10 Ways to Save Money On Your Next Flight [Travel Tips]
Having booked over 100+ trips in the last 7 years out of my own pocket, I know how important it is to be able to find and book cheap flights anywhere.
This is part of my series 101 Travel Tips & Hacks to help you travel cheap and save money.
Here, I show you my best methods to finding the cheapest airfare tickets anywhere.
1. Gauge Flight Costs:
I always start with Google Flights just to get an idea of how much flights are on certain dates. I like Google flights because you can easily adjust dates & locations and it aggregates the best prices from all the different airlines (with the exception of a few like Southwest).
When flying or traveling, the best way to getting cheap flights can be summed in one word: flexibility.
The more flexible you are, the more likely you’ll be able to find cheap flights.
A more advanced tool is the engine that powers Google Flights. The ITA Matrix Software has more features such as finding out fuel surcharges. This is particularly useful if you’re booking flights with points. An example is if you were to book British Airways, their fuel surcharges are usually insane! In fact, a lawsuit was won recently against BA for their notorious outrageous fuel surcharges.
2. Try Using Points:
The two hands down best usage of Points are: Traveling on Premium class cabins (Business or First class) or booking emergency flights. But in general, you can still save your cash by just using points even if not for the two reasons above.
Redemption value for Premium class cabins are significantly better with points. I would’ve never been able to (justifiably) fly Business Class if it weren’t for the use of points.
Generally, last minute tickets get extremely expensive. With points, the redemption usually remains the same which means it’ll save you a lot of money if you can use your points instead of cash.
Points can easily get complicated and if you’re not an avid points follower, here are some general guidelines:
- There are 2 main ways to acquire points. By the actual miles you fly on the air or points you acquire from Credit Cards. The latter is usually the easier way to collect enough points for redemption unless you just fly a lot.
- There are many different valuations for points but I’d say generally if you’re able to save $100 using 10,000 points, that’s usually a decent deal. Take it with a grain of salt as valuations do vary but it’s a good starting point.
- Credit Cards offer large bonuses these days that are basically enough for a flight just with the initial sign-up bonus. To me, it’s a great deal. But with it comes some things you should know about Credit Cards. NerdWallet came out with a really great article on 11 things to know about credit. In short, I think Credit Card bonuses are totally worth getting.
Quite frankly, points can take a lot more time to really understand. The last thing you want to do is use your points through the Credit Card’s points or award travel portal as the redemption rates is usually pretty bad.
The hard part is figuring out the most cost efficient way to use it. I’ve followed the points guy for years before finally having a better understanding of the entire system. Another resource that has a lot of great info on points and travel is Upgrade Points.
However, points have taken me far and saved me a tremendous amount of money. They are particularly useful for international flights that can cost well over $1,000. I’ve easily saved over tens of thousands of dollars using points.
3. Use Deal Sites:
Sometimes Google Flights may not offer the lowest price tickets. As such, you’ll want to check other deal sites (like Orbitz or Skyscanner, or Cheap-O-Air) as sometimes deal sites will be cheaper. I’ve also used Momondo.com.
Note* I would just be careful of shady deal sites (I’ve found some shady 3rd-party sites even recommended on Momondo actually). Always do a quick google search on consumer reports if you find a deal “too good to be true”. Whatever hassle you have to face with bad sites is not worth the money you save.
Also, note that Google Flights does not aggregate every airline. In fact, there are a number of airlines and flights that aren’t covered by Google. Southwest Airlines, Ryanair, Norwegian, Vueling, and EasyJet are some of the airlines not covered.
4. Book a Flight + Hotel Package
And yes, they are actually quite good deals! This is particularly useful if you don’t want to go through the trouble of finding accommodation and flights separately.
Is it the cheapest option? Probably not. Since these days, there’s Airbnb, several hotel credit card options, and even deal sites for hotels.
But it does save you money and is cheaper than booking those flights and hotels separately. It’s also a hassle-free way to book your trip.
The only thing to note is flights offered for those deals often may not have the best flight times. Or the airlines they selected may have certain baggage policies. Just be weary of the possible pitfalls of certain budget airlines that I talk about more below.
