Booking cheaper flights: all you need to know
When you are thinking about making a trip, there’s a definitory moment in which you feel your trip becomes real: when you buy the ticket for your flight. Sometimes you make it on a whim but most of the times it’s a well-thought decision. The first reason buying a flight ticket has to be thought is because they may be expensive, especially if you’re flying overseas. Booking cheaper flights can be difficult sometimes, you have to do a lot of research and have luck. That’s why I created this guide, so you can book cheaper flights and start planning your next adventure!
The first thing about booking cheap flights is to be flexible. If you want to go to a certain place, maybe check if there are flights in nearby towns that are cheaper. For example, if you want to go to a specific city of Europe from America, you can check the cheapest city to fly to and from there, get a “domestic” flight to your city of choice. Last year I wanted to go to Italy and found out that it was cheaper to buy a flight to Madrid and then from there to Naples. I saved something like 100 USD (which is super useful when traveling!). If you’re flying to Mexico from Europe, for example, instead of looking for flights that get to Mexico City you can check other cities like Cancún.
The important thing is to be flexible enough in places and dates so you can save more money.
Use your miles or points wisely
Two weeks ago a friend texted me saying we should go to Europe. At first, jokingly, I said yes. After exchanging more texts I realized she was serious about it: she had already bought her ticket. Because of her job, she travels a lot and gets points in her credit card. She bought a Mexico City – Madrid flight for something around 60 USD (that flight normally costs 700 USD) using her credit card points.
There are many credit cards that have excellent bonuses and cash back programs where you can earn points and travel -almost- for free. Before getting a credit card to earn points for flying:
- Understand perfectly how the credit card works
- Completely know your finances
- Check what kind of benefits you can get from the card
- Think of your activities and how can they earn you points or rewards. For example, my friend is a frequent traveler so she got a card that gives you rewards for that kind of activity. There are others that give you points when you pay for groceries or dining out.
- Know if you can use your points in any airline or if you can only use them in some
- Look for flexibility in the way you can use your benefits
- Check the annual fee of the credit card
Prefer to fly on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays
These are the days when booking cheap flights is easier. Flights prices, as with almost anything, depend on demand and supply. If there’s too much demand, the prices will go higher. When there isn’t too much demand, they’re lower. And turns out the days where there’s less demand are Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays! Avoid flying on Mondays, Fridays and weekends and you’ll save money. The best part of flying during these days is that you won’t find too many crowds!
Buy your ticket in advance (but not that much!)
According to AirHelp.com, buying domestic flights three months in advance is a perfect time for booking cheap flights. But, if you’re buying international flights, the ideal time would be between five and a half months and one and a half months before your departure. You can read Air Help’s guide for more specific information.
Fly during holidays
If you don’t mind flying during important holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving or New Year, you can save a lot of money! Since these are days in which there’s not much demand for flying, the prices are normally low. For example, I once bought a flight from Venice to Lisbon on Christmas and it cost around 40 USD. And since there weren’t many people in the flight, I could even check my baggage although it wasn’t included in my ticket.
The downside of this is that maybe you won’t be able to enjoy the holidays as much as you want… but you’ll surely save a lot of money!
Get alerts and track your flight
Even if you know in which dates and days flight prices may be lower, they can always be unpredictable. Be smart about it and check the prices from time to time to find the best prices. Or what’s better, get alerts to know it automatically. An app you can use to get alerts is Hopper. This app is really easy to use and you can track different flights at the same time.
Google Flights is also a great tool to track flight prices (and if you’ve got the Google Trips app, it’s better!). Just go into the website and search for the flight you’re looking for. It’ll also give you options like changing airports and dates so you can have better deals. Simply turn on the tracking option and you’re there!
Buy your tickets on different airlines and to different airports
It can be a bit of a hassle but tools like Google Flights, that I already mentioned, can help you big time with that. I know it’s easier to book a round trip but you can save a lot by buying two one-way tickets! Booking separate tickets is also useful in case you want to make a change. Of course, it depends on how each airline handles flight changes, but it’s almost always cheaper to change a one-way ticket than a round one.
It’s also a good idea to check if there are different prices if you use a different airport. For example, if you’re traveling to Paris, you can check on both Charles de Gaulle Airport and Orly Airport. Sometimes it’s cheaper to fly or depart from one than from de other.
Go to the Airline’s official or international websites
I have a friend that lives in Switzerland. Another friend wanted to visit him and when checking flights, they found out the prices were different there than if buying from our country. Check in the official websites of the airlines that fly to your destination. Also, if you’ve got friends living in another country, ask them to help you look for and book your flight. You can buy them souvenirs as a thank you.
Don’t be afraid of long layovers
Sometimes layovers suck but other times they’re great opportunities to visit new places… without buying a ticket to get there (well, kind of)! Most of the flights with layovers are cheaper than direct ones. Depending on the time you have, you may be able to get out of the airport and explore the city a little bit.
AirWander is a great site where you can check for long layovers. There, you can search for your origin city and destination, and you’ll be able to look at flights with extra long layovers (or stopovers, as they call them).
Buy “basic” flights
A lot of airlines now offer basis economy flights. When you buy these flight you have to pay extra for things like checking bags or picking seats. If you don’t care about that as a traveler, you can save money buying them! Pay attention to what your flight includes in case you’re taking more flights. Most of the “basic” flights only allow you to bring a carry-on. Be sure that your suitcase complies with the airline’s requirements. Also, check if there are extra fees for any service you might need, sometimes that can be more expensive than the ticket itself.
Last time I flew to Europe, the flight from my country to Spain included a 25 kg documented suitcase and a carry-on. The problem was that I booked low-cost flights to travel across Europe and I could only bring a carry-on on those (and if I wanted to document my baggage, it cost almost the same as the flight). What happened is that I had to fly from the beginning with just a carry-on… which was better! So have that in mind.
Your dream trip is closer than you think! Just follow these tips and you’ll be flying in no time! What tips would you give to us?