The next time you sit on a plane, take a look at the people around you. Even though everyone is on the same flight, nearly every single person will have paid a different price than the person next to them. Luckily, with these 25 tips, you should be able to ensure you were one of the lucky ones who took the extra time to score cheap airline tickets.
1. Utilize Credit Card Offers to get the cheap airline tickets
There are a million different credit cards that all offer a certain amount of miles in exchange for everyday purchases. Some of them also offer great sign up bonuses, like 50k free miles when you purchase a certain dollar amount within the first 3 months.
The different offers and sign up promotions are constantly changing, so make sure to do some research to find the best deal that matches with your spending habits. Using credit cards with mileage bonuses is a great way to get score cheap airline tickets, and even earn free flights in the future. Also, you can combine them with some of the tips below to save even more.
2. Transfer Points from a Friend
Many people who travel rack up points that are about to expire without any means or ability to use them. Some people even give away their frequent flyer miles on websites like Craigslist or Facebook. Ask friends and co-workers to help spread the word.
Many times, there is a small fee associated with transferring points from one person to another, but it is still cheaper than a full priced airline ticket.
3. Search One Way Tickets
On the lookout for cheap airline tickets? Try searching for two one way tickets rather than a round trip ticket. For instance, if you are flying from Denver to New York, try searching for two individual flights – the first one from Denver to New York, and then the second from New York or an airport nearby, back to Denver again.
This trick can sometimes result in cheap airline tickets, especially if there is a promotion or a sale on cheap one way tickets through the website at the time of booking.
This trick is more likely to work if you have a card or membership of some kind that offers no added fees and/or free checked baggage. If you do not, the last minute price additions of these extra charges can often end up costing you more than if you booked one simple round trip ticket.
4. Change Country of Origin
If you are flying to or from a foreign country, you can switch the country of origin you are searching from on the computer. Many times the same flight path from New York to Berlin will have a different price depending on if you are booking with the Euro in Berlin or the dollar in New York.
If you do try switching the country of origin, make sure to adjust for the currency exchange rate to verify that one flight is cheaper than the other.
5. Use a Comparison Website
Take advantage of comparison websites, to get cheap airline tickets for your next trip. Comparison websites are what most people gravitate towards when researching airfare prices, and with good reason. With just a few clicks, they can search across dozens of airlines, find flights with multiple carriers, and find cheap airline tickets in a jiffy. The same information that would take you an hour or more to track down is done in a few seconds for you.
That being said, comparison websites aren’t always the final word when it comes to booking cheap airline tickets. But they are a great starting point when you are looking at booking a trip and want to get a point of reference for cost, and to compare against to see if you can find something cheaper.
Keep in mind that not all comparison websites offer cheap airline tickets, or even every airline available. Use it as a tool to start, but be sure to keep researching before you buy if cost is a priority.
6. Check the Direct Airline
If you regularly use comparison websites like Orbitz.com or Kayak.com, don’t automatically assume they show cheap airline tickets available. Sometimes, booking directly through an airline’s website can actually reveal a lower airline ticket price than what was shown on a major booking site.
There is an obvious benefit to utilizing booking sites, as you can search through many different carriers at once to narrow in on the cheap price. But, once you have found the cheap airline carrier, be sure the double check the price on the individual airline carrier’s website as well. You could end up saving even more money!
7. Use Discounts
A lot of airlines accept various forms of discounts, so be sure to check if they offer any promotions or discounts. Many airlines have been known to offer military and student discounts, but some also offer senior discounts as well.
Sometimes, the reason for travel is enough to land you eligible for a discount on flights. For instance, if you are traveling for medical reasons or for a funeral, oftentimes airlines will give you a discount on the airline ticket price if you ask for one. Verification may be required dependent on the airline and the reason for travel.
Certain websites used to book airfares also offer different discounts for certain demographics as well. STAtravel.com, for example, offers discounts for teachers as well as students. United Airlines, meanwhile, offers discounts not just to military personnel, but for all federal government employees as well, from the janitor on up.
