While I love living Germany, probably the best part of moving to Berlin has been what it has meant for travel. Countries that were once oceans away are finally just a short flight away. Over the last few months, I’ve planned last minute trips to Italy, hopped a flight to Portugal, and grabbed a promo fare to Bulgaria. My summer plans include the Baltics and weekend trips to the Czech Republic, Poland, and Austria. It’s hard to believe that these faraway places are in my backyard now.
If you’ve got the time to blow and no idea of where to go, I’d like to share with you our tips on how to find cheap flights online.
How to Find Cheap Flights
1. Shop Around
A true airfare aficionado would never buy the first fare they find. Kayak and Momondo are both flight aggregators that help you comparison shop to find the cheap flights. These are our favorite places to start when we’re trying to get the big picture of just how much a trip is going to cost us. Based on schedule, budget, and tolerance for layovers and other miseries, you can check through your travel options.
After running dates through two or all three of these, you should be getting an average cost for reference and a clear idea what the major carriers are offering. For your next trick, go onto the airline’s sites directly to check if they have any unadvertised fares you may benefit from.
2. Be Flexible
If your dates and destination are negotiable, you could be on a flight to Reykjavik by Thursday. Online tools like Kayak Explore can help you find rad flights to somewhere when you plug in your city of origin and departure month. The Flight Deal also scours the internet on your behalf and gets you to some of the best fares on the internet.
Need help dreaming? Momondo’s Trip Finder tool will certainly give you some ideas! Select anything from your mood (fancy, perhaps?) to your budget to your climate of choice, and this will spit out some interesting ideas.
Trends to keep in mind?
- Best days to buy flights: Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the cheapest days to travel internationally, while Mondays are the most affordable days to make your way back home.
- Which months to fly: Fares to fly in January, February and April average 10-20% cheaper than the other months of the year
- Best times to fly: Most travelers avoid early wake ups and late bedtimes when booking travel. You can usually benefit by picking an ‘unfavorable’ time of day.
- How far in advance to buy flights: For domestic travel 54 days before your trip is the sweet spot for discount airfare. When to book a cheap international flight, however, varies by region. Here are the dirty details:
- South America: 6 Months Ahead
- Central America: 6 Weeks Ahead
- Europe: 8-10 Weeks Ahead
- Asia: 9-10 Months Ahead
- Africa: 3-5 Weeks Ahead
3. Fly Locally
You can save hundreds of dollars by flying into major hubs and booking regional flights through local carriers. A quick search yields that you can’t really fly from San Francisco to Lima without some kind of layover. Skim the results for a common layover city (Mexico City in this example) and try breaking the flight into unique legs. What does it cost to fly from San Francisco to Mexico City on Southwest and Mexico City to Lima on LAN Airways?
Keep in mind some local carriers will fly you out to secondary airports, often away from the city, but if you’ve got more time than money, it can be worth checking into!
Check out some of these well respected local carriers around the world:
- South America: LAN Airlines, TAM Airlines
- Central America: Copa Airlines, Aeromexico
- Europe: easyJet, Ryanair
- Asia: AirAsia, Jetstar
- Africa: Fastjet, Mango
4. Fly Loyally
Regardless of how often you fly, it is always worth it to sign up for a frequent flyer program. Most airlines are now in alliance with a cohort of others, meaning you can get miles for almost any route you fly. The more you fly, the more worthwhile it can be to book flights for loyalty rather than price alone. You can end up with upgrades, lounge access and free flights in due time. There are 3 monsters when it comes to alliance programs:
- Star Alliance: United, Air Canada, Lufthansa, Air Canada
- OneWorld: American Airlines, US Airways, British Airways, Iberia
- SkyTeam: Delta, Air France, China Southern, China Eastern
For a great comprehensive guide to alliance programs, check out The Points Guy’s blog post Shifting Airline Alliances.
5. Where to go
An expensive flight should never be prohibitive of you getting out and going. When you’re trying to find affordable airfare, remember to comparison shop for flights, be flexible with travel dates and destinations, save money on local carriers and join a frequent flyer program that rewards your travel. If life doesn’t allow for a multi-stop trip across sub-Saharan Africa, well hell… you’re an opportunist. Hop a flight to Austin for the weekend!
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Got any other tips on how to find cheap flights that you think we missed? Let us know in the comments and we’ll keep the post updated with your advice!
** Trend information from the Kayak Data from International Business Times 2014**