Have you ever tried refreshing your browser for a thousand time in hope of coming across a cheaper flight ticket? Do you go straight to the website of a specific airline and just book it right away. While these are the big no-nos of how to find cheap flights, but trust me, many people still do it!
With just some tips and hacks (and magic), you can find way cheaper air tickets! These key tips on how to find cheap flights will save you from wasting your hard-earned money and the frustrations of learning that you could have saved 400+ dollars for that flight from Melbourne to Tokyo!
First, let's debunk some myths
People seem to always hold onto the fact that booking using incognito mode or private mode will ensure a cheaper flight ticket. The theory behind is that the more people search for a specific flight route, the more desperation they show to get on that flight. Therefore, the airline company will make your life more desperate by raising the price so that you will buy it because they don’t know when will the price stop raising.
However, there is no proof that booking a flight using incognito mode or private mode will allow you to score a cheaper flight. This is more because of the ever-changing nature of airfare prices. In fact, the reason why tickets prices change is mainly dependent how filled the plane is, or if there’s any coinciding sales or holidays, and many other reasons. But, the amount of searches is not one of the reasons that raise the prices.
Now I present to you the tips and tricks on how to find cheap flights and really score one.
1. Identify the cheapest city to fly to
This is one of the biggest tips on how to find cheap flights to where you want to go. To do this, you first have to be flexible of where you’re going.
If you are visiting a region and planning to go on a long adventure, check which are the best cities to fly into. These are normally big cities that usually have airports serving numerous airlines.
For example, if you are keen on a big adventure in Europe, it’s cheaper to fly into bigger cities like London, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Rome or Moscow, as compared to smaller cities like Stockholm, Prague, Budapest or Helsinki.
Same for South East Asia, it’s almost always cheaper to fly into cities like Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. If you are looking at South/Central America, give it a search on cities like Buenos Aires, Cancun, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro or Lima. That can just save you a few hundred dollars.
2. Use airfare meta search engines
To know which city is the best to fly into, use airfare meta search engines. This is one of the most important tips on how to find cheap flights.
Different search engines have different attributes: some include budget airlines in their searches, some don’t. Some offer the flexibility for you to broaden your searches to everywhere in the world, whereas some restrict your search result to only your input destination. Compare all of them and see which is one is the best for you.
I personally use Momondo a lot. I use Google Flights too, although it doesn’t seem to get me the cheapest flights anymore. It’s ideal to search on all the flight engines below and see which one comes back with the cheapest result. But I still think that Momondo should be your starting point as it gives very comprehensive result and you have the flexibility to search everywhere in the world.
- Google Flights
- Jetradar – includes budget airline results
- Airfare Watchdog – includes error fares
If you are flying out from Australia, sometimes CheapFlightsAU offers exclusive flight deals as well!
3. Search budget airline websites
Unfortunately, most of the flight search engines do not show budget airlines in their searches. If you are flying to a specific region, you have to check out the budget airlines that are serving that region.
Budget airline companies normally have insane sales like “Free Seats” sale on AirAsia, “Return for Free” sale on JetStar, “Crazy Flash Sale” on EasyJet and many other budget airlines.
This is the list of low-cost airlines provided by Wikipedia. It’s pretty useful as Wikipedia arrange them by region.
Just a very quick overview of what are the major budget airlines and where do they fly to. For Transatlantic route between the USA and Europe, there are:
- Norwegian Air (Main hub in Oslo) – also flies to some Asian destinations like Singapore and Bangkok
- Wow Air (Main hub in Iceland) – the biggest rival of Norwegian Air. Also serves destinations like Tenerife and Gran Canaria. The lay over program at Reykjavik is well-celebrated.
- Level (Main hub in Barcelona) – compared to Wow Air and Norwegian Air, Level doesn’t fly to as many US cities. However, it’s the only budget carrier that connects South America (Buenos Aires). It also flies to Punta Cana.
- Eurowings (Main hub in Cologne) – besides serving routes between major US cities and Cologne, Eurowings also flies to Cape Town, Windhoek (Namibia), Seattle, Mauritius, Puerto Plata (Dominican Republic), Punta Cana, Veradero (Cuba) and Bangkok.
For flights between Australia and Asia, the main ones are:
- AirAsiaX (Main hubs in Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok) – AirAsia flies to many destinations in Asia. These includes: Major cities in Southeast Asia, Sapporo, Tokyo, Osaka, Seoul, Busan, Taipei, Xi’an, Beijing, Hangzhou, Chengdu, Shanghai, Chongqing, Wuhan, New Delhi, Kathmandu, Jeddah, Medina and Tehran. They also fly to Australia and New Zealand (Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Gold Coast and Auckland). Recently, they launched a new flight to Hawaii.
- JetStar (Main hubs in Australia and Singapore) – Compared to AirAsia, they don’t fly to as many countries. But they do fly to other countries in Oceania like Fiji and Cook Islands.
4. Don't always fly direct
When it’s a short trip, it’s always almost cheaper to fly direct. But if you are looking at long haul flights, there are high chances that adding a leg to your journey will save you a few hundred dollars.
For example, flying from Rio de Janeiro to Paris directly can cost you around 1300 USD, whereas stopping at JFK, New York for 12 hours will save you 300 USD and thus setting you back at 1000 USD. Flying from Melbourne to Tokyo with Qantas can cost you around 800 AUD, whereas a layover at Kuala Lumpur will save you 300 AUD if you fly with AirAsia. It costs even less when AirAsia launches the crazy sale called the Free Seats Sale (find more about how to get a free ticket at the end of this post!)
