Finding a good flight deal can be tedious and can leave you exhausted, making you want to give up on your dreams of finding those £10 return flights to Europe. Yes, it’s usually expensive to book travel, but if you know the tips and tricks, it couldn’t be easier to find the cheapest deal. From spending hours trying to find the cheapest flights myself and researching all the tricks on the internet, i’ve come up with a cheap flight guide with 12 steps to finding the cheapest flights around.
1. Search in incognito/private mode
Searching flights in incognito mode means website cannot track your IP address or collect cookies. It couldnt be easier to access incognito/private mode on your browser. On Chrome (where it is called incognito mode) and Safari, press command (or ctrl), shift and N. On other browsers, click on file and the option for a private window should be there.
Searching in incognito/private mode means that your browser will not track your information and keep the prices as low as possible. It really couldn’t be simpler to avoid the robot spy’s of the internet.
2. Learning to love low cost airlines
Low cost airlines really are your best friend. They offer far cheaper tickets than all regular airlines (and by far cheaper, i mean by hundreds). Low cost airlines have really taken the aviation industry by storm over the past decade, with EasyJet making up for almost 45% of the UK-based air traffic and over 65 million passengers a year. Theres no frills or free food, but can you complain when you’ve paid pennies for a flight? Still spectacle? Check out 7 myths of low cost airlines to prove all the fake news you’ve heard about low cost airlines is a lie and you can comfortably book your next trip away without a hefty price tag.
You can see an ongoing list of low cost airlines around the world here.
But please, ensure you have done your research on each airline. For example:
- Research airport locations – an easy mistake. Low cost airlines may fly to airports out of town, which may cost you a lot of time and money to get to and from (yes, i’m talking to you RyanAir using Skavsta Stockholm airport – a total 1hr 20minutes from Stockholm city).
- Printing your own boarding pass – most low cost airlines charge a fee for printing your boarding pass as they have to employ staff to do this for you. You can simply just do this at home or use the airline’s mobile app.
- Note luggage allowance – ensure your hand luggage is the correct size to take on board to avoid a large fine for storing it in the hold.
3. Be flexible
Perhaps the best advice I can give is to keep your options open when you’re booking your travels. Remember that the more specific, the more expensive. You’re far more likely to find cheap flights when you haven’t got your heart set on a certain destination. Being flexible not only lets you travel for a dime, but also opens up new places you may have never even heard of, yet could be one of the best memories you make.
Being flexible with dates will also land you the cheapest flights. Being able to travel midweek and not during holidays will bring your prices down extensively. See more about when’s best to travel in tip 5.
4. Using flight search engines
Rather than going direct to the airline’s website, check out all the search engines which do all the hard work for you. However, some search engines can inflate the prices so they can make a profit – so here’s a quick guide to some of the best:
- Sky Scanner – my number 1 choice for searching flights. With flexible dates and destination options, it’s easy to find the cheapest flights all around the world.
- Momondo – similar to sky scanner, but sometimes slightly different prices.
- Google Flights – a great tool for comparing flight fares between dates quickly.
- Kiwi – a clever website that combines all airlines to find create cheaper routes for you (ideal for long haul with connections).
- AirFare Watchdog – finding sale and error fares couldn’t be easier.
- Jack’s Flight Club – sign up for email notifications from Jack to be updated on the latest cheap flights he’s found.
Of course all search engines have their pros and cons but I really cannot stress enough that Sky Scanner is a life and money saver. To find the cheapest place to fly, leave the destination field blank and click on ‘cheapest month’ – this will bring up the cheapest destinations to visit. If you’ve got destination in mind, you can still use the ‘cheapest month’ option for the dates to find the cheapest dates for your chosen destination.
5. Finding the best day to fly
From experience, there is no specific day to book that will guarantee you cheap flights. Generally, Mondays, Fridays and the weekend tend to be more expensive, due to business travel and the recent boom in weekend city breaks. The best way to understand which day is cheapest to fly is to use a calendar view of prices for the whole month for a specific route. To to do this easily, head over to SkyScanner.
Once on SkyScanner, enter your departure and arrival cities (or leave blank and explore the cheapest destinations). For date selection, click whole month and click cheapest month (or the month you’d like to depart if you’re being specific). Hit search flights and you will be able to see all flight prices for the whole month.
6. Book it sooner than later
There is a very small chance that flight prices will decrease as the days go on. The less number of seats available, the more you will pay. Yes, you can get cheap last minute deals where the airline want to get rid of their last few seats, but this is rare on low cost airlines and popular routes, so do not risk it. If you know you want to go, book a ticket as soon as possible as ticket prices can fluctuate within minutes. Too many times have I learnt this lesson in the past, paying up to £50 more for a flight because i left it until the next day to book.
