If you want to know how to find cheap flights, I’m here to give you 20 tips so you can save on your next few trips and travel on a budget.
Flying doesn’t have to be expensive; there are plenty of ways to get cheap flights. Getting good deals on flights doesn’t have to be difficult either, so in this article, I will explain the best tips for finding cheap flights and getting great discounts. Flights are a good place to start for saving money on your trip, but if you want to save even more, you can check out my guides on the best tips for finding cheap hotels and getting cheap rental cars.
The tips and tricks that I’m going to share may help you save money on flying, but prices can change a lot due to demand, as well as other factors, so, unfortunately, there is no one trick to finding the cheapest flight that will be 100% effective. Because of this, I recommend using as many different tricks in combination as possible so that the next flight you take won’t end up costing you an arm and a leg.
Ready to hear some great tips for saving on flights? Let’s get into it!
1. Best airline search engines to find the cheapest flights
Most airline websites won’t show you the cheapest prices for flights, plus it’s a huge waste of time if you check every single airline individually for the best price. Instead, use search engines to check for the cheapest flights. That way, you’ll be able to find the best deals relatively quickly and efficiently.
A couple of years ago, my favorite cheap flights search engine was Skyscanner. They gave me the cheapest price on flights about 95% of the time. What I liked about Skyscanner is that their website allows you to see the cheapest days to fly during the month(s) you want to travel, so if you’re flexible about which day you fly, you can get better deals. Even better, you can set up price alerts just in case prices drop.
And that’s not all. If you’re feeling that wanderlust and just looking for a cheap flight to anywhere, their website allows you to select “everywhere” as your destination so you can get ideas for destinations with cheap flights. They also have an inspiration map where you set your local airport, and then it shows you an estimate of flight prices to most of the world’s airports at a glance.
However, since I discovered Kiwi.com, I’ve mostly been using that search engine to get cheap flights, since it combines all of the airlines’ flights to create routes that are cheaper than booking a flight with a single airline. Most search engines won’t combine different airlines’ flights because it’s a risk having connecting flights with different airlines, but Kiwi has its own guarantee so that you can feel secure about finding prices that are cheaper than anywhere else, even cheaper than Skyscanner.
Other cheap flights websites I have used are cheapoair.com, which also gives you excellent prices on flights, and airwander.com, which is great if you want to plan extended stopovers. Kayak, Orbitz, and Google Flights are also good options if you’re flexible about the dates you’re traveling.
2. Explore local and low-cost airlines, the best way to buy cheap flights
Want to know how to fly cheap? Always keep local and low-cost airlines in mind, since you can get better prices on flights as long as you’re willing to give up some of the perks of flying with big airline companies. Although the search engines I’ve mentioned above are useful, they sometimes don’t include very small or local airlines.
Different countries and areas of the world have their own low-budget and local airline companies, so knowing about these cheap airlines might help you access deals you otherwise wouldn’t be able to find.
The cheapest airlines to fly with
If you’re traveling to/from any of these places and you don’t see these airlines appear in the search engine when you look for cheap flights, I recommend going to the airlines’ official websites and looking at their prices. Sometimes, comparing prices on different websites is the key to finding the cheapest flight.
Of course, there are some downsides to booking through low-cost airlines. Checked luggage probably won’t be included in the price of your flight. The seats might be very small and cramped. You probably won’t get served meals, even on long flights. Usually, flights are either extremely early in the morning or very late at night. If you do book a low-cost flight with a budget airline, make sure you’re willing to put up with any or all of these things!
3. Be flexible with your dates to get the cheapest flight to anywhere
If you really want to get the cheapest flights, you have to be flexible on travel dates. For example, I searched Kiwi.com for a flight in September from any airport in New York City to Madrid, Spain, and, as you can see below, prices vary vastly from one day to the next. Even a couple of days can make a difference. A flight would cost me $304 on September 26th but would be $187 ($117 cheaper!) just three days before on September 23rd.
If you want to be flexible about your dates when you search Kiwi.com, select “Anytime” for your departure date. You can also select the length of your trip or even the exact month that you want Kiwi to find the cheapest flights for you. That way, the algorithm will show you the best dates for getting the cheapest flights, as well as a pricing table.
You can also get date suggestions from Skyscanner to help you find the cheapest flight to anywhere. Instead of selecting a specific date, choose “Whole month.” You can leave it like that to check the cheapest month for flights out of the next twelve or tell Skyscanner which month you would like to travel.
