I’m sure it’s no surprise that the number one question I get is “how do you afford to travel so much?” Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret: one of the biggest ways is by saving on flights! Airfare can be one of the most expensive parts of travel, but it doesn’t always have to be. More often than not, the reason you’re spending so much on flights is probably that you don’t know how to search! So here are a few of the tips I use to find the cheapest flights whenever I travel:
Have Flexible Travel Dates
One of the best ways to save on airfare is being flexible with your travel so you can purchase at the lowest rates. Rates can vary drastically from one day to the next, and most airlines have a “low fare calendar” that allows you to see the cheapest flights within 30 days. This used to be very easy to do but due to recent airline regulation changes, it’s more difficult to search flexible dates.
Thankfully, Google has a helpful software for searching for flights called Matrix that allows you to do an advanced search and utilize their low fare calendar. Here’s an example of a random search I did for a roundtrip flight from Miami To Boston in January:
It’s also important to plan ahead and try to purchase your airfare a few months in advance or more. Airlines release flight schedules 330 days in advance, and the cheap seats are usually the first to go! And know that most airlines have a 24-hour grace period to have your purchase refunded, and after that they typically allow cancellations for an extra fee.
Believe it or not, airlines websites use your browsing history and cookies at times to inflate fares. This can become a problem when you are a low fare hunter (like myself) and you’re doing lots of searches across multiple websites. This is easily avoided through private browsing, which you can do in Chrome by opening an “Incognito Window“.
Fly with Budget Airlines
Guys, let me tell you – budget airlines are my new best friend. Did you know it’s possible to fly from the U.S. to Europe for $300 or less? I know, I didn’t believe it at first either. Budget airlines are becoming increasingly popular and are able to provide their lower rates in a few ways: they don’t provide free meals or drinks (so make sure to pack a lunch on your international flight!), they typically only use one type of aircraft to simplify maintenance costs, and they only fly point-to-point.
Price is clearly the biggest pro when it comes to budget airlines but there are a few cons to be aware of:
- You’ll have to pay for baggage separately, and are only sometimes allowed a free carry-on
- The meals for purchase tend to be pricier (hint as to why I said to pack a lunch!)
- You may not be able to choose your seat, and the plane will likely be less spacious
- You may fly into a smaller airport that’s further away from the city (more common in Europe, so make sure to map out where you’re flying into before you book!)
That being said, this is not the most ideal option for everyone. But for those with flexible dates looking to travel on a budget, it may be a life saver! Here are a few of the budget airlines I’ve come across
Norwegian Air: Cheap flights to/from Europe
Ryanair: Cheap flights to/from Europe
Jetstar: Cheap flights to/from Australia
FastJet: Cheap flights to/from Africa
LAN: Cheap flights to/from South America
Icelandair: Cheap flights to/from Iceland and Europe
WOW Air: Cheap flights to/from Iceland, Europe, and Canada
EasyJet: Cheap flights to and around Europe
Tigerair: Cheap flights to/from Australia, Asia, and the South Pacific
These are just a few popular ones, but be sure to do your own research for your particular trip!
Know When To Fly
It’s the general consensus that the cheapest days to fly are Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. It’s said that the most expensive days to fly are Fridays and Sundays. Is this rule always true? Not really. Your best bet is to keep these days in mind and use a low-fare calendar (as mentioned above) to compare prices.
And of course, less desirable flights will be cheaper! Rush hour for flying is the afternoon, so you may want to save by forgoing some sleep and booking an early morning or overnight flight.
Try Alternate Routes
Though it’s less convenient, you can often save money by flying into or out of the airport in the next city over. I know for me, my closest airport is MIA but flights are often significantly cheaper at FLL, which is 40 minutes further. The key is to utilize websites like Skyscanner that allow you to search “All Airports” in a certain area instead of just the one that’s closest. This will allow you to compare a lot more fares.
You also may find better deals by purchasing two one-way tickets instead of a round trip or being flexible with where you are starting and ending your trip if you’re backpacking, for example. It may be cheaper to fly on a budget airline to a different destination in Europe than you had planned and then take a train or another budget flight, because it’s much cheaper to travel around once you’re there!
Get a Refund If Your Ticket Price Drops
Often times, you’ll notice your ticket price has dropped after you’ve purchased it. But the good news is that most airlines will offer a refund when this happens. Simply call your airline and ask about their “low fare guarantee” and how you can get a refund for the price drop, and make sure to have your receipt and confirmation number handy. You can do this up until the day of departure so it may be worth it to check prices weekly!
Sign Up for an Airline Credit Card
The catch with this is that you’ll only get great perks when you first sign up, unless you fly constantly for work. I signed up for a credit card with US Airways (now owned by American Airlines) and I got 40,000 upfront after paying my $90 annual fee and spending my first dollar on the card. These air miles don’t equate to actual miles of course, so you have to look up what these miles can purchase with your particular airline.
With my points, I could have purchased one higher-priced round trip ticket anywhere in the continental U.S. or two lower-priced tickets. I was able to use only half of my miles to get a round trip ticket to California from Florida, and now I’m using the rest to go to D.C. in a couple of months! Not bad for only paying $90!
If you don’t plan on flying much, you may as well close the card after one year so you don’t have to continue to pay the card’s annual fee. But I’ve chosen to keep my card open and pay for my larger purchases and all my flights on the card, and you’ll earn enough to get a free ticket if you use your card a lot! I only use this card when I actually have the money to pay it off, so I’m simultaneously building awesome credit. Win!
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