5. Search Nearby Airports:
If you know how to search nearby airports, you can find cheap flights and save a lot of money as well. The below shows a flight from Dallas to San Jose. The cheapest flight on Google is $486 but if I just flew to Oakland Airport or even San Francisco Airport on those exact dates, I can save almost $300.
Google Flights actually helps identify nearby airports sometimes but not always…
Oakland Airport is only about a 30 minute drive from San Francisco Airport. And San Francisco Airport is only about a 1 hour drive from San Jose Airport.
It gets a lot trickier internationally and is NOT recommended for families with kids. A lot of times the layover may not be worth the hassle, but I’ve personally saved thousands of dollars flying to a different country first before my final destination. And it’s fun to visit 2 countries instead of 1!
Search nearby airports at both your starting and ending destination. This may take some time and experience but it’s definitely worth it if you find a great deal.
5. Try a Budget Airline:
I’m actually a huge fan of budget airlines as they can save you a lot of money but only if you know how to navigate through their baggage policies.
Budget Airlines in Asia is almost on a different level than Budget Airlines in the U.S. Scoot & Asia Air have been tremendous experiences even with their strict policies and have saved me hundreds of dollars from the major carriers.
Below is an example of a budget airline that is over $100 less than the next cheapest flight.
Again, the key is just knowing how to travel with budget airlines.
Generally, the easiest way to not have to deal with any possible hassles is to only bring a backpack. The next best option is paying for your bag online. You just never want to risk paying for your bags at the airport.
More recently, major airlines have even adopted low-cost seats. It’s usually called basic economy or economy saver. American Airlines, United, and a number of major airlines have followed suit.
6. Be Careful of Airline Policies:
As mentioned, there are caveats to using budget airlines to find cheap flights. The main thing is to be acquainted with baggage policies (e.g. budget airlines like Spirit & Frontier and even budget seats like United’s Basic Explorer or American Airlines basic economy have extremely strict limitations on free baggage).
If you’re traveling with any baggage that you need to check-in, expect to add around $30 for the first bag. If you need another bag, the baggage fees goes up even more.
7. Use a Private VPN for International Bookings:
This is particularly useful if you’re traveling overseas. A lot of times, airlines will offer lower prices for local travelers than if your IP address is from the U.S.
This is why a lot of times people who live locally at a country you’re visiting can find better deals than you can if you’re living in the U.S.
8. Take Advantage of Stopovers:
This technique is slightly more advanced and best for international travel but if you just keep in mind that a lot of airlines offer free or low-priced stopovers, you can look into how you can fly to another destination for almost free.
9. Travel Subscription Plans
If you’re able to travel spontaneously, there’s also been a few subscription sites that have gotten popular really quickly because they scour the web to find really cheap deals!
Sites like Scott’s Cheap Flights or Dollar Flight Club has a dedicated team that searches the web for the cheapest deals and send it to your email inbox. There’s a free subscription plan and a paid plan where you get all the deals every week. Millions of people have already subscribed so you know they must be doing something right!
10. Use a Special Travel Agent
Last, but not least, use a special travel agent. Note* the special makes it different from just another travel agent.
I’ve used travel agents in the past. The one downside I had with them was just not getting really spectacular deals. And I think perhaps because there are certain limitations of an agent (certain vendors, less flexibility, more hoops they have to jump through to book your tickets).
I find sites like Scott’s Cheap Flights and Dollar Flight Club different in that they don’t book tickets for you. They just find deals and send links for you to book yourself.
However, what they do well with deals, they lack in personalization. They send great deals to mass people but aren’t able to zoom in on individual needs.
That’s where a Special Travel Agent comes in. Basically someone who’s like the travel concierge service you would get with an American Express Platinum ($450 annual fee) or Black Card ($2500 annual fee).
Fortunately, these days you don’t need a $500 card to get that kind of service. Travel the World Box offers that service and on top of it, sends you useful gear every month starting at $20/month.
What are some of your techniques for finding cheap flights and great deals? I’d love to hear them.
If you found this article to be helpful, here are some other ways to travel for cheap: