Package holidays are a great way to book your vacation, particularly when you’re trying to find out how to save on flights. All you need to do is to visit your local travel agent or search for your preferred travel online operators to get their latest deals. The cost of your hotel, car rental, excursions, and flights are all included in the price allowing you to sit back and wait for the exciting day of your trip to arrive safely knowing you’ve got it covered. But then, disaster strikes.
Your friend told you they managed to save hundreds of dollars by booking each item separately. By doing so, they were able to choose a better hotel at a reduced price, save on their car rental, and even bag a massive reduction in airfares. Has this happened to you? We know how much this can put a damper on your vacation, so we’ve created this ultimate guide on how to save on flights. If you want to find out more about saving on hotels, car rentals and more travel costs, check out our travel section for more hints and tips.
Without further ado, let’s get you up to speed on how to save on flights. Once you’re in the know, you’ll be able to put your savings to good use for other vacation options.
Benefits of Saving on Flights
Here are the benefits of saving on your flights:
- Use the savings to increase your hotel budget
- Increase your vacation spending money
- Increase your holiday satisfaction before you’ve even traveled
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1. Search in Secret
In our current world, distrust about websites making use of our data has become a significant worry for most people. Thanks to the notorious Facebook scandal that rocked the world (and Britain’s latest GDPR rules), people are much more aware that their data is being stored and used when they haven’t consented. When you use search engines, they collect your data. Have you ever used your search engine for information on a product and then all of a sudden, the advertisements you are viewing relate to that? That’s because the search engines use optimization tools to direct what they feel is the most relevant advertisements. It is designed to improve the user experience, but if you aren’t aware of this, and do not fully consent, it can be alarming.
Searching for flight prices is no exception. Once you use your search engine to search for flights, a strange thing happens. You may find you’ve seen a trip for $200 on one website, but when you look at another site, you find it more expensive. Once you have returned to your first website, the price has increased. How do you get around this issue? Make use of private browsing.
What is private browsing, and how can it help save you money?
Opening a private browsing session cuts off your current search from your previous ones. It also blocks your data from being used and stored by the websites you have visited and does not create a browsing history. If you think these browsers can be used for other… ahem… searches, you’ll be disappointed. Your search engine will keep a record of the sites you visit, although they won’t be able to link your previous searches. That is why it is an excellent option to search for flights as you don’t get unfair price increases while you perform your price comparisons.
How to put your browser into private mode
There are plenty of different browsers out there, and depending on your device, you will need to change the settings. Here are a few links with instructions on how to adjust to private browsing:
- Google Chrome: Incognito Browsing
- Internet Explorer (Microsoft Edge): InPrivate
- Mozilla Firefox: Private Window
- Safari (Mac): Private Browsing
2. Book in Advance
The debate on whether you can grab a bargain if you book in advance or wait for a late but good deal has been going on for a long time, but the latest research from the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) and Expedia Group may put this long-standing argument to rest. The 2019 Travel Pricing Outlook analyzed over two billion flight segments to understand trends in domestic and international travel. Findings suggest that timing your purchase of air travel can make a massive difference to the amount of money you can save.
Here are some top points:
Booking three weeks in advance (on average) has the average lowest ticket prices.
- Beginning your trip on a Thursday or Friday is cheaper on average.
- Book flights on Sundays. We know the mid-week slump gets too many workers and the thought of jetting off to exotic climates is appealing. However, save yourself some cash and book at the weekend. You may even find your impulsive nature has subsided too.
- Economy fare may not be the best option. ARC reports that passengers should be mindful of the type of ticket they book. Economy fares might seem cheaper. However, once you’ve added extras like reserved seating or checked baggage, the price will increase, pushing it over the cost of cheaper economy tickets.
- Direct flights can be cheaper than connections. With so many different cost criteria, it is impossible to assume layover flights are more affordable. ARC research has shown that this is not always the case. Do your research thoroughly.
- Save 25% on airfare by booking a mid-week trip and include a Saturday night stay. This discount is great if you’re traveling on business.
