Years of travelling on a very tight budget allowed me to develop a strategy to find cheap flights WITHOUT getting ripped off. Sure, it takes more effort than just booking the first flight you see, but if you’re on a budget or fly a lot the amount you’ll save by digging deeper will astound you.
Get To Know Flight Comparison Tools
If you haven’t discovered these flight comparison tools yet then you’re definitely missing out on some serious bargains. They’re great for finding cheap flights both on specific dates and when your dates are flexible, as they compare airline combos to get you the best matches.
The basic info they need is departure/arrival airport & date’s, although even they are flexible. Once you’ve plugged in your search terms they process the info and give you a heap of options with pricing. They also allow you to find the cheapest fares on nearby dates, which is super handy.
When you’ve found a cheap flight though, be wary of some of the websites they try to get you to book with. I opt to pay a little extra to book through the airline and avoid the risk of getting ripped off, although booking through the below sites has always served me well:
Utilise Google Flights
Google Flights has been a godsend for helping me find cheap flights recently and is now rivaling sites like Skyscanner and Kayak in its thoroughness. And if you want to get a bit more technical, jump on ITA Matrix for a gander. A lot of the big search companies (including Google Flights) use this as their search backend and rebrand it, so it’s worth a check. It was designed by a bunch of dudes at MIT, so you know it works.
Watch The Watchdog Sites
There’s a heap of airfare watchdog sites out there these days, and how they help you to find cheap flights is to spot abnormally low fares. Beleive it or not but airlines do stuff up sometimes or try and sell a few seats on the cheap, and these guys are your best bet for finding these. I’d start with Airfare Watchdog and then work your way through the others to find ones you feel comfy with.
Find The Cheapest Place To Fly To/From
Let’s say you’re needing to get from Sydney to Melbourne in Australia. Melbourne’s main airport is Tullamarine, but a lot of cheap flights actually leave from a smaller airport called Avalon, and a lot of people exclude this from their searches.
Kiwi is an awesome tool to find cheap flights to airports you may not have thought about in your search. When searching, pop in your departure city and date range. It’ll then show you approximate costs to a heap of countries and cities, which you can quickly sort through to make sure you’ve picked the best arrival airport.
Book Flights Individually
Although it’s easier to book your flights all at once, you’d be surprised by how much you can save sometimes by booking each flight leg separately. I check if this is the case for all multileg flights I take and have saved a bucketload doing so. As a bonus, if your flight has a stopover in a city you’re keen to visit, you can stop there for a few days and then continue your journey onwards.
Two things to keep in mind with this is checked luggage and customs. If you do book the flights separately you will need to leave enough time to get your luggage, go through customs, check back in and then head to your gate. Also, check if you will need a visa if you will have to go through customs again to catch your next flight.
Don’t Be Afraid Of Budget Airlines
Surprisingly, I’ve never had an issue flying budget airlines, yet I know a lot of people avoid them out of fear of shit going wrong. Sure, the seats are a little squishier and generally, meals aren’t included, but they generally get you from A to B and are key to helping you find cheap flights. And a lot of the comparison websites don’t include these websites in their results – cheeky buggers.
The only things you need to be wary of is the fine print. A lot of budget airlines have insanely cheap fares, but as soon as you start adding in checked luggage, seat selection, etc., you’re paying as much as you would on a premium airline, so check this out before booking.
Some of my favorite budget airlines include:
Check With Airlines Directly
You’d be surprised at how cheap flights can be when booking directly with airlines. I will always check directly with the airline after using Skyscanner/Kayak/Kiwi to find the overall cheapest fares and have picked up some serious savings this way (and scored a hell of a lot of airfare miles!).
Some of the best airlines that can have surprisingly low fares include can be found over here.
Sign Up With I Know The Pilot
A friend put me on to I Know The Pilot a few years ago and since then it’s been a huge help to find cheap flights. At this stage, it’s just for flights leaving Aus, but hopefully, they expand their reach soon.
You subscribe to their newsletter and let them know which city you want to see flights leaving from. Their magic internet robots then scan the web for deals and sales. When they find one for you they immediately send you an email so that these often short sales get to you ASAP.
Keep in mind with I Know The Pilot that the sales are generally for travel during specific time periods. This can be both a positive and a negative, as you could use it to plan your next holiday, but rarely for last minute trips.