How To Get Ridiculously Cheap Flights On Your Next Trip!

Everyone likes to get cheap flights, myself included, and over the past few years of travel I’ve learned a trick or two! I’m not a flight hacker and I don’t collect frequent flyer points as often as I should, but despite this, I have managed to score some incredible airfare deals.

There was the time I flew from Toronto to London for $405 return, the time I flew from Bangkok to Frankfurt for around $380, and I most recently scored a return flight from New York City to Johannesburg for a mere $324. I must be doing something right, RIGHT?!

Today, I thought I’d share how I get cheap flights when I travel. None of it is rocket science, and if you apply a few of these tips, you should be able to save yourself some money the next time you book airfare. So here we go!

How to get cheap flights when you travel

Be flexible about your destination

I know this doesn’t work too well if you need to be at a particular destination for your cousin’s wedding or your family reunion, but if all you want to do is travel and you are flexible about the destination, you can score some amazing deals. For example, I had no intention of going to South Africa anytime soon, however, when I saw that deal for $324 it was one of those “if not now, then when?” moments. (I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that it’s only costing me $162 each way!!!)

One cool search engine for browsing is Skyscanner.net because it lets you choose your departure city, but you can leave your destination blank and it will search for the best deals everywhere. You can also do this on Kayak.com/explore and Google Flights. If you don’t really mind whether you end up in Las Vegas or in Rome, then it’s a really fun function to play with.

Tick the ‘flexible dates’ box to get cheap flights

Most flight search engines have a little box where you can tick that your dates are flexible. This means you get to see deals for flights departing 3 days in advance and 3 days after your selected date. It’s a great function to play around with and you can often save yourself a nice chunk of money just by flying a few days earlier/later than you originally intended.

Avoid the holiday season

Flying during the holiday season is expensive; that’s the one time of year when everyone is trying to get home to see family and friends, and because the demand is incredibly high, airlines can hike up prices and travellers will still pay for it.

However, there is a loophole. If you are willing to fly on Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve, prices are usually lower. The thing about flying on those dates is that most people already want to be home celebrating with their loved ones, but if you don’t mind spending part of your holiday on a plane, then you can actually get some really good prices. Bonus: you might even be able to catch some fireworks from the air!

I actually flew back from Cuba a few years ago on Christmas Eve and I saved a nice chunk of money. Also, my husband recently flew home to visit his parents over the holidays (departing on Christmas Day and returning on New Years Eve) and he paid a third of the regular holiday price – all this to say, that it’s been tested and it works!

 

And avoid summer break

If you can avoid flying in July and August, you’ll save yourself quite a bit of money. The thing about travelling during the summer months is that kids are off school and families can finally go on holiday. However, the demand for flights drives up the airfare. To give you an example, I once snagged a deal from Toronto to London for around $400 in the month of June; a month later the airfare was double that price. If you really want to enjoy summer weather on your trip, consider travelling in mid-June or early September. You’ll save money, plus you’ll escape the crowds!

Be willing to book right away

Good deals don’t last long. If you see a price that can’t be beat, don’t waste time debating, and don’t tell yourself you’ll just book it later. Other people will pounce on the deal and it’ll be gone when you finally decide you’re ready to book.

Check flights as soon as they are posted

When is the best time to get cheap flights? There is a lot of speculation regarding this topic, however, the general consensus seems to be Tuesday. Most airlines post new deals late Monday night, which means Tuesday is a good time to browse for deals. A study done by FareCompare found that Tuesday at 3 p.m. Eastern Time is the best time to shop for domestic flights online. While I’ve never timed it to the dot, it’s something to consider.

Choose cheap days to fly

The cheapest days for flying seem to be Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays.

Avoid flying on Fridays and Sundays. Most travellers want to leave on a Friday so they can make the most of the weekend, and Sunday is a popular day to return because people need to be at work by Monday. This demand drives up the cost.

 

Opt for connecting flights as opposed to direct flights

Everyone wants the convenience of flying directly. You hop on the flight, watch a movie, take a nap, and by the time you wake up you’ve arrived at your destination. Because of the convenience, direct flights are usually a bit pricier than those involving connections.

If you’re in no rush to get to your destination and you don’t mind spending a few hours at an airport waiting for a connecting flight, you can usually save some money.