4. Open your mind to new destinations to get cheap international flights
A wonderful way to both book cheap flights and travel somewhere completely new is to see what the cheapest flight is from your closest airport.
If you don’t have a specific destination in mind but just want to travel anywhere, use Kiwi.com to find the cheapest destination from your airport. Select your closest airport and put “Anywhere” as your desired destination to find the best cheap flight destinations for you.
You can also use Kiwi’s inspiration map to find cheap flights; you set your airport, and then the website shows you an estimate of flight prices to various airports around the world.
You can also do the same thing with Skyscanner. Select “Everywhere” as your destination and then check your results on a map.
5. Find the cheapest flights at nearby airports
If you want to buy a cheap flight ticket, you may want to consider the option of leaving from an airport that is not the closest one to you, even if you have to travel by train or drive to a different city. Sometimes, departing from or landing in a different city may be cheaper for you, even if it involves some extra traveling.
We live in Philadelphia, but we like to return home to Spain every once in a while. Although there are direct flights from Philly to Spain, it’s often cheaper for us to fly out of Newark or JFK. Even driving to New Jersey/New York and leaving our car in a parking lot for a couple of weeks, on top of the price for the flight, is usually cheaper than flying direct from Philly. Last year, we even saved ourselves $500 because we took a bus to Newark to catch the flight to Madrid.
You can compare prices manually to find the cheapest flight, or you can expand your destination by a 250 km radius on Kiwi.com.
6. Travel when no one else wants to travel to find cheap plane tickets
One of the best ways to get discounted flights is to travel when no one else is traveling. That means very early in the morning or late at night, just after a major holiday (for example, in late January, after Christmas), or during low season for tourists.
Avoid school breaks and weekend traveling (leaving on Friday and coming back on Sunday). Leaving in the afternoon and returning in the morning is often the cheapest option for flights.
As we’ve mentioned above, if you really want to get cheap flights, it helps to be flexible with your travel dates. Try to avoid traveling on weekends (Friday-Sunday), during peak tourist season (especially summer months), and on dates of an important event/holiday (Christmas, Easter, etc.). Try to avoid peak travel hours during the day as well. As we just mentioned, doing your outward journey in the afternoon and returning in the morning often works out cheaper than flying at other times during the day/night. Also, your best option for cheap flights is to fly during the week.
Flexibility with your dates/times will help you be able to fly at the best times to get cheap flights, so do try to be as flexible as you can.
7. Two one-way plane tickets could help you find the cheapest flight
Often, the best way to book flights involves a little creativity. Buying two one-way tickets could actually save you a lot of money.
There’s absolutely no problem with combining flights from different airlines to travel. Sometimes, going to your destination with one company and then returning with another is the best option.
In fact, buying a round-trip ticket with the same company isn’t always the cheapest choice, so make sure you research all of your options first. Always check if booking two one-way tickets might be cheaper for you.
8. Return from a different airport than the one you arrived at
Sometimes, coming back from a different airport than the one you arrived at could be cheaper, especially if you are traveling a long distance at your destination. It’s a great way to get affordable plane tickets, and it can even allow you to fit in some extra traveling.
For example, we did this on our Southeast Asia trip. We arrived at Singapore and left from Kuala Lumpur, since we were traveling to different locations. The flight to go back to Singapore from Bali at the end of our trip was way more expensive than going to Kuala Lumpur and getting our flight home from there, so we chose the cheaper option instead. We saved $200, plus we were able to visit an extra city.
9. Plan the connecting flights yourself to find the cheapest flights
Direct flights are incredibly convenient and will save you a lot of time, but they’re often quite expensive. If you want to fly for cheap, look into getting connecting flights instead.
Most of the search engines we’ve mentioned only check for connecting flights with the same airline because if you miss your flight, it’s super easy to get another flight for free. However, you might be able to get even better prices on flights if you compare combining connections with different airlines. You might also want to look at using different layover/flight durations and even different airports.
The way to save is to book two different flights so you’ve planned the connecting flight yourself. In other words, instead of letting the search engine do all the planning for you and automatically choose where your layover will be, you book two different flights and plan the layover yourself. However, make sure that you book the flights with enough time between them for you to be able to catch the second flight.
