Shopping for airfare can be frustrating.
Either the flights are too expensive, the dates are inconvenient, or you end up with several layovers. Finding a flight is often the worst part of planning a vacation or visiting relatives.
Knowing the right way to search for cheap tickets will shortcut the process and save you money on your next trip. If you’re tight on cash, there are a few tips and tricks that can help you find cheap flight deals.
Tips to Save on Flights While Price Shopping
If you only look at one or two search engines when buying flights, you’re missing out on the best deals. Price shopping is one of the top ways to find more affordable airfare to your next destination. However, if you need to travel on a budget, there’s a right way to price shop — and a wrong way.
1. Search incognito
Have you noticed how the flights you’ve had your eye on seem to keep increasing in price every day or two? You can thank dynamic flight pricing for that. While part of the reason may be because of natural supply and demand, it can also be because the cookies in your browser follow your every move.
Search engines track you when you search for flights and increase the price accordingly. It’s a way to create a sense of urgency and push you into buying the tickets faster.
One way to get around this is to search for flights using your browser’s Incognito or Private mode. If you’re using Google Chrome or Safari, select Control (or Command on Macs) + Shift + N on your keyboard to open a new Incognito window. For Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox, select Control (or Command) + Shift + P.
When using an incognito or private window, your browser’s tracking cookies are cleared at the end of each session. Once you close the browser, websites can no longer track your search history. This means you can search for cheap flights multiple times and not have the price changed based on your online activity.
2. Try to be flexible
If you only fly over the weekend, you’re missing out on a great way to save on flights. Because demand is higher on weekends, airlines raise prices. Weekdays see fewer travelers, so prices drop to lure more customers.
Next time you’re searching for cheap flight deals, try to be flexible with your flight dates. If you can, be willing to fly on a Tuesday instead of a Sunday.
Check flight prices on several days or do a whole month search to spot the best deals. Being flexible with your travel plans can net you hundreds of dollars in savings.
If you want to save on flights, be flexible with your airports or destinations as well. Big cities often have several airports, so check all of them and compare prices. For example, if you’re flying to New York City, check LaGuardia, Newark, NJ, and JFK airports for the best deal.
Certain destinations, such as Europe, are more popular during the summer. Consider flying during off-peak times like spring or fall. You’ll also save on hotels and Airbnb stays when traveling during less popular times.
3. Compare prices on as many travel sites as possible
There are many search engines such as Expedia and Kayak that pull from different sources and may have their own agreements with airlines.
Not all airlines show up in every search engine, so you may lose out on great savings by sticking only to your favorite one or two options. Check out multiple travel sites (in private or incognito mode) and keep track of the price difference for your flights.
4. Use credit card travel points
If you use credit card reward points or miles, you may be able to get your flights for free. You often receive a sign-up bonus for opening a new rewards credit card and fulfilling certain spending requirements.
Once you meet the requirements within the given time frame, the points or miles you earn can be used to book free airline travel. You’re still responsible for the airport fees on flights booked with points or miles, but these will be minimal.
You can continue using the reward credit card to rack up additional points. But you’ll earn the most points when you open a new reward credit card and qualify for the sign-up bonus.
This is only a good deal if you pay off your credit card balance in full and on time every month. If this is something you struggle with, steer clear of reward cards.
5. Travel light
Since many airlines charge for checked baggage, traveling light will help you save money on flights. This means using a carry-on and personal bag only. Before booking a ticket, check the airline’s policies regarding checked luggage and carry-ons.
If you do opt for a checked bag, don’t exceed the weight requirements or you’ll owe extra fees, which can add up, especially if there are multiple travelers in your party. If going the carry-on-only route, make sure your bag complies with the airline’s requirements.
The airline staff spot-checks the size of carry-on luggage, and you may end up with a checked bag if yours exceeds the limit.
6. Use cashback apps to double up on savings
Many travel search engines have agreements with sites like Rakuten to give cash back when you book a flight. It’s a quick and easy way to get a rebate on your flight without additional hassle.
Once you find a good deal on a flight, go through Rakuten’s shopping portal (or use the browser extension, if you have it downloaded) to purchase the actual ticket. How much you get in cash back will depend on the current specials that the site is running.
7. Book directly
Sometimes booking with an airline directly may get you a better price than going the travel search engine route. Check the websites for the specific airlines you’d like to fly or the ones that appear most frequently in your search results. Start with the airlines that have hubs in your city or nearby cities. For instance, if you live in Delaware and you use the Philadelphia airport, check the fares on American Airlines first.
Enter the dates for your trip and see if you can get a better deal booking with the airline. Some airlines don’t appear in search engine results, so search the websites for those airlines as well.
For example, Southwest Airlines has great deals on airfare, but they won’t come up when using a search engine. You will need to search and book your flights with Southwest directly to take advantage of their deals.
It’s Easier to Find Cheap Flights Than You Think
Whether you’re traveling for the holidays or planning an anniversary vacation, finding deals to save on flights is easier than you think. But keep in mind that finding a great price on airfare will take patience and research.
Be willing to experiment with different ways to find cheap tickets. Check multiple travel search engines and keep a spreadsheet of the deals you find or set up alerts to notify you of deals or decreases in fares. This way, you’ll know when you find a spectacular ticket price that fits your criteria.