Have you ever wondered how certain travel gurus find cheap flight tickets to visit 30, 50 or even 70 countries and still have money to spend?
Finding the world’s cheapest flight tickets is not something that comes naturally to people. In fact, it is a struggle for many. You may encounter numerous articles on the internet that offer tips on how to book cheap airline tickets. But most of them are lacking in detail and barely scratch the surface of what you really need to know. As a solution, I have come up with a comprehensive list of tips and resources for booking the cheapest air tickets to anywhere in the world.
I have used these strategies to book cheap flight tickets to more than 40 countries in the last 10 years and I have learned the hard way on many of these trips. Even if you don’t fly or travel all the time, being more informed about these tips will help you when the time comes.
The ultimate goal of writing this article is to provide you with a free comprehensive guide to alternative flight booking strategies so that you can travel more while saving more money. Not all of the tips will work all the time, but some of them will apply to every trip you make. I am giving you not 10 or 20, but 40 tried and tested tips so that you don’t have to pay more than you want for a plane ticket EVER AGAIN. Go get those cheap tickets.
1. Use Price Comparison Sites to enhance your flight search results and cut costs.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with flight booking sites nowadays. Everyone seems to be selling tickets to somewhere. What many travellers forget to think about is the TIME they spend looking for flight tickets. If you spend about an hour per day for a week trying to find the cheapest ticket, it probably isn’t the cheapest ticket anymore! Time is money.
I prefer to start out right away with a powerful price comparison site to see which airlines have the cheapest tickets. This saves hours of clicking around all over the place. Once I know which airlines have sales going on, then I can compare the most competitively priced third party websites to the actual airline ticket price.
In some cases, the third party sites might be cheaper because of codeshare agreements, but if the prices are the same then I will use the actual airline site to book the tickets because I trust them more if there is a delayed flight or some kind of complication.
The moral of the story is: Use airfare comparison sites to significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to find cheap flight tickets. Once you have them narrowed down, always check the airline site to see if they are the same price.
Here are a few price comparison sites that I have used over the last few years and have had excellent success with:
2. Instead of booking expensive direct flights, choose multi-city flights to see more places while saving some cash. For multi-city flight searches, use airfare booking sites like Momondo and Cheapoair.
I am a huge fan of multi-city flights. I never used to consider them before, but now they are the way to travel.
Say for instance you want to fly roundtrip from New York to Rome. There is nothing stopping you from getting a connecting flight on the way to Rome and on the way back from Rome that is about 2-3 hours in both directions.
This is undoubtedly an ideal connection time.
That’s how I used to think.
Now, I think of this trip differently. Let’s say it costs $1300 USD to fly roundtrip from New York to Rome. Not bad, right?
Currently, I try to instead think about much it would cost to fly to other destinations in Europe individually.
If it costs $1300 USD every time I wanted fly towards Eastern Europe, I would be bankrupt. By booking a multi-city flight to other destinations in Europe I could see much more while saving large sums of cash. Let’s assume that I also wanted a 4-day layover in Amsterdam before reaching Rome and a 5-day layover in Frankfurt after visiting Rome. This might bring up my round trip multi-city ticket to $1800 USD. This amount is actually $500 USD more than my initial flight price of $1300 USD.
I realize that $500 USD is a lot of money, for many people. But think of the future costs associated with visiting these three destinations individually. If you went to Rome it would cost $1300 USD, and separate trips to Amsterdam and Frankfurt might cost $1000 USD and $1100 USD, respectively. The total sum would be $3400 USD.
Therefore, by booking a multi-city flight for this trip to Amsterdam, Rome, and Frankfurt you would have saved $1600 USD per person, or $6400 USD for a group or family of four!
I highly recommend trying out some searches for multi-city flights. Some websites I have used in the past include Momondo, Cheapoair, and Etihad.
When using sites like Momondo, choose the “Multi-city” option for the type of trip. Refer to the red arrow in the image above.
3. Collect and redeem Reward Miles like a Champ!
I can’t stress enough the importance of collecting flight reward miles. Whether you are shopping for diapers or dining at a nearby restaurant, use a rewards card that will eventually reward you with free flights. It’s pivotal that you pay off your credit card statement every month to avoid interest building up. Personally, I use my card for almost everything I buy, and then I pay off the complete bill the very same month. Free flights, and no interest for the bank!
You would be surprised how many people fly without registering for a flight rewards program. Usually, it comes down to laziness or disorganization. ALWAYS key in your rewards program number when you book your flight ticket online!
I have been flying extensively around the world for the last 10 years and the only time I have flown without collecting rewards miles is when the airline didn’t have a rewards program to collect them with! This has been extremely rare.
4. Book flights that depart on Thursday or Monday instead of Friday or Sunday for weekend trips.
If you are planning on booking a flight for a Friday departure for a weekend trip, you might want to see if you can shift your travel dates by a day or two. Over the years, especially with regards to Southeast Asia’s budget airlines, they have been making Friday night and Sunday flights significantly more expensive than other days. Complete a price comparison search to get a feel for the plane ticket prices before you plan your vacation or business trip – this is what I do. If the tickets are too expensive, try to use a personal day at work or another option.
