One of the largest expenses that prospective travelers face when planning a trip is the flights. Getting there should be half the fun- but paying for it certainly isn’t! As a young traveler on a budget, I am all about thrifty ways to book flights. Through the years, I’ve come up with some pretty creative ways to score that deal of a century, and I’m going to share my secrets for finding discount flights with you today.
1. Join Discount Flight Facebook Groups
Have you ever heard of an error fare? This is when airlines accidentally list a flight for an inaccurate price (like when Air Canada listed a Transatlantic business class flight for only $147 round trip). Usually, airlines honor the prices, but you have to be fast in booking these flights!
So you’re a busy young professional- who has time to stalk airline websites hoping you come across an error fare? Don’t fret- there’s already other people out there doing this, and they are posting about it all over the internet.
Personally, I follow the Facebook group, Secret Flying, and turned on post notifications so I always get immediate updates. This way, I’ll be the first to know about an error fare and have the opportunity to take advantage of it before it expires.
2. Search For Flights In Incognito Mode
Reason #900 why you shouldn’t feel guilty for taking advantage of those error fares I was talking about before: airlines track your searches so that they can jack up the price of flights you’re searching. That’s right, big brother is always watching. So, while this isn’t exactly a tip to get discount flights, it’s a tip to prevent the prices from climbing.
3. Set Up Fare Alerts
While it remains a mystery the perfect time to purchase a flight, there are experts out there who can help you with that. My favorite way to track the perfect time to purchase a flight is with the app, Hopper.
This app is super easy to use and lets you input your departing and arriving airports with the dates that you hope to fly. Then, the application tracks the prices of your itineraries. Every so often, you’ll get a notification of whether they recommend to keep waiting or purchase now. I’m currently tracking dozens of flights that I’m interested in, just in case a discount flight appears.
4. Be Flexible About The Day You Fly
Flexibility is key when you’re trying to discount flights. Flights tend to be cheapest when you fly on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. This is because business travelers tend to fly on Monday and Thursday, and weekend travelers fly on Friday through Sunday.
While you can’t always control they day that you need to fly, if you can change your plans to depart on a Tuesday or Wednesday, you’ll likely get a discount flight. Furthermore, if you fly at an unconventional time, you’ll probably get a discount flight as well. While a red eye doesn’t sound super appealing, they tend to be emptier, which means you’re more likely to get a whole row to yourself or get upgraded.
5. Call The Airline
While this doesn’t work all the time, I have used it to score awesome discount flights. Typically, I recommend this method if you’re booking a rewards flight or if you have a connecting flight (it doesn’t work for direct flights because obviously you can see all the direct flights available).
In case you didn’t know, airlines have hundreds and hundreds of potential routes that you can’t always see when you search for your flight. The hard workers for the airline can see all the potential connections and alternate routes.
Example: when I booked my flight to Thailand for this March, I wanted to be routed through Hong Kong for a stopover without using any additional miles. While this would have cost me an extra 20,000 miles had I booked it myself, the representative for the airline was able to accommodate my request for no additional miles. Please note that some airlines have a booking fee if you use this resource.
6. Search Through Google Flights
Google flights is a great resource for finding discount flights because they search across all airlines, and even recommend if you should switch your dates for a cheaper flight. You simply type in your itinerary and dates, and it shows you all the options for all airlines, including the lesser known international airlines that Americans aren’t as familiar with. I never book a trip without checking out google flights.
7. Fly Into Nearby Airports
Flying into New York? There’s 3 airports for you to choose from! Looking at San Francisco? Consider flying into San Jose. When you broaden your options to include nearby airports, you may score a cheaper flight. Sometimes, it’s cheaper to fly into one airport and out of a different one. My personal favorite thing to do is book flights into and out of completely different airports and road trip from point A to point B. There’s no need to limit your itinerary to one airport, and this tactic allows you to cover a broader area.
8. Browse for International Flights Out of Larger Airports
When I’m considering leaving the country, I rarely start my search with flights directly out of Nashville. This is because Nashville is not a major international hub, and airlines will often increase the price when you have to make a connection.
Instead, I check out prices for flights out of New York and Chicago (for European flights), Los Angeles and San Francisco (For Asian and Australian flights), or Houston, Dallas, and Miami (For South American flights).
Then, I search for the prices of flights from Nashville to the connecting airport. Most of the time, you can save a couple hundred dollars simply by doing this.
For example, on this search from New York to Paris, the cheapest flight is $361 and is nonstop.
When you search for the same dates from Nashville, the cheapest flight is $865 with two stops, or $1377 if you want only one stop.
To get from Nashville to New York’s JFK airport on the same dates (and correct times to make your international flight), it’s $263 round trip.
Total extra time spent: 3 minutes
Total money saved: $241
Do you have any secrets for booking discount flights?
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