Finding cheap flights has been honed to an art by those in the know, but for many, the whirlwind travel industry can seem like a nightmare to navigate.
It doesn’t have to be though, and in fact, there are many simple methods that will help you easily learn how to find cheap flights for your next holiday.
Prices have never been lower in the aviation industry because the competition is fierce between airlines and on routes across the world. But you can always find cheaper, and there are many insider tips and tricks you can utilize to get the best possible prices.
Bear in mind though that knowing how to find cheap flights involves you being flexible, not flying peak season, and in most cases booking in advance rather than last minute.
To help you with your next holiday, here’s our guide on how to find cheap flights!
10 Killer Tips on How to Find Cheap Flights
Use Online Search Engines
The first step when it comes to learning how to find cheap flights is to use online search engines. Popular websites such as Skyscanner allow you to quickly search almost all of the airlines out there, on almost any route, and it’s the best way to find out what’s actually out there and what the going rates are.
You can instantly pull up hundreds of airlines operating on routes, from budget airlines to scheduled airlines, and the programs and algorithms are getting better and better all the time.
It’s a great way to start planning but bear in mind that flight search engines aren’t necessarily one hundred percent accurate. Sometimes the system is only refreshed every few hours, so you may be given prices that are outdated by the time you come to book.
It will give you an idea of what the lowest going rates are, but then you still need to do the hard work and book it on a separate website or with the airline directly.
Search Budget airlines
Budget airlines generally offer the lowest rates on certain routes – although not always – and in some parts of the world, they are the best option if you want the cheapest possible flights.
In Asia, you have Air Asia offering cheap flights on a huge number of routes, while in Europe the likes of EasyJet and Wizz Air have cornered the markets. You even have long-distance budget airlines such as Norwegian Air.
Budget Airlines though, are notoriously stringent, and you have to be careful when it comes to baggage allowance and even boarding cards. Hefty added charges can sometimes make a cheap flight much more expensive so always check what you are actually paying for before booking!
You Need to be Flexible and Inflexible
It may seem like a contradiction, but knowing how to find cheap flights actually involves needing to be both flexible and inflexible. You need to be flexible in the sense that to find the absolute best deals.
You can’t have fixed travel dates to get the cheapest flights – unless you just get lucky.
Flight prices, for the most part, are based on availability. The more seats there are left on a flight, the cheaper they are. That’s why flight prices can vary day to day and why you need to be flexible.
But the cheapest flights are also the least flexible flights, once they are booked. Budget airlines are almost always non-refundable once booked, while scheduled airlines are increasingly the same.
If you need to change your ticket once it’s booked, you almost always need to pay extra fees and sometimes these can add up to more than the cost of your original flight! That’s why you need to be both flexible and inflexible at the same time.
Don’t Fly In Peak Season
While flight prices are based on availability, airlines also implement seasonal differences in pricing. They know that it’s always going to be busier at Christmas and over the summer holidays, and so they hike the prices up during these peak seasons.
That means flights will always cost more in December than say the equivalent flight in October. To get the cheapest flights, you just can’t fly in peak season. We are huge advocates for shoulder season travel and this is a major reason why.
We have scored some incredible flight deals by flying outside of peak season and truth be told, most destinations are much more pleasant to visit when there are fewer tourists. Your savings will also continue on the ground when you visit off-peak.
Avoid the Weekends
Equally, when learning how to find cheap flights, it’s just as important to avoid the weekends. Airlines might have higher fares when you fly on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
It is also likely that because they are such popular days of the week for travel, the cheapest seats have sold long before you started looking.
If you can, try and fly midweek, or if you do want a weekend getaway, try and make it a long weekend getaway. Rather than flying Friday to Sunday, try flying Thursday to Sunday, or even Saturday to Tuesday.
Don’t Fly Direct
When it comes to long haul flights, flying direct is never usually the cheapest option. Direct flights are always in higher demand, and so airlines can charge a premium for this route. Indirect flights aren’t as popular – if you could fly direct for the same price, you would.
But many airlines offer excellent deals on indirect flights. For example, you could fly from London to Singapore direct and pay a fortune with British Airways or you could save a big chunk of cash by flying London to Singapore, with Emirates, you just need to transfer flights in Dubai.
Many indirect flights run by carriers in hub airports, such as the Middle East, will offer better service and more comfort than carriers flying the route directly too. As long as you don’t mind changing planes, it’s never too bad a deal.
If you have time, you can even look at extending your stopovers, and rather than transiting in a few hours, taking a few days to explore a new city. If you’re trying to build up miles, adding in more segments can bring that benefit too.
Last Minute is Not Usually Cheap
There are a lot of myths in the travel industry and one of the biggest and most enduring of them all is that it’s cheaper to book last minute. While this may have been the truth 20 years ago, last-minute deals simply do not really exist anymore.
While this can be true sometimes for flights, it’s not quite so simple as waiting until the day before and scoring a cheap flight. For that, you have to be incredibly lucky or not care where you are flying to.
Because flight prices are based on availability, the cheapest tickets are there when the plane is still empty, so to speak, and so the longer you wait to book, the higher the price is, in all probability, going to be.
If you have set dates, and can’t fly any other time, book as far in advance as you can.
You Can Wait For Sales
If you have a bit more flexibility though, then you can wait for sale fares too. At certain times of the year, the airlines might slash their prices if they have lots of seats to sell. This never happens last minute though, but rather, months in advance.
For example, many airlines offer sales after the New Year to draw in customers and take advantage of people spending money in January. If you know when the sales are then you can time your flight booking to take advantage.
The downside is though, that you never know which routes will be on sale, and sale fares are never valid for peak season dates.
Take Advantage of Error Fares
Another great technique to learn when it comes down to how to find cheap flights is booking error fares. Error fares are when an airline essentially gets its pricing wrong, and they release seats on routes that are well below the normal rate.
You can score exceptional deals if you are lucky enough to find them, but once booked, they aren’t always honored by the airlines.
It doesn’t have to be a matter of luck either, as there are plenty of websites dedicated to searching daily for these error fares, so join mailing lists to find out about them. Just remember though, that you have to act fast to get the fare.
One of our favorite places to catch error fares is by subscribing to Scott’s Cheap Flights. We’ve nabbed a couple of unreal deals by being on that list.
Use Points or Miles
Another popular travel hack to learn, when knowing how to book cheap flights, is using points to score great deals. You can pick up airline points by signing up to frequent flyer programs.
This is the simplest method, and by using the same airlines and partner airlines – such as Star Alliance for instance – you can accrue miles the more you fly, and trade these points for reduced fares or upgrades to business class.
The world of airline points is much more than this though, and there are many different credit cards that you can sign up to, that also earn you points as you spend.
Just like with error fares, there are entire blogs devoted to hacking airline points and finding ways to maximize the number of points that you can gain just through your everyday spending.
It can be a complicated system to learn, but once you know the ins and outs, it can be one of the best tips for how to find cheap flights.
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