When you’re traveling on a budget, one of the first things you need to learn is how to find cheap flights to anywhere in the world.
It’s not a secret that air fares are going up, and for travelers, especially first-time travelers, it’s important to be aware of the strategies you can adopt to find a better deal on plane tickets.
Getting a good deal on your flights can help you to drastically reduce your travel budget, allowing you to save money for a bigger travel expense such as a nice hotel or car rental.
Thankfully, we’ve spent many years working out the best strategies and have shared with you our top tips to finding cheaper airfares, so you don’t have to pay top dollar and can find cheap air tickets!
- Finding Cheap Tickets Is All About The Best Value
- How to find cheap flights to anywhere in the world
- 1. Start searching as early as possible
- 2. Know when to buy airline tickets
- 3. Know what is the best DAY to fly
- 4. Be flexible with your flight dates
- 5. Adjust the time of day for flying
- 6. Identify the cheapest payment method for your flight tickets
- 7. Check alternate airports
- 8. Fly where the deals are
- 7. Consider round trip tickets
- 8. Use different airlines
- 9. Avoid holiday periods when flying (unless on the day of)
- 10. Consider a longer layover
- 11. Join a frequent flyer program
- 12. Sign Up for an Airline Affiliated Credit Card
- 13. Sign up for flight deal email notifications
- 14. Be careful of refundable flight tickets
- 15. Avoid airline fees
- 16. Consider a mileage run
- 17. Delete your cookies/history when searching for flights
- 18. Fly in the off season
- Which seat is best on the flight?
- Where is the cheapest place to look for flights?
- Should You Use A Travel Agency?
- Don't Forget Travel Insurance When Buying Cheap Tickets
- In Summary
- More Money Saving Travel Tips
- Pin To Save On Pinterest
Finding Cheap Tickets Is All About The Best Value
It’s hard to believe this, but when Caz and I first started traveling in 1997, our only option to get our flight tickets was to visit our local travel agent and book flights through them.
These days, we have flight search engines that make buying flights online easier and more accessible, allowing you to cut out the middle man and book direct with the airlines.
When thinking about how to find cheap flights online, the cheapest fare is only part of reducing the cost, and there are other factors you need to consider.
For example, finding the cheapest flight of the day may leave at 2am, and you could spend the difference you would pay on a later flight on a taxi to the airport.
So in this guide, we’re sharing not how to get the cheapest flight, but how to get the BEST VALUE.
Back when we were solo travelers or traveling as a couple, we’d happily rough it on budget airlines and deal with late-night stopovers, transiting for several hours, and putting up with budget facilities.
However, with two young kids, our needs and priorities have changed!
If it’s a long haul flight, we prefer to get to our destination as quickly and as painlessly as possible, with the most amount of comfort and facilities our budget allows!
How to find cheap flights to anywhere in the world
How can I get a cheap flight? Follow these tips below and you’ll stack the odds in your favor!
1. Start searching as early as possible
Airlines generally release tickets 11 whole months in advance. Once you know your destination start searching and continue to check at least once per week.
Flight prices are live and fluctuate constantly due to supply and demand, so have a price in mind YOU are comfortable paying and be ready to jump on it.
Sure, there are cheap last-minute flight deals that might beat what you’ve already paid, but that’s not guaranteed. If you want to play the game of waiting for a bargain, you’re better off NOT having a fixed destination in mind. More on that down below.
2. Know when to buy airline tickets
There really is no hard and fast rule on the best time to buy international airline tickets.
However, there are some general trends to be aware of when looking for cheap air tickets.
Peak season and holiday weekends will have the most demand, so expect higher prices. You can, however, stack the odds in your favor by buying at a certain time.
In this study, they 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, the study 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.
3. Know what is the best DAY to fly
Wondering what days to fly to save money on plane tickets? Some say it’s a myth that some days are cheaper than others, but we’re still seeing cheaper flights leaving midweek.
It might not matter when you buy your tickets, but cheap flights can certainly be found depending on the DAY you choose to fly!
The consensus is that the cheapest days to FLY OUT are on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturdays. These are typical off-peak days with airlines carrying fewer business travelers, usually meaning lower fares and a surplus of seats.
You also have a better chance of grabbing frequent flyer seats on these days (which we love).
Fridays and Sundays are usually the most expensive days to fly.
And don’t get confused with the idea that buying a ticket on a certain day will result in lower airfare. That’s a separate thing to the day you actually fly!
It has been suggested to try these combinations:
- Domestic: depart Saturday, return on a Monday.
- International: depart Tuesday, return on a Wednesday.
Also, flying on holidays, such as on Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve, are usually cheaper as people tend to want to be at their destination on those days. If you’re not big on holidays, then you can save by flying on the holiday dates. See our holiday travel tips.
