I am assuming that because you are here, you want to find cheap flight tickets. Fair enough. It is my goal today to teach you almost everything you need to know about the whole process. The information that I have organized below, and the links to more detailed explanations, has taken me about 50+ hours to complete. This includes research, organizing data, & writing. I’m not joking. I’m quite confident that you will find this page useful.
But I must warn you…a) finding cheap flights is not usually a fun process, and b) there is a lot of information in this article, so grab some popcorn and get comfortable. The cheap flight searching process is just so darn time consuming. It sure is fun when you find one, though! There is, however, one particular method that isn’t time consuming at all. And I will share that with you below.
Now that you have been warned, we are almost ready to begin. If you follow these steps, and you save a few hundred dollars, you can thank me later. In fact, you can simply share this page with your friends, and then we’ll be even ;). *fist bump* Don’t forget to bookmark this page for later.
Here’s How To Find Cheap Flights:
- Be Flexible with the Date/Time
- Be Flexible with the Airport/City
- Check Multiple Flight Meta Search Engines
- Search the Multi City Option
- Use the VPN Trick
- Use a Mistake Fare Service
- Embrace Long Layovers
- Check the Budget Flight Companies for Cheap Flights
- Use Credit Card Points/Miles
- Purchase Each Traveler’s Ticket Separately
- Don’t Book Too Soon or Too Late
Now keep in mind, there isn’t just one specific method to finding cheap flights. There are several. Some of them overlap with one another, and others are completely separate. In order to find good deals, you must be willing to go through everything listed below. Take a deep breath, here we go!
1) Be Flexible with Date/Time for Cheaper Flights
Probably the important things that you will find on this page is that you must be flexible with your date and time to save money. I honestly believe that this is one of the largest factors to be able to find cheap flights every single time. Read it again (yes, it’s that important!). Nearly every way in which you will save money on flights will require you to be at least a little flexible on dates/times.
You see, most people have a specific day that they must take off of work and a specific day that they must return home in order to be able to go back to work. The airline’s know this. If you choose a specific date of departure and a specific date to return, your options will be very limited. And your price will probably not be what you were hoping for – unless by chance, you just happen to select the cheapest day to fly.
Be Flexible with the Date:
I want to show you a simple example of this below. I chose a random date of October 2nd to depart, and a return date of October 11th. The example flight is from New York, USA to Rome, Italy.
The cheapest flight that I found was $517
As you can see below, I opened up a new page to be able to view the price available on each day of the month. I chose a date that is relatively close to the original date. This time, I chose the 4th to the 13th because it appeared cheaper on the chart. The prices on the chart are cheaper than the final price simply because the final price includes taxes, fees, and more.
$517 – $476 = $41 savings
See how easy that was? You just saved $41 by simply selecting a different departure and return date. Hardly any extra work at all.
Be Flexible with the Time:
Generally, if you want to fly with the least stress possible, you would wake up at 8am and go to the airport to fly at about noon. Unfortunately, these flights are usually more expensive. Probably because everybody wants them. Nobody wants to wake up at 2 a.m. to prepare for their journey to the airport and be on the plane at 5:30 a.m. – it’s just not fun. So therefore, the flights at strange / inconvenient times are usually a little bit cheaper. This incentivizes people to buy them.
Generally when you use a flight meta search engine, you can search for the cheapest flight possible. Not only can you select the cheapest days to fly, but you can search the cheapest time to fly as well. The key to finding sweet deals is to simply be flexible with your dates and times.
2) Be Flexible with the Airport/City to find Cheap Flights
Much like being flexible with the date and time, the same goes for being flexible with which airport you will fly in and out of, as well as which city.
Be Flexible with the Airport:
Depending on where you plan on flying to, if the city is large enough, there may be two or even three separate airports. Very often, it is cheaper to fly into the smaller and less known airport. Why? Usually because of bureaucracy. But the simple answer, and the answer to memorize, is that often budget Airlines will utilize the smaller and less known airports. Let me show you how this works.
I searched for flights from New York to CDG (the largest and main airport in Paris). As you can see, the cheapest flight available was $384 with a layover at KEF.
