Would you like to know how to find cheap flights online?
The first thing you need to do is learn about the best websites for searching deals, and to know the general trends to be aware of.
Another important thing to remember is this, be ready to act! You can play the game of watching and waiting on flight price changes, which can reward you, but it can also frustrate and cost you.
The best way is to have a flight price YOU are comfortable with.
On some flight search websites, you can sign up for email alerts of a price you’re willing to pay, such as Airfare Watchdog.
When that price is available, or lower, you can jump on it. That way you’ll be satisfied you got a good deal, and you won’t have any regrets.
How to Find Cheap Flights
1. Start Searching for your flight as Early as Possible
Airlines generally release tickets 11 months in advance. Start researching once you know you are taking a trip and continue to check them at least once per week.
Air fares fluctuate constantly. You can’t predict as supply and demand are out of our control (just like the stock market).
Have a price YOU are comfortable paying. You can play the game of watching and waiting forever, which can reward you, but it can also frustrate and cost you.
Be ready to act as soon as the price you are happy with is available. You’ll be satisfied and won’t have regrets.
2. When is the Best Time to Buy Your Ticket?
There really is no hard and fast rule. However, there are some general trends to be aware of.
Be mindful of when you are traveling. Peak season and holiday weekends will have the most demand for flights, so expect higher prices.
You can, however, stack the odds in your favour by buying your flight ticket at a certain time.
A study by CheapAir.com, who analyzed 560 million flight searches, found an optimal time to buy was on average 7 weeks in advance (for domestic flights). Others have suggested a sweet spot of between 3-7 weeks in advance. The WORST time was within 14 days of flying, or too far in advance, more than 5 months.
For international flights, Cheap Air found the sweet spot is 11-12 weeks prior to departure.
As for which day of the week to buy on, they suggest no particular day was better than the other and buying on a Tuesday and Wednesday was somewhat of an urban legend.
If you want some price guidance, consider an airfare prediction tool such as Bing’s Farecast.
3. What Day is Best to Fly?
It might not matter when you buy your tickets, but cheaper flights can be found depending on the day you choose to fly.
The consensus is that it’s best to FLY OUT on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday. These are typical off-peak days usually meaning lower fares and less passengers. You also have a better chance of grabbing frequent flyer seats. Fridays and Sundays are usually the most expensive days to fly.
4. Be Flexible with Your Dates
The best tactic to save money on flights is to be FLEXIBLE with your travel dates. Give yourself the best chance by searching a couple of days, or even weeks, either side of your preferred departure date.
If you are locked into exact dates, it will be more challenging to get a better deal.
5. Adjust Your Times for Flying
Flying at unpopular hours, such as the red-eye or early in the AM instead of late morning through afternoon, increases your chance of getting cheaper tickets.
6. Consider Round Trip Tickets
Even if you are only flying one way, sometimes they are so expensive that the round trip ticket is actually cheaper. Just forfeit the return leg portion. We have done this from Sydney to LA. Crazy, but it happens.
7. Consider a Longer Layover
Flights with longer layovers are usually cheaper.
One advantage of the Expedia flight search is that you can plan for longer stopovers on the same ticket.
8. Fly Where the Deals Are
Instead of choosing a destination and then spending days or weeks trying to find a cheap flight, consider simply flying to where the flight deals already are.
Choose a destination you can comfortably afford overall and will enjoy.
Simply use a flight search engine that lets you type in your departure city and search for a list of cheap flights to anywhere in the world.
The Kayak Explore tool is a great way to search for cheap flights to anywhere. Simply type in your departure city, your departure date, and select explore.
9. Check Alternate Airports
If there is more than one airport near your origin or planned destination, check them both.
The more options you have in terms of airports and travel dates, the more likely you will find what may be one of the last discount seats to where you are going.
10. Join a Frequent Flyer Program
These programs are usually free to join and you can earn points towards cheaper fares, upgrades, and free companion tickets.
It may take a while to accumulate points, but they CAN add up if you fly often.
Many programs are created for airline partnerships where they’ll recognize and honor each others’ miles – such as the new Qantas / Emirates partnership.
Frequent flyer programs mostly accrue by miles. So even if you don’t travel very often, taking just one long haul flight will add to your points balance.
If you have a premium status, such as Gold Or Silver, on most programs you usually gain access to the airline lounges even if you’re flying economy. You also get priority check-in, priority security, and priority boarding.
If you only travel once or twice per year it’s probably best for you to use a flight search engine and get your best deal instead of staying loyal to one airline (search engine recommendations down below).
However, if you are a frequent flyer, paying a little extra for flights by staying loyal to a premium airline or alliance such as OneWorld could be your best long-term bet for getting flight perks.
For an extensive list of frequent flyer programs click here.
11. Sign Up For An Airline Affiliated Credit Card
If you are using a credit card, why not accumulate frequent flyer points? The best cards and benefits depend on which country you live in and what cards you have access to.
In Australia, we use a Commonwealth Bank AMEX Card which gives us 2 Qantas points for every dollar spent.
We use this card to pay all our travel expenses, business costs, plus everyday expenses and bills. This does take discipline. Make sure you don’t accrue interest by paying it off in full each month (very important).
If you don’t pay it off in full, it won’t matter about how many points you collect as you’ll be amassing huge interest which will keep you at home and away from your dream travel destination.
Don’t forget to shop at member stores that are affiliated with the airlines. By shopping at these prefered stores you will also accumulate points. Our credit card program is linked to our phone bill company and supermarket chain.
We just paid for two return flights to the Gold Coast in Queensland using frequent flyer points, saving us a few hundred dollars. We still have a lot of points left over.
