Searching for flights is often a hassle and time consuming. Just this past week I easily spent 6+ hours searching endlessly for flights. When should you jump on buying a flight? How do you know you’re getting a good deal? These are questions I kept thinking of during my search.
Unfortunately there’s no exact answer for those questions. However, there are plenty of things you can do to help save money when booking flights. And I’m not talking flight hacking, let’s start small here people.
Here are 15 tips on saving money while booking flights.
1. Get a credit card.
Whether you open an airline-affiliated card or not depends on you, as well as the current rates and promotions. Majority of the time you can get 35,000-50,000 miles as a reward just for opening a card—that’s enough for one round-trip domestic flight or a one-way international flight!
There’s nothing wrong with opening a few cards to get rewards, but do not churn cards. Having multiple cards open does not affect your credit but constantly opening and closing cards will.
Once you have a card, why not put everything on the card? It’ll benefit your mileage account.
Now I’m not saying to go crazy maxing out your credit card for points; I use my credit card similar to a debit card. Every time I make a purchase on the card, I set money aside to pay it off once I get the bill and I never make purchases when I don’t have the money up front.
Plus, credit cards are perfect when it comes to traveling. Most big-name credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard are accepted everywhere and some have very good exchange rates with no transaction fees abroad.
Credit cards are also more secure for making payment. It’s a lot better to lose a credit card abroad that you can cancel rather than losing a wallet filled with cash!
2. Watch for mileage promotions.
In addition to shopping with your credit card to earn miles, keep aware of promotions that pop up that will also credit your account with miles.
This is a much simpler way of earning miles that doesn’t involve making crazy mileage runs or shopping sprees.
Often you can earn additional miles just by participating in stupid things such as online surveys or giving feedback on products.
Sometimes you can find random promotions with things that have nothing to do with airlines– such as getting miles for signing up for Netflix or Hulu.
These search engines will find you the cheapest prices for select dates and destinations, but do not allow you to book through them.
Once you get an idea of the lowest price, it’s up to you to start searching other websites for similar prices.
These are all popular search aggregators that are great for looking at flight prices. However, never book a flight after checking only one of these sites. All the prices can vary somewhat dramatically for the same exact flight.
Use the prices you find as more of a baseline to go off of as you continue your hunt for the best price.
5. Look at Airfare Watchdog
Airfare Watchdog is a great website for finding super cheap deals. Although the site is geared more towards travel from and around the US, it is possible to find other good deals on there as well.
Airfare Watchdog will also quickly check all of the most popular aggregator sites (including those mentioned above) all at once. It saves you a lot of hassle constantly retyping in your dates and destinations.
6. Fly “budget” carriers
Low Cost Carriers (LCC) have recently become very popular throughout the world. Although there are more in Asia and Europe, you can certainly find a few LCC’s in the US.
Don’t expect much though; they really are bare bone flights. Everything from checking in luggage, to picking your seat and getting water costs money. But the price you pay makes it worthwhile in the end.
7. Check the airports airlines
Often big flight aggregators do not include smaller airlines, which means most budget airlines will not show up.
Therefore it’s a good idea to look at the airport you want to fly into and get a list of all airlines that go there. You might find a smaller airline that you can book directly through their website for cheap! It’s best to look into all possible options.
8. Check all of your routes carefully.
Flying into certain airports can cause additional charges. For example: KIX (Osaka, Japan) has the world’s second most expensive landing rights, so flights are often more expensive.
Sometimes it is cheaper to fly into nearby smaller airports, even if it means having to then take a bus or taxi to get to your final destination.
9. Use foreign sites to see if cheaper in another currency
It’s a good idea to always check the airline’s official website to see if a flight is cheaper, but it’s also a good idea to check the website in their home currency.
In other words, if you’re looking to book a flight on Air China, go to Air China’s webpage and search for the same flight using Chinese Yuan. Often it will be cheaper this way, and your credit card will automatically do the conversion for you anyhow.
10. Check for sales
When making any purchase it’s wise to check for sales, and flights are no exception.
Airlines are constantly having various promotions and last minute sales to fill seats.
For example, the LCC Tiger Airlines often holds a “buy one ticket, get one free” promotion on already cheap tickets. And just last week to celebrate their 10th anniversary, Zuji was selling round-trip flights for HK$10 (about a 1.25 USD) to select destinations.
11. Use “Bing Travel” to predict when to buy flights.
Previously named “Farecast”, Bing has a feature that will help predict when it will be cheapest to purchase your tickets.
Although this obviously isn’t 100% accurate, it’s a good place to start when looking for tickets.
12. Take advantage of student fares.
As mentioned in Why You Should Travel Now, people under the age of 30 get the best deals on travel, so if you fall into that age range—take advantage of it!!
There are plenty of websites that give reduced airfare, hotels and tours for students. All you need to show is a student ID–either from your legit university or you can easily have an International Student Identity Card (ISIC) made in many countries. (In Asia this costs about USD $10 and they really don’t care if you’re a current student…)
There are plenty of other travel websites and agencies that students can use, and some actual airlines such as AA have student deal sections.
Some of these sites will also give student prices to teachers as well, so why not spend your next summer vacation out traveling?
13. Join mailing lists or subscribe to RSS feeds
Constantly searching for flights is exhausting; so let someone else do most the work for you. Sign up for mailing lists of airline companies or even just following them on Twitter will make it much easier to stumble upon great deals.
There are also blogs dedicated to posting flight promotions and sales, and you can sign up to be notified of new deals as they find them.
14. Check sites like Groupon
Groupon is a great site—especially for vacation deals. I’m constantly checking the current “Get Away” deals to see what good offers they have.
Usually they’ll include airfare, hotel and more in their cheap travel packages. Hassle-free trips at a good price, what more could you ask for?
15. Be flexible with dates and destinations
Often the cheapest flights are not departing on weekends or holidays, so it’s best to be flexible on when you’re able to get away.
The same thing goes for destinations. Various places will go on sale based on popularity.
Was I looking to go to Singapore? Not really. And of all times in January? Of course not, but it was cheap ($50 USD round-trip) so I jumped at the chance.