Mythbusting Cheap Flights
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The period of economical cheap affordable airfare is an extinct animal, well maybe not during a coronavirus pandemic — where you can find cheap flights for pennies on the dollar that used to cost hundreds if not thousands.
But, since airfare is the most significant portion of your travel budget, finding that elusive cheap travel deal is just as crucial as finding the right place to stay, choosing the right gear, and/or planning your big trip!
What Are Cheap Flights
Finding cheap flights is the art navigating low airfare, last minute flight deals and airline reward programs. Ensuring that you find the lowest airfare possible through flexible travel plans, budget airlines and diligent research.
Let’s face it, companies are in business to make a profit, and the airline business is no different. They have shareholders to answer too, and no incentive to offer cheap flights to the public. With slashed airline routes, overbooked flights, business travel on the rise why would they?
Whatever the case, the dealer isn’t pulling from the bottom of the deck. Just like at a casino, the house may have the odds in their favor, but if you adhere to these simple travel guidelines I’m about show you. You’re going to score dirt cheap flights more often than not.
Because everyday airlines “mistakenly,” or so they say, publish the wrong fare price. Offer up last-minute airfare deals just to book an otherwise unbookable flight. Along with layover jumpers who don’t fulfill their itinerary and leave an open seat for another traveler down the line.
Fun Travel Reads
Uncovering super cheap flights isn’t as easy as it was back in the day. I promise they are still out there though. You just have to know how to look for them. We have more knowledge, resources and tools than we did 20 years ago.
So let me show you the steps I use to find cheap airfare in the digital world.
13 Essential Travel Guidelines to Finding Super Cheap Flights and Smoking Affordable Airfare Deals
Be Flexible with Your Travel Dates
The biggest mistake rookie travelers make towards their travel budget is trying to book exact dates, flights, and destinations. They soon realize that the more flexible you are in these three categories, the farther your money will go.
Why does it matter? Flying during the middle of the week is cheaper than flying over the weekend! Because most people can’t afford to take off work for travel. So they reserve their travel plans for weekend getaways.
Not only do you have to consider the day of the week, time of year, or upcoming holidays. You also have to consider other country’s travel habits and holidays. For example, August is a massive travel month overseas as thats when most Europeans take their vacation. It’s also a high demand flight month here in the states because of all the college kids relocating for school.
The best way to find cheap flights is to use a booking portal that offers a monthly calendar view like the one found on Momondo. This allows you to check flight prices for multiple dates and ensures you book the cheapest flights available.
You can also find cheaper flights if you fly immediately after a major holiday when most people are still enjoying their vacation or time with family in some far off destination. Choosing to fly early in the morning or late at night can also net you discounted flights.
The bottom line is you will never find discounted airfare rates if you are not flexible with your travel dates. I’ve grown fondly over my travel days. Because I travel with such flexibility that when the airlines announce a bonus deal for any traveler willing to give up their seat for whatever reason, I immediately volunteer.
My travel days now feel a lot like a riddle. Leaving me with no idea when I’ll get to where ever it is I’m traveling too, or even how I will get there. Because of my overt flexibility last year, it took me over a week to fly from Minnesota to Australia for a measly $13.
Would you trade 6 days of hotel rooms and airport food to save over $2,000 on airline tickets?
Be Flexible With Your Destinations
Just like your travel dates, you also need to be flexible with your destinations. You don’t need to be a logistical genius to realize it’s cheaper to fly to a major city than some small-town satellite hub.
Kayak offers an “explore” tool allowing you to see the best airfares from your home town to various destinations in a monthly calendar. Google flight also provides a fare exploration tool that enables you to search for airfares using nothing more than a departure city! Making it super easy to find outgoing flight deals.
Kiwi & Tequila, no, I’m not about to tell you about a night out in New Zealand. Make it even easier to find cheap flights using your IP address to show you all the available travel deals from your area. Follow this link to check that out.