4. Be flexible with your flight dates
FLEXIBILITY is most important when you’re trying to find cheap flights to anywhere in the world.
If you are locked into fixed travel dates, or you can only fly on weekends or during popular holiday periods, it’s going to be more of a challenge in finding cheap flights, but not impossible.
The best tactic for how to find cheap flights to anywhere 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 the best deal.
5. Adjust the time of day for flying
If you can’t change the date of your flight, play around with the time of day you choose to fly, which can change the price of your air ticket dramatically.
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 the best deal.
Most of the time, the cheapest flights leave either very early in the morning or late at night. I always get the first flight out if I can as it reduces the domino effect of delays. This is an especially import tip for flying in the US as delays are quite common.
6. Identify the cheapest payment method for your flight tickets
Recently I got stung with a $94 fee when booking cheap flights using my travel credit cards, which I now avoid on cheap domestic flights.
In Australia, Qantas lets you pay using BPAY from a debit account, and Jetstar and Virgin through the POLi system which is also a direct debit payment from your chosen bank account.
I still use my credit card however when purchasing the more expensive international flights to gain those credit card member benefits and frequent flyer points, and for added consumer protection.
7. Check alternate airports
If there is more than one airport near your origin or final destination, check them both before making your flight booking.
The more options you have in terms of airports and travel dates, the more likely you will be able to find the best deals on airfare.
And consider multi-city flights as a strategy to save money.
IMPORTANT: Ensure you know where the airport is situated in relation to your accommodation and before you book your tickets. We messed up once and discovered I was flying into an airport much further away from the city centre. It cost me extra to pay for a bus into the city centre and a lot more in time than simply flying direct to the main airport.
8. Fly where the deals are
This is one of our best travel tips on how to find cheap flights to anywhere!
Instead of choosing a destination and then spending days or weeks trying to find a flight deal, considering flying to where the cheap flights already are!
Choose a destination you can comfortably afford and one you’ll enjoy. Use a flight search engine like Skyscanner that lets you type in your departure city and search for a list of cheap flights to anywhere in the world.
If you are flexible with where you want to go, these are handy tools and fun to play around with.
Keep reading for detailed tips on how to do this down below in our “How to search for deals” section.
7. 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.
8. Use different airlines
For domestic flights within Australia, you can find cheaper flights by using different airlines and book two separate one-way tickets.
For example, we have flown Jetstar Airways in one direction and Virgin Australia for the return.
Do your research and factor in online booking costs. If you do two separate airlines, you may be paying two online booking costs.
9. Avoid holiday periods when flying (unless on the day of)
I know, it’s and obvious tip when searching for cheap air tickets, but try not to fly up to 7 days before or after a major holiday period.
However, certain strategies such as flying on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day (when the flight attendants are extra nice) or even on September 11 can save you a penny. Don’t forget our holiday travel tips if you decide to go.
10. Consider a longer layover
Flights with longer layovers usually have lower price tags. Look for flights where you can plan for longer stopovers on the same ticket.
You could even take advantage of this and use your layover time to explore a new city.
11. Join a frequent flyer program
Why not? These programs are free to join and you can earn points towards cheaper fares, upgrades, free companion tickets and even earning free flights!
And many programs are created for airline partnerships where they’ll recognize and honor each others’ miles – such as the Qantas / Emirates partnership.
We have benefited greatly from our Qantas membership. We had to attend a family wedding in Cape Town, but I (Craig) had accumulated enough points to fly return trip from North Carolina → Atlanta → London → Johannesburg → Cape Town and return!
Whilst I had to pay a couple hundred dollars in taxes and fly a longer route, saving over $2,500 was well worth it.
I also saved big on my flight from Sydney to Washington DC to attend the White House blogger summit.
If you have a premium status, such as Gold or Silver, 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 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.
IMPORTANT: 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. You can also earn miles by spending in restaurants, using your credit card for purchases in shops, and much more. You don’t have to spend money on flights to earn miles.
12. 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.
Use your card to pay all your travel expenses and living expenses, and collect rewards points with each purchase.
This does take discipline. Make sure you don’t accrue interest by paying it off in full each month (very important).
And don’t forget to shop at member stores that are affiliated with the airlines. By shopping at these preferred stores you will also accumulate points.
- For USA residents check out this credit card list by The Points Guy.
- For Australian residents check out the list of cards here.
13. Sign up for flight deal email notifications
The best budget airfare sales can go largely unannounced.
Sign up for your favorite airline’s newsletter as promotional fairs, bonuses, and discount codes are sometimes reserved only for email subscribers, which can save you money.
You can also be notified of last-minute cheap flights.