Here you can see that I searched for flights to specifically fly into ORY, which is an airport closer to the center of Paris, but smaller. These two airports are about a 50-minute taxi ride, appart.
The cheapest flight available was $279.
$384 – $279 = $105 savings
I must say, the price of the flights from New York to Paris are amazing! Less than $500 to fly to one of the world’s most famous cities, and back? Yes please! Less than $300 is a wonderful price! I even researched the check-in baggage for the cheaper flight and it is also included.
So with the savings of $105, you can use that to pay your taxi driver from the airport to your hotel. Chances are it’s not going to cost $105. You can pocket the savings. Maybe you could book a hotel closer to the new airport and then keep all of the savings!
It’s important to remember to always check the fine print in regards to baggage. There is nothing worse than arriving at the airport only to find out that checked-in baggage is not included and the cost is going to be $75 USD per bag! It has happened to me.
Be Flexible with the City:
Searching for flights in different cities to find cheap flights is definitely not for everyone. This is usually for a special type of traveler. I guess I am special.
Basically, the logic goes something like this: You want to fly to Vietnam to go on a motorbike road trip. You want to go from Ho Chi Minh City all the way up to Hanoi, and then fly out of Hanoi to go back home.
But what if it was cheaper to go from Hanoi down to Ho Chi Minh City, and fly home from there instead? As long as you don’t care about the order of your journey, then you should base your journey around the cost of the flight ticket. Let me show you.
The cheapest flight with one layover from New York to Hanoi & then to fly out of HCMC back home, was $713.
The cheapest flight with one layover from New York to HCMC & then to fly out of Hanoi back home, was $682
$713 – $682 = $31 savings
Is this a lot of money? No. But, if you are a non-stop Solo Traveler like me, saving a little money here and there all adds up to a couple of hundred dollars at the end of every quarter.
3) Check Multiple Flight Meta Search Engines for Cheap Flights
Different airlines have special ‘deals’ and special ‘connections’ with specific meta-search engines. Sometimes it is cheaper to fly on a specific Airline when you book it through one flight website VS another website.
This information, however, is never advertised. You can read this very old article about how some airlines are not listed on certain meta-flight search engines. I’m sure it still happens today, I just think it’s all secret and done behind the scenes – without public knowledge. This is why it is important to search for a cheap flight on a couple of different search engines.
A have created a list of the cheapest flight search engines – so be sure to check them out.
Remember what I said before, different airlines have different prices for different websites. So therefore, just because you see one website at the top of the list does not necessarily mean that they will always be the cheapest. They were simply the cheapest for that particular flight in that particular part of the world.
There is no magic website, unfortunately. If there was one, everybody would be using it. It’s best to check multiple sites with the same criteria to determine which site is offering the best price for your particular destination.
Note: There are sites that are consistently cheaper than others. They are usually the sites that include the small Budget Airlines. We’ll get to that topic below.
Meta Search Engine Example:
$485.43 USD Cheapest on Flight Network search engine.
$485.43 – $464 = $21.43 Savings
Not in this particular example, but often you will see that the cheapest results, on two different websites, are with completely different airlines. Why? Like I mentioned before, there are different deals with different airlines on different websites. This is one of the major reasons why it’s so frustrating and time-consuming to find a cheap flight. We must check many sites!
Now, sites like Kayak check ‘all’ of the travel agency website to find who is offering the best prices. But, again, I’m sure they even have ‘special connections’ between them and the flight agencies. So, again, it’s best to simply check a few sites. Never rely on one meta search engine!
4) Search the Multi City Option for Cheap Flights
If you want to visit a couple of different cities, or even countries, within a long solo trip – it is usually better to purchase your ticket using the multi-city option, rather than purchase multiple one-way tickets.
I want to show you a brief example of how this works. Below is an example of purchasing one-way flights from New York to London, to Sydney, to Tokyo, and then back to New York.
Multi City Search Example:
$176 + $711 + $433 + $674 = $1,994
$1,994 – $1,894 = $100 savings
So as you can see, it is a little bit cheaper when you use the multi City flight feature. This option is on most websites. I recommend that you check this on multiple websites to find the best deal. It’s interesting that the savings was exactly $100. Strange.
