Many times, flights can be the most expensive part of travel. I’m here to tell you that, if you are willing to be flexible and do your homework, they don’t have to be!
Here are some tips to booking your flight on the cheap or even free!
Keep Your Dates Flexible
Depending on your job situation, this is, of course, only so feasible. However, shifting your dates one day in either direction can mean big savings. What has always worked for me is telling my manager that I will be traveling but that the dates may fluctuate as I haven’t booked tickets yet. If you can plan far enough out, there is usually some room for flexibility.
Sometimes the savings in flight cost by extending your trip a day is more than paying for an extra night of stay! Plan right and you can get way more vacation for your buck!
Search the Hubs
If you live in any city or town outside the say, 5-10 major US/European cities, make sure you check the cost of flights out of some of those bigger cities. It can be significantly cheaper to book a hopper flight to a major city and then do your main flight out of there.
For example, it is pricey to fly straight from Seattle to London, so when we booked our flights for our upcoming trip, we booked a hopper flight from Bend to Seattle, then from Seattle to Oakland, where it became incredibly cheap to fly to London and then on to Rome. Don’t be afraid of layovers or taking some extra time hopping around to get to an inexpensive hub.
Have Go-To Third Parties
Personally, I love Kiwi and Momondo. And while it isn’t technically a third party, Google Flights is always an amazing resource. Don’t be afraid to stray away from the airline websites, as often that is where the best deals lie.
Search the Airline Website
While third parties often have the best deals, always make sure you check the airline website before booking. Often airlines will have promotions that won’t come up on the third party websites and can only be found through their direct website.
Book Your Legs Individually
While there are some caveats, you can often find amazing deals if you search each leg of your flight individually rather than as one long haul flight. A word of caution; if you do book legs individually, do not check baggage. This only works if you can fly with carry on luggage only!
If you know you need to get from Denver to Rome, look up the flight and see where you would do layovers. Then do a separate search for just those individual flights rather than the flight as a whole
Take the Later Flight
While it is no secret that allowing yourself to be bumped from a flight will earn you a good deal of money in flight credit, let this be a gentle reminder that a two hour delay to your flight can often earn you enough for a completely free flight!
This is actually how we got to Europe last time. With Adam’s $800 flight credit, he flew completely free and I only paid about $400 for my flight to Prague.
Sign Up for Rewards Programs
Most airline rewards programs are free to sign up for and can offer big discounts! Pick an airline and make it your go-to airline. You will rack up plenty of points if you are a frequent traveler and they can translate in to free or discounted flights later.
Last year I had to travel a good deal for work, and I made sure to use Southwest for all those flights. By the time we were booking our upcoming trip, I had enough Southwest points to book three tickets for one leg of our flight for completely free!
It only takes a second to sign up and costs you nothing. Why wouldn’t you?
Set Aside the Time and Be Prepared to Book
Doing adequate research to book discounted flights takes time and perseverance. Set aside a few hour block to ensure that you are able to do as much research as possible and be prepared to book the moment you find that killer flight deal. Often, amazing deals are here one day and gone the next, so don’t be afraid to snag a great find!