5. Book flights on Wednesday.
This has been ‘claimed’ to be the cheapest day to fly for years now (with some debate of course). Based on my experience flying over the years, Wednesday does indeed have cheaper fares than on the weekend for instance, but many variables are at play to just say that Wednesday is always cheaper than a given Tuesday or Thursday for example. Again, price compare early to see if this strategy works for the airlines servicing your flight sectors.
6. Book your flights on websites that are already listed in your credit card’s currency.
Always be sure to look at the URL of the airline booking site that you are purchasing your flight tickets with. For example, if you are booking a flight with www.cheapoair.com, they have multiple websites based on country of origin. I personally would avoid booking through the US version of a website if my credit card is from France for instance. Your credit card will charge you an additional percentage and determine the exchange rate which is often not the best for the customer.
Always check that you are being quoted in your credit card’s currency. Similarly, if there is an exchange that must be done, be sure to make sure you won’t get soaked by using a website from a different country. Some websites allow you to change the currency at the top of the webpage, but this is often just an approximation of the total cost. It’s an approximation because your credit card will determine the exchange rate, not the website itself. Always use a currency conversion site to make sure you are getting a reasonable price quote.
7. Avoid peak season travel.
Avoiding peak season travel is obviously easier for some people than others based on work commitments and so forth. It pays to purchase a guidebook before you plan your trip because it will easily save you some cash right away for planning to visit your destination of choice when demand is low for flight tickets.
If you must travel during peak (high) season, then try to book your flight on a Thursday or a Monday, opposed to Friday night or Sunday evening.
8. Refer to ‘budget airline sites’ before booking to see if they can make your total trip price cheaper.
With the rapid growth in the budget airline industry over the last 15 years, more and more people are saying ‘no’ to the added luxuries and saying ‘yes’ to budget airlines. Budget airlines have revolutionized the aviation industry. Here’s an example why.
Let’s say that you live in Jakarta for instance. Jakarta is known to have pretty expensive international flight tickets – especially flights to North America, the Middle East, and Europe.
For this particular flight, you want to fly round trip to Montreal, Canada. Traditionally, the only option would be to book your round trip ticket from Jakarta to Montreal and pay the total cost with a non-budget code share flight with Garuda and Air Canada for instance.
Now, however, it’s much cheaper to book a round trip flight ticket with a budget airline from Jakarta to Kuala Lumpur, and then a round trip flight ticket from Kuala Lumpur to Montreal with a non-budget airline. It sounds like a crazy idea, but I know of many people (myself included) who have saved over $500 USD per person using this strategy simply because the budget airline flight from Jakarta to Kuala Lumpur is very cheap and international flights from Kuala Lumpur to the West are much cheaper than from Jakarta.
Of course, not everyone will be flying from Jakarta, but I think you get the idea.
Try this price comparison site to see if this plan can work to save you money from your departure city. Send us an email if it does! We always want to hear feedback regarding our suggestions.
Read More: 12 Intriguing Differences Between Budget and Non-Budget Airlines
9. When flying, embrace layovers, don’t avoid them!
Some travellers just dread layovers. And for some trips, I do as well.
But the more and more I travel the world, I think about whether it’s always worth paying for extremely convenient connection times? If you are busy writing a paper, doing business or running a website, is it the worst thing in the world to sit in a comfortable airport lounge for an extra 2-3 hours to get your stuff sorted?
If you can save a couple hundred dollars by having a beer and a meal at an airport restaurant while getting some business done, why not? I just think that some travellers tend to think a bit too much about connection times while travelling without thinking about how they spend their time outside of the airport.
Super long connections can be a real pain if you don’t have an airport hotel booked, but if an hour or two will save you some cash and some relaxation, go for it!
10. Book early and save.
Tourists debate this all the time: “Is it better to book way ahead of time when flying?”
Everyone seems to have an answer, but the fact of the matter is that it depends on whether you are flying with a budget or non-budget airline and a whole range of other variables.
Budget airlines tend to release their fares just under a year in advance with many of them having ‘release sales’. The prices then get progressively more expensive leading up to the departure date. From time to time they then might have a sale about 4-8 weeks ahead of time.
Non-budget airlines, like most national carriers, usually have their prices the cheapest about 8-10 weeks beforehand. But again, this is highly dependent on what time of year you are flying, where you are flying and a whole range of other factors.
In my case, I book my budget airline tickets right when I know my dates of travel after doing ‘price comparison checks’.
11. Sign up to Points.com and as many rewards programs as possible.
Initially, when I started flying, I didn’t realize the importance of collecting reward points for every flight. Subsequently, when I flew with an airline that I didn’t have a reward account with (or a card) I didn’t collect the points.
Now, this has all changed. Even though I know that I probably won’t get enough flight rewards for a free flight with some airlines, I can now use this handy site that I discovered called Points.com.