- All example flights were booked on the same day.
- All example flights were booked with a 24 hour trip maximum to avoid crazy-long layovers.
The Multi-City Flight Option is often cheaper than purchasing multiple one-way flights because:
“Generally, booking fees (per item) will be reduced when purchasing flights in bulk (Multi-City Flights) through a travel agency who sells the tickets. Each online travel agency has different (often hidden) booking fees. When flying to multiple locations, the flight aggregator must find flights that have ‘alliances’ with each other – because of this, the algorithms will show different results. Flight aggregators are quite complex when searching for the cheapest flights.”as mentioned here: Multi-City Flights Save Money.
5) Use the VPN Trick for Cheap Flights
Have you ever heard of dynamic pricing? Well, it’s basically a technology that allows websites to change the price of an online product/service based on several different factors. These factors can be from which area you are searching from, which type of device you are using, your marital status, ethnicity, age, type of job, the list goes on.
You may be wondering how websites can gain access to this type of information about you. Well, today is a much different world than it was back in the year 2005. Technology has improved exponentially (for better or for worse) and your privacy is constantly at risk. But that’s another story for another time.
The reality is that companies can change the price based on all types of criteria. Usually, the criteria that has the most influence on price is usually the location that you are searching from.
If you plan on searching for a cheap flight and you are sitting on your laptop in New York, the price of your plane ticket may be higher than if you were sitting on your laptop in your living room in Vietnam.
Many flight travel agencies know how to squeeze as much money out of you as possible – and most people are completely oblivious to this. This information isn’t exactly advertised to the public.
So, what can you do about it? I’m glad you asked.The short answer is to use a trusted VPN. To dive deep into this particular topic and to see detailed examples, be sure to read VPN & Cheap Airline Tickets. But, the basics are this:
Basics To Using a VPN for Cheap Flights
- Determine your departure and destination
- Do a search without a VPN (take note of the price)
- Open up a private window (incognito)
- Change your VPN server to a different location
- Search again
- Change your VPN server multiple times (different cities/countries)
- Determine which VPN server was giving you the cheapest flight, and buy it
Keep in mind that there is no specific country or city that your VPN should be set to. Sometimes the prices are cheaper when you are searching via a server in an underdeveloped country and sometimes it is cheaper if you are searching in a developed country. In addition, the prices are different based on what website you are using. Each company has their own Dynamic Pricing system. It’s weird.
Because you must search from several VPN servers, it becomes rather time-consuming. However, you can save quite a bit of money. This is especially true if you fly first-class, business-class, or are buying several tickets on a family trip. I have been able to find savings of over $1,000 just by using a VPN for a business class seat (though it was only for a test and I didn’t actually buy the ticket). But it is entirely possible!
6) Use a Mistake Fare Service for Cheap Flights
As mentioned at the top of the article, there is a particular method to save a ton of your time when searching for cheap flights. This is the method. Mistake fares are the holy grail of cheap flights!
One of the easiest & hands-off ways to find cheap flights is to pay an annual fee to a company that finds cheap/discounted flights for you. “You can do that?” Yep! This type of service is between $.15 & $.30 per day. It doesn’t get much cheaper than that!
Basics to Using Mistake Fare Services:
- Sign up with one of the companies
- Enter chich airport(s) you wish to fly out of
- Wait for the company to notify you of mistake fares or cheap flights
- Buy the cheap flight
What is a Mistake Fare?
A mistake fare is basically just an error in the flight pricing usually caused by the airline or the flight meta-search engine. This error could be caused by many factors, such as wrong currency conversion, fuel dumping mistake, travel agency error, computer/algorithm glitch, or maybe something entirely different.
Is It Possible To Find Mistake Fares On Your Own?
It is possible to find mistake fares on your own. But, rather unlikely. You must search for an exact route through an exact airline on an exact date in order to see the error on your computer screen. The chances are possible but rather rare.
The companies mentioned below have computer software dedicated to searching and finding these mistake fares. When they find them, they will share them with you. The average savings per customer is more than $500! Is it worth it? I’d say so!