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3. Don’t Be Picky About Your Flight Time
A lot of people know in their mind when they want to start a journey. People usually base the time it takes for the flight plus the distance to the hotel to arrive for check-in time. If you’re anything like us, you won’t like the thought of getting up super early or flying too late. Flight prices can increase when passengers book flights at more convenient times, so why not be more flexible in your search? For example, we used Skyscanner to find price comparisons based on the time of flights and the difference in costs. Using the random departure airport of Los Angeles International (LAX) and the destination set to London, we found the following results:
The Cheapest Result
Departure: Thu, Jan 9 20209:05pm – 3:25pm (+1)
Return: Sun, Jan 19 202010:20am – 5:45pm
Traveler Convenient Flight Times
Departure: Thu, Jan 9 20203:00pm – 9:20am (+1)
Return: Sun, Jan 19 20201:15pm – 4:35pm
Here are tips if your flight does not fall with check-in and check-out times.
Booking flights that fly at less convenient times works out cheaper overall, but what happens if you reach your destination and check-in isn’t for another four hours or so? If the location of your hotel is near the airport or a train station, most offer lockers for luggage. Luggage lockers do not cost much, and you can leave your baggage there; do a bit of sightseeing and return later to collect your items. If you can’t find luggage lockers at travel points, you can always visit your hotel early and ask the concierge service to look after your bags until it is time to check-in or nearer your departure time. (We recommend giving a larger tip to staff).
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4. Use Flight Comparison Websites
Thanks to television shows like extreme couponing and money-saving expert blogs, shoppers are becoming savvier about how they spend their hard-earned money. By using a flight comparison website, you can take some legwork out of the search for the cheapest flights from a vast range of operators.
If you’re unsure what flight booking sites are out there, here is a list of three to get you started:
This handy flight comparison website search finds you the best deals on flights based on the travel dates, locations, and the number of passengers. Momondo claims to have 100% price transparency, meaning you won’t find price increases based on your cookies. A free-to-use service, you won’t find any hidden fees once you come to the booking section.
Bonus: Momondo will alert you to other not-included flight operators in their search. For example, if there is a flight available through Southwest, the price is not shown, but it will allow you to access their website for their fare.
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Offering information and booking of flights, hotels and car rental, Skyscanner allows you to search for flights from loads of top operators and some smaller airlines. Skyscanner offers flight deals that are updated regularly. If you aren’t sure where you want to travel, pop along to see their last-minute flights, daily flights and international flights deals pages for some inspiration.
Bonus: If you want to find the best savings on airfare, Skyscanner has a unique search option that allows you to find the cheapest month for flights. Enter your departure airport and any destination then click on the departure date. Here you need to select “Whole month” then “Cheapest month” to find all the prices for that month.
KAYAK is one of the Godfathers of flight-comparison websites. With plenty of experience in what the customer wants, you can guarantee the results will be tailored to your requirements, saving you a pretty penny at the same time. KAYAK has loads of search settings. You can choose to search for the cheapest, best, or quickest flights like most airline comparison websites. If you’re part of an airline loyalty program, you can search by airline alliances to get the best price and the points.
Bonus: As well as searching by the alliance, KAYAK shows you “Hacker” options. These work by KAYAK searching for legs of the journey and piece them together to give a better price. For example, if you were flying from Los Angeles to London, KAYAK may suggest it’s cheaper to fly to Florida and then on to London. These options show up from time-to-time, and it is worth double-checking if it is worth it.
One thing to remember: Price comparison sites work on a commission basis. That means they do not always show every airline if they have not worked out a partnership. They may not always show the best prices and deals either. Make sure to do your research.
5. Search for the Cheapest Day to Fly
Finding the cheapest days to fly to and from your destination is a great way to save cash on your vacation. As we mentioned in step 4, Skyscanner lets you search for the cheapest month and cheapest day within a week to get the lowest fares.
The good news is, even if you find the cheapest day and month to fly, you don’t have to use Skyscanner to complete your booking. There may be another carrier that offers a deal more affordable for specific routes, and you can use your knowledge to search their websites, too.
6. Use Airline Loyalty Cards
If you’ve read our Best Airline Loyalty Programs article, you’ll know that there’s money to be saved by booking holidays throughout the year, collecting points, and using them for money off your next vacation. Airline loyalty cards are free and come with a wide range of exclusive perks and discounts for their members. You can use points in the air, on the ground, through credit card purchases, and even airline shopping websites.