My family would argue with me that deals are rare events, but there’s always a deal. I’m not just talking flights either. Whatever you’re trying to purchase, as long as you’re flexible and use the right tools, you can always find the deal.
Cherry Pick Cheap Flight Destinations
If you haven’t noticed, flexibility is the key to scoring cheap flights, and my ultimate low fare finding tip is something I like to call “cherry-picking.”
This entails booking a flight or a combination of flights where my destination city is a layover of seperate flight. Trust me when I say you can find some scorching cheap flights when booking your travel this way.
Direct flights are always the most expensive, and direct flights with no layovers are usually even more expensive.
I like to search for flights from other major cities to my destination until I find the cheapest airfare available. Once I’ve zeroed in on the airport that offers the cheapest flights to my destination, I then begin searching for flights with layovers to that city.
Scoring Cheap Flights Like A Pro
For example, let’s say I wanted to fly to Dallas, Texas, from Minneapolis, MN. The cheapest flight I can find to Dallas is out of Chicago & Atlanta. So I’ll start looking for cheap flights from Minnesota to any destination with layovers in Atlanta or Chicago.
In this example, I would probably book a cheap flight from Minneapolis to Detroit with a layover in Chicago and hop off the plane in Chicago to grab a flight to Dallas. Using this travel guideline helps me find affordable airfare for cheaper than booking itinerary from Minneapolis to Dallas. Did you know Las Vegas offers cheap one-way flights to Hawaii, and who can’t find cheap airfare to Las Vegas?
Cherry-picking takes a little getting used to, but the more flexible you are, the easier it is to find dirt cheap airline deals! Plus when you hop off at your layover you open up a seat for someone else who may be on stand by. So its a triple win for you, the next traveler and the airline.
Check Alternative Routes For Cheap Flights
One angle that really pays off when trying to cherry-pick a flight plan are budget airlines. It helps to be flexible with your travel plans, but extending that flexibility into a route that includes a budget airline can save you tons of money.
Sometimes it’s even cheaper to fly to your destination by way of a budget airline. You may need to take a major airline to one city and then hop on a budget flight from that city to your destination. Add in the layover trick to either flight plan, and you could turn a $1,000 airfare into a $300 itinerary.
I know it’s a foreign concept here in America, but even we have budget airlines. A couple of years ago, I found a smoking deal on an RV just outside of Denver, and through Spirit Airlines $9 fare finder club, I was able to fly out for only $36. This winter, I had to spend an extra day in the airport and book an extra night at the hostel in Florida to fly down to the USVI for a mere $78 from Seattle. Instead of spending $700, I spent less than $100. Last week I just booked a round trip ticket on Frontier Airlines for a whopping $54!
If you use the tools, guidelines, tricks, and resources I’ve laid out so far, anyone can find some incredible low airfare deals! The key is tremendous flexibility. It may mean more flying time, more airport time, or even more hostel/hotel time, but all of that means more savings on your next flight too.
Fly With Budget Carriers
In America, there are only a few budget airlines like Spirit, JetBlue, and Frontier Air. Who force you to fly with no baggage, no assigned seating, and no amenities so they can call themselves “budget airlines.”
In Southeast Asia, you can fly to Australia for under $120, or as little as $30 to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. Europe is overrun with budget airlines that keep airline fares way down. America has yet to produce a dedicated competitive budget airline that resembles anything like its international counterparts.
But hey, at least we’re trying.
Finding Cheap Flights Using International Budget Airlines
Foreign budget airlines, though, are now taking on more and more long-haul routes. Making it more feasible to travel around the globe with a smaller travel budget.
WOW Air offers affordable flights from London to America or America to Iceland and vice versa. You can fly from Europe to Bangkok for as little as $150 on multiple airlines such as Norwegian, Air Asia, and Air Ryan. African airliners are courting travelers with low airfares around the Middle East and throughout the continent!
