How to Find Cheap Flights
Booking a flight yourself is A LOT of work. All travel-related booking is a LOT of work. Most of my trips have been planned by myself (see Germany; Italy; Russia; Greece; London). But if you want to find the best prices, this is the way to go. Below are some good tips on how to find cheap flights. Before I get into what resources you can use, let’s start with what YOU can do before researching your flights. Below are tips and practical advise on how to find cheap flights.
How to Find Cheap Flights
1. Flexibility – Be flexible with your travel dates. Flights are cheaper on certain days (during the week) so if you can be flexible with your dates, that is one of the most important factors in how to find cheap flights. FareCompare says Wednesday is the cheapest day.
2. Book Early – I find booking early is a good way to get great prices. I book at least six weeks prior to travelling and sometimes even more. I booked all my flights for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics which starts in February in late August/early September. For big events, you have to book months in advance. I almost waited too long but the flights I wanted popped back up and it worked.
3. Multiple Airlines – Do not become attached to one airline. You should really be open to flying on other airlines or even multiple airlines during the trip. Mixing airlines can be cheaper.
4. Open Jaw – Flying into one city and out of another city is an open jaw ticket. These can be cheaper than flying in and out of the same city. So again, do not be attached to one airline or one city. You can mix and match your airlines and cities that you are flying in and out of. I have flown open jaw twice in the past couple of years: I flew into Athens and out of Rome in 2011 while also flying into Paris and out of London last year. The prices were cheaper than just flying in and out of the same city. Plus you can cover more ground if you do not have to return to start city.
5. Connecting Flights – Yes connecting flights are cheaper (somehow). So if you want a cheaper flight, take that flight that has two connections instead of one. It will be cheaper. Me? No damn way; I have no problem paying a bit more so I don’t have more connections but I’m a nervous flier and do not want to be getting on and off more than the minimum amount of flights that I have to. Yes even after all these years, I am still a nervous flier.
6. Smaller airports – Sometimes flying into a smaller airport can be cheaper: see Gatwick compared to Heathrow in London. This may be related to the airline you are taking as they fly into certain airports only (when I flew to London on my first trip, Air Transat flew into Gatwick only – still does).
7. Sign up for email alerts or notifications – Airlines and flight websites will send you an alert for deals on flights. You can even set up an alert for a particular route. Sign up for their newsletters as well; like them on facebook or follow them on twitter. Flight deals get posted everywhere.
8. Frequent Flier – You can become a member either via the airline itself or maybe with a credit card or hotel. Sign up for all rewards programs that you can. Most airlines and hotels have a reward program and are usually free to join. You can bank quite a few points or even end up with upgrades when you fly.
Top Websites to Use
Now: which websites should I be visiting each day? Where are the best deals? Honestly, this is a LONG list. There are many resources you can use. I will pick my favourites.
1. Kayak – This is a great resource. It searches multiple websites to find you the best flights. You can search +/- 3 days, filter by many options such as take off time, airports, cabins, aircraft and price. This has become my go-to resource for flights. Other sites that are similar (search multiple websites) are: Momondo, Skyscanner, Vayama, Travelocity, and one that I have started using (which I love), Hipmunk. You can set up alerts with most of these as well; that is how I found my Sochi to Prague flight via Turkish Airlines back in August. I had given up hope that this flight would ever appear again and poof, I received an alert on kayak and I booked my preferred route. I like how Hipmunk displays its flights – a grid that you can filter by price, duration, departure and arrival times, and many others.
2. Expedia – I still use Expedia from time to time (especially for booking skip the line tours) but rarely book my flights through them any more. I can find better prices and routes elsewhere. I am not sure when it happened but I found their flights are not great anymore. Do not use this as your only resource. Use it only with the above list.
3. Airfare Watchdog – another great website for setting up alerts.
4. Directly with the airlines – You always should check with the airline’s website directly before you book any flight. You may find a cheaper price (I have) than the above. Also, make sure to check numerous times during different times of the week and day. Prices change quite often. One more thing of note: clear your cache/cookies often. That may affect whether the best prices show up. Also, you can check with an airline’s website in another country. I personally have not tried this but know of those who have found cheaper flights (it’ll charge you in a different currency).
5. Rewards Programs – Have you signed up for any rewards’ programs? You should do this with airlines, hotels, credit cards and so on. Most are free to join and if you use them enough, you will earn enough rewards to book flights and hotels. Recently, I used my credit card rewards (Visa) and booked my flight to Moscow (and return from Prague – hey, an open jaw) through their Avion program. Also check to see if your airline is part of a larger program – Air Canada is part of the Star Alliance with a long list of airlines (including Turkish Airlines) so if you use those other airlines, you will get points for one program. You can really bank points this way! My trip to Russia will include Air Canada, Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines and all three are part of the Star Alliance. Ch-ching – more points please!
These tips should give you a really good start to booking your own flights and how to find cheap flights. Obviously, your home base will play a large factor too.
Unfortunately, my home base in Edmonton, Canada plays a large part in my limited flight options. Air Canada suspended the direct flights from Edmonton to London for January to March 2014. Luckily for me, I had already chosen to fly out of Calgary which is three hours to south of Edmonton. I chose that because the flight I wanted had only one connection to Moscow and Edmonton had nothing less than two stops.
So go forth and book a flight. Here is an older post on surviving overseas flights to check out as well.