8. Fly on Certain Days
Airfare ticket prices can vary drastically, depending on which day you plan on booking. If you have a little flexibility on your side, you can also easily end up with some extra cash on hand as well.
Historically, the cheap days to fly are on Tuesday and Wednesdays. Weekdays tend to be drastically cheaper than weekends. For instance, on an average long distance flight that departs on any given Thursday and returns on the following Monday will cost you almost 20% less than if you departed on Friday and returned on Saturday, even though your trip will be twice as long.
This is great news for those looking to validate a longer vacation and travel time, as the cost of taking off is nearly recouped by flying over weekdays rather than the weekend.
Still, no matter the length of your flight, for the best savings, try to plan for departing and arriving on Tuesday and Wednesdays to really score cheap airline ticket prices.
9. Book Connecting Flights
Believe it or not, sometimes it is cheaper to buy a ticket for more airtime than you need. This is also known as booking a “fake” layover. When you buy your ticket, you book your flight from one city to a next, with a layover or two. The difference is your actual destination is your layover, and you simply skip the last leg of your journey.
The practice is tricky, and the discrepancy has airlines a bit uptight about the method. You can’t take along any baggage other than carry ons, and one man is even being sued for starting a website to promote sales with fake layovers to score cheap airline ticket prices. But, most people who travel frequently are already familiar with the method and use it frequently.
If you are up for a bit of a risk and some mega savings, give it a shot. Who knows? You might just end up getting cheap airline tickets for your trip.
10. Buy At The Right Time
Timing is everything when it comes to airline ticket price fluctuation. Statistically, the best time to book is around 7 weeks before your date of departure. If you try to book 5 months in advance or 14 days prior, ticket prices will be at their greatest point of fluctuation. 6-7 weeks seems to be when the two extremes meet for the cheap deals.
While holidays tend not to be cheap travel dates, if you do need to travel over a holiday, you might need to book a bit earlier, as those flights are the first to sell out.
11. Double Check Hidden Fees
Even though one airline ticket price may be cheaper than the next, sometimes the cheaper carrier will have steeper baggage fees, taxes, and other miscellaneous hidden charges (including gas!). So before you book, compare the cheap possible fares and their extra fee costs to make sure you are really scoring the cheap airline tickets.
12. Have Flexible Destinations/Departures
The more flexible you are with your itinerary, the more you can adjust it to what is the cheap option. Try to plan early enough ahead of time, so you can pick the cheap dates in a given month, not just during a given week.
If you are planning a vacation to a certain country, try different cities or airports. Slight variations in arrival destinations could end up in significant savings, and give you cheap airline tickets.
13. Sign up for Airfare Alerts
Once you have decided on a trip, you can use sites like airfarewatchdog.com to alert you when ticket prices drop for the trip you are looking for. They aren’t complete in that they monitor all airfares or include promo codes, so you shouldn’t rely on them solely for finding the cheap airline ticket price. Airfare alerts are a great tool to help free up your time to research other savings, and help you stay on top of dramatic price drops in ticket pricing.
14. Subscribe to Email Updates
If you can stomach having your e-mail inbox flooded with airline updates, subscribing to airlines is a great way to get notifications when the cheap airline tickets become available. Sometimes, sales and promotions are only advertised to subscribers, and you are sent extra promo codes as well.
While your inbox will need frequent purging, it can be an easy to way to save an extra 20% off or book a discounted ticket.
15. Fly to a Secondary Airport
Instead of booking directly to a city’s main hub, try booking to a smaller airport in the city. For example, flying from John Wayne Airport is nearly always much cheaper than flying through LAX, even though the airports are only on opposite sides of Los Angeles.
16. Use an Alternative Route
The straightest distance may be the shortest, but it isn’t always the most economical way to travel. Instead of flying directly from New York to London, you may find it cheaper to have a layover in Iceland on a discount carrier flight, before making the final leap over the ocean. If you are flying around the globe, try flying East compared to flying West. You’d be surprised at how flying to strange locations on carrier flights can lead to cheaper travel.