Company #1 – Both Domestic & International. Has a free trial. Average savings is $500 per flight. “We’ll save you 60-90% on your next international or domestic flight!”
Company #2 – Both Domestic & International. Has a free trial. Average savings is $550 per flight. “Save up to 90% on flights without even trying”
Be sure to sign up for the mistake-fare cheap flight e-mail lists.
Drawback of Mistake Fare Services
The only drawback to this particular method is that you must sign up in advance. For example, if you want to buy a flight for your vacation next week, the company may not have enough time to find a cheap flight for you to purchase.
But if you know that you are going to purchase a ticket within the next month or beyond, then you need to sign up immediately and let the machines start working to your advantage! Be sure to read though the customer reviews on each site. They are rather impressive!
7) Embrace Long Layovers for Cheap Flights
My guess is that if I say the words ‘long layover’, you cringe. I think we have all had the unfortunate flight where we had to sit in a chair and look out the window for 15 hours. Definitely not fun.
But what if I told you there was a way to embrace long layovers? It sounds crazy, I know. But stay with me.
The logic is this: if you need to purchase a plane ticket from point A to point B, you may as well search for an extra long layover, a Stopover, in between. A stopover is a layover that is longer than 24 hours.
So why in the world would you want to do that? Most travelers just want to get from point A to point B as fast as possible. Well, because flights that require extra long layovers may sometimes be the same price or even cheaper than a direct flight from point A to point B. This allows the traveler to spend 1, 2, or 3 days in a completely different country for little or no cost at all! The Stopover method is simply amazing! Make sure you read precisely how to get cheap flights with long layovers.
I want to show you an example below. I will first show you a normal plane ticket from New York to Moscow.
Long Layover / Stopover Example:
This is a particularly good price! Would you pay $373 to fly from New York to Moscow? I certainly would! I thought it would be at least $500. I guess not. But wait, it gets better! Check below.
$373 – $331 = $42 savings
Yes, it’s like getting paid $42 to go hang out in Rome for 2 days and have a lot of fun! How did I find this sweet deal? I used the amazing AW Search Engine. It is a website specifically designed to search for cheap flights by utilizing long layovers / Stopovers. Pretty cool, huh?
8) Check the Budget Flight Companies for Cheap Flights
Did you know that you could save a considerable amount of money by purchasing a plane ticket through a Budget Airline? Yep, cheap tickets are definitely possible (and likely).
Here is a list of the budget airlines from around the world. Be sure to visit Wikipedia for the full clickable list.
So basically you have two different options. You can either search the budget Airlines manually, via their websites. Or, you can use a meta-search engine to search for you. As you can see in this article, saving money by using Budget Airlines, there seems to be no difference when you use the Budget Airline website manually or when you use a meta search engine.
So, instead of wasting your time searching for each flight individually through countless Airline websites, you might as well just enter your criteria in a search engine and let the computer software do the work for you.
Are there instances where it is cheaper to go to the airline website, directly? Yes. I’m sure there are. But like I mentioned in the article above, I believe that there is an incentive for Airlines to have the same price listed on their website as on a search engine website. My guess is that you will not find cheaper flights very often when searching manually on a budget Airline website.
Disadvantages of Budget Airlines
Some of the CONS to using a Budget Airline is that almost everything that you’re used to getting for free, you must now pay for. There are also other things like:
- Sometimes being required to have certain currency while on the flight
- They often fly in and out of inconvenient airports
- Sometimes you are required to use their specific app or you will be charged extra money. I know…crazy.
Advantages of Budget Airlines
But on the other hand, the major PRO of using a Budget Airline is that you will find cheap flights – especially if you don’t need to check-in any bags. If you simply fly with your body and small backpack, then you can find some amazing flight deals! But seriously though, just use a search engine instead of going to their website.
9) Use Credit Card Points/Miles for Cheap (or Even Free) Flights
Credit Card Points/Miles Are basically a loyalty reward system that allows you to earn points for every dollar that you spend on your credit card. After your points start growing and accumulating, you can spend these points when you want to fly. You can upgrade your seat, you can get early boarding, or if you have enough points – you can exchange these points for an entire flight! That’s right, you may not have to pay for your next plane ticket. Cool, huh?