Book tickets separately

I just mentioned that you can save by booking connecting flights rather than direct, but you can sometimes save even more if you book these connecting flights separately. For example, say you’re flying from Calgary to Tokyo. Instead of booking this a whole journey, you could book a flight on a domestic carrier to get you to Vancouver, and then you could book another separate flight from Vancouver to Tokyo. This requires playing with dates and doing a bit of coordinating, but it can save you money. The only downside is that if your first flight is delayed and you miss your connection, it’ll cost you to rebook yourself on the next flight. If you’re going to try this strategy, you want to give yourself plenty of time between flights and I’d even consider spending a night in the ‘halfway’ destination.

Buy early or buy late

It seems like I’m contradicting myself here, but hear me out. If you have a specific destination in mind, it’s worth booking early, sometimes even several months in advance. That’s what I do whenever I want to go visit family in South America and I’ve been able to snag deals from Toronto to Rio de Janeiro for as little as $700 (usual airfare from my departure city can be upwards of $1000). Granted, I do book 3-4 months in advance.

However, if you are more flexible and are willing to go anywhere, you can often find last minute flights and holiday packages for a fraction of the usual price tag.

Just don’t delay booking a flight if you know you have to take it. The closer you get to the trip, the higher the price will be. Studies have shown that airfares prices go up daily for the last 2 weeks leading up to a flight – you are doing yourself no favours if you delay too much.

Monitor your flight for 24 hours after your booking

There are flight search engines that offer free cancellation within 24 hours of booking a flight. This can be a good thing, because if you find a better deal or notice that the price of your flight drops within 24 hours of the booking, then you can cancel the original ticket and purchase a new one for a lower price. (Keep in mind that some airlines will actually reimburse you the difference if the price drops, so in this case there is no need to cancel the original flight.)

Sign up for airline newsletters

I have a few airlines that I regularly fly with, so I’ve signed up to receive monthly alerts about sales and upcoming deals. I know no one likes getting spam in their inbox, but if you travel often and want to keep up to date with promotions, it’s worth signing up for a few newsletters and perusing those every once in a while. You never know what you might find!

 

Keep an eye out for new routes

When an airline starts flying a new route, they usually have really low prices to help promote it. To give you an example, Air Canada recently started operating new routes to Panama City, Rio de Janeiro, and Mont Tremblant. Because not many people may be aware of these destinations, the airfare is lower than usual as an introductory offer. Again, you can keep yourself informed of new routes by choosing to receive newsletters.

Check out blogs that post airline deals

There are a few blogs and websites out there that post the best deals of the week. The people behind these sites basically spend hours scouring the internet for the best deals available, and then they share them with people. (Thank you, thank you,thank you!!!)

A few of my favourites websites to get cheap flights are The Flight Deal and The Points Guy; these are really great ones for hot deals out of the US. And for anyone based in Toronto YYZ Deals is another one worth checking out. I’ve found unbelievable deals through these sites on several occasions.

Follow airlines on social media

Another way to get cheap flights is to follow airlines on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Following them on social media won’t only alert you about the latest promotions, but you’ll also be able to participate in contests for the chance to win free airfare. Not bad for using some hashtags.

Consider flying into secondary airports

You kind of need to weigh the pros and cons with this one. Sometimes it’s cheaper flying into a secondary airport, but these are usually located further outside of the city, which means it’ll take you a bit longer to get into town and you also have to consider the cost of local transportation.

So Gatwick or Heathrow? Girona or Barcelona? Beauvais or Charles de Gaulle? That is the question. During my first mini-backpacking trip around Europe, I flew in and out of all the secondary airports and I saved a nice chunk of change, so if you’re young and strapped for cash it’s a good alternative.

 

Pay someone else to find you a good deal

If you can’t be bothered to spend hours surfing the web for the best deals but you still want to get cheap flights, you can actually pay someone to do it for you. Now, I haven’t tried this service myself, but I know people who have, so I thought I’d mention it.

FlightFox is a site where you connect with a flight expert – you provide them with your destination, dates, flexibility, and any other details – and then they go searching for the best deal out there. Rates for this service start at $49, and considering they have saved customers hundreds of dollars off the cost of their flight, it might be worth checking out.

