Five years ago, my roundtrip flight to Denmark in the middle of winter cost over $1,000.
Just a few weeks ago, I bought a roundtrip ticket to Denmark for only $400, AND it’s during tourist season!
I’m a huge fan of shopping as cheaply as possible (I regularly buy clothes from Walmart), and since flights are regularly one of my most expensive purchases, I always try to find the cheapest flights. Flights have decreased a lot in the past few years but I’ve also learned a lot of helpful tricks, so I put together a guide to find cheap flights with my top 10 tips! 🙂
Until muggles learn to apparate, flying is usually the best option for traveling long distances. I have driven from Philadelphia to Fort Myers, Florida (crazy long drive and not fun), and I drive from Philadelphia to North Carolina every few months because I’m cheap. But when I can’t drive, I fly.
Every time I plan a trip somewhere, I stalk the flight information sometimes for months before I buy a ticket because I want to get the best possible price. I’m sure you’ve heard advice like not buying flights on the weekends, not flying on Sundays or Friday nights, or using budget airlines. But here are a few more tips to find the cheapest flights that I’ve learned in the past year to help you find save lots of money! These aren’t a complete guarantee (especially for flights that are always expensive, like to Australia), but they can definitely help you shave off a few dollars.
Search for flights “incognito”
This is my number one tip to save money on flights because it’s so easy! If you’ve bought a flight recently, websites will remember that and will bump up prices, even after you’ve cleared your cache and history. This may not work if you only buy plane tickets once a year, but if you’re buying tickets every few months, it can make a big difference.
When I was planning my trip to Italy with my friends last year, one friend had recently bought a flight, so her computer was showing her the flights for Italy for hundreds of dollars more than we were seeing! Opening an “incognito” window (some browsers call them “private” windows) can save you hundreds of dollars right off the bat.
So excited to go back to Denmark!
Search for nearby airports
This may not work for you if you don’t live near many airports, but living in Philadelphia, I have tons of airports within a few hours of me. I may have to travel a little further, but to save hundreds of dollars, it’s worth it! For a flight to Florida, it was cheaper to fly out of Atlantic City AND park my car there for 5 days than flying out of Philadelphia or Trenton- the flight cost less than $100 in January! I’ve also flown into an airport 30 minutes away from Fort Myers, Florida because it saved me hundreds of dollars. For my flight to Denmark, it was HALF the price to fly out of Newark instead of Philadelphia. Even Washington, D.C. was a few hundred dollars cheaper. You can easily search nearby airports on Skyscanner by checking a couple of boxes, and you can search by airports in an entire country!
If you live near a smaller airport, it might actually be cheaper than a larger airport. When I lived in North Carolina, I was an hour and a half from the Raleigh airport and at least two hours away from the Charlotte airport, but sometimes the tiny airport near me in Fayetteville had some cheaper flights than the bigger airports. So don’t count out the small airports with only one terminal!
For international flights, you can also try searching for airports further away. For my trip to Italy with three of my friends, they all live in North Carolina while I live in Philadelphia. But it was cheaper for them to fly to Philadelphia and do some sightseeing for a day and then fly to Italy rather than just flying from North Carolina to Italy. I don’t know why some airports are cheaper than others, but do some research on other airports before booking your flights!
Take advantage of layovers
If you’re not in a rush, flights with long layovers can be cheaper than direct flights. And if the layover is long enough, you can have time to explore the city you’re in! Some airlines to Europe will stop in Iceland, so if you haven’t been to Iceland yet (and I highly recommend going at some point!), you can usually arrange to have a layover for a day or even longer to do some sightseeing before going to your main destination.
Sign up for price alerts
I ALWAYS sign up for price alerts from Skyscanner. Instead of searching for your destination and comparing prices on the different days every day, Skyscanner does it for you! They’ll send you emails when the prices go up or down so you’ll know when the flights are the cheapest. I’ve been watching a flight go up and down a few dollars for a couple of months now, and as soon as it dropped almost $40 in just one day, I was able to buy it for the cheapest price!
