Booking travel is exciting—you’re off to a new destination! However, flight costs can quickly ruin that enthusiasm. So, make sure to take the time to find the cheapest airfare possible. Although there isn’t a perfect time to buy, the best window is between three months and 30 days prior to your trip. Once you’re ready to start looking at options, use these tips to get the most savings and have extra to spend on the rest of your adventure!
The number one way to spend less on flights is to be flexible with your travel plans! Because prices depend on so many variables, changing things slightly can significantly impact your total cost. Most websites make it easy to search within a range of dates, so don’t skip this step. You should also be flexible about your travel location. Major cities often have several airports within an hour or two of downtown, and a less-popular spot could end up being much cheaper.
Booking your fare directly from departure city to destination is certainly easiest, but you’ll likely save money if you book each leg of the trip separately, considering different airlines along the way. If you’re travelling a long distance, it’s often cheaper to add a stop in the middle through a major airline hub and book the second leg from there. For example, book from Boise to Boston on Airline A, then make a separate reservation from Boston to London on Airline B rather than searching “Boise to London” all at once. Make sure to leave plenty of time in between flights and double-check those dates!
As long as you keep track of hidden fees, budget airlines are an excellent way to travel cheaply. Many budget airlines make short and medium-haul trips, so you can piece together several flights to complete your itinerary, if necessary. Make sure to add up all of the fees you’ll incur for seat choice, baggage, and meals before deciding if this option really offers savings. For a list of budget airlines around the world, check here.
Scouring the web for flight deals can be a full-time job, so let the airlines do some of the work for you! Sign up for airline newsletters and price alert websites so that you’ll be notified when special deals go on sale. Most only last for 24-48 hours, so be ready to book if you see a great fare. Almost all airlines offer a 24-hour free cancellation or credit option, so you won’t be locked in if you make a mistake.
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If you’re a frequent traveller, take advantage of travel rewards programs with various airlines and credit cards. You can often receive large sign-up bonuses that pay for one or two flights. Other perks include free checked baggage, drink tickets, and admission to airport lounges. Just be careful to choose options that don’t rack up too many annual fees or have unrealistic minimum balance requirements.
Even if you’re travelling in a group, purchase each person’s ticket individually for the best price. Airlines sell different tickets at different prices, and they’ll bump everything up to the highest price if you’re purchasing in a group. For instance, if tickets A and B are $200 each, ticket C is $300, and ticket D is $400, the airline will sell the group of four for $400 each ($1600) rather than $1100 if purchased separately.
While there isn’t a magical time to purchase tickets, the best time to travel is during the week and off-season. Flying on Friday, Sunday, and Monday is the most expensive while taking a flight on a major holiday is often the cheapest (no one wants to fly on Christmas Day). Early morning, late-night, and multiple layover flights are also cheaper, so don’t shy away from these options.
If you’re not tied to a specific airline, date, or airport, using a search engine or app designed to maximize your savings can make the process much easier. Many of the tips above are simple options with the most popular search sites. Skyscanner is the best overall tool, with Momondo, Google Flights, and Kayak coming in a close second. Experiment with each tool before you have to book a trip so that you know how to use the filters and complete purchases.
With a little bit of patience and a lot of internet searches, you can find cheap flights to almost any destination!
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