You can also sign up for sites such as Going, formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights, which has an email newsletter service sending great deals on flights to anywhere in the world.
You do need to be flexible though to get a good deal through these newsletters.
14. Be careful of refundable flight tickets
It really depends on risk. If you’re taking a short trip and haven’t paid a fortune for it, don’t worry about purchasing refundable tickets or trip cancellation insurance.
However, if you’ve made a significant investment and face a high risk of cancellation, such as traveling during peak hurricane season or you have a potential medical condition, refundable tickets and trip cancellation insurance is a good idea!
15. Avoid airline fees
Most airlines are charging for everything these days, and if you have 2 bags or more, expect to be charged for it. Try to keep all your luggage within one bag per person, and make sure your luggage is not over-sized.
Alternatively, look for airlines that don’t charge fees, and some airlines will waive bag fees for frequent flyers or members of its credit-card program.
If you do need to check baggage, paying for it in advance is much cheaper than doing it at the airport. Check with each airline before booking so you can make an informed decision.
For US based airlines check out this chart which displays all the fees compiled by Smarter Traveler.
16. Consider a mileage run
Some people do what is called a “mileage run” if they are close to obtaining elite status for a whole year with a particular airline.
They basically find a cheap flight to anywhere and take that flight whether it be just a day trip or a weekend away. The cheap cost of the flight is seen as a small sacrifice to pay if the extra miles accrued allows them elite status for a whole year.
17. Delete your cookies/history when searching for flights
Some websites store your search data and will increase the price of the flights if they know the specific flights you are looking for.
So when you come back a second time you are pinged as being more ready to buy and so are likely to be offered higher prices than you originally saw.
When friends ask me how to find cheap airline tickets, I always tell them don’t forget to clear your cookies or load each site in a new incognito browser window!
18. Fly in the off season
And we’ve all heard of the term “tourist season”.
Europe in June to September is the peak summer season, where it receives the most tourists. Consider visiting in the off-months instead.
Or visit during the shoulder season, which is the sweet spot between the peak season and off season when prices start to be reduced, but the weather is still great.
Sure the weather might be a bit cooler, but the prices for flights (and accommodation) will be lower, and there will be less people lined up at popular attractions.
Just make sure all the tourist sites and accommodation providers are open in those “down” months.
Which seat is best on the flight?
Nowadays, you have to pay a premium to choose your seat with some airlines (mostly the budget airlines). You can save money by not selecting a seat and taking whatever is left over.
If you’re thinking it’s worth paying an additional $20 for a good seat, consider checking out Seatguru, which shows you the best and worst seats on the plane, user comments, and photos.
Find out the pitch of the seats, if they have powerpoints, personal TV screens, bassinets for infants and if baby changing facilities are available.
It might not save you money, but it can save your sanity, especially if you’re traveling with kids or gadgets.
Where is the cheapest place to look for flights?
Buying flights online is getting easier and quicker.
When we start our search for cheap flights to anywhere in the world, we always start with these trusted websites listed below.
Some of them you may already know, and we hope you find the tips useful and save you money and time in searching.
Simply using Google Search Engine is a great way to find flight schedules. Using Google Flights, you can search the destinations you want to travel between and the dates, and it shows you which airlines are flying on those dates and the times.
It’s a good place to start finding convenient flights, but from our experience, they don’t show the best deals.
For better deals, try…
We always start with Skyscanner, it’s one of our favorite booking sites.
Skyscanner is a flight comparison site that is simple to use and fast. It searches millions of flights on over a thousand airlines, including budget carriers.
Once you’ve found your flight on Skyscanner, you are taken to the airline or agency to make your booking (no middlemen) or extra fees added.
You can filter your search results based on:
- number of stops
- departure times
- airlines you like and dislike
You can also get price alerts every 24 hours, and if you’re not set on using a particular airline, browse through all the different carriers you can choose.
Know your destination, but not your date? Thinking of flying from New York City to London this year but not sure when is the best time? Skyscanner allows you to see ticket prices for tomorrow, in a week, in a month or the cheapest month.
The website will tell you the cheapest dates to fly, and the cheapest flight on that day. You can also type in a country name to search cheap fares from all cities within that country.
But the best thing about Skyscanner is the Go “EVERYWHERE” feature!
For those who haven’t chosen their travel destination yet, and need inspiration, you can simply type in the word everywhere in the “To” box, and it will show you a list of potential destinations, sorted by price.
This helps you to select the cheapest destination from your point of origin and plan potential holiday destinations based on your budget.
If you’re not fussed on your destination and just want to get out of town this is a fun tool.
Skyscanner allows you to find the cheapest flights without having to enter specific destinations, making it a great resource for finding cheap flights for your next getaway.
