I love to travel and I know you do too. If you are wondering how to find the cheapest flights, you’re not alone. Two people can take the same trip and pay completely different prices. If you are the one that pays less, you can use that money to take another trip somewhere. This post is my step by step guide with tips on how to score cheap flights.
One of the best ways I save money traveling is using Frequent Flyer miles. Before we cover frequent flyer redemptions, it’s really important to know how to get the best deals so you can decide if you want to use your miles. So many people make the mistake of using miles when they shouldn’t.
Let the price determine where you go
When I’m planning a trip, I often only have a region in mind. I try not to have too many parameters. I’m a little flexible with dates and I try to be flexible with cities. If a great deal is happening on a certain route, use it to your advantage. For instance, if you are flying from Los Angeles to the south of France, it may be cheaper to fly into a major hub like Paris and catch a cheap Ryanair flight from there to Nice.
Timing can be everything
- If you are trying to use frequent flyer miles, search as far in advance as possible.
- When you are paying for flights, sometimes it can be better to get your flight closer to the date. Typically the best time to buy flights is the season before you want to go. If you know you want to travel in fall, watch for the fall fares that airlines run in the end of summer.
- Always keep an eye out for advertised specials or mistake fares. If you do happen to find a mistake fare, book it right away. Airlines won’t always honor these but you do have a chance at getting the deal of a lifetime.
- If you really want to know how to score cheap flights, especially in Europe, take advantage of the budget airlines middle of the night flights. You have to be a serious trooper to go for these but they are often the best deals.
Use Flight Search Engines to Find Great Flight Deals
I skip around between Kiwi.com, Skyscanner and Google Flights search engines to find cheap flights. One of my favorite websites right now for flight deals is Kiwi.com. I was recently looking for one-way flights from Italy to Los Angeles using Kiwi.com, and it alerted me that I could pay $200 less booking it as a round trip. Now I can go back in Spring or just not use the return portion and I saved $200.
The key to finding the cheapest flights is knowing how to do the search. I’ve explained it step by step below.
How to Score Cheap Flights Searching on Kiwi.com
Let’s say you are going to Barcelona and want to visit another city while you’re in Europe and you are open to a few different options as to what the other city will be.
- Start your flight search clicking One-way, even if you are going round trip. You can get more information starting your search one way. Then do a one way search for the return.
- Enter the city where you will be originating travel in the FROM box.
- In the TO box, you can put up to 3 search places. You can put a country like Greece, or choose up to 3 specific cities, or pick a region like “Europe” or choose “Anywhere” to see every deal from the home airport.
- Choose dates in the DEPARTURE box. You can choose multiple departure dates. In the above example I picked 2 dates. You can also choose a specific month like “September” or you can choose “Anytime.”
- Narrow the options by using the pull down menus. Here you can choose things like non-stop and flight only. You can also pick a price range, days of the week, whether or not you are open to overnight stopovers, etc….
- Display your results by Cheapest or Popularity. On the right of the pull down menus, you can choose to display your results by cheapest, popularity. You can then choose cheapest, best or fastest in the list of flight options.
- Verify that you have the best deal. Once you’ve figured out what exact flight you want, you can then move to another site to make sure you really found the best deal. It only takes a few more minutes. I usually check Skyscanner and Google flights.
Sign up for Fare Drop
Fare Drop is a service that alerts you when certain routes go on sale. You pick your home airport in the U.S., U.K., Canada or Australia and places you want to go or you can just set it to anywhere. Then you get an email whenever there’s an amazing fare deal up to 80% regular price. You can try it free for 30 days and then costs $48 per year.
The deals are amazing, An example of a recent one was under $300 round trip from LA to Barcelona, normally $800+. The fare was available for travel from October through May so it’s not a last minute travel deal. If you even fly one place per year, the service will pay for itself. Use this link to try it out for 30 Days free.
5 Important Things to Consider for Finding Cheap Flights
1. Don’t forget the extra costs.
Are you paying for checked luggage, seats, or carry on bags? Try to account for the extras so you can factor them into your price decision. Sometimes the higher priced flight on Southwest Airlines with 2 free checked bags is cheaper than the Basic Economy flight on United Airlines.
2. The value of your time.
We all want a good deal but the cheapest deal might not be worth it. If you are going on vacation for 7 days, you don’t want to take a flight that has a ton of stops. Each time you stop, there is the possibility that a flight will get delayed or cancelled. If it’s a little more expensive for non-stop, think about what that means for you. Multiple flights can also mean multiple baggage and seat charges, especially on low cost airlines.
3. Be careful with layovers.
If you find a great flight that involves 2 different airlines, make sure you have enough time in between. I usually book flights on multiple carriers with Kiwi.com directly because they have a guarantee if you miss a flight. Even with a long layover, flights can still get cancelled and you’ll lose your money if you’re not covered.
4. Buy travel insurance.
It’s honestly just a good idea to protect yourself from unforeseen accidents, health issues, flight interruptions beyond your control, etc… I use World Nomads.
5. Understand the value of your money and points.
If you’ve even been to a foreign country and paid too much for something because you got confused on the exchange rate, you will understand that you need to think of frequent flyer points like a foreign currency. You need to learn how to score cheap flights to be able to evaluate the right frequent flyer deals.
The Biggest Frequent Flyer Point Mistakes
I will be covering frequent flyer points in a separate post. In the meantime, I do want to mention some of the biggest frequent flyer point redemption mistakes. Don’t waste your miles. You don’t want to be a hoarder and never use them but you want your redemptions to be really great.
- Not having a frequent flyer account. When you fly or stay in a hotel, make sure you get points. Then try to stay loyal to a brand or a few brands if possible so you can gain status or enough points to redeem.
- Be very careful using your points as dollars. Some travel agents will try to get you to use up your travel credit cards points as dollars. It’s usually better to transfer your points to an airline partner unless you find a really cheap airfare. That’s why it’s important to know how to find inexpensive flights before you start using frequent flyer miles.
- Only use your points for non-peak awards. Let’s say you want to fly American Airlines from LA to New York and the ticket is $400 round trip. You check the frequent flyer availability and all of the award saver tickets are gone. The anytime awards are between 30k to 65k each way for a coach ticket. You are much better off paying for that ticket and not using miles. On the other hand, if you can get the 12,500K each way saver tickets, it’s worth it.
Finding cheap flights is something you can get really good at if you invest some time learning how to do it. While you’re learning the ropes, try out Fare Drop for free and see if you find an awesome deal.
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