17. Sign Up for Frequent Flyer Miles
Similar to credit card rewards, frequent flyer miles reward customers for their loyalty to that airline company. Sign up for as many frequent flyer mileage programs as you can; they are free and can end up in a few free flights over time.
18. Shop on a Tuesday afternoon
Most airline carriers drop their airfare ticket prices on Tuesday afternoon at 3:00 pm Eastern Standard Time. If you are at work, try to arrange a coffee break or your lunch break around that time in order to secure the lowest ticket prices of that week.
19. Utilize the 24 Hour Grace Period
Cheap airline tickets are often non-refundable, meaning you are stuck with that ticket no matter if prices drop or rise. But even the non-refundable airline tickets have an automatic 24 hour grace period during which you can cancel your purchase without losing your money or being charged a cancellation fee.
Once you have purchased a ticket, use those 24 hours to continue to keep an eye out on ticket prices. If you see something cheaper come up, grab it at no extra cost! Just be sure to keep an eye on the clock and don’t go over your 24 hour window. Trust me, this travel hack will help you get the cheapest airline tickets for your next trip.
20. Use a Cashback Website
While you may think of websites that offer cash back rewards for shopping online more relevant to those shopping for diapers or groceries, they can actually be used for buying your airline ticket as well!
For instance, if you normally shop airline tickets through CheapAir.com, you are already getting a discount. But if you go through Ebates.com to buy at CheapAir.com, you not only get the original discounted flight, but an additional $4.00 back as well.
The amount of cash you receive back can vary depending on the cashback website and the airline, but several offers include up to 7% cash back on each flight you book. Combine that with using an airline credit card to pay for your trip and you are looking at some serious savings.
21. Monitor Your Fares
The best way to save money is to start by finding the cheap fare from the start and working your way down from there. Once you have a trip in mind, monitor the airline ticket prices every other day, and then every day as the time of departure gets closer. Start as early as you can to allow you the most time to give you the most time to utilize saving tips as well as snatch up a killer deal when it appears.
After you book, continue to monitor, and look for cheap airline tickets. You can use sites like Yapta to monitor your airfares for you. They will notify you if an airline ticket price drops to a point where it would be financially savvy for you to pay a change fee and swap tickets.
22. Drive to Fly
For those who love to travel, combing a mini road trip with your flight is a great way to kick off a vacation, and could end up saving you money in the long run!
If you have access to a car, and you have a bit of a flexible schedule, do a quick price comparison to your destination. Instead of flying out of the closest airport to your home, check out prices from other airports to the same destination. If you are willing to drive a bit further to a cheaper departure location, you could end up saving quite a bit. Just be sure to do the math and make sure parking fees and gas prices don’t add up to more than the original ticket prices from the airport closer to home.
23. Fly Last Minute
If you are just in the mood to go anywhere, try keeping a week or weekend clear and booking a last minute flight the day of. Airlines want to sell out their seats to max out earning potential, and will often offer steep discounts at the last possible minute in order to try to lure travelers to fill up those last few seats.
24. Book a Morning Flight
Not many people relish waking up at 4:00 in the morning, but if you’re willing to sacrifice, you can save big. More often than not, the earlier in the morning you fly, the cheaper the ticket price will be. The only exception to this is early, short distance commuter flights, which tend to be booked by commuters and are not as heavily discounted as their afternoon counterparts.
25. Take a Red Eye Flight to score cheap flight tickets
Red eye flights are any flights that depart after 9:00 am and arrive before 5:00 pm. Most people avoid them, but there are a lot of great reasons to try to book them.
For one, they are usually significantly cheaper than the same flight in the middle of the day. They also usually have less people, meaning quicker check in, more baggage room, and less people in line for the bathroom. What isn’t there to win?
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Also, you'll need a cushy travel pillow during long-haul flights. That's why we suggest that you buy a comfy and handy J-pillow before your next trip.
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