I take quite a few flights a year (you have to when your partner lives nearly 4,000 miles away), and I know just how much of a financial drain they can be. I’ve spent hours going through websites at points, trying to find a deal that isn’t going to leave me on a very strict budget for weeks after the purchase.
Luckily, I’ve been doing this long enough where I have a good idea of what to do so that I’m not spending too much on flights. I know how to get some reasonable deals, and I’m happy to share those tips; just be warned that there’s no magic solution, and you aren’t going to be getting flights across an ocean for less than $100. But there are ways to make the pricing much more reasonable.
10 Do Not Fly On Peak Dates
Do not fly on peak dates — that’s as simple as it sounds. There are dates when everyone is flying, mostly close to the holidays and during the height of the summer. These are the dates when flight prices will rise to insane heights. And for some destinations, from erratic places, they are more than double. If you’re planning a vacation or a visit, a great idea is to plan it for sometime when schools aren’t out, or when most people aren’t really thinking about going away.
Sure, it might be tempting to visit Barcelona in July, but by going two months earlier or later, you could save a lot of money.
9. But Also, Don’t Fly On Peak DAYS
So many people consider the dates and not the days. Did you know it’s actually better to fly midweek than it is at the week’s end or beginning? I, personally, never buy flights that depart or return between Friday and Monday. I always look for Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday dates.
Even if you’re off by a couple of days, the price can really jump because most people want to fly on weekends (especially domestically), and supply and demand is a real thing with airlines. Try to be okay with flying midweek, and search for those dates accordingly. You will thank me later.
8. Use Hopper To Predict Rises And Falls
A few websites and apps do this, but no one does it better than Hopper. If you type dates and a location into Hopper and tell it where you’re flying from, Hopper will not only tell you some of the best deals around, it will give you a flight prediction. Usually, it will tell you a number of weeks to wait or tell you when it expects a price jump. On occasion, it will tell you that this is the best deal you’re going to get, and to book now.
Don’t take Hopper’s word as law, though. They don’t work with the airlines, but they’re using past instances to make predictions, which are usually pretty accurate.
7. And Then Use A Price Comparison Site
Hopper also has the ability to book flights, which is pretty cool. You can shop right there in the app if you like the deal you’re getting. But it’s actually better to head over to Skyscanner once you can see the cheapest dates, the right time to book, or another price comparison website. While Hopper gives pretty accurate predictions these days, it’s still not that great at finding the actual best deal.
So yes, use Hopper to find when flights will be cheapest and then on those dates, head over to a different price comparison website and book through that. Personally, Skyscanner has never failed me.
6. Pack Light, If You Can
I’m the worst kind of hypocrite for telling you to do this. I know I am. I don’t know the meaning of pack light — I can be going somewhere for a week, knowing what the climate will be, and I’ll still pack for every occasion.
But honestly, it doesn’t really help with the old budget.
A lot of airlines charge for a checked bag. Some even charge for a carry-on (Spirit charges more for a carry-on than a checked… okay). Make sure you check what their allowance is and stay reasonably within it. Oversized and overweight baggage fees are even worse, so make sure you don’t hit those either.
5. Be Flexible, If Possible
Price comparison sites like Skyscanner often let you search by month so you can see when the cheapest dates are. Sometimes even when searching on an actual airline’s website, you’ll get a notification saying the prices are different if you, say, shift your return date back by a day.
If saving money on flights really matters to you, it’s important to be flexible. You are much, much less likely to get a good deal if you have fixed dates in mind that you’re determined to stick to. And while I understand sometimes time off work etc. has to be taken into account, just do your best and you might just save some money.
4. Be Open To Different Stops And Layovers
Likewise, if you’re going to want direct flights, you’re going to be paying more — or if there’s a specific layover you want. When I’m flying from Glasgow to Atlanta, I get a number of different potential stopovers: Dublin, Amsterdam, Paris, Boston, New York, just to name a few. But what saves me a lot of money is if I’m willing to take the five-hour layover rather than the two-hour, or if I’m willing to do stops rather than one. It adds a little bit onto your journey but the prices are less because people book them less.
And honestly, I prefer having a layover to do doing a direct flight. I end up welcoming the chance to stretch my legs.
3. Look For Other Nearby Airports
If flights are devastatingly expensive, it’s worth checking if you can fly into or out of other airports. For instance, I have an airport that’s around a 20-minute drive from me; but I also have one around 40 minutes away, and one around an hour and a half away. There are plenty of options for me if I was willing to take a train to an airport. It’s worth searching all of the airports around you because there might be one that’s significantly cheaper and worth making the journey to.
Likewise, check the airports surrounding your destination. Sometimes, the smaller airports are cheaper to get to.
2. Make Use Of Air Miles, If You Have Them
Making use of air miles can be really helpful. Although you’re always scanning for the best deal, try and be loyal to an airline for a while, if at all possible. Even if you have to pay a little more every now and again to stick with them, it’ll pay off if you’re flying frequently because you’ll eventually get money off. At the very least stick with the same group of airlines. KLM and Delta use the same air mile currency, for example, as does British Airways and Aer Lingus. It’s very much worth doing your research and finding out which airlines are affiliated. There’s a reason frequent fliers rack up so many miles, and it’s not by skipping between airlines!
1. Clear Your Cookies When Searching!
This is a rumor that hasn’t been proven or disproved. People claim that if they’ve been searching for a flight for a while, it will always go up, not down, and that by clearing their cookies, the price will revert to what they saw originally if it has gone up.
Skyscanner claims this is not the case on their site, but they don’t say that’s the same on every site; it’s a rumor that has gained a lot of traction, however. It's worth clearing your cookies just in case before a search because it takes two seconds and ensures you’re getting the best deal!