Points.com provides travellers with various options of combining flight rewards points from different airline programs to get flights.
12. Sign up for blogs to get tips on finding the cheapest flights.
There are many good blogs out there (including this one) that will try to give you information about finding the cheapest flights in a particular country you are visiting.
Here are two example articles about what I am talking about:
Read More: How to Get the Cheapest Domestic Flights in the Philippines
Read More: How to Get the Cheapest Domestic Flights in Malaysia
It pays off big time to be an informed traveller.
13. Buy a travel guide for airport/flight information.
I have been using Lonely Planet travel guides for most of my trips over the last 10 years. It not only makes practical sense to learn more about a given destination before you arrive, but it also makes sense to purchase them from a financial perspective.
Guidebooks are cheap (they can be under $15 USD) but the tips they contain have saved me thousands of dollars over the years. Think about it. If you find out about some low-key airliner in a specific country that has much cheaper fares than the common ones found on booking sites you’ll probably save the price of the guidebook within a few minutes.
Guidebooks also are efficient sources of information. Spending hours upon hours jumping from one mediocre website to the next isn’t very efficient.
Remember, time is money.
You can get up to 45% Lonely Planet Guidebooks using this link below during one of their upcoming sales if you are heading somewhere:
Get up to 45% Off Lonely Planet Guidebooks
14. Avoid reserving seats once you book a flight ticket with a budget airline.
Budget airlines are called ‘budget’ for a reason. They are cheaper in most cases, but not all! What many tourists don’t realize is that a budget airline ticket can be more than a non-budget airline ticket if you select all of the additional choices that are available on top of the basic fare listed. Picking your seat is typically an added expense that you can avoid. I usually just show up to the airport early enough to select a seat when checking in if the flight is long enough for me to be concerned about it.
Again, it’s your choice, saving money vs. additional comfort.
12 Intriguing Differences Between Budget and Non-Budget Airlines
15. Pre-weigh your luggage to avoid extra check-in fees.
Whether you are flying with a budget airline or a non-budget one, nobody likes to pay extra money for checking in excess luggage. I have seen many people over the years pulling out their credit cards in very stressful situations because they were 2-3 kg’s over the maximum weight. And yes, airlines charge a hefty price for excess luggage. Lesson learned: either pre-weigh your luggage at home or show up to the airport early and weigh your bags on one of the empty weighing scales to provide time to figure things out. If you know how much luggage you are going to bring, then don’t pre-purchase a whole pile of unnecessary excess luggage.
16. Pack lightly for your trip.
I have travelled through at least 10 countries with under 7 kilograms of luggage. For many airlines, this equates to their maximum carry-on allowance. Avoiding checked luggage is particularly important if you choose to fly with budget airlines as they typically charge you more on top of the base fare for checked luggage.
Packing lightly not only can save you baggage fees, but it can also avoid those annoyingly long waits for your luggage to arrive at the carousel if you know what I mean!
Read More: How to Keep your Carry-on Luggage Under 7 Kg for Beach Getaways
Use smaller bottles to store your toiletries. Avoid bulky containers.
17. Sign-up for flight-price notifications.
If you already know what itinerary you want to book your flight tickets for, then sign up for price notifications. Websites like Airfarewatchdog.com specialize in sending email notifications to inform travellers when the price has dropped or a sale is on.
Let their technology do the searching for you, which will save you time and some serious cash. Check out Airfarewatchdog.com’s notification information.
18. Use as many flight search engines as possible (if you have the time)!
I typically stick with my favourite flight booking sites (Momondo, BookingBuddy, Airfarewatchdog) when searching online because I don’t want to spend weeks upon weeks looking for a bargain.
If you have the time and patience, however, the more search sites you refer to the better odds are that you will find the cheapest available fare.
But don’t all flight booking sites search the same airlines? The answer is NO! Some sites have arrangements with specific airlines and therefore only quote their prices, even though there might be cheaper fares available with another airline!
I have learned this lesson the hard way. Always use price comparison sites that link to multiple different booking engines. A good example here is BookingBuddy. This way you can reduce ‘search bias’ and sites that have private partnerships with selected airlines.
19. Use monthly price charts to identify the cheapest days to travel.
This tip applies to travellers that know they want to go to a specific destination but they are open to the possibility of travelling on different dates. In other words, they have some flexibility in their schedule. Instead of wasting your time searching individual days, look at the full month view. An excellent site offering this feature is Momondo. Just refer to their ‘30 day-chart’ which is placed above your search results.
A sample of the 30-day chart. Notice how the yellow bars show the dates of my search, and how some of the other blue bars are shorter, and hence cheaper.
20. Search for flight prices to multiple airports within the country you are planning on visiting.
If you are flying to a country with multiple international airports, like Japan for instance, always check nearby airports to see how much the price difference is. Tokyo has Narita and Haneda and the prices to fly into these two airports could be substantially different.
If you are going to save over $200 USD for your flight, an extra hour on the train might be well worth it if you are not on a tight schedule.