Finding and booking cheap flights does take some time but it doesn’t have to be as overwhelming as you think.
With the right resources and methods, you can definitely find airfares that fit your budget. Check out this guide for getting the cheapest flights possible.
Be flexible with choices of destinations and departure date
Not sure when is the best time or which places are the most affordable options for your next trip? Don’t worry!
If you’re flexible with your destination and date of departure, you will be surprised by the amount of money that can be saved as compared to choosing a specific destination and date.
One airfare booking site that gives you such flexibility in flight bookings is SkyScanner.
Basically, you just choose the country from which you fly from and click on “Can’t decide where?” as your choice of destination. You can also choose the cheapest month to depart and arrive in.
For instance, I select Canada as the point of origin, and Everywhere (or Can’t decide where?) as the destination. The date of departure and arrival will be Cheapest Month.
This leads to a list of cheap destinations. If I decide on Iceland, another list of the cheapest cities in Iceland will be shown. In this case, Reykjavik is the cheapest one (starting from 256 dollars).
This flexible way of finding flights is perfect for you if you’re on a budget or have no idea where exactly you want to travel to.
Another flight search engine worth checking out is Momondo. It works similarly to SkyScanner with the exception of dates of departure and arrival (in which you need to specify a date).
Kayak’s Explore Tool is another incredible platform for finding cheap flights. It allows you to filter flights by prices, dates of departure (length of trip and season), and duration of flight.
Like Skyscanner and Momondo, it gives you the option of selecting Anywhere as your destination if you’re flexible or not sure where to go.
Once you are done, you will be shown all destinations on the map (marked with different prices) that fit your criteria.
If you’re located or traveling within Europe, check out Ryanair’s low-fare search engine.
Although the dates of departure and arrival have to be specified, you would still have the option of being completely flexible with your choice of destination and budget. For instance, you can just select “Anywhere” as your destination and up to 150 Euros as your maximum budget.
Embrace connecting flights
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Sofia
Flights with at least one stopover are usually cheaper than direct ones.
Moreover, if you have more than enough time to explore the city where your layover is, do it! Think of it as an opportunity to discover new places.
My flight from Paris to Athens included an overnight stopover at Sofia in Bulgaria. It was much cheaper than the direct flights and also my first time in Sofia. I got the chance to discover the hidden gem that the Bulgarian capital city is and how cheap it is (a pint of beer costs only 1 Euros)!
Don’t stick to only one-way or return flights
Purchasing a return flight ticket is the most convenient option but what if it is out of your budget? Try to search for separate one-way flights instead!
What if separate one-way flights are just as expensive? Try searching for multi-city flights!
This was the case when I booked a multi-city flight from Toronto to Medellín (in late April 2017) and from Lima to Toronto (in mid May). The flight ticket costs merely 493 Canadian dollars! I would have paid almost twice as much if I were to book a return flight from Medellín or Lima.
Depending on your destinations, booking multi-city flights could work out to be cheaper than one-way or return flights. But the reverse option could be cheaper too.
You just need to try all three options to see which one is the cheapest!
Fly with two different airlines
Speaking of traveling on two separate one-way flights, it is a great idea to mix and match with different airlines. This applies to those whose flights involve at least one stopover.
I know many travelers who stick to one or two airlines all the time. But this option could be expensive, especially in the peak season or at the very last minute.
If you choose different airlines for each route based on your budget, this could work out to be cheaper than flying the same airline throughout the entire journey.
Be prepared to travel to less convenient airports
Flights to your destination are usually more expensive if you arrive at the main airport. This is the case especially for many European destinations.
For instance, for November 2017, flights from Paris to Marco Polo Airport (in Venice) cost at least twice as much as flights to the less accessible airport in Treviso.
The prices (highlighted in green) reflect those of flights to Treviso and prices in red reflect flights to Marco Polo Airport.
Low-cost carriers in Europe always offer great deals for flights to less accessible airports. As you can see, each one-way flight (with RyanAir) from Paris to Treviso costs merely 15 dollars on some days in November.
Choose flights that leave or arrive early morning or late night
It may just be me but I found that flights that depart or arrive either very early in the morning or late at night are cheaper than those that operate in the day.
Although arriving very late means that you might have to stay overnight at the airport (if you’re allowed to), you can think of it as an opportunity to save on accommodation for that night.
Sign up for email list
Signing up for email newsletters from airfare booking sites is another way of getting the best flight deals.
Cheapflights has amazing flight deals for those who subscribed to their email list. Once you have provided your name, email and postal code, you will receive emails regarding flight deals from your location to destinations around the world. One of the hundreds of emails I received from them advertised a round-trip flight from Toronto to Paris for only 422 Canadian dollars!
If you’re completely flexible with your dates of departure, this deal could be yours! The only catch is that you would have to book that discounted flight as soon as possible since airfares are likely to change anytime.
Although there are also tons of other flight search engines with email newsletters on flight deals, Cheapflights is by far the best I’ve come across in terms of variety of cheap destinations to fly to.
Check baggage fees first
Before you pay for the flight booking, always check the baggage fees first! If you’re on a domestic or short-haul flight or flying on a low-cost carrier, chances are that you may have to pay fees for hold and checked baggages.
The best flight deals you stumbled upon seem too good to be true but it might be a different story once you include the baggage fees. The difference in fares from the next higher airfare may end up not being that significant.
While each airline has different baggage size restrictions, you can get a general idea of their fees here.
Once you have researched the baggage fees for each carrier that flies to your destination, all you need to do is add up the costs for each flight option and figure out which one is the cheapest.
Look out for sale announcements on social media
Many airlines have taken to platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to advertise special flight deals especially on special occasions. But the thing is, special deals like these have a time limit and will be gone in just a few hours.
So once you spot these flight deals on your social media feed, I would highly recommend taking a screenshot of the advertisement first if you can’t respond immediately. You can always check the deals later on to see if they are still available!
That’s what I do every time I come across them.
Book at least six weeks in advance
Although last minute deals do exist, they are the exception rather than the norm. But don’t book flights too early either! You are more likely to find cheap flights when you book in advance but not too early. Moreover, your travel plans might change closer to the expected date of departure.
How long should I book in advance, you may ask? Six to eight weeks is a reasonably good time to start looking into flight options.
I’m saying this based on my experience with booking flights from Toronto to Medellín and Paris in April and July this year respectively. I made it a habit of monitoring airfares for more than three months and found that they were the lowest about six to seven weeks before my trip!