We’ve all been there – determined to find cheap flights but somehow ending up just glued to the laptop screen for hours on end. Trawling the latest and greatest comparison websites trying to discover the cheapest flight deals…
Finding cheap flights can be a pain, especially with endless search options, comparison websites and constant fluctuating prices. It can end up being a frustrating process when it should be fun!
Never fear amigos, after almost a decade of travelling the world on a budget, here are all my tips and tricks on the best way to find the cheapest flights to pretty much anywhere in the world!
Table of Contents
- 1. Always Search in Secret
- 2. Use only the Best Flight Search Engines.
- 3. Budget Can Sometimes be the Best
- 4. Book Your Own Flights
- 5. Mark the Cheapest Day to Fly
- 6. Find the Cheapest Place to Fly
- 7. Travel Agents Are Not The Enemy
- 8. It Doesn’t Pay to Wait
- 9. Check Foreign Currencies
- 10. Grab Error Fares Fast
1. Always Search in Secret
You’ve been searching for a while now, the price started out ok but you thought you could do better. But now, you’re panicking, the price is increasing. Have you pressed a different button, selected the right day? How can the cheapest airfare suddenly disappear! Well let me tell you, you’re not going insane, you’re being watched.
Ok, so there’s not some weird guy peering through the window at your laptop screen. Instead ‘cookies’ are tracking your searches and feeding the most frequent and popular back to the suppliers. This, in turn, bumps up the once attractive prices. Putting you into panic mode in the hope you will just book the more expensive fare because it’s the ‘last best deal’. So let me tell you how to get around creepy cookies and how to get cheap flight tickets back!
Always search for your cheap flight deals in private with incognito windows. This tool is genius and basically the number one secret to finding the cheapest flights. If you’re not familiar with incognito it works the same as a normal internet page. The only difference, your cookies are reset each time you re-open an incognito window.
So how do you open an incognito window? Really simple, follow these easy steps!
- In Google Chrome or Safari, Incognito is enabled by hitting Command (or “Control” if using PC), Shift, “N”.
- For Mozilla Firefox or Internet Explorer, hit Command (or “Control” if using a PC), Shift, “P”.
- This will open a new browser window where your information is not tracked, thus not inflating prices as you search.
- If you’re not up on your keyboard shortcuts, simply open a web browser.
- Hit ‘File’, ‘New Incognito Window’ or ‘Private Browsing Window’.
And now you are ready to start searching! If you want to start with a clean slate for each flight search (so your searches aren’t “remembered” in turn losing you the cheap deals), close all your incognito windows. Open a new one, and then perform your flight search again.
2. Use only the Best Flight Search Engines.
Even the most novice travellers can probably name at least five different flight comparison sites. The list of comparison sites seems to get longer every day which makes finding cheap flights even more time consuming and repetitive. Or in other words, super dull when in fact, booking flights should be the most exciting part of your travel planning!
Sadly, there is not a single search engine that constantly offers the cheapest deal – because if there was we would all know it, right? – they simply don’t make money this way. So it pays to check a few, to help you know which few to keep bookmarked check the table below! These flight websites always come up with the greatest flight deals!
|Momondo US Search Flights||Cheapoair - Here's a cheeky Promo Code offering up to $30? off with WORLD30.||Kayak|
Just a quick note amigos, comparison websites are awesome but they do not include most budget airlines. If you know of particular budget airlines operating the route you want, definitely remember to check them out too!
3. Budget Can Sometimes be the Best
Budget airlines can sometimes come up trumps and offer significantly cheaper tickets than the bigger airlines. Choosing to fly budget does mean some sacrifices will have to be made. That space and legroom, free food, drinks and movies you get with the big airlines are not offered on budget airlines. Stock up on snacks – and water – before hopping on the plane. Extra Legroom and movies are sometimes offered, but there are no guarantees and I can promise you, it often won’t be free. But losing these luxuries to get a cheap flight is definitely worth it.
Budget airlines are not always included on comparison websites. So remember to check them individually. Finding the cheapest airlines is all about tactics. Budget airlines offer great prices but they can be sneaky. So amigos please make sure you do the following before handing over your credit card:
- ALWAYS read the fine print before booking!
- Check where the airport location is and that it’s the right one! (some budget airlines fly to airports further out of town).
- Remember to book and pay for any checked luggage. If you can get your bag through the strict restrictions on hand luggage, do it. Don’t chance it, if it doesn’t fit or weighs more you will be charged a FORTUNE at the airport! If in doubt add it on in advance.
- Have your ticket ready. Often budget airlines need you to have checked in online, need you confirmation printed or your boarding pass. If you turn up to the airport with just an email, you could be charged. Ryanair, a UK based airline is a classic example. They WILL CHARGE A FEE if you do not print your own ticket or show up with more bags. This is pretty clear in the first paragraph of your confirmation email. In a nutshell, always read and follow instructions! Once again, if you’re not sure, print it anyway!
Remember, if you want to book the cheapest flight possible (not worlds best airline), it helps to be adaptable, do your research, and know the conditions of the ticket.
How to find budget flights – start by finding cheap airlines. There are hundreds of budget airlines out there, but to help you guys out I’ve put together a table of my favourites. Get familiar with these budget airlines. Typically Air Asia, Jetstar, Tiger Air and Ryanair who often offer the cheapest way to fly. Keep an eye on their Facebook, Twitter and sign up to email alerts so you don’t miss out on promotions.
|Air Transat||Porter||Tiger Air|
|Air New Zealand||Air Asia||Ryanair|
|Dragon Air||Wizz Air|
|Spice Jet||Wow Air|
For more budget airlines check out Wikipedia. You’ll find a huge list of low-cost airlines down to specific countries here. If you’re going to a specific country, it’s worth checking so you know all your options.
4. Book Your Own Flights
Let your imagination run wild when you search for flights. That city you have to hang around in for a few hours, why not step out the airport and spend some proper time there? The best way to find affordable flights is to be flexible and break up the journey. For example, if you’re flying to Vietnam via Bangkok, it may be cheaper to book a ticket to Bangkok and a separate ticket onwards to Vietnam.
This is possibly the best trick to finding cheap flights. Just a note though amigos, typically if you break up and book your flights separately you may have different airlines. So do not book layovers that are hours apart as delays could mean you miss your flight on the other end. Especially as you will likely have to recheck your bags again!
I have found that Skyscanner and Kayak are the best flight comparison websites to use when playing around with flights. But why do it yourself? Well, for one it’s pretty fun, you will be inspired to visit other places on your trip you may not have thought of and you’ll have a great idea of the prices out there. Also, if you pop into a Travel Agent it’s unlikely the agent will be happy to play around with flight routes for hours…
So to help you find the cheapest flights yourself, here are three tips to get you started:
- Do your research: Are there budget airlines that could be used for your route?
- Play around with routes: Why fly from the UK if Europe is significantly cheaper? Especially when you can score budget flights for as little as €10 to Europe. Maybe for some reason, Phuket is cheaper to fly into than Bangkok so change your destination. Search by country – Skyscanner is great for this – it will show you the cheapest place to fly in and out of each destination.
- Add in your own multi-day layovers: If the flight naturally stops there for a layover, would it be cheaper if I actually spent a day there instead of just a few hours.
If you want the cheapest flights, doing at least one of these three options could not only save you hundreds. But you’ll also get to tick another country off your bucket list at the same time!
5. Mark the Cheapest Day to Fly
Have you heard the rumour that Tuesdays are the cheapest day to fly? Universally of course, no specific destination, just them all. Amigos, I hate to burst your bubble but this is no longer true – if it even ever was – all routes are different, some airlines are different and basically, it changes all the time. To give an example, just take a look at the graph below for Vancouver-Mexico City flights: it says that Monday is the cheapest day and Wednesday is the most expensive!
So how do you find the day cheap flights are departing? Searching every comparison site at least seven times each would take ages! Never fear, Skyscanner – yep again, I like these guys, have you noticed? – has a tool to help you.
Your best strategy is to get a quick visual of prices for a whole month to see what days are cheapest for your specific route. Here’s how:
- Get on Skyscanner website or download the app
- Enter where you want to depart and arrive
- Click on the box where you would normally pop a date in and instead, select ‘Whole Month’. If you know what month you want to travel, select it. If you’re flexible select ‘Cheapest Month’.
- Hit ‘search’ and watch as the magic unfolds. The search will show you what date is cheapest to fly out and what date to fly back. Those with the mini magnifying glasses have no prices – also means they are likely to be more expensive – just click on them to find out the price.
This is honestly my favourite tool to finding cheap flights. Not only that but it helps me choose where to travel to next and when! There are other websites which offer similar services but honestly, Skyscanner has been the most reliable and best way to book flights.
