What with the advent of Airbnb and other flatshare services, we have found a way to circumnavigate the astronomical prices of hotels. Now, the most expensive part of a trip that involves flying often come down to getting there. The question is, is there a best way to get cheap flights
Sort the good from the crazy
You can read tons of stuff online about the best way to get cheap flights. From the informative to the insane. Rule number one is this: sort the good from the crazy. There are websites out there telling you that if you search in incognito mode, delete your cookies, hang outside of window during a summer rain with a t-shirt tied to your head and one shoe off you’ll find the cheapest airfares. Okay, not exactly, but some of it gets awful close to that kind of crazy. The fact of the matter is, there is no quick answer to the question where to get cheap flights? What it really comes down to is flexibility, research, and planning.
This is the most important rule and the best way to get cheap flights. Be flexible. Unless you’re “Businessman Dan” flying from Austin to Phoenix for a board meeting on the 10th floor of a glass facade skyscraper, flexibility is your friend. In fact, flexibility in travel, the non-functional kind, is always a great thing because that’s what travel is really about. So, before you start looking for where to get cheap flights, ask yourself, how flexible am I willing to be.
Airline tickets are priced dependent on time of day, day of the week and time of year. It makes sense that around holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter prices go up. There’s incredible demand with people wanting to travel back home to see their families, escape the cold or break up the long dreary run between winter and summer. But, if you have no commitments and are flexible, you can avoid seasonal and holiday prices.
Next, you want to be considerate of the day you travel. Weekends, like holidays, are when lots of people travel. Friday and Saturday people are heading places, and Sunday and Monday people are heading back. Look for flights in the middle of the week, and again you can get around expensive airfares. Tuesdays are consistently one of the cheapest days to travel.
You also have to think about what time you travel. As with buses and trains, there are peak travel times. Nobody likes getting up at 2 in the morning for a 4 o’clock flight. But, doing this can save you a heap of cash. So, look for flights that leave early in the morning or late at night and when you find one set your alarm. In a nutshell, a big part of how to get cheap flights is flying when no one else wants to or is going to fly.
Be a little more flexible
This one may throw a few of you through a loop. Generally, when we think of traveling, we have a specific place in mind that we want to travel to. But, being flexible with where you want to travel is one of the best ways to get cheap flights. It’s also a great way to discover new and exciting places.
Head over to Google Flights and instead of inputting a destination, just hit search. What Google Flights does is show you pretty much every possible destination option and the price it is to fly there. At the time of writing, a Wednesday, I can get a round-trip flight to Paris (from Barcelona) on a Friday night returning Tuesday for € 96. That’s a fantastic, hugely affordable weekend away.
Look at it this way; when you don’t have a set destination, the world is your oyster. And, with the whole world at your fingertips, you’re sure to find great destinations, prices, and deals.
Yeah, yeah, I hear you. We all know budget airlines are one of the easiest ways to get cheap flights. It’s hardly a secret. But, beyond EasyJet and RyanAir how many other budget airlines do you know? So here, enjoy this complete list of budget airlines you can refer back to when planning to travel.
Ryanair - Easyjet - WOW Air - Eurowings - Flybe - Wizair - Norwegian Air - Aer Lingus - Vueling - TUI - Aigle Azur
Air Asia - Jetstar - Tiger Air - Spice Jet - Vietnam Airlines - Nok Air - Vanilla Air - T’Way Airlines - Spring Airlines - Scoot - Dragon Air - Peach Air - Jeju Air - Hong Kong Express
Southwest - Allegiant Air - Jetblue - Porter - WOW Air - Sun Country Airlines - Frontier - Spirit Airlines
Book your own connecting flight
Airlines operating long-haul flights that require a stopover will book you with them the whole way through. Sometimes, the best way to get cheap flights is by checking out where the layover is and booking your own connecting flight on to your final destination.
Say, for example, you are flying from the United States to continental Europe. These flights typically involve a stopover in London. But, Europe is serviced by thousands of budget airlines, hundreds of which fly from London. So, once you make it to London, you could book the final part of your journey through a budget airline, and save yourself some cash.
This is a great website and a cheeky way to find great deals on flights. Skiplagged’s founder bases the site on hidden city fares. What this means exactly, is that instead of booking a ticket from point A to point B at a certain cost you book a flight from point A to point B to point C. The flight destination is cheaper because it stops off at point B. But, point B is your destination so, instead of taking the connecting flight on to point C you get off at point B. The Skiplagged website has proved such a success that United Airlines tried to sue the website’s founder. The lawsuit was thrown out.
However, you want to be wary of a couple of things. One, if you are traveling with checked luggage, this will be put through to the final destination. And, two, you may not always be able to disembark the plane at the connecting airport.
Airfare Search Engines
First things first, not all airfare search engines are created equal. Some are better than others. So, when possible always compare flights, prices, and deals. This is a can be a slog, but it pays off.
There are several things you need to be considerate of. First, many airfare search engines are affiliated with certain airlines. This means that when you’re looking for flights, a website that does have affiliations will list flights with their affiliated airlines first.
A lot of budget airlines don’t list their flights on airfare search engines to avoid having to pay commision fees. So, recognize that there may be cheaper flights out there, they’re just not listed.
When you find flights that meet your needs always refer back to the airline's website. Sometimes the price on the airline's website is cheaper still.
Here is a list of the most commonly used airfare search engines:
Expedia - Skyscanner - Google Flights - Momondo - Kayak
Know that big websites like Expedia and Kayak don’t always show results for smaller, local airlines. Which brings us to our next point.
Do your research into the local airlines in the areas in which you are traveling to. Often there will be a local airline that may offer flight options at a lower price. Research them thoroughly and check things like their safety record and onboard amenities and comfort.
Obvious, but overlooked
Fly to smaller airports outside of the city you are traveling to. This isn’t always an option, but can be a lifesaver when it is. If you are planning a trip to Barcelona, flying directly into the capital can be more expensive than flying to one of the nearby airports. Flights from London to Girona, for example, are sometimes a lot cheaper. And, with Girona only a 37-minute train ride away on the fast train, it can make for a great alternative arrival point.
Avoid checking luggage if you can. This is unavoidable if you’re planning an extended trip. But, for those weekends away, pack light. Take the essentials so that you can bring the bag onboard and avoid having to pay those pesky budget airline, checked luggage fees.
If you’re traveling as a pair, don’t book your tickets together. No one wants to sit on a flight by a total stranger when their traveling with family, a friend or a loved one, but it can save you money. Just like opting not to pick a seat and letting the airline assign you one can too.
Don’t hang around
Here, I am speaking to my fellow procrastinators. Those of us who are blessed with the ability to put things off. To say, I’ll do it tomorrow day after day, until tomorrow becomes today and you can’t put whatever it was off anymore. Don’t do this with airline tickets. This is the final golden rule. The best way to get cheap flights once you’ve figured out the practicalities of your journey is to hit that “book tickets now” button as soon as possible. Failure to do this means that tasty looking € 30 flight to Sicily has ballooned in price and is sitting at a far less appetizing € 150. So, don’t hesitate, strike while the kettles hot, or in this case, the price is right.
And with that, go off and trawl the far reaches of the internet armed with your new-found cheap flight finding skills. Good luck and safe travels!