Anybody can sign up for an airline loyalty program. We recommend signing up to numerous airline reward programs which are partners with each of the top 3 alliances:
- Star Alliance
In this way, wherever you travel, you can be sure to save money on each trip. Read our article to discover more about which alliance partners with which airline and how you can sign up and start earning rewards.
7. Use Credit Cards with Airline Miles
Ok, we know what you’re thinking. How can using a credit card to save you money when all you’re doing is using credit to make your booking? Our answer is not only can you afford to book your flights sooner, rather than wait for late-deal price hikes. Airline credit cards also offer another way to earn points and rewards through everyday purchases. So, the next time you go on holiday, you can use these accumulated points to reduce the price of your flights even further.
Some things to remember before applying for an airline credit card:
- Applying for a credit card will affect your credit rating
- If you have bad credit, you may not be eligible
- Make sure the credit card is compatible with the carrier with whom you are flying, or you won’t receive any points
- If you’re booking in another currency (see below), make sure your credit card has 0% fees on foreign transactions
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8. Use Budget Airlines
Have you ever wondered how some airlines can offer a reduced cost for a ticket without the need to provide a deal or reduced cost? That’s because these airlines are low-cost carriers. These airlines don’t offer in-flight entertainment, meals, or extra legroom. Some don’t even provide reserved seating, and you can forget about the premium economy and business class. The point of low-cost carriers is to reduce the cost so people can have a cheap and cheerful flight to their destination.
What are the benefits?
The benefits of flying with a budget airline are the sheer amount of savings you can make. For example, you could fly from one end of the country to another with a budget airline and find it’s a fraction of the cost of a much larger airline. The savings come from the no-frills experience, but it doesn’t have to feel like one. Why not take some snacks rather than pay onboard? Or, make sure to get access to the plane first and bag a front or emergency exit seat for improved legroom.
What are the cons?
We get it, the flying budget isn’t to everyone’s taste, and if you intend to fly a long distance, it can be downright uncomfortable. Not only that, but budget airlines do make money on these flights through the help of “added extras.” Budget airlines do not include prices for checked baggage, onboard snacks and beverages, and other perks. Therefore, once you’ve added these onto the cost of your flights, the price can increase dramatically.
Which airline is a budget airline?
Several budget airlines operate in the U.S., including in other countries that offer international flights. You can find a list of budget airlines from TripSavvy.
9. Fly with Carry-on Luggage Only
A lot of budget airlines will charge you for carry-on luggage. Carriers use this method to offer such low prices on flights year-round and to every destination. If you choose to book a trip with a budget airline, it is crucial to check their terms and conditions for their baggage fees. A lot of airlines increase their prices based on how many bags you check-in. If you want to avoid paying extra, check out our quick tips to reduce the amount of luggage below. Here are a few well-known airline fees to give you an idea of prices.
- First bag: varies (check at the time of booking)
- Second bag: $40 each way
- Third bag: $150
- Extras: $150
United Airlines works differently than most budget airlines and works on a flight-by-flight basis. Any additional baggage will cost you from $150 – $200 per bag. If you’re traveling Basic Economy, a $25 fee plus the checked baggage fee applies.
- First bag: $30
- Second bag: $40
- Third bag: $150
- Extras: $200
*A.A. only shows fees to registered travel agents. Prices are taken from upgradedpoints.com and correct at the time of viewing.
Tips to avoid checked baggage fees
- Travel light by only packing the essentials
- Leave your wash bag at home; you can buy toiletries in any country
- Only pack one pair of shoes (wear the bulkiest pair)
- Wear multiple layers. Wear your sweater and coat through airport security saving suitcase space
- Don’t pack numerous outfits for one day
- Buy a wheeled case that measures the maximum measurements for the cabin. Then stick to it
- Check your destination for a local launderette and wash your clothes while you’re there
10. Use the Controversial Trick of Hidden-City Flights (Split the Legs)
Hidden-city traveling is a system used to reduce the cost of your flight by hundreds of dollars. Here is how it works: you book a trip that is cheaper to a destination that includes a layover or connecting flight to where you want to fly. You then hop off at the layover without returning for the remainder of the journey. It is controversial because nobody can determine whether making use of this loophole is legal or not.
