No matter which way you slice it: travel ain’t cheap. From finding the right gear to paying for food and amenities, travel takes careful planning and budgeting. This of course while not forgetting potentially the most expensive item on the list: Airfare.
Airfare, especially in recent years, has become somewhat more difficult to manage – with airline budgets getting cut, limited competition from bankrupt airliners, and fuller planes – airline companies have become less incetivized to lower fares.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t get a few victories when it comes to ticket pricing. With a little patience, tech know-how, and some industry tricks – you can find cheap flights.
5 Steps: How To Find A Cheap Flight
1) Keep Your Searches Private
This may come as a shock, but that ticket price may not have JUST become more expensive by accident – it may be because of you.
That’s because airline sites track the cookies (or history) in your browser. Keep searching for a specific route or flight and the site will bump up the price to scare you into buying immediately.
But don’t worry, there’s an easy way around this: search in incognito mode.
How To Open Incognito Mode
Chrome & Safari
Internet Explorer & Firefox
(Command for Mac) Control+Shift+N
(Command for Mac) Control+Shift+P
2) Date/Destination Flexibility
If you rush into booking your airline tickets with strict adherance to exact dates and destinations, you will pay more.
Ticket prices can vary wildly all depending on day of the week, season, proximity to holidays and time of day. With after holiday, off season (Sept. – April), and red eye flights typically being the cheapest.
An easy way to see an entire month of fares is by using Sky Scanner. After selecting your destination(s), click “Depart” and “Return”, which has a button underneath the calender to select “Whole Month”
But don’t stop there! Remaining flexible on destinations can have a huge impact on price point. Use Kayak’s Explore tool to find the cheapest flights near your true destination.
I plugged in from the tri-state area to Europe for the Summer of 2016. My destination is Glasgow at $851, but instead I can fly to Dublin for $571 and catch an internal flight for about around $50-$100 (travel within Europe is relatively cheap).
3) Book Six Weeks In Advance
A study out of the Airlines Reporting Corporation, or ARC, found after studying $80 billion worth of ticket sales, and millions of transactions that the best time to find the lowest ticket prices is six weeks in advance.
Most people make the assumption that the earlier the ticket is purchased, the lower the cost, but this is not necessarily true.
Of course, the ARC warns that a lower ticket cost at this specific time won’t always be the case (due to other factors), but it’s defintely something to keep in mind while planning!
4) Student Discounts
If you’re a student you have more wiggle room than most when it comes to finding a cheap flight. Sites like StaTravel.com are designated towards finding discounts for students.
Some of the packages on STA include Spring Break, Tours, Hostels, and Rail to name a few. I was able to find a round-trip from Boston to Paris for $597, not too shabby.
5) Sign Up For A Travel Credit Card
You already pay the bills, why not pay them and get free/discounted flights for it?
Cards like Chase Sapphire Preferred, offer great rewards that can be redeemed for travel. Chase Sapphire Preffered offers 2X points on dining and travel, 1:1 transfer of points to travel programs, and a 20% off travel when used for hotels, cruises, and car rentals.
Don’t get a card just to rack up points, but if you use it for things that you can already afford on a monthly basis then over time you can get some sweet rewards.