This method allows you to pick a combination of flights/companies that will save you the most money, although it can be risky, because if you miss your connecting flight, the airline probably won’t get you on the next one. Definitely avoid tight layovers.
This way to get cheap flights can be very useful, especially if you want to take a local airline that isn’t available via a search engine. For example, in our last trip to the Lofoten Islands, we booked our flight from Philadelphia to Bodo, Norway with Skyscanner. We then booked our flight from Bodo to Leknes with Wideroe, a very small company that only flies within Norway. We left at least six hours between flights so we wouldn’t be stressed.
You can even book multi-day layovers (also known as stopovers) through Airwander. These stopovers can save you a lot of money, since Airwander helps you find the best place to stopover based on your trip details, plus you get to explore a whole new city! You even get to choose how many days you want to spend on your stopover.
10. Set airfare alerts to detect price drops on flights
Buying cheap airline tickets doesn’t have to be a difficult or stressful process. You can save a lot of money by simply activating price drop alerts on flights that you’re interested in. That way, you’ll always know if prices are high or low so you can make the most informed decision about when you buy your tickets. Keep in mind, though, that this trick only works if you know the exact dates of your trip.
We like to use Skyscanner for tracking flights, but there are other search engines that can help you search for cheap flights, such as Google Flights and Kayak. You can also use Hopper, an app that we use to figure out the best time to book a flight (we’ll talk more about this app with the next tip).
11. How to find cheap flights by booking at exactly the right time
As we’ve mentioned above, one of the best, cheap ways to book flights is by using Hopper, an app that will help you determine exactly the right time to buy your tickets.
There are websites that make a graph of all the prices that have been registered for a particular flight. They then analyze the graph and assess whether the price could drop more or whether it’s as good as it’s going to get. Hopper uses this kind of technology to predict exactly the right time to buy your tickets, which they claim will help you save up to 40% off.
This app can be a great way to find cheap flights, but if you find an offer and you think it’s a good one, don’t wait; buy your tickets right away.
12. Catch error rates and get the cheapest flights
If you have total flexibility on when you can travel, another option for getting the best airfare deals is to try to catch error rates.
Sometimes, for a short period of time, airlines accidentally enter a flight price that is much cheaper than normal. If you manage to catch these errors in time, you might be able to snag yourself a super sweet deal on a flight.
However, the problem with these types of tickets is that they run the risk of being subsequently cancelled. Also, while you’re buying the ticket, the airline might update the price so you won’t get the initial cheap price that you saw.
That’s why this trick is all about being fast. As soon as you see that good price, book it as quickly as possible. The following websites have dedicated pages with information on detecting error rates:
13. Don’t wait for the last-minute flight deal that never comes
All of us love to get a cheap international flight if we can. That’s why I always advise looking at flights as soon as you know the dates of your next vacation.
You get more time to find the best flight offers, you can sign up for all the helpful newsletters you want to, and you can activate alerts if you’re looking for a flight that’s between six to twelve months away.
If your flight is any sooner than six months away, don’t wait for last-minute offers, especially if it’s peak tourist season. Personally, I recommend searching early so that you can snag a good deal and book it as soon as it’s within your budget.
If you know when and where you’re going, don’t wait to book until the last minute because you’re hoping for a better price. At a certain point, flight prices are only going to increase.
Check Hopper if you want some help. Only wait to buy tickets if the app tells you it’s too early to buy them. Otherwise, don’t wait any longer.
14. Search ticket prices for individual travelers and find the best deals on flights
One of the best tips for booking cheap flights is to search for tickets for a single traveler instead of two or more.
When you look for flights for two or more people, prices are often more expensive because the search engine is looking for flights where that number of seats is available together. Instead, search for flights for one person and then add on more passengers. That way, you can get the best price for your plane tickets, even if you and your travel buddies don’t get to sit together.
15. Check if you can get discounted flights by paying in other currencies
Before you book your next flight, consider whether the price would be cheaper if you paid in another currency.
Normally, you pay in the currency of the country from which you’re booking, but there are actually companies that will allow you to pay in other currencies besides your own. If you use a specific travel credit card that gives you a great currency exchange rate, or, even better, if the card doesn’t charge you any foreign transaction fees, use the card and pay in another currency to help you get a great price on a flight.
This is a clever trick that could end up saving you a lot of money, so I would definitely consider using it the next time you book your vacation flights.