Use an incognito window when browsing for flights

Another way to get cheap flights is by going incognito. Have you ever been looking at a flight that you’re not quite ready to commit to, and every time you go back to check the price it’s a little higher and higher?

That’s because some airlines and flight search engines (I’m not accusing all of them, just some) use cookies to track you, and when they realize you are interested in that particular flight they hike up the price for a higher profit. One way to get around this is by using an incognito browser when searching for flights.

I’ve also heard of people using a VPN to disguise their actual location, and they claim this has resulted in lower fares.

Start collecting frequent flyer miles

I’m preaching to the choir here because this is something I need to start doing myself! In the past I’ve been so focused on finding the cheapest deal and saving money, that I haven’t really paused to think about the long-term benefits that come with being loyal to a specific airline and its partners. Just think of all the miles I could be collecting?

There are 3 airlines alliances travellers can join: Star Alliance, One World, and Sky Team. But before you run off to sign up with one of these alliances, you really need to do your research. You need to consider the airlines you most frequently fly with, but you also need to ask  yourself: Do I mostly fly domestically or internationally? Do I spend more time in Europe or in Asia? Each alliance has its own pros and cons, so you want to make sure you join the one that’s the best fit for your travel style

And those are a few of my tips and tricks. I hope they will help you get cheap flights next time you are surfing the internet for airfare. Also, if you have any other tips and tricks you’d like to share with readers and fellow travellers, feel free to do so in the comments below. I know we all appreciate snagging great deals when it comes to airfare!

How to get cheap flights when you travel

What are your tips and tricks to get cheap flights?

You might also enjoy: How to start a travel blog: A step-by-step guide!

52 Comments

  • Emily says:

    I subscribe to YYZ Deals and while I haven’t booked any of the flights they find, it is crazy the deals they drum up! I need to be more flexible because they are pretty awesome!

    • Audrey says:

      I’ve been following that site for years. It’s my go-to for last minute deals whenever I’m based in Toronto.

    • Ashley Sewell says:

      One sneaky way airlines attempt to make the most profit is by charging different fares for people in different countries. For example, booking domestic flights from outside the country will often be more expensive than booking inside the country. Prices may change based on where the transaction is completed, or the “point-of-sale”.

      However you can beat them at their game using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to hide your location or pretend to be somewhere else. I use HideMyAss VPN.

  • Ashley says:

    Great tips! I can’t believe you only paid $324 for a flight from New York to Johannesburg- that seems like such a steal! I really need to start being more flexible with my destinations. South Africa is amazing- I’m sure you will love it!

    • Audrey says:

      I couldn’t believe the deal myself!!! It turns out Etihad published the incorrect fare by accident, but they are going to honour all the bookings that were made. Whew!

  • Great tips Audrey – especially about being able to book right away. I scored SUPER cheap tickets to Tokyo and South Africa by catching the deals right as I saw them! 😀

  • I keep hearing that some websites are tracking your searching with cookies and raising prices. Thanks for reminding me that I need to try the incognito window to see if that helps!

  • Camellia says:

    I live in Malaysia, so I always fly using Air Asia (yes, the recent flight that crash into sea, my deep condolences) . But I will still be flying with them because I’ve been flying with them for years ! The flight ticket of air Asia is so cheap that you won’t believe it! I fly from Kuala Lumpur to Phuket, Thailand for less than $150 (sometimes you can get more cheaper price than this ! ). If you’re backpacking around Asia, Air Asia is the best choice for you 🙂 the key is to book very early, maybe 6 months before or sometimes they have free tickets ( you just need to pay for airport taxes) , make sure you subscribe their newsletter so you won’t miss the deal 🙂

    • Audrey says:

      That was one of the airlines I used the most when I was travelling around Southeast Asia. It was really sad to read about the crash, especially considering that had a great safety record.

  • Justine says:

    Great tips! I agree that booking flights on holidays is a great way to save money. I’ve done it a few times and found that airfare is significantly cheaper!!

    • Audrey says:

      Yup, if you must travel during the holiday season, flying on the actual holiday is the most affordable option. ; )

  • Will definitely have to keep the incognito window in mind – thanks for the tips!