Someday America will see budget airlines like the rest of world enjoys, but don’t count on it anytime soon.
Not All Booking Portals Are Owned By The Same Corporation
The greatest lie ever told is that travel is expensive, and one of the reasons is shady business practice. Most Americans book their travel plans using 1 of 4 major booking portals (Expedia, Orbitz, Priceline, and Kayak).
I hope you’re sitting down because all 4 of these booking portals are owned by the same company! Not only are they owned by the same company, they work closely with the airlines to ensure ticket price points fall in the same neighborhood as one another. Ready for the real kicker? None of these 4 booking portals will show you budget airline options because they don’t get a commission.
Booking an airline ticket is already like playing the stock market. Most people find an acceptable price. Than go check a few other sites. Come back, and that price is no longer available. Ever wonder why? Bet you don’t any more!
As big of a deterrent as that is, you need to check multiple sites to ensure you’re finding the cheapest airfare available. Correct?
There is no perfect airline booking search engine. All of them have their pros & cons. Most American booking sites won’t display any budget airlines, and international airline booking sites can’t cover every region of the world for every airline. They all have their faults, and some are bigger than others.
For finding the cheapest flights available, I recommend using a combination of Skyscanner, Expedia, and my favorite Momondo. As an honorable mention naming your own price on Priceline isn’t what it once was, but if you don’t mind hanging out in stand-by all day, you can grab some incredible airline deals.
Take Advantage of Group and Student Discounts
American’s have two age groups that have all kinds of discounts available to them. Anyone under 26 and anyone over 65 has tons of travel discounts they can explore. Through agencies like AARP, STA Travel, Student Universe, Travel Cuts, Flight Centre, all offer these age groups select discounts. Most airlines even offer a direct senior citizen discount airfare. All you have to do is ask.
Sign Up For A Frequent Flier Program
Discounted airfare is excellent, but nothing beats free airfare. And the only way to get free flights is to sign up for an airline rewards program. Whether you are based in the US or a foreign country, it’s in your best interest to sign up for any free airline reward programs if you travel.
If you only fly once a year or once a week, an airline rewards program offers free upgrades, free lounge pass, free buddy passes, and free flights—all for doing what you’re already doing.
You even accrue rewards for flying on partner airlines. For example, Singapore Airlines is a United Airlines partner. Air France is in cahoots with Delta. No matter who you fly with or where you’re flying out of, every airline has a rewards program you should sign up for.
Not only can you earn miles from flying, but you can earn miles through special sign up bonuses, shopping, dining, and select entertainment venues.
I get emails all the time from Capital One telling me about extra miles I can earn this month for dining out or shopping at select business. Telling me if I spend $500 on fuel, I will receive 2,000 Delta airline miles or whoever they are promoting that month. Last month if I spent $100 at the Hyatt, I could have transfered all of my airline miles for hotel points.
There is no limit to the creativity companies utilize to offer you airline miles through their reward programs. You don’t have to do anything special to benefit from their own micro-economic stimulus packages. All you have to do is put your daily purchases on whatever card offers the best rewards that month.
Join Airline Membership Programs
Not keen on getting a credit card? Thats ok you can still reap the rewards of airline membership programs.
Spirit Airlines offers a $9 fare finder club. You pay $36/year and get exclusive everyday airfare deals to destinations around the country for as low as $9 for a one-way fare!!
No blackout dates, or fine print. No special circumstances, or hoops to jump through.
You don’t need to be left-handed with purple hair and a blue tongue.
You just logon and see what the fares are. That is how I was able to fly to Denver for $36. Frontier offers a similar program, and thats how I could book my brother a round trip flight for only $54.
America may not have the most conventional budget airlines, but you can still find cheap flights every day if you know what you’re doing.
Pull The Trigger Immediately On A Cheap Flight
I am a firm believer in airlines should adopt the “Taxi” pricing model. Where all fares are based on mileage and not some digital algorithm, but I am also clearly in the minority here.