Another tip is that you can buy two one-way tickets if that’s cheaper. For example, I was flying from Asia to Europe because I want to explore Eastern Europe. I booked my flight to London although I’ve visited London already. This is because it’s cheaper for me to fly to London and then take a budget airline to fly to Budapest. This is much cheaper compared to flying straight to Budapest.
Remember, people take direct flights because they have no time to spend or they just want to avoid the hassle of layover. If you are willing to embrace those inconveniences, your wallet and bank account will thank you. Moreover, you get a chance to explore your layover city! There are programs run by many airports in the world that provide free tours to travellers that are laying over. Do check them out!
Kiwi.com is a pretty useful website to help you check cheaper routes that involve flying with multiple airlines. It can help you arrange multi-city journeys as well.
5. Search for a single ticket all the time
Even if you are booking flight tickets for a few people, only search for a ticket for one single person when you are using the flight search engine.
It works this way: there are different fare classes on a plane. For example, fare class A is $100, fare class B is $200 and fare class C is $300. When there’s only 1 fare class A and 1 fare class B left (and many more fare class C), the search engine will show you the most expensive fare classes in order to accommodate all five of you. That means it will cost you $1500 instead of $1200.
Although there’s a high likelihood that your travel group won’t be seated together, you will be elated with the fact that you have more money to spend upon arriving at your destination.
6. Book early (but not too early)
So when is the sweet spot to book a flight? This myth has been going around the internet for the longest time ever. The truth is, no one knows!
Airline companies have so many algorithms that makes the flight prices fluctuate so much.
Some people seem to always say that booking 6-8 weeks before your trip will guarantee you the best price, whereas some people hold onto the holy grail of booking during midnight on Tuesdays. I don’t seem to get any luck using these tips but they swear by it.
My advice: don’t expect the price to decrease further if it has reached the price that you are comfortable paying. Chances are it might not and it can raise again!
To get a general idea of how much does the flight normally cost, you can download the Hopper app. It’s pretty useful in providing a general guideline of how much people normally pay for these flights.
7. Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network)
Don’t worry. Buying your flight ticket using a VPN is legal. Often times, the airfare prices are different depending on your search location.
One of the most famous example would be between Europe and Southeast Asia: if you search for your flight in Europe, you can get really cheap ticket (300 USD) to go to Southeast Asia. After your vacation, when you plan to book a flight back to Europe, the price is significantly higher if you are searching for flights while in Southeast Asia.
Not only this, booking domestic flights from outside the country is more expensive most of the time, compared to if you book it when you are already in the country.
So solve this, you can use a VPN. A VPN allows you to pretend your location or simply hide your location. You can check out ZenMate VPN as it’s free.
8. Pay in another currency
When you are buying your ticket, check if it’s cheaper to pay in another currency. Budget airlines normally make you pay in the currency that you are departing from (or where you are booking the flights from). Often this rate can be more expensive than the rate offered if you are using another currency. It also depends on if your currency is strong enough and the main hub of the budget airline company.
Remember to use a credit/debit card that doesn’t charge you foreign transaction fees.
9. Sign up to newsletters
Who doesn’t hate spam emails? Unfortunately, this might be one of the best ways to get information about how to find cheap flights.
Websites like Airfarewatchdog, The Flight Deal, Holiday Pirates, Fly for Free consistently search the internet to hunt for the best deals. Besides, they also show error fares that are crazy cheap!
These are the websites that I personally sign up to. If you don’t want them to spam you everyday, remember to configure you preference on mailing frequency.
You should also sign up to the newsletters of the airlines serving your home airport. It’s not uncommon for them to launch monthly or even weekly sales that are good bargains.
If you don’t want your mailbox full of emails like this, you can choose to follow them on Facebook. Many of these sites have a Facebook/Twitter/Instagram page. Major airlines also have official social media pages that keep customers aware of any upcoming sales. This way it will keep your inbox fairly clean.
10. Compare the price with travel agencies
I am definitely not a big fan of travel agencies, but sometimes, they have undercut rates that are cheaper than what you can search online. This is because airline companies reserve some cheap tickets for the travel agencies, especially those big brands.
If you are a student, you can stack up the discounts by using travel agencies that specifically cater to students like STA.
In conclusion: How to find cheap flights
These are the tips and tricks to find cheap flights to virtually anywhere in the world. Just do a little more homework and spend a little more time searching for them. Don’t spend hours searching for them though: if there’s no cheap flights, check back a few days or weeks later, or wait for the fare drop alert if you have signed up for the newsletters.
Now, how to score a FREE flight
Yes, I’m not kidding: you can fly to a destination for free (you just have to pay for the airport taxes)!
I am not talking about using credit card points or loyalty programs to exchange for a free flight. There are a few airlines in the world that actually offer flight tickets for free!
However, they are really hard to find and they last for only a couple of hours. To know where and how to find it, download my free eBook here and I will teach you how to score a free flight with AirAsia!
It is not about using miles and points on your credit card to redeem for a free flight ticket. This step-by-step guide (with examples provided) aims to give you a good insight on how other people get free tickets. Yes, free!
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Born and raised in Malaysia, Aaron is a medical school student that is deeply in love with travelling. He loves to inebriate all his readers with the crazy travel stories and personal travel tips that he has gathered throughout years of travelling experience. Learn more about him here!