A friend recently told me about the app Hopper, which I really like! It doesn’t show flights as cheap as Skyscanner so I still buy flights through Skyscanner, but Hopper is great with keeping you updated on the price trends and warning you when they predict flight prices will go (and stay) up.
Search by month instead of days
Do you have an idea of when you would like to travel, but you don’t have specific dates in mind? On Skyscanner (it’s seriously the best site!), you can search prices for a whole month so you can travel on the cheapest days! Or if you have a flexible schedule, you can search by the cheapest month in the year for a destination so you can really get the best deals.
Don’t have a plan
Last year I wanted to travel somewhere in the spring, but I didn’t have a specific destination in mind. I chose April and searched by the cheapest destination, and, surprisingly, Italy was at the top of the list and I found roundtrip tickets for only $350 to Venice! I was surprised that flying to Europe could be so cheap (and so much cheaper than flying to some places in the US!), so I bought my tickets and had the best time in Italy. You may be surprised how cheap some destinations are if you don’t have a specific place in mind!
Travel during off or shoulder season
I don’t like to travel during “tourist season” if I can help it because I don’t like crowds and I really don’t like the heat, and tickets and lodging can be much more expensive in the summer. But that doesn’t mean you have to visit somewhere in the middle of winter (though some places can be beautiful in the winter, especially with Christmas lights and markets, so don’t write off traveling in the winter!). “Shoulder” season for many places is the spring and fall, and it can be quite a bit cheaper than the summer.
The temperatures in Italy were perfect at the end of April and early May, and the crowds weren’t too big yet. Fall is also becoming a great time to travel because places are still pretty warm but not as crowded and expensive as the summer. If you are down for traveling in the winter, I saw flights to Venice in February for $250 and I know someone who went to Paris in the winter for about $200, so traveling in the colder months can save you hundreds of dollars on flights alone!
Buy a last minute flight
I’ve seen crazy cheap flights advertised at the last minute, so if you’re a spur-of-the-moment person, that might be a good option for you! I haven’t done this yet because I’m a big planner and I have a job and a dog to worry about, but it’s worth signing up for email blasts from Skyscanner or specific airlines to get alerts when last minute cheap flights are available.
Travel light with a budget airline
I try to travel with budget airlines like Frontier, Spirit, or WOW when I can because they really can be so much cheaper. But, be aware of hidden fees and issues with customer service. I had a bad experience with EasyJet in Italy with employees giving me conflicting information and trying to charge me for something they shouldn’t have, but other than that I haven’t had issues with budget airlines other than the occasional delay.
Make sure you read all the information carefully because most of them charge you for luggage (and carry-on bags can be more expensive than checked bags) and they will charge you even more at the gate if you don’t pay ahead of time. And make sure you measure your bags- they WILL charge you if you try to get your suitcase passed as a free “personal item,” and airlines like WOW have different sizes allowed for personal items than other airlines. If you’re aware of all the extra fees and can pack light enough for everything to fit in a “personal item” bag, you shouldn’t have any issues and you could save lots of money!
Join discount programs or sign up for credit cards with travel rewards
If you fly often (especially with the same airline or to the same destination), you should look into signing up for airlines’ discount programs to get some great deals. If you don’t fly often, this might not work well since you pay a fee upfront. Frontier’s Discount Den is $50 for a year, and they’ll email you with extra deals on flights that you can’t get without being in their program. Spirit’s discount program will give you discounts on baggage fees (so you don’t have worry about always packing light!).
If you don’t fly very often but you still want to get some deals for your occasional trip, there are tons of credit cards that will give you deals and airline miles! If you’re interested, here are 18 of the best credit cards to use for airline deals.
There are many more tips to find the cheapest flights, but these are some that I use regularly to travel as cheaply as possible! I hope this guide to find cheap flights helps you for your next trip! 🙂 And if you have any other tricks you use, I would love to hear them!