7. Booking multiple tickets on one flight
Sorry solo travelers, you probably don’t want to hear this. Booking multiple tickets on a flight will, most of the time, bring the ticket prices down. It’s for a good and obvious reason. Airlines need to sell their seats in order to avoid making a loss on flights. So if you’re going travelling with a group of friends, get one person of the group to buy the tickets and then everyone pays them back. It will save everyone so much money and you will also have more of a chance of sitting together on the plane. Win win situation.
8. Two one-way tickets may be cheaper than a return
Not as uncommon as you think. Do your research and see if it’s cheaper for you to book two one-way tickets rather than buying a return ticket. Generally, airlines do want you to buy a return ticket in order for them to sell tickets on two flights rather than one, but there’s no harm in searching and finding out – you might be lucky and save yourself some dollar.
9. Mix and match airlines in one trip
Cheap travel and loyalty don’t go hand in hand. Related to the last point, do your research across different airlines (using flight search engines) and see if it’s cheaper to fly to your destination with one airline and return with another. I did this with my flights to/from Milan back in 2016. I flew out with RyanAir for just £15 but flew back with FlyBe for £21 rather than paying £58 return with RyanAir. This can also work in your favour in terms of flight times, leaving you with more time on holiday. You can even do this for connecting flights, but be aware of the risks (see tip #11).
Kiwi.com makes this search simple. Put in your departure and arrival destinations and it’ll search for the cheapest flight, route and airlines for you. For example, you can travel to Los Angeles from London for just £301 return by flying there with Lufthansa but returning with United Airlines.
10. Search for price errors
Yes, it really does happen. Airlines slip up and mistakenly advertise incorrect prices for their flights and they’re up for grabs. This usually happens to due to human error, system technical glitches and wrong currency conversions. AirFare Watchdog is the place to go for finding all the best error prices. The website also works in the same way as SkyScanner, where there’s no need to put in a specific destination or date. Note that low cost airlines won’t be seen here – their admin department is obviously very good and their flights are so cheap anyway you wouldn’t see much of a difference.
11. Booking connecting flights yourself
If you’re flying long haul, there’s a good chance you might have to catch a connecting flight. Consider booking the different legs of your travels yourself to get the best deal. For example, if you’re flying from the the UK to Beijing, with a connecting flight via Amsterdam, it might work in your favour to buy a dirt cheap ticket to Amsterdam with an low cost airline and then continue with a big named airline to Beijing. Doing this means you cut out all the airport service fees that are included in connecting flights (such baggage handling from plane to plane).
Kiwi.com is the site to use to search for routes to get you the best deal for connecting flights. It easily shows you different airlines prices and routes you can take, along with your transfer time. To explore more in one trip, you could take a one or two day layover, allowing you to explore the city you need to transfer in. Just make sure you get back to the airport in time for your next flight.
However, this comes with risks which could ruin your travels if you do not plan well and take precautions:
- Ensure you have enough layover time – ensure that you have enough time to get from your first plane to your next. Some airports are huge (i’m talking about you Amsterdam Schipol). You may find that your next flight departs from a totally different terminal, so ensure you give yourself enough time to make it to your next flight.
- Delayed and cancelled flights – if your first flight gets delayed or cancelled, you risk missing your next flight. And due to you flying with different airlines, neither are responsible for compensation regarding you missing your next flight.
- It might not be cheaper – not everything is going to be cheaper doing this trick. But doing your research isn’t going to cost you any money, so give it a go and see.
12. The “hidden city” trick
Sometimes a flight that may connect you to another destination may be cheaper than flying directly there. I know, where’s the logic? But if you book that cheaper flights with the connection in the city you actually want to visit, just don’t take the ongoing connection and explore the city you wanted to in the first place. Simple.
And yes… of course there is a site to help you out! Skiplagged is a flight search engine that will help you find cheaper flights to a destination using the hidden city tick.
However do this with precautions and do your research before you board:
- You may not be allowed off the plane – some flights may be stopping at an airport to let new passengers on. This happened to me during a domestic flight from Kunming to Beijing via Taiyuan. I was carrying onto Beijing but if I had planned to get off at Taiyuan, I would’ve failed to do so. Ensure you read the fine print or check with the airline before doing so.
- Having luggage in the hold – due to the airline thinking you’ll be going to the final destination, your hold luggage will continue onto the next plane and to the final destination. If you are to do this trick, ensure you only have cabin luggage.
So there you have it. 12 easy but effective steps you can follow to find the cheapest flights possible. Let me know in the comments below what great deals you’ve been able to find and also if you’ve got any extra tips yourself!
Until next time – live your best life, low cost
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