Besides learning how to find cheap accommodation, learning how to find cheap flights to anywhere in the world will help you to reduce your other big travel expense.
Thankfully, there are strategies and tips we can apply so we dont have to pay top dollar and can find cheap air tickets!
21 tips on how to find cheap flights to anywhere
Its hard to believe, but when Caz and I first started traveling in 1997 our only option to get our flight tickets was to visit our local travel agent and book flights via them.
These days, we have flight search engines and the ease of buying flights online with the airlines has opened up a whole new world of choice.
When thinking about how to find cheap flights online, the cheapest fare is only part of reducing the cost and if youre flying with kids like us, its often about BEST VALUE rather than the lowest price.
Back when we were solo travelers or traveling as a couple, wed happily rough it on budget airlines and deal with late night stopovers and budget facilities. However, with two young kids, our needs and priorities have changed!
If its a long haul flight, we prefer to get to our destination as quickly and as painlessly as possible, with the most amount of comfort and facilities our budget allows!
And if its your one-and-only dream trip for the year, and its a short vacation period you have, I recommend you pay the little bit extra for a premium airline and fly direct too!
The journey is not always half the fun. Know your priorities, comfort levels and budget and make an informed decision ? sometimes a bit of sanity is worth the extra cost.
If you are traveling solo or as a couple, you can probably deal better with an extra stop-over and off flying times.
FLEXIBILITY is most important when youre trying to find cheap flights to anywhere in the world.
If you are locked into fixed travel dates, or you can only fly on weekends or during popular holiday periods, its going to be more of a challenge in finding cheap flights, but not impossible.
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21 TIPS ? HOW TO FIND CHEAP FLIGHTS TO ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD
How can I get a cheap flight? Follow these tips below and youll stack the odds in your favor!
1. Start searching as early as possible
Airlines generally release tickets 11 months in advance. Once you know your destination start searching and continue to check at least once per week.
Flight prices are live and fluctuate constantly due to supply and demand, so have a price in mind YOU are comfortable paying and be ready to jump on it.
Sure, there are last-minute flight deals that might beat what youve already paid, but thats not guaranteed. If you want to play the game of waiting for a bargain, youre better off NOT having a fixed destination in mind. More on that down below.
Relevant reading: Tips for flying low-cost airlines
2. When to buy airline tickets?
There really is no hard and fast rule on the best time to buy international airline tickets.
However, there are some general trends to be aware of when looking for cheap air tickets.
Peak season and holiday weekends will have the most demand, so expect higher prices. You can, however, stack the odds in your favor by buying at a certain time.
In this study, they analyzed 560 million flight searches, found an optimal time to buy was on average 7 weeks in advance (for domestic flights). Others have suggested a sweet spot of between 3-7 weeks in advance.
The WORST time was within 14 days of flying, or too far in advance, more than 5 months.
For international flights, the study found the sweet spot is 11-12 weeks prior to departure. As for which day of the week to buy on, they suggest no particular day was better than the other and buying on a Tuesday and Wednesday was somewhat of an urban legend.
3. What is the best DAY to fly?
Wondering what days to fly to save money on plane tickets?
It might not matter when you buy your tickets, but cheap flights can certainly be found depending on the DAY you choose to fly!
The consensus is that its best to FLY OUT on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday. These are typical off-peak days with airlines carrying fewer business travelers, usually meaning lower fares and a surplus of seats. You also have a better chance of grabbing frequent flyer seats on these days (which we love).
Fridays and Sundays are usually the most expensive days to fly.
And dont get confused with the idea that buying a ticket on a certain day will result in lower airfare. Thats a separate thing to the day you actually fly!
It has been suggested to try these combinations:
Domestic: depart Saturday, return on a Monday.
International: depart Tuesday, return on a Wednesday.
4. Be flexible with your flight dates
As mentioned, the best tactic for how to find cheap flights to anywhere is to be FLEXIBLE with your travel dates. Give yourself the best chance by searching a couple of days, or even weeks, either side of your preferred departure date.
If you are locked into exact dates, it will be more challenging to get the best deal.
5. Adjust the time of day for flying
If you cant change the date of your flight, play around with the time of day you choose to fly, which can change the price of your air ticket dramatically.