Some flight loyalty reward systems only allow you to build points by purchasing flights. If you fly and spend $500, you will learn a certain amount of points. If you go to the grocery store and spend $500, you will earn 0 points. Every credit card is different.
However, there are some credit card reward systems that allow you to earn loyalty flight miles by purchasing anything. You can earn miles at the grocery store, when you fill up your gas tank, when you purchase a flight…anything. The sky’s the limit (pun intended)!
Are Airline Miles Credit Cards Worth It?
If you are a frequent flyer, then yes, it’s worth it! A normal annual fee seems to be about $100 USD. Some memberships fees are more, some are less. Generally in return; you will earn points that you can apply towards new flights, you may receive free checked flights, and you may get priority boarding. Every credit card is different. Some Credit Cards offer more and some offer less. Be sure to choose a Credit Card that best fits your travel frequency.
10) Purchase Each Traveler’s Ticket Separately
If you purchase plane tickets for your entire family in one check out, often the price will be higher than if you bought them individually. Often the airline companies will try to charge you the highest price for each seat. It is a sneaky little way to make sure they take as much money from you as possible.
If you need to purchase plane tickets for your entire family, I recommend doing a search for all of the tickets at once. After you determine the price, then search for the plane tickets individually. Compare the prices.
If the plane tickets are cheaper when you purchase them individually, great! However, there is a downside. Maybe you are traveling with young children, but each ticket that you bought is located in a different part of the plane. That obviously won’t work. So, at checkout, be sure to manually choose your seat. This is usually possible for a fee.
Now, you must determine whether or not purchasing all of the tickets together is cheaper or more expensive than purchasing all of the tickets individually with an additional seat selection fee at the end of each. You must do your homework. One of the options will be cheaper. You just need to determine which one it is.
11) Don’t Book Too Soon or Too Late
Crazy, right? But the reality is that, like mentioned before, the airlines I know exactly how to collect as much money from you as possible. It is important to note that if you purchase a plane ticket too far in advance, let’s say six months, the price will most likely be higher. And if you purchase a plane ticket two weeks in advance, the plane ticket will most likely be higher as well.
Why? I’m not entirely sure. But, my guess is that if you purchase too far in advance, they will charge you more because they know that you are highly organized, the trip is important, the date is important, and so therefore you can most likely afford to pay a premium.
If you book a plane ticket two weeks before you fly, they will charge you more because they know that you are desperate for a flight. There aren’t many options remaining and so they know that you will pay anything for a plane ticket to get you to your destination. Premium pricing.
But, this is not always the case. I have seen plane tickets far in advance that were cheaper than normal, and I have also seen plane tickets a week or two before the flight that were unbelievably cheap. I can only tell you about the law of averages. From what I have read around the internet, purchasing a plane ticket about 7 weeks in advance seems to be the sweet spot.
What is the BEST Way To Find Cheap Flights?
To be honest, there is no ‘best’ way to find cheap flights. There are several different methods that can all work.
I do, however, think that SCF & DFC are one of the easiest ways to save a lot of money & time, especially in regards to international flights! Not many people want to slave over the computer for hours and hours on end to save $20, $50, or even $100.
What is your time worth? If you spend 4 hours over the course of 3 days to find a plane ticket that will save you $50, then your time is worth $12.50 per hour. If that makes you happy, then awesome! If not, well then, you need to look at other options (like the links above) that will help you save both time and money.
Graph of the Most Convenient Way To Find Cheap Flights
|Cheap Flight Search Method||Estimated TIME Spent Searching for Cheap Flights||Estimated MONEY Spent Searching for Cheap Flights||Likely Potential Savings for Economy Class International Flights||Time vs Money vs Reward RANK||Link to More Info|
|Use a Mistake Fare Service||5 Minutes||$3-$6 / month||$525|
This seems to be average
|1st||SCF & DFC Mistake Fare Service|
|Embrace Long Layovers||1 Hour||$0||$10-$350|
Sometimes it’s cheaper to go to another country!
|2nd||AW Search Engine|
|Check Multiple Flight Meta Search Engines||1 Hour||$0||$10-$300|
You must search many sites to find the cheapest price.