Using credit cards takes discipline and smart choices, but over time it can add up and reward you. Most credit cards offer free points as a sign-up bonus, this can be anywhere from 5,000 to 50,000 points.
For USA residents check out this credit card list by The Points Guy.
For Australian residents check out the list of cards here.
To become a pro and get a deep understanding of how to accumulate and use points for flights, go and learn from these guys :
12. Tracking Your Points:
Awardwallet.com is a free site that will track your balances in one convenient spot, plus it can even alert you if your miles are going to expire. It keeps track of reward programs such as frequent flyer miles, hotel and credit card points.
13. Don’t Forget Travel Agents
I don’t know what the situation is in your country, but in Australia, travel agents can still be a useful resource when it comes to booking flights.
Flight Centre offers a LOWEST AIRFARE GUARANTEE. They claim they won’t be beaten on price and will beat any comparable quote.
This has personally benefited us. Once when we flew from Australia to the USA we searched online for our cheapest fare, then went into a local Flight Centre office. They were able to beat the lowest flight we found online.
Sometimes, the lowest fares are only available via travel agents.
14. Book on a Foreign Website
In Australia we have discovered a sneaky way to search flight deals by using the Expedia Japan site. This has also worked via the Expedia Brazil site. To learn more about this strategy click here.
15. Use Your Age or Student Status
If you’re a student or under 26 years old, ask about student discounts at STA Travel. STA Travel’s Exclusive Tickets can save you money.
16. Sign up for Email Notifications
The best airfare sales can go largely unannounced. Open a new free email account just for this purpose and sign up for your favourite airline eNewsletters.
Promotional fairs and discount codes reserved only for email subscribers can save you money. You can also be notified of last minute deals.
17. Follow on Social Media
It’s getting more common for travel companies to release hot deals directly through their social media channels.
Plus, they often run contests, giveaways and announce any flight complications via Facebook and Twitter.
Join our VIP community. We send a personal email message once per week that will inspire you to smash away any travel fears and give you tips on destinations so you can bring more travel into your life. Pop your name below and we’ll see you on the other side:
18. Dream Vacation Doppelgangers
Think outside the box. Write down why you want to go to that exotic destination and see if you can find an alternative that costs less and / or closer to home.
For example, skip the Caribbean and go to Mexico. Instead of Paris head to Budapest. Many people dream of visiting faraway destinations while forgetting what is in their own backyard.
What other cheaper alternatives can you think of?
19. How to score an upgrade
There are no certainties, but you can try stacking the odds in your favour by doing the following:
Travel during peak times when economy is full.
Be super friendly to everyone from check in, to gate staff, to flight attendants.
Check in alone, not as part of a group.
Be a member of your airline’s Loyalty Program.
Pray for a broken seat.
Don’t hide the fact you have a leg injury!
How to Search For Cheap Flights
Some important things you need to know before you start using our recommended flight search engines:
1. Delete your cookies/history – or load each site in a new incognito browser window before looking up flight prices a second time. They store your search data so when you come back you are pinged as being more ready to buy and so are highly likely to be offered higher prices than you originally saw. Cheeky!
2. Go directly to the airline’s own website – after you have used the flight search engines listed and found your cheapest fair, go direct to that airlines own website. Many airlines have lower fares only available on their own site.
3. Go to your destination’s airport website and see if there are any other airlines you can consider that don’t show up in the big search sites and go to their website.
4. Not all airlines appear on all search engines – Be aware many search sites don’t list low cost carriers (LCC) as these budget carriers try to keep costs low by not paying a booking commission to search sites. And they can neglect to show many of the more obscure airlines.
Here is a list of flight search websites we personally use to find cheap flights
Skyscanner is a great flight comparison site and easy to use. It searches all the airlines, including budget carriers to find the best deal.
Once you’ve found your flight on Skyscanner you are taken to the airline to make your booking (no middlemen).
You can look for flights on a specific date, week, month or even see the prices over the whole year.
One great feature is it allows you to type in “Everywhere” in the “To” box as an option. This helps you to select the cheapest destination from your point of origin. You can also just leave the “To” box blank.
Kayak compares hundreds of sites in a comprehensive, fast and intuitive display. Once you find what you want, they give you choices where to book.
You can search +/- 3 days either side of your preferred date, flexible for a month and add nearby airports and other filters and a price alert.
As mentioned the Kayak Explore tool is another great way to search for cheap flights to anywhere. Simply type in your departure city, your departure date, and select explore.
We’ve found some nice deals on Hipmunk, and booked a recent flight from Perth to Sydney via this site.
At first glance their unique search display takes a bit of getting used to, but it makes it easy to visually compare results and departure/arrival times to choose what’s best for you.
You can sort your search by:
- Takeoff time
- Landing time
And filter by:
- Number of stops
Google needs no introduction. But maybe you haven’t been introduced to the Google Flights search engine yet.
As we continue to mention, flexibility around the dates and times you fly is key to finding your cheapest flight. Thankfully, Google Flights makes it easy to identify the cheapest date for your desired flight.
I have to fly my dad up from Sydney to the Gold Coast in July and their simple calender display shows the various price options for each day.
Another metasearch site, Momondo is a global search site that checks the leading travel sites including low cost carriers.
When you do a search it tells you which flight is the cheapest, quickest and what it believes to be “the best“. And you can refine your search using all the typical filters and get fare alerts.
I like how it automatically adds the graph across the top displaying the price estimates for each day within your date range, like this Sydney to Los Angeles search, but when I clicked on different days and hit search again the prices didn’t reflect those on the graph, meaning those prices could be old.
So the site may not be that ideal for those who want to play around with flexible dates.
Want More Travel Tips?
Check out these articles: