A helpful guide for anyone looking for the cheapest flights available
By Shane Fay
This doesn’t mean draw the shades and conduct your search in your panic room. What this means is that you should search for flights in certain modes to avoid being bamboozled by your browser’s cookies.
Based on your browser’s cookies, flight prices can and will increase when there are repeated searches for a particular route. This happens because a given site wants to scare you into securing a flight quickly before prices increase even more.
There is a way around this. Searching for flights in private browsing mode or in incognito mode allows you to see the actual lowest prices.
To access this incognito mode in Google Chrome or Safari, press the Command key (Control key if using a PC), Shift key, and the N key. To access incognito mode in Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox, press the Command key (Control if using a PC), Shift key, and P key.
A new browser window will open in which your search history will not be tracked, thus keeping the prices from inflating as you search. Also, don’t forget to close out of your incognito windows after each flight search to guarantee those absolute lowest prices!
Stick to the Search Engines that are Known to Give the Best Prices
While it may seem simpler to just use a search engine like Expedia, your chance of finding the cheapest flights on a site like that are slim to none.
Because all search engines take cuts from the airlines they display, all search engines will have inflated flight costs. But some search engines, such as Expedia, will inflate flight costs much higher than other search engines.
Here are some good sites to remember:
- Google Flights
- AirFare Watchdog
However, many of these search engines do not include budget airlines such as Southwest. So you should search additionally for regional budget airlines if that is what you are looking for.
You should also keep in mind that there isn’t exactly one perfect search engine. So try to use a whole bunch of different search engines to guarantee you get the best results.
Try to find the Cheapest Day on which to Fly Out
There are many myths and theories that glorify booking flights on Tuesdays or weekdays because they are supposedly the days with the cheapest flights. However, these days don’t always hold the cheapest flights.
In order to figure out the cheapest days to fly in regards to your specific situation, get a look at the prices for an entire month.
You can use Skyscanner to take a gander at flight prices for an entire month. Here’s how:
- Enter the cities in which you are departing and arriving on Skyscanner.com
- Select “one-way” not round trip because you are only trying to find the cheapest flight out dates first–don’t worry if you’re taking a round trip because this process will give you a general idea of the cheapest dates on which to fly in/out for a round trip
- Click “Depart” and select “Whole Month”
- Click “Search” and find out which dates are cheapest. Some dates may not have visible prices immediately–in order to see those invisible prices, click the magnifying glass that is over the date
- You can repeat these steps when looking for cheap return flights if it’s applicable to your situation
Budget Airlines are your Friends
Budget airlines may leave you with a less roomy seat on a flight without complimentary meals, but the money you will save is far worth a little less legroom. Budget airlines provide much cheaper tickets than full-service airlines.
Just make sure when you are in the process of booking with budget airlines to read the fine print. This way you can avoid any hidden fees and abide by all of the budget airlines’ rules.
Here is a list of budget airlines and some of the cheapest companies in areas of budget airlines’ scarcity:
- Air Transat
- Spirit Airlines
- Air New Zealand
- Tiger Air
- Spice Jet
- Aer Lingus
Keep in mind this list includes budget airlines from around the world, not just the United States.
Avoid Tight Layovers
If you want to get the most bang for your buck and you don’t mind waiting a few days before your connecting flight, avoid booking layovers that are just hours apart. Why spend hours sitting in LAX when you could spend a few days exploring Los Angeles before your flight to China?
And what more, you could go to these two destinations for the price of one. By doing some research on the best budget airlines in the countries involved in your trip, you can book multi-day layovers or even book the two legs of the trip separately and get insanely cheap prices for your extended vacation.
Fly to the Cheapest Places
Kiwi.com is a fantastic website to use when looking for cheap places to fly. Whether you just want to see which countries are the cheapest to fly into or you know where you want to go, Kiwi.com can save you tons of money.
Destinations are sorted out by price showing you the most cost-effective locations you can fly to. This comprehensive website makes finding cheap destinations a breeze.
Travel Agents Can be Helpful
While travel agents can’t always get you the best price, they do offer exclusive undercut rates that are not available to the public.
The best thing to do is commit some of your time to research and find the cheapest flights, then you should present your information to a travel agent to see if the agent can match the price or beat it.
Travel agents can be especially useful in the case of long-haul flights where savings can go up to hundreds of dollars.
Local Airlines Can be Incredibly Cheap
The big search engines will likely not include airlines in obscure locations. Make sure you do extensive research when traveling to strange/exotic/obscure locations to see if that area has a local airline because you could save a boatload of money on airfare.
Even if the mass search engines do include some of the smaller local airlines, it doesn’t hurt to check the airline’s website for exclusive offers. You may just find some unbelievable discounts and deals!
Waste No Time to Book your Flights
The second you know when and where you’re flying, book your flight. Prices will only increase as the departure date gets closer. Even budget airlines’ prices will increase as time goes on.
Simply book your flight as soon as possible in order to get the cheapest plane tickets.
You Don’t Have to Pay in U.S. Dollars
It may be cheaper in some cases to pay in a foreign currency. Many budget airlines will ask for payment in the currency of the departure country. However, this is not the case every time.
Some of the time, you can pay using a different currency and you can save a lot of money doing so. Just make sure that your credit card has no foreign transaction fees or else you won’t be saving money!
Airline Errors Can Save you Money on Flights
Because of technical glitches, currency conversion mistakes, or human error, airlines can display the wrong prices when posting their fares. This can allow you to find some disturbingly reduced prices.
Airfare Watchdog and Secret Flying are two great websites to find mistakenly priced flights and other reduced ticket prices. Why not take advantage of airlines’ mistakes?
Try the Risky “Hidden City” Method
Say you have always wanted to go to Chicago but flying to Chicago is very expensive. You then discover that a connector flight that stops in Chicago on the way to Seattle is actually cheaper than flying directly to Chicago.
You can take this flight and not take the connecting flight out of Chicago and finally enjoy the Windy City as you’ve always dreamed.
This method is known as a “hidden city” flight and it can be risky. For example, if you had your luggage checked then you may see it travel to Seattle in the above theoretical.
Also, if the same plane will be used for the flight to Seattle then you might not be granted permission to get off the plane in Chicago.
And it’s a possibility that the airline may discover that you failed to take your connector flight.
If you do plan on using the “hidden city” method, use caution and beware of the potential repercussions!
Don’t Forget about your Flight Points
Perhaps one of the best ways to save money on flights is to utilize those flyer miles. Miles points can make already-cheap flights even more affordable!
Some Important Reminders When Using Discount Airlines for Flights
- You may end up at smaller airports instead of the big boys so be smart and study up on those not-so-common airports. But if you do find yourself at a larger airport, be aware that your gate could be harder to find than regular airlines.
- Many discount airlines do not have baggage agreements with bigger airlines. With that being said, it is possible that if you have a connecting flight with a different airline you might have to grab your luggage at the carousel and recheck your bags for the connecting flight.
- When flying with unfamiliar low-cost carriers, it’s important to do a safety check on said carriers. You can go to AirlineRatings.com to get an idea of an airline’s safety record.
Utilize all of these tips when trying to find the cheapest flights available and you will save bundles of money!