Finding Cheap Flights: My Tips and Tricks

People who don’t travel often are often quite surprised at the idea of “travel” as a hobby. It’s sort of sad I think, but American culture tends to view travel as this luxurious idea. But once you’re properly educated on the best strategies to find affordable travel options, you’ll see how badly this needs to be debunked. People waste all sorts of money on all sorts of things that don’t provide anywhere near the value travel experiences provide – but you must be willing to be creative and search. Dig for gold, and you’ll find it.

These are my favorite tips for finding cheap flights, an essential skill if you want to fulfill your travel goals:

1. Use the best sites: SkyScanner and Momondo. Seriously, they are my top two. These sites tend to give you the best possible deals. As my favorite travel vloggers Damon and Jo advocate, SkyScanner will usually be the best. But Momondo cross-references some other sites that are less popular in the US, and you should *always* cross-check the prices you find on SkyScanner on Momondo! You may find a lower rate. If you really want to be rigorous, you can also try cross-checking on the lesser-known http://Matrix.Itasoftware.com, which is like a version of Google Flights. (And you can find more tips for maximizing Google Flights searches in this piece at Huffington Post.)  


2. Use SkyScanner’s “to Everywhere” function.
This is my FAVORITE tip! I actually use this search function for fun sometimes. I’ll hop on the app and just type in “New York to Everywhere,” and see where the cheapest fares would take me if I purchased a flight right now. You can type any airport and set the destination to “Everywhere” to browse the current lowest prices from your home airport for all upcoming dates, or you can select a specific month or date range. It’s perfect if you have wanderlust without being attached to any particular destination. That’s how I found my cheap flight to Barcelona – it was a lucky fare sales that SkyScanner’s “everywhere” function caught for me! It’s awesome.

3. Practice smart timing of your purchase day and your travel dates. When is the best time to buy a flight? Opinions vary, but most agree that buying flights on Fridays is a poor choice. Flights often go on sale on Saturdays and in the beginning days of the week. And while you’re at it, make sure to search for departures and arrives on “off-peak” days – flights that leave on Fridays tend to be more expensive than flights that leave on Thursdays or Sundays, and flights that return on Monday or Tuesday are often cheaper than those that return on Sunday. Avoid the “rush” by thinking a bit outside the box in terms of dates.  

4. Search “incognito” and clear cache regularly! Browsing cookies track your searching activity, and sometimes the scanner you’ve been searching in consistently stops showing you the lowest prices. It’s like a trap. Prices can go up due to your activity. If prices seem to be jumping, clear cache + refresh and voilá, you may find them back in deal-mode. Or better yet, hang out in an incognito or “private browsing” window to prevent eating too many cookies.

5. Sign up for price alert emails for a trip you really care about. Really interested in a specific date and location? Create the search and flag it in your SkyScanner and Momondo account. You’ll get daily updates on prices for that trip, or alerts whenever the prices drop.  

6. Try WowAir and Norweigan for amazing prices to Iceland and Europe. Just saying, y’all. They tend to have really low prices. Checked baggage will cost extra though. (Bonus tip: Fly with just a carry-on! Obviously.)

7. Sign up for price alert emails from BookingBuddy and Scott’s Cheap Flights. I really enjoy these two resources. BookingBuddy sends me emails with super cheap domestic flights – $74 round trip NYC to Chicago, $97 roundtrip to Atlanta or Miami, etc. Scott’s Cheap Flight’s is an awesome resource run by Scott Keyes, a super cool dude who tracks flash sales and mistake fares. Basically, “Scott searches for cheap flights all day every day because he has no life.” New York to Paris for like $250? Roundtrip to Spain for around $300? Sign me up.

8. Yes, I Said “Mistake Fares.” Visit SecretFlying.com and other deal trackers. Are “mistake fares” real? YES. You can occasionally end up with flights to Europe or Asia for less than $300 rt, or the craziest story I’ve heard, $7 rt to Hawaii due to some computer error. (Note: Zooming out on Skyscanner’s search-by-month function can actually make it easy to spot the giant dips in price on your own.) Bottom line, this is when you find a ridiculously cheap price due to some combination of human error and computer glitches that leave you super lucky. These are the best resource for mistake fares and crazy deals. You can visit the deal pages at The Flight Deal, I Want That Flight (Australia), Fly4Free, Airfarewatchdog, FlyerTalk Mileage Run forums, and FareCompare. Read more on Mistake Fares right here at ThriftyNomads.

BONUS TIP: Give yourself 24 hours to “rebook.” All airlines are required to give you 24 hours after your purchase to request a full refund – if you find a cheaper fare or change your mind and choose to fly more cheaply to a neighboring city the next day, no worries. Just call, get your refund, and rebook. It ain’t over til that 24 hours passes.

And there you have it! I know you can get away – and sometimes you just have to relentlessly be open to where the deals take you. You *can* make it happen, and travel can be easier and cheaper than most people realize. My goal with this post is to give you ideas of how that might look!

Please send me a message if these tips help you make a trip happen. How do you save money on airfares or travel on a budget? Let me know with a comment!

Written By

Exenia is a professional singer, dancer, and travel blogger based in NYC. Her original EP, “5 Sides,” can be found on iTunes or at Bandcamp.

She has previously written for Brit + Co, and currently contributes dance-related content for West Coast Swing dancers at WanderingWestie.com. She lives an #EccentricLife of her own creative design, and seeks to inspire others to do the same.

Follow her adventures on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube @exeniamusic!

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