Note: Sometimes Skyscanner quotes you one price and when you go through to book you are quoted with a much higher price. That can be frustrating, but it’s common with price comparison sites.
Another metasearch site we like to check is Kayak. It feels like it has been around forever (which might count for something) and it’s simple to use and compares hundreds of sites in a comprehensive, fast and intuitive display.
Once you find what you want, they give you choices where to book.
As mentioned, flexibility can result in dramatically lower fares so you want to fly when others are not.
On Kayak select the flexible dates option. You can search +/- 3 days either side of your preferred date, flexible for a month and add nearby airports and other filters.
Two cool filters I like is the Fee Calculator and how you can filter via Carriers or Alliance.
They also have a predictive chart which shows how likely it is that flight prices will either increase or decrease in the next 7 days.
Want to go ANYWHERE? The Kayak Explore tool is another fun way to search for flights to anywhere by simply typing in your departure city, similar to Skyscanner’s “everywhere” feature. You can then filter by:
- day, month or season
- which country or continent
- flight duration
- and activities like beach, ski or golf.
Once you hit explore you’ll instantly see a map with all the destinations listed. This tool is a great way to find the right place to go with a specific budget. Below is a screen shot with New York as an example departure point:
It’s a simple interface and being able to see a number of days each side of a given search date is handy for spotting those cheaper fares.
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.
Booking.com is another search engine you can use to book cheap flight tickets. You can also use it to book entire vacation packages including the car rental and hotel.
It is a subsidiary of Kayak, so it uses the same technology, and it’s a really easy-to-use site.
You can search by number of stops, and even find what they call hacker fares.
Hacker Fares combine multiple one-way bookings which can sometimes save you money vs buying a round trip ticket.
I like how my family can plan an entire vacation right on Booking.com without having to search multiple sites. It’s so simple and all in one place.
Go direct to the airlines
After you have used the flight search engines suggested above and found cheap airfare for your desired destination and dates, go direct to that airline’s own website and see if you can get it for cheaper.
Many airlines have lower fares only available on their own site, plus often price comparison sites do not include hold baggage, so if you need to add on any extras, such as extra leg room or seat selection, then the only way to do that is directly with the airline.
Should You Use A Travel Agency?
Travel Agencies are still around, contrary to what you might believe! If you’re wondering if you can get a better deal with your local travel agency, this all depends on what you like the most.
Do you prefer to do things yourself and be in control? Or do you enjoy handing off all these decisions to someone else?
Travel Agencies tend to have relationships with airlines, hotel chains, and other tour operators, which can sometimes give you a better deal than if you are planning it yourself.
However, when it comes to booking just flights, it’s unlikely your local travel agent can beat the prices of price comparison sites.
If you book tour packages or all-inclusive holiday deals, which include the flights, hotels, transport and activities, then by all means, head to your local travel agent to talk about deals!
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance When Buying Cheap Tickets
When you buy cheap flights, you might be purchasing non-refundable tickets – it’s a risk you take in order to save some money.
That’s why I always look at the value more than just the price.
If I am traveling with my family, there is a chance that the kids might get sick and we’d have to change our vacation plans.
Another option is to buy travel insurance. It’s worth it! When you cover your vacation with travel insurance, you could be refunded for 100% of your costs – airfare, hotels, rental cars, everything.
I recommend using Allianz Travel Insurance. They will give you a free quote based on your travel plans. So many parts of a trip are non-refundable, especially when you book through 3rd party sites.
But they also provide help with medical care when you are in another country and will help you locate pharmacies and medical clinics too. See more recommendations in our book a trip resource page.
No flight search engine is perfect and not all airlines, especially low-cost carriers appear on every search engine. For example, Southwest in the US don’t allow themselves to appear.
These Low-Cost carriers (LCC) try to keep costs down by not paying a booking commission to search sites. And they can neglect to show many of the more obscure airlines.
Remember, if you DON’T book a flight directly with an airline and book through a third-party instead, be prepared to pay fees if you need to change flight dates or times, or even worse need to cancel your flight.
And don’t forget to compare hidden airline surcharges like baggage fees and specialty taxes. Different airlines charge differently and some of these search tools don’t always show those costs – you might think you’ve found cheap flights, but these extras add up!
Play around with those search engines, try to be flexible on dates and times of the day you fly, and keep checking prices regularly.
But at the end of the day, have a price in mind you are comfortable paying and don’t be afraid to hit the buy button!
More Money Saving Travel Tips
Need more inspiration on ways to save money? Here are some other helpful guides…
- 18 Ways to Save Money on Accommodation
- 19 Ways to Save Money on Rental Cars
- 52 Money Saving Travel Tips: Save Before & On The Road
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How do you get cheap airline tickets? Share any tips you might have in the comments.