Everyone wants to find travel deals and cheap flights - it's part and parcel of who we are as travelers now. I've never met anyone who says, "let me find the most expensive flight" when looking for a ticket!
Other than accommodation, flights will be the most part of your travel budget, so it makes sense that you want to save the most money. After all, what good is it to get to a destination if you don't have the money to spend when you get there?
1. Start Researching ASAP
As soon as you have your destination in mind, start searching for flights. Prices fluctuate daily and hourly - so check back every few days to see what the average and trends are.
Decide what your budget is going to be and be prepared to book when you see an exceptional travel deal.
Start your search in the box below or download the Skyscanner app for searches on the go!
2. When to Buy Tickets
Research from this study say that the best time to find travel deals cheap flights is anywhere from 3.5 months to 3 weeks before your travel dates.
If you buy too early, airlines have just released tickets and they are not adjusting prices downwards to make sales.
If you buy too late, you are in desperation mode and are forced into a situation where you have to pay full market price just so you can get a ticket.
My best travel deals have been found right around the 6-8 weeks before flying time frame - for domestic flights. The study suggests 11-12 weeks out for international flights.
3. Be Flexible With Travel Dates
If you don't have to fly at a certain time/date, you will be able to find the cheapest flights. There are definitely common times that airline tickets will have the highest prices because the demand is greater:
Traveling during non-peak times will certainly help you find travel deals with cheap flights.
See below how I use Skyscanner to help me find the cheapest times to fly to a specific destination, but only selected the month in which I wanted to travel.
You can see how it shows a chart (you can also select calendar view) to compare travel dates. If I am flexible when I can fly, I can get the cheapest flights this way.
4. What's the Best Day To Fly?
This question gets asked a lot - what day of the week should we fly?
To figure it out, just think of when most of the business travelers are flying - they make up a large portion of the demand, which drives up prices. Most business travelers will be flying to their destination on a Friday (for weekend meetings) or Monday (for a business week) and flying back home on Sundays.
Thus, that leaves Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and perhaps Saturdays as the days with the least business travelers.
When possible, I would look at those days to book the cheapest flights.
5. Adjust Your Destination
If you are considering a vacation, but cost is of utmost importance, perhaps be open to where you are going.
Let's say that you have a specific week that you have off of work and you can't change it. Can you be flexible as to what your destination is?
Maybe you just want to go somewhere warm and tropical... Both Skyscanner and Kayak have "explore" features where you can set your home airport, your travel dates and then see a map to check out the cheapest flights.
You can see in the above example that I even set a maximum price I was budgeting and it showed me what was available within that range. I have lots of warm, sunny destinations that I could go to!
6. Accrue Travel Points/Miles
Usually airlines offer free or low-cost frequent flier programs that allow you to accrue points or miles every time you fly with them.
I have a $9 Spirit (budget US airline) membership that allows me to fly *very* cheaply and also accumulate the miles that I've flown to turn into reward points for future flights!
7. Consider a Rewards Credit Card
If you are going to use a credit card, then I suggest using one that will allow you to use your purchases to turn them into airline flight rewards.
Pay for all your travel expenses (flights, hotel, food, etc.) on that credit card and soon you'll be able to rack up enough frequent flier miles to purchase a "free" flight!
Just be careful to pay off the amount the same month before the interest racks up - you don't want to pay more for your travel than you have to!
The Points Guy has a great list of credit cards and compares the rewards and costs.
8. Volunteer for Travel Vouchers
This only works occasionally but if you find yourself on an overbooked flight and they ask for volunteers to take the next flight (and you have the ability to be flexible) - take the travel voucher!!
I've been able to do this a few times, and though it may cause a few minor headaches (changing ground transportation in destination, staying overnight near airport occasionally), it has been absolutely worth it when I get to fly for FREE next time!
9. Look for Less Than Ideal Flights
Yes, most people don't want multiple stops or long layovers, but if you are willing to grin and bear it, you can score yourself an ahhhhmazing deal!
I was able to book a flight from Chicago to Amsterdam for $357 this year!! It had a 10 hour layover in Madrid, so my plan was to go see the city during that time. Then I'd get to see 2 major European cities for the price of one! (I ended up having a family emergency and having to change my trip - but the point is, those deals are out there!)
10. Complain (in the right situation)
If you've had subpar service, either at the gate or on the flight, write a polite letter or email to the airline. Obviously, you wouldn't write about weather delays/cancellations or flight control, as those things are out of the company's control.
But if your complaint is about customer service, then by all means, write away! My advice is to stay professional, be specific, and be reasonable - you don't want to come off as entitled or just a jerk.
You may well be compensated for your frustration by a travel voucher for the company in the hopes that they can return your business to them in the future.