  • Renuka says:

    I have also managed to get good deals on flights on my domestic flying. I just try to book 20 days in advance to get cheap deals. Your tips are valuable. In fact, I got to learn a lot of new things – booking on Tuesday and always going for connecting flights. Being flexible about destination is also a good idea as long as you just care about traveling.

    • Audrey says:

      I’m glad you found some of the tips useful, Renuka. There are so many factors that go into finding a cheap flight, but flexibility on the destination is probably the biggest one!

  • Thanks Audrey! I do many of these already, but there’s a few tips I’ll have to add to my flight searching routine. I still have yet to get a super amazing flight deal! 🙁 Waaaa
    I’m also horrible at collecting flight miles…Just started doing it but I have a feeling the credit cards are going to cause me some trouble…. :-p

    • Audrey says:

      Happy to hear some of these were helpful, Nina! And yeah, the world of travel reward credit cards is a murky one. I had a bad experience with a card that used very clever language and claimed to be giving me miles, but really these miles were really points that didn’t add up to the distance of a mile flown…

  • Amélie @ mostlyamelie.com says:

    Whoa, those are some amazing deals you got! I will definitely be applying some of your tips to my future travels!

  • Betty J. Ogburn says:

    …Thanks for the knowlege!!…I’ve tried the incognito window thing, and ’tis most definitely legit!!…

    Btw, here’s another flight search engine that I like to use (F.Y.I(: http://www.momondo.com

  • Natalie says:

    As someone who just travels within Turkey, I never have to be that diligent when it comes to flight prices. I thank the higher powers for that because it does seem like a ballache.

  • Excellent suggestions. While I would sign up for airline newsletters, the one thing I will NOT be doing again is participating in one of Air Canada’s infamous contests. The discounts are not worth the constant spam mail! I’ve also found that booking via a travel agent can work. I used to say “no need, I have the internet!” but they can find decent deals and are paid via commission from the airline and not out of my pocket.

  • Claire says:

    These are all great tips. I try to be flexible with my dates when I travel. It’s amazing how much you can save if you can leave a day or 2 earlier or later than intended.

  • GiselleandCody says:

    So many great tips!!!

    It’s always nice to find cheap flights especially when you fly so often!!

  • fred says:

    Use Quicket.to for your flights it is the best mobile travel app let’s you buy tickets ib under 1 minute up to three hours before departure even has social checkin and the best seat configuration plus tracking of your flights. You will use it if even to scan in your boarding pass to use the benefits.

  • Deb says:

    Great tips guys, thanks for sharing. We are the worst at getting cheap deals. We’re just not organized enough. I’m going to have to follow some of your tips next time!

  • Sending this to my friend who’s looking to book a flight to Madrid in early May. Thanks so much for sharing!

    Happy travels 🙂

  • Julia says:

    Do not book too early either! Statistically flights are cheapest when you book 6 to 8 weeks before departure – someone actually did some research on it, I read an article about it at some point… So there might be some really good deals at other times, but if you have to travel on fixed dates the average flight will probably be cheapest then. In my experience that is true (although I would say 8 to 4 weeks). I have been on flights (regular ticket, no special offer) with people who booked months before me and who paid a lot more. When you check a flight in say 4 months and it is more expensive then the same flight in 1 or 2 month it pays to wait.

  • Kayt Adamson says:

    I’ve been looking for a really detailed breakdown for getting cheap airfare. I love to travel but have never taken the leap to search for flights without a destination in mind. It makes me want to be more adventurous! Thanks for the tips 🙂

  • Nita says:

    Great tips! I love skyscanner too – flight comparison heaven. And agree, being flexible with dates really helps. Even a difference of a day could save you a lot of money. You should get on board with a frequent flyer program. I’ve been a member of star alliance for years and redeeming your miles is the nicest feeling! 😀 Thanks for sharing all these tips, Audrey!

  • Dale says:

    Whilst I’m always trying to avoid flights as best as I can (can’t stand them, hate them, hate them, hate them), when a time does come to fly we’re always on SkyScanner first. We tried HipMunk a few times, but it rarely returns the same well priced results that SkyScanner seems to turn up.

    We’d love to find a website like YYZ Deals for Europe. That would be a huge step forward in our budget travel methods.

  • Valerie says:

    Great tips!

