We’ve all been there. Playing around online trying to find a cheap flight. Probably day dreaming about some exotic location we’d like to visit. When out of nowhere, you run across some airline website or consolidator search website like Expedia with some unbelievably cheap price.
Maybe you start thinking to yourself, “hey I can afford this” and maybe you even begin to plan a trip. So you go back online, all ready to purchase a cheap flight and bam! The price is 50% higher. You can’t find anything even close to that awesome deal you found before.
So what happened?
Well, airline tickets are a fickle thing. Deals come and go. Prices change drastically from hour to hour and day to day. Obviously your travel dates will play a huge part in the price of your flight and the first piece of advice most articles give for saving money on airline tickets is to have flexible travel dates, well unlike them I understand that you can only be so flexible. If you’re like most of us, you have a job and that dictates when you can and when you can’t travel. You’ll also most likely have to be giving that job some kind of advance notice, so last minute deals are out as well.
The key is to be flexible in other areas. Things you can control like your destination city and purchase method can also make huge differences in scoring that cheap flight.
Tips to Help You Find Cheap Flights
Popular routes often have cheaper flight tickets available and sometimes it can be beneficial to fly a more popular route and then use other means of transportation to get to your final destination. Even if there is a closer airport to your home or destination, sometimes it is cheaper to fly into another more popular airport. For example, if you are flying into San Diego, try checking the ticket prices to Los Angeles and you might be surprised at the difference. Ground transportation such as busses and trains can also be ridiculously cheap in many countries, and if you have the time, you can even try checking flight prices for a neighboring country and purchasing a bus or train ticket.
Check Different Layover Cities
It’s hard to try different layover cities online, but if you are using a travel agent or purchasing directly with the airline, having them try routing you through different layover cities can affect the price. It can also have the added benefit of giving you some time to explore an additional destination you would like to see. Many airlines allow you to extend layovers at gateway cities for a week or more so it’s like getting two vacations for the price of one plane ticket.
Flight Days and Time
Generally if you fly on a Tuesday or Wednesday your flight will be the cheapest. Flying over the weekend comes at an additional price because of the higher demand for weekend seats. Also flying out and back in the same week is generally more expensive than staying over the weekend and coming back the following week. Also redeye flights are cheaper and can actually give you an extra day at your destination if you leave after your last working day rather than waiting until the morning. Just make sure to read How to Get over Jet Lag Quicker to make sure you catch up on your sleep during the redeye so you will be fresh as a daisy to explore as soon as you arrive.
Purchase Day and Time
The purchase day and time can make a big difference on the price as well. The problem is there are conflicting theories on what is actually the best time or day to buy, so I would try them all to see what yields the best results for your destination. Checking the ticket prices around 3 p.m. on Tuesdays is good because many studies have shown they release new sales at that time. Also try just after midnight Tuesday night, so that would be Wednesday morning. Many of the cheap tickets that were sold the day before, but whose payments were never confirmed come flooding back onto the market at this time. Another last ditch effort is to book your flight on a Saturday. Recent studies have shown that airline tickets booked on Saturdays for weekday travel is roughly 5% less than the same flight booked during the week.
Check multiple purchase outlets to see which offers you the best price. Surprisingly there can be up to a few hundred dollar difference between search sites like Expedia, Hotwire, and Orbitz. It’s also a good idea to check the airline company’s website. Sometimes they will offer deals that you cannot find on the consolidator websites. You can even try calling a local travel agency. You never know which outlet will offer the best rate. You’ll also want to check for discount airlines that fly into your destination. Often these budget airlines are not revealed in consolidated searches and you will have to do a little bit of legwork to find out what airlines options you have. Just do a search on Google for budget airlines flying into your destination.
Start Your Search Early
Start searching early so you have general idea of the price range so you know whether the ticket you are purchasing is a good rate. Typically the best time to buy a flight is about 45 days in advance for domestic flights and roughly 60 days for international. If you are planning on flying during popular times like holidays or busy seasons in high volume tourist destinations, you will want to book your flight four to five months in advance if possible.
Finally the last and maybe most important tip I can offer to help you get a price you are happy with is this…
Stop looking after you make your purchase!
There is nothing worse than booking an airline ticket and then finding a better deal on it a week later. If you continue to look, there is a huge chance you will see your ticket at a better price at one point and time. So just don’t. You’ve done everything you can to get yourself the best possible price on an airline ticket and as long as you leave it at that, you will leave smiling and happy.
After all, ignorance is bliss.
Author’s Favorite Travel Gear
Flents Quiet Time – I am a terribly light sleeper and always seem to find myself in some crappy hostel with people partying all night next door….yeah, I guess I’m old too. These do as good a job as any ear plugs I have found. Just as importantly, the soft foam makes them really comfortable.
Ultrafino Packable Panama – I am a hat aficionado and generally take one kind or another with me on most of my trips. This is one of my favorites because it can be crushed, folded, and generally smashed into my backpack any way I like, yet somehow magically manages to look like new every time I pull it out.
Buck Knives Flashpoint – I like to be prepared for whatever comes my way. I guess it’s the boy scout left in me. This handy knife is small enough that I can keep it clipped in my pocket and rarely notice it is there throughout the day. It has a serrated portion and a smooth portion, and a carabiner clip on the handle that doubles as a bottle opener.