16. Use airline miles and travel credit cards to get discounts on plane tickets
Joining an airline’s loyalty program or using points from a travel credit card are both great ways to get discounts on plane tickets.
When you join an airline’s loyalty program, you get points or miles every time you fly with that airline. The points or miles that you earn can then be put toward flights or other travel purchases, so you can get flights that are discounted or even free.
It might not always be possible to use the same airline, especially if you find cheaper flights from a different airline, but I still recommend signing up for a loyalty program with an airline you use frequently; it could save you lots of money on travel. Even when you use a search engine like Kiwi.com or Skyscanner to book your flight, you can still request the miles for that flight from your airline rewards program.
Travel credit cards work in a similar way. You get points for every purchase that you make, and those points can then be used for travel purchases, such as flights, hotels, and rental cars. Again, depending on the amount of points you earn, you may be able to get flights at a huge discount or even for free, which will save you a lot of money.
There are two travel credit cards that we recommend: the Capital One Venture Rewards card and the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.
The Capital One Venture Rewards card gives you unlimited 2x miles per dollar, and you can get 50,000 bonus points if you spend $3,000 within three months of opening your account. In terms of cheap flights, this card is really useful. Your miles never expire, so you can use them at any time, and there are no blackout dates for using the miles, so you never have to worry about being restricted to certain dates. The best part is that you can use the miles to fly absolutely any airline.
Of course, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is an equally excellent option. Every time you use your card for travel and dining expenses, you get 2x points, and you can get an extra $750 (60,000 points) in travel credit if you spend $4,000 within three months of opening your account. You even get 25% more value on your points if you spend them on flights, hotels, car rentals, and other travel expenses, so this is a great card if you’re an avid traveler.
17. How to get cheap flights by skipping extras you don’t need
Still wondering how to get cheap flights? This tip is pretty simple: avoid spending extra money on things you don’t need.
Certain airline companies charge you for practically everything: choosing a seat, checking luggage, bringing a carry-on, etc. When you buy your flight, research the company that you’re buying your ticket from and find out what travel elements they charge for.
Avoid buying as many extras as you can to save money on your flight. Ask yourself: do you really need to buy a specific seat or check a bag?
Instead, accept a seat that is randomly assigned to you (chances are it won’t be that bad), and don’t carry more luggage with you than you actually need. If you want even more of a discount, check if the airline company offers discounts for certain groups, such as students.
18. Cheap flight hacks worth trying even if they don’t work anymore
You may have heard a lot of different tips and tricks for buying cheap plane tickets over the years. You’ve probably heard that the best day of the week to buy airline tickets is Tuesday, for instance, or that you should buy your tickets in a private browser window so the website doesn’t recognize you. You might have also heard that you should buy tickets at a certain time of day to get the best deals.
Unfortunately, most of these tips have been proven not to work anymore. They may have worked in the past, but now that there are such sophisticated algorithms, the system is just too clever to trick anymore.
Still, if you’re really invested in getting a good deal on a flight, it may be worth testing out these old tricks, just in case they work. So delete those browser cookies, always search in a private browser window or incognito mode, and look for deals on Tuesdays and at three in the afternoon. After all, it can’t hurt to try!
19. Flying is not always the most convenient option
The best way to get cheap flights might not involve a flight at all. In fact, sometimes taking a train, a bus, or a ferry to your destination is much cheaper than taking a flight.
For example, if you want to get from one European country to another, a bus or train is a great, cheap way to travel. Similarly, if you want to go between islands in Indonesia, taking a ferry can be much more fun and cheap than taking a flight. Even in the US, taking a bus or even a train between cities could save you a lot of money.
The next time you’re looking for a cheap flight, expand your options. Compare the prices of all the potential modes of transportation you could use, and choose the option that is the cheapest.
20. Don’t spend too much time looking for the best airfare deals
It can be tempting to focus all your energy on getting cheap flights, but make sure you don’t obsess too much over finding a great flight deal. Just follow the tips for finding cheap flights in this article, and try to save as much as possible.
If you have to spend ten hours in front of a computer screen just to find a good deal, it’s probably not worth it. Kiwi.com and Skyscanner can save you a lot of time by finding deals for you. And remember: saving money on travel doesn’t just have to mean saving money on flights. You can also make travel cheaper by saving on rental cars or getting cheap hotels.