When it comes to searching for a flight deal, have a price point in mind. We all know airfare prices fluctuate like stocks. Stop trying to save an extra $100 by costing yourself $500. Just book the flight when it’s in the same ballpark as the price point your comfortable with.
I used to spend hours and days searching airline booking portals for the absolute cheapest flight. Sometimes I would find it a couple of dollars cheaper a couple of days later.
Talk about not valuing your time. Other times I would end up costing myself a few hundred dollars here and there. When you see a ticket within striking range of your price point, just pull the trigger.
Don’t set yourself up for buyer’s remorse. Every one pays a different price for the same flight. It’s a lot like a gym membership without any of the negotiation. Once you find airfare thats considered a cheap flight, book it! Don’t chase dollars and time to save pennies!
Myth of Early Booking
Remember when I told you the greatest lie ever told was that travel is expensive? Well, the second biggest lie is that there is some secret way to book a cheap flight. Once upon a time, that may have been the case, but there is no such thing as a universal trick to finding cheap airline tickets in today’s digital world.
There is no such thing as “Book your ticket 7 days in advance to get the cheapest airfare.” Anyone that tells you that either doesn’t know or is blatantly lying to you.
There is no such thing as fly in/out on Tuesday’s for the cheapest flights. Again, once upon a time.
Today’s airfares are all based on algorithms that track your IP address, search demands, location, travel history, payment history, and much much more. There is no tricking a computer program or companies that are in cahoots with one another. If two airlines get together and say, we are not selling this flight for less than $180, good luck finding a $175 ticket!
The old school myths of finding cheap airline tickets are DEAD!!! Move on!
Instead of looking for a magic recipe to finding the cheapest airfare, just be practical, flexible, and proactive. Use the tools I’ve mentioned above. Practice the travel guidelines I’ve laid out for you, and implement the tips I’ve provided.
It may not be a sure fire recipe, but I can guarantee you’ll find cheaper flights than the next person. Use the resources that I use, like Momondo, Kiwi & Skyscanner, to avoid being the person on your flight who spent the most on their airline ticket.
Skyscanner is my favorite international airline booking portal.
Kiwi is my favorite “wanna get away” last minute deals booking portal.
Momondo is my favorite all-around domestic and international airline booking portal. That is my first stop no matter what my travel plans are, and it should be yours too!
Here Are My Favorite Booking Resources: Affordable & Efficient Travel Booking Tools I Use Everyday Along With My Favorite Gear Resources
Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. These are my two favorite “flight” search engines because they search through websites and airlines around the globe and offer a calendar view to find even cheaper flights for flexible travelers. Check out these UNIQUE destination deals or my favorite All Inclusive Booking Travel Tool!
Rent An RV
Find cheap RV rentals for your next adventure by using Outdoorsy or RVshare. These are my two favorite “RV” search engines because they allow you to rent from private RV owners, and offer a wide variety of chooses at affordable rates. Want to start making money by renting out your RV? List it with Outdoorsy or RVshare.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay elsewhere, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. Get a $40 credit for booking with AirBnb. Need to book a private campsite use my favorite RV booking site Hipcamp!
I use REI for all my gear needs because if it ever fails or gets damaged they will replace it for free!!! No questions!!! No hassles.
Join the Escapees travel club to meet fellow travelers and talk about all things related to RVing and overland travel.
Travel Packages & Tours
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong and will cover things like transport security, crisis response and medical transports such as Life Flight. Why go on any trip without a safety net that costs less than a case of beer? I’ve been using SafetyWings for years without any issues.
My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- SafetyWings (ONLY $35 & Covers USA Travelers)
- World Nomads (for everyone below 70)
- Insure My Trip (for those over 70)
- Medjet (for additional travel insurance coverage like medical transport, travel security & crisis response)
Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and I think will help you too!
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