Traveling so often, people question how could I possibly afford all of it.
Am I secretly rich? Far from it. Do I work more than one job? Nope. Do I still live at home with my parents? Well, yes, that one is true, and it helps tremendously that I can put my “rent” into my travel savings account. But, no, my parents don’t give me money either, no matter how hard I give my dad puppy dog eyes while asking for extra cash. Puuuhhh-leeeeeeeze.
So now here I am, finally explaining to everyone how I’ve managed to keep my trips so inexpensive by sharing tricks on where to find the cheapest flights.
Picking a destination:
The first step, obviously, would be to pick a destination. On the off chance that you have no idea where you want to go, or if you want a last-minute, cheap getaway, Skyscanner has the option to “search everywhere.” It’ll bring up the cheapest destinations from any selected departure airport.
But…. If you have a long bucket list of destinations like I do, then you’ll want to spend less time finding cheap destinations and more time finding the cheapest flight to reach those destinations.
Finding the cheapest time to fly:
With my job, I’m lucky to have the perk of being able to leave whenever, so I’m able to work with when flights are cheap, rather than being limited to a certain time frame. This does mean that I’m sometimes traveling during the off season, though. Was trekking across Paris in the pouring rain ideal? No. But those will forever be my favorite memories.
The first stop on my cheap flight search engine checklist is Skyscanner (again…). They have a variety of different explore options, including being able to use “cheapest month” as your dates of travel. If you already have a specific time in mind, it’ll be good to know that it’s typically cheaper to fly on a Tuesday or Saturday, but if you choose “whole month,” Skyscanner will provide a day-by-day price comparison for your destination, so you can see the high and low days during that time of year.
Once I have a timeframe in mind, I always “fact-check” with Google Flights. What I like most about Google Flights, that other search engines don’t do, is that Google will suggest changes in your flight plan to make it cheaper. Sometimes, leaving the night before or flying into a nearby airport will produce cheaper flight prices, so I always like to be aware of these options before making a final decision.
Tip: Southwest’s flights aren’t shown in search engines, so don’t forget to check their website for prices.
I was typically booking with Google Flights in the past, but I recently discovered JetRadar. When I compared a search between the two, JetRadar produced results up to $150 cheaper for my upcoming trip. This is because of the “self-connect” option, meaning that not only will I switch planes on a layover, I might also have to collect my baggage and switch airlines as well. For long flights that are broken up by layovers regardless — since I can’t afford a $2,000 one-way ticket for a non-stop — this option was super useful. However, I did notice it brought up flights with an unnecessary amount of stops for shorter flights, turning 6 hours of travel into 20.
If I plan on making multiple stops on a trip, I’ll take all the destinations I plan to stop at along the way, and search for one-way tickets to and from each location, making the cheapest two options my starting and ending point. Flights within Europe are typically cheap (like I flew from Ireland to Paris for $14 cheap), so I never do as much research for all the little connecting flights. Instead, I refer to a good ‘ole map and plan those flights off the route that makes most sense geographically rather than cost.
Usually, I’d be the first one to urge you to make that purchase, don’t waste any time, what are you waiting for? Go. But it may be beneficial to wait a few days to ensure you’re getting the best deal.
When to buy:
Flight prices change often, so before you hit “purchase,” make sure you’re not buying during the high. Flights are often cheaper when purchased at the beginning of the week, opposed to being bought closer to the weekend. i.e. The same flight that was $600 on Friday, might only be $400 when you search again on Monday.
Don’t wait too long to buy, though. I’ve never actually tested the theory that the Tuesday 6 weeks before the trip is the cheapest a ticket will ever be, but I do always book all my flights at least 6 weeks in advance.
And if you’ve chosen to fly on with a budget airline, be sure to read all the fine print. If you make sure you’re aware of the extras beforehand, even with add-ons, your flight can still cost less than with other airlines. It’s cheaper to add/pay for a checked bag online rather than at the check-in desk, and some airlines will require boarding passes to be printed prior to arrival at the airport to avoid additional fees. I strongly encourage to also pay to reserve a seat. Not because it matters if you’re seated next to your travel buddy, but flights are almost always overbooked, so reserving a seat will guarantee that you will get on the flight over a passenger who opted to not pay for reserving one, saving you from an unexpected sleepover at the airport. (Of course, in the event of flight vouchers being offered, though, you know I’m the first one running off that plane to claim one. Free flight? Yes, please!)