticket with. Even if the ticket is for that airline, since it was purchased through a third party, that ticket would be out of the airline’s control and the reps at the counter won’t be able to help you.
I personally have never attempted to book travel through a third party site, but I have also met other travelers who have and had zero issues with them. I personally just wouldn’t risk the potential headache it may cause later down the line. Travel can be stressful enough as it is, I try to minimize those stress levels as much as possible.
If you’re able to have a little flexibility with your travel schedule, the best time to book your flights is usually 1-3 months out before your ideal departure date. During this time airlines will heavily drop prices on flights that still have open seat in an attempt to sell out and reach full capacity.
I have found some of my greatest airfare finds this way, including my one-way ticket to Barcelona for $169 USD! (Explained below.)
If flexibility with your schedule isn’t an option for you, then the best practice is to book tickets way far in advance. I’m currently working full-time again and can no longer leave the country at a moment’s notice, so these days I’m finding that the best deals are 6-8 months out.
Get Creative with your Itinerary
Sometimes the best deals can be found if you think outside the box a little bit. Booking your flight segments separately might end up saving you a lot of $$! Let me give you an example –
I found my airfare to Marrakech, Morocco for a total of $202.33 USD.
My most fond airfare find to date! Here’s how I did it:
I used Skyscanner to browse flights, and fortunately at the time I had plenty of flexibility with my schedule. From searching for flights to Morocco directly (from LAX), I found that most airlines stopped in Barcelona first. So I modified my search to look for flights only to Barcelona, and found a one-way to Barcelona city on Norweigian Airlines for $169 USD. The flight was departing in about 5 weeks, and was a Basic Economy middle seat in the very last row of the plane, but I didn’t care. 🙂
From there, I knew I could get to Marrakech using a super inexpensive European airline called Ryanair. My flight from Barcelona to Marrakech was $33.33 USD.
Barcelona wasn’t my goal destination but since I was landing there anyways, I decided to add it to my itinerary and explore the city for a few days before moving on to Morocco.
Getting creative with booking my flights not only saved me money, but also had me exploring new places I wasn’t planning to! Keeping an open mind and being flexible really is the best way to travel.
Compare Prices Across Different Departure and Arrival Cities
Sometimes the cheaper flight options can be found leaving from or arriving to a different airport.
For me, I live in Orange County, California and my closest airport is John Wayne in Santa Ana (SNA). However, I have always flown internationally out of LAX because that’s where the better deals are. It’s worth the extra hour drive it takes me to get there.
Additionally, it may also be worth it to look at alternative arrival cities for your destination. Check with search engines and see if landing at a different airport makes sense for where you’re headed.
Use your Airline Miles!
Have any of those rewards credit cards? (And if not, you totally should!)
Most credit card companies offer promotional incentives when you open a new account, usually in the form of airline miles that will cover a roundtrip flight! (Two of the cards I personally use are the Chase Sapphire and Delta SkyMiles rewards cards.)
If you have miles available, use them! Even if you don’t have enough to cover a roundtrip flight, using miles to cover a one-way segment may save you money.
Finding the best airfare deals may take a little time and effort, but it is well worth it. More money saved means more traveling!
Are there any airfare hacks I missed? I would love to hear about your best deal finds in the comments below!