A few years ago, you may have heard that Lufthansa, the German budget airline, which sued a passenger for booking a return flight from Oslo to Seattle. The flight had a layover in Frankfurt. The passenger stayed in Frankfurt and flew to Berlin from Frankfurt on a different ticket. Lufthansa mostly missed out on approximately $2,385 for the incomplete journey and sought this amount from the customer. Thankfully, the court threw out this case.
Various sites allow you to search for these hidden-city flights; the main one is Skiplagged. Search for a round-trip flight or one way anywhere on any date to find the best deals around. If you haven’t got a choice destination in mind, Skiplagged has a selection of deals it updates regularly. These deals could be a great option if you want to book last-minute.
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11. Don’t Restrict Your Return Trip to the Same Airline
Airlines are like buses. Bus numbers don’t just stop at one bus stop in particular, and neither do airlines at airports. You could make your trip cheaper by flying with one airline to your destination and flying with a separate one on the return journey.
You could save a few bucks by utilizing this flight hack. The tricky part is the time it takes to compare all the prices. Luckily, flight comparison websites such as Kiwi.com does this job for you. For example, we entered the same search information (LAX – LHR) for a few nights and were offered the cheapest flights through Iberia Airlines on the way out and Finnair for the return.
By using their handy search tools for the best, cheapest, and fastest flights, you can make sure your flight is most suitable for your vacation.
12. Check out Local Airlines
Flying locally can net you considerable price reductions. This doesn’t mean you have to take a vacation in the U.S. Most countries have a local or national airline that provides cheaper domestic flights than most international carriers. For example, we typed into Google “local airline for Italy” and discovered through lonelyplanet that Italy’s national airline is Alitalia.
Once on the Alitalia website, we found a trip from New York to Rome varied from $359 – $1,335 per person for a 10-day round trip, depending on the departure month. Alitalia’s website shows you the cheapest month to fly and offers various dates and prices so you can make an informed choice.
Use this trick for any destination and see what savings you can make.
13. Check If You Can Buy Cheaper Flights With Other Currencies
Paying for your airfare in the airline’s national currency can save you money thanks to exchange rates. It does not work for all operators but mainly currencies fixed against the U.S. dollar. We thought we would test this theory and found a local operator in Hong Kong. Plenty of flyers to the far east wish to visit several different tourist spots at once, so we used H.K. Express to fly from Hong Kong to Bangkok. If we were booking this flight in U.S. dollars, the total cost for a round trip in January 2020 came to $149.27. Once we changed the currency to Hong Kong Dollars, the converted price was only $140.83.
Of course, you can run into difficulties in trying this method. Most websites now make the most of your location and automatically suggest which currency you should pay. There are ways around this if you have the option to change the currency.
Here’s another vital piece of advice: If you are using a credit card to book, make sure your card has 0% foreign transaction fees or you will get stung by a hefty charge.
14. Make use of Airline Price Errors
The unicorn of all airline pricing hacks is error fares. Sometimes, due to administration errors, foreign currency miscalculations, or some other weird and wonderful problem, airfares can be advertised at a significantly reduced price. If you come across this holy grail of pricing, you need to book it ASAP because once the airline notices, they will remove it from the website.
- Book the flight through the airline directly to avoid the disappointment of the price not being honored
- Set up email alerts with flight search engines such as Google flights and Skiplagged
- Use broad searches to notice any price discrepancies
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15. Avoid Peak Seasons
Airlines are notoriously smart and increase prices during peak seasons. The peak seasons are: Whenever there is a significant school holiday such as Easter, Christmas, and July-August each year.
You may find national airlines of countries will advertise prices if there are country-specific festivals (think Day of the Dead in Mexico, Carnevale in Italy and possible well-known sporting event times).
If you can afford to take time off outside of these holidays, it is best to avoid them at all costs and watch the flight prices reduce. Also, if you book “out of season,” your destination will be quiet and peaceful, and you can avoid shorter queues for tourist attractions. That is a win-win.
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Ending on a High Note
Cheap flights, even flights to Europe and other distant continents, don’t have to be a mystery. If you can make use of just a few of these tips and tricks, you will be able to spot the difference between your airfares in no time.
How much have you saved after following our tips? Let us know your success stories. Holiday snaps are welcome.