6. Find the Cheapest Place to Fly
So you’ve caught the travel bug but you’re not sure where to fly. The only limitation you have is budget, you have the time but not really the money. Instead of searching any and every place that springs tonight, trawling for the cheapest date and spending days trying to find the best deal, hop onto kayak. Here you can search cheap flights anywhere!
Kayak have an awesome interactive map showing you the cheapest places to travel on the time you have off work! All you have to do is hop onto the Kayak website and follow these steps.
- Click ‘Explore’ punch in the departure airport – you can even click ‘include airports nearby’ for more options – set your budget, time frame and watch the world light up with cheap flight deals!
- Once you find the best flight deal, just click on it and follow through to book! Easy as pie!
- Type in the country or city you want to depart from.
- In the destination field just search ‘Anywhere’.
- Enter the dates you have free, or the month, or even ‘the cheapest month’ and search.
- BOOM. Skyscanner will now give you a list, from cheap to pricey of all the destinations you could go to organised by country.
- Find the cheap country deal, click on it and find out the cheapest airport to enter!
You don’t get a pretty interactive map on Skyscanner but you’ll be given a list of countries with some very persuading prices.
Warning! playing around on these tools will spark insane wanderlust and will feed your travel addiction further. Use at your own risk and enjoy!
7. Travel Agents Are Not The Enemy
Contrary to popular belief, travel agents are not (always) money hungry and out to rip you off. In fact, many travel agencies have deals with airlines which will be cheaper than anything you will be able to find online yourself. This however, doesn’t mean you should walk into a travel agent without having done your own research first. If you have a rough idea of the cheapest route, date and destination, this will save a lot of time and searching. You’ll also know how cheap you can get it, meaning you’re less likely to get ripped off. Most travel agents will Price Match if the cheap flight you found is cheaper than the flight they have.
Travel agents not only have better deals (sometimes) but often if you book through a travel agent, you’re protected slightly better if something goes wrong or at least, don’t have to deal with it yourself.
8. It Doesn’t Pay to Wait
If you know where you want to go and when you want to go. You’ve searched and found the cheapest flights but wait, someone has told you if you wait and book at the last minute the flights will be cheaper. Don’t do it, it’s a myth amigos!
Very rarely do flights get cheaper closer to the departure date, if anything, they are likely to get more expensive. This is basically the same for ALL modes of transport. If you have found the cheapest deal and you are not flexible, book it, now! Booking ahead is likely to always be cheaper than booking last minute.
9. Check Foreign Currencies
Before you book that flight, have you checked if it’s cheaper to book it in another currency. Or the currency of the destination you are departing/heading for. Budget airlines typically make you pay in the currency of the country you are departing from but not always. Most airlines will have an option on the page to change the currency. Before you do this, make sure you are incognito and the location setting on your device is off or you have a VPN activated. Booking a flight and paying in a different currency could save you a small fortune but only if you’re using a credit card free of foreign-transaction fees! Otherwise your attempts to save money doing this will be lost!
10. Grab Error Fares Fast
Error fares are what I like to think of as gifts from god. Error fares are basically the airline, company or third party advertising and selling a fare at the wrong price because someone mistyped the fare into the system. BINGO! Every traveller dreams of stumbling across these bad boys. If you’re in the know-how on where to find airline error fares, you can save yourself some serious bucks on a ticket!
So how do you find budget flights and error fares? By visiting these two sites (Airfare Watchdog and Secret Flights), signing up to the alerts via email and by making sure you always have a credit card on hand.
Act fast when you stumble upon cheap flights, they wont be around for long, especially error fares. Airlines, as you can imagine, are never too pleased when glitches like this happen and will fix it quickly. You just have to be faster than them. Good luck!
I recommend starting your quest for cheap flights with Skyscanner! You can use the widget below to check for cheap fights now!
Find Affordable Flights on Skyscanner
So there you have it amigos, my tried and tested ways of finding the cheapest flights to far off places. Do you have any more tips and tricks for finding cheap and cheerful flights? Let me know in the comments section below!
Looking for more inspiration?
- Need an outbound ticket to show to immigration? – check out this site.
- Long haul flight packing list
- Making the most out of your layovers
- Should you travel with compression socks
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Writer and hustler. Adventurer and vagabond. Master of the handstand pushup. Conqueror of mountains, survivor of deserts and crusader for cheap escapades. Will has been on the road for nine years, travelling to far-flung lands on a budget. Today, he runs a number of online ventures. He is passionate about teaching others how to ditch their desks, hit the road and achieve real freedom by earning money online. Currently, Will is based in Bali where he plans to open his first Tribal Hostel in 2019.