  • Frank says:

    Nice tips and you’re obviously good at it. I’ve noticed a few times going back and looking at the same flight and seeing prices going up. Dirty buggers…
    One tip I’d like to add; Look at charter airline prices. When I was researching our flights last year Montreal – Prague I was seeing prices in the $1100 territory one-way. I went on the Air Transat website and ended up paying slightly under $700 one-way. They only fly to Prague on Tuesdays (from Toronto then Montreal) but it is also the only direct flight to Prague from anywhere in Canada.
    So always a good idea to check out the charter airline sites. They don’t always show up on the search engines.
    Frank (bbqoy)

  • Alouise says:

    Wow $324 round trip to South Africa is a fantastic deal. I can definitely understand why you booked that flight. These are great tips, and as it turns out I just booked a flight to Madrid and Helsinki from Edmonton via YegDeals.com, which is like the YYZDeals.com but for Edmonton. I was flexible with where I was going, and I had a price point I didn’t want to go over, so when I found a flight priced less than what I wanted to pay I booked it. Maybe the price will go down a bit, but I know even if it does the deal I got was pretty good (at least for a flight from Edmonton to Europe).

  • Lisa says:

    Great tips! always good to know some flight “hacks” 🙂

  • Josephine says:

    Great tips. I feel it does pay of to book a lot in advance ( and by a lot I mean 4-5 months). What about booking a return ticket instead of a one way ticket? I’ve never done it but been looking for cheap flights recently and sometimes the returns are a lot cheaper than one way tickets.

  • I would add to this list «Having a look to search engine that compares different flights such as Skyscanner instead of buying a ticket directly from an official airline website» 🙂

  • I always use search engines but at times I find it very hard to find a good deal. I will try YYZ deals and visit the flight fox site.
    At this moment I am trying to find a good deal for a Paris- Bangkok around May 7th.

  • iFly says:

    Hi! Audrey, I love your write-up. I read some tips that I never found at other blog sites. So nice of you making my searching for travel ideas about booking much easier.

  • Natalie Darcy says:

    I absolutely love to travel; but thus far I haven’t been able to do much of it! My financial situation is such that it’s difficult to find large sums of extra money. I really appreciate this article, especially your tip about being flexible about the destination. I never thought of it that way, and I think that would help me quite a bit!

  • Rashaad says:

    Very informative blog entry

    Recently, I spent a little less than a week in the U.K. as I flew back for my graduation ceremony. My university’s ceremony is always held in July so if I wanted to attend, I would have fly during the busy season (I flew from the East Coast of the United States).

    I found that flying on a Monday night (arriving the next day in the U.K.) and leaving on a Sunday produced a good deal for me. As good of a deal as I could have gotten – I paid a little more than $1,000 round trip but it was worth it to attend my graduation. Actually, the flight I paid for was a great deal considering what I was else I saw for a PHL-LHR flight.

  • Hi Audrey
    Very good advice about getting cheap flights, a few tips that I will be noting, especially checking flights on a Tuesday. I always clear my cookies after going on a broker or airlines website, private mode sounds a good idea too. I have noticed that if I do not clear the cookies then the price goes up quickly, sneaky airlines looking at my browsing history!

  • I remember how I flew from Prague to Frankfurt Hahn and then to Pisa on next day in total of 8,-EUR.:) It was amazing experience! Unfortunately these prices are already a history here in Europe, but you can still find some great deals through Ryanair, or Wizzair.

  • ARN says:

    Nice Article! This will definitely help a lot of travelers like me.Thank you!

  • Jason Strong says:

    I’m trying to find some cheap tickets that can take me to Alabama to see some old friends. I haven’t been lucky so far and I need to get them here soon. This article helped me out a ton and I hope that these tips can help me out.

  • Travelsito says:

    Awesome tips!

  • agus says:

    Great tips! I agree that booking flights on holidays is a great way to save money. I’ve done it a few times and found that airfare is significantly cheaper!!

  • Brad says:

    I remember how I flew from Sofia to Frankfurt Hahn and then to Pisa on next day in total of 20,-EUR.:)

  • Maggie says:

    Wow, I had no idea that you could actually pay someone to help you find a good deal! That’s pretty nice, especially since it doesn’t seem too expensive. However, I would want to be guaranteed to find a deal that would save me more than $50. If the service offers that, then I would definitely look into it!

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