|3rd||Cheapest Flight Search Engines|
|Search Multi City Option||1 Hour||$0||$30-$250||4th||Multi-City Flights|
|Use the VPN Trick||1 Hour||$60 / year||$10-$200||5th||Cheaper Flights with a VPN|
|Check the Budget Flight Companies for Cheap Flights||1-2.5 Hours|
If you check manually, it takes longer.Read the article for more info.
|$0||$10-$300||6th||Budget Airlines Saves You Money|
|Use Credit Card Points/Miles||30 Minutes||$100 / year||$15-Unlimited|
This depends on how many points you have earned.
|7th||Credit Card Flight Points|
|Purchase Each Traveler’s Ticket Separately||1.5 Hours||$0||$10-$300||8th||Family VS Separate Flight Tickets|
*Savings could be more or less. Only an estimate.
Finding Cheap Flights FAQ’s:
What is the Cheapest Day To Fly?
The whole internet seems to agree that it’s Tuesday. But don’t simply limit your search for cheap flights to only Tuesdays. There are so many potential good deals that fall on days other than Tuesday. Many of these deals may likely beat the mediocre ‘Tuesday Special’.
How Can I Get a Cheap Last Minute Flight?
Simply use some of the meta search engines mentioned above. Be sure to search for a range of dates, rather than one date. But keep in mind you are going outside of #11, from above. You might get lucky and find an incredibly cheap flight. And if you do, the key is to be flexible, like mentioned in #1. That is, and will probably always be, the most critical aspect of finding cheap flights.
Is it Cheaper to Buy Flights at the Airport?
Generally, no. The plane ticket is usually the same price at the airport (booking through the airline directly) as booking through an online search engine / travel agency. In today’s world, airlines realize that the Flight Meta Search Engines provide almost all of their flight bookings. If an airline chooses to not pay a commission to the Search Engine, then the Search Engine company will simply remove that airline from their website. Potential customers will have no idea that this airline is not even listed. They will simply book with a different airline.
Virtually nobody calls the airline directly, or books through the airline website. That being said, airlines would lose a lot of business if they didn’t pay a commission. People are generally searching for the best flight deal, rather than being a loyal customer to one particular airline.
In addition to all of that, there is an advantage for airlines to pay a commission to a Search Engine / online travel agency. That advantage is customer service.
If you book a ticket and there is a slight problem in regards to anything, who do most people call? The booking agency. And that saves large amounts of money for the airlines. If less people are calling the airline, then they need to pay less employees to answer those phones.
With all of this being said, you can see why there isn’t a cheaper flight ticket when you book through the airline, directly. I’m sure there are scenarios where this isn’t the case. But I do think that this is the average scenario.
Which Airline Has the Cheapest Tickets?
The cheapest flights are usually with the budget airlines (listed above, #8). But remember, budget airlines are usually quite affordable when you don’t have any luggage to take with you. The moment you need to bring more than just a carry-on, is when the price starts to rise substantially. Sometimes the bag can cost as much as a domestic flight (I learned the hard way)! If you are flying with only a carry-on, then chances are that flying with a budget airline is the cheapest option.
Finding A Cheap Flight is Easy, But Time Consuming
If you took the time to read the entire article above, you will probably come to the same conclusion as me – finding a cheap flight isn’t very difficult, it is only just time-consuming. There are so many different ways that you can save money when purchasing a plane ticket. In all honesty, it simply boils down to which option you want to use, or prefer to consistently use.
If you have a lot of extra time to search for cheap flights and your budget is not very large, then I recommend doing a lot of research on your own by using the information above.
But if your time is more valuable than your money, but you still want to score a sweet flight deal, then I highly suggest using one of the options – like in #6. Why waste a bunch of time if you don’t have to? Leave it to the professionals who will do the entire job for you.
Well, that’s my two cents worth. I sincerely hope that all of this flight information will help someone find amazing flight deals for years to come. If you save money on your next flight, feel free to mail me 50% of your savings to my address. Cash is gladly accepted :).
Haha, just kidding.
But if you did find this information helpful, feel free to share the link with your friends and family. You will help me, and them, at the same time. You and I will then be even :).