Flying at unpopular hours, such as the red-eye or early in the AM instead of late morning through afternoon, increases your chance of getting the best deal. Most of the time, the cheapest flights leave either very early in the morning or late at night.
6. Identify the cheapest payment method for your flight tickets
Recently I got stung with a $94 fee when booking cheap flights using my credit card, which I now avoid on cheap domestic flights.
In Australia, Qantas lets you pay using BPAY from a debit account, and Jetstar and Virgin through the POLi system which is also a direct debit payment from your chosen bank account.
I still use my credit card however when purchasing the more expensive international flights to gain those credit card member benefits and frequent flyer points, and for added consumer protection.
7. Check alternate airports
If there is more than one airport near your origin or final destination, check them both before making your flight booking.
The more options you have in terms of airports and travel dates, the more likely you will be able to find the best deals on airfare.
And consider multi-city flights as a strategy to save money.
Ensure you know where the airport is situated in relation to your accommodation and before you book your tickets. We messed up once and discovered I was flying into an airport much further away from the city centre. It cost me extra to pay for a bus into the city centre and a lot more in time than simply flying direct to the main airport.
8. Fly where the deals are
This is one of our best travel tips on how to find cheap flights to anywhere!
Instead of choosing a destination and then spending days or weeks trying to find a flight deal, considering flying to where the cheap flights already are!
Choose a destination you can comfortably afford and one youll enjoy. Use a flight search engine like Skyscanner that lets you type in your departure city and search for a list of cheap flights to anywhere in the world. If you are flexible with where you want to go, these are handy tools and fun to play around with.
Keep reading for detailed tips on how to do this down below in our How to search for deals section.
9. Consider round trip tickets
Even if you are only flying one way, sometimes they are so expensive that the round trip ticket is actually cheaper. Just forfeit the return leg portion. We have done this from Sydney to LA. Crazy, but it happens.
10. Use different airlines
For domestic flights within Australia, its often cheaper for us to use different airlines and book two separate one-way flights. For example, we have flown Jetstar Airways in one direction and Virgin Australia for the return.
Do your research and factor in online booking costs. If you do two separate airlines, you may be paying two online booking costs.
11. Avoid holiday periods when flying
I know, its and obvious tip when searching for cheap air tickets.
But try not to fly up to 7 days before or after a major holiday period. However, certain strategies such as flying on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day (when the flight attendants are extra nice) or even on September 11 can save you a penny.
And weve all heard of the term tourist season.
Europe in the summer is peak tourist season. Consider visiting in the off-months instead. Sure the weather might be a bit cooler, but the prices for flights (and accommodation) will be lower, and there will be less people lined up at popular attractions.
Just make sure all the tourist sites and accommodation providers are open in those down months.
12. Consider a longer layover
Flights with longer layovers usually have lower price tags. Look for flights where you can plan for longer stopovers on the same ticket.
13. Join a frequent flyer program
Why not? These programs are free to join and you can earn points towards cheaper fares, upgrades, free companion tickets and even earning free flights!
And many programs are created for airline partnerships where theyll recognize and honor each others miles ? such as the Qantas / Emirates partnership.
We have benefited greatly from our Qantas membership. When we were living in Raleigh, North Carolina we had to attend a family wedding in Cape Town. I (Craig) had accumulated enough points to fly return trip from North Carolina Atlanta London Johannesburg Cape Town and return!
Whilst I had to pay a couple hundred dollars in taxes and fly a longer route, saving over $2,500 was well worth it.
And recently I saved big on my flight from Sydney to Washington DC to attend the White House blogger summit.
Frequent flyer programs mostly accrue by miles. So even if you dont travel very often, taking just one long haul flight will add to your points balance.
If you have a premium status, such as Gold or Silver, you usually gain access to the airline lounges even if youre flying economy. You also get priority check-in, priority security, and priority boarding.
If you only travel once or twice a year its probably best for you to use a flight search engine to get your best flight deal. (recommendations below)
However, if you are a frequent flyer, paying a little extra for flights by staying loyal to a premium airline or alliance such as OneWorld could be your best long-term bet for getting flight perks.