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I hate booking flights.
It gives me anxiety.
For someone suffering from severe FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), I’m all about scoring the best prices on everything, including my flights. But booking flights is akin to gambling, isn’t it? You spot a good price on a flight and wonder “Hmm, maybe if I give it a day, the price might drop even more tomorrow”, and then come tomorrow, the price shoots up two-fold. Oh boy, does that send my stress levels shooting through the roof.
But fret not, over the years, I’ve combed through every resource on the internet looking for the best tricks in the book on how to find cheap flights. And now, I’m ready to share with you top-secret tips, tricks, and hacks to get you on that dream vacation without burning a hole in your pocket! This is the first time I’m revealing my secrets, so get ready to be a master flight booker!
How to Find Cheap Flights
- 1 1. Use the right flight search engines
- 2 2. Be a stealthy searcher
- 3 3. Let someone else do the (airfare) stalking for you
- 4 4. Take advantage of your layovers
- 5 5. Look for loopholes in airfare pricing
- 6 6. Be flexible
- 7 7. Book when the price is right
- 8 8. Subscribe to airline newsletters
- 9 9. Do the multi-city trick
- 10 MY TOP TRAVEL TIPS & RESOURCES
1. Use the right flight search engines
There are so many flight search engines nowadays, that to the untrained eye, they may all look the same. But this is where you need to sift out the reputable search engines that actually get you the lowest prices versus the ones that are just out to get the most commissions (sadly, that’s the harsh truth). So it’s always good to compare a few when checking for flight prices.
Here are my most trusted search engines:
- Google Flights: This is where I usually start my search because it’s probably got the most flexible filters. I can drill down dates, number of stops, preferred airlines and alliances, and so on and so forth. So from here, I determine which days have the best prices plus any other preferences I have, and then I plug those dates into other search engines to compare.
- Kayak: This is my go-to site when I’m serious about looking at prices. I love their prediction feature that’ll tell you whether your particular flight price will hold steady, or whether it may drop. They also have a unique “Hacker Fare Special” that combines two or more airlines to get you the best-combined price.
- Skyscanner: This one has probably made its mark as one of the top search engines out there, but over the years, I’ve started to use it as more of a backup to compare prices with other search engines. Sometimes the prices come up better, sometimes not. Still worth a look.
- Kiwi.com: If you want a super-flexible search engine that really gets you the cheapest option ever, Kiwi.com is it. It uses really intelligent technology that’ll get you the cheapest prices with more flight options than any other search engine. Expect more stops and longer layovers though. So if you’re flexible on time, this could save you some serious bucks. And I am obsessed with Kiwi.com’s new and exclusive Nomad search function. It’s like a multi-city search on steroids as it uses a special algorithm that calculates and sorts your flights to find you the best route with the best prices.
- FlightList.io: If your dates are flexible, consider using FlightList.io which was built specifically for digital nomads and backpackers. Find alternate routes and cheap one-way flights within a departure range and discover cheaper routes you never knew existed.
There hasn’t been one single search engine that always comes up on top with the cheapest prices, so it’s always good to spend a few minutes comparing prices across the ones I’ve mentioned. Also, don’t forget to set up price alerts so you’ll be notified of price changes on your selected flight.
Bonus Trick: In Google, search for your flight, for example, “Singapore to Toronto” and then look for the farecompare.com search result.
I love how FareCompare summarizes the average prices for flights, so you’ll know whether you’re overpaying or if you’ve scored a sweet deal. They also list the cheapest days and months for that route, and the cheapest last-minute flights available.
Don’t forget travel insurance! Travel insurance is the most overlooked purchase when traveling, but one of the most essential. Anything can happen when you’re on holiday and you’d want to be covered in the case of travel mishaps such as flight delays, personal accidents or theft. Choose SafetyWing Travel Insurance, designed with digital nomads, remote workers, and long-term travelers in mind.
2. Be a stealthy searcher
Ever search something on Google and then suddenly see ads pop up all over your Facebook, Instagram, and websites for that very thing you just searched?! How creepy is that? It’s like someone is tracking your web activity, right? Truth bomb: There is. And airlines do this too.
That’s why searching for flights in incognito or private browsing mode should be your MO. Simply open a new incognito or private window every time you do a search, and then close it out once you’re done so all them pesky cookies are reset. Phew! Now you have a one-up on the airlines.
3. Let someone else do the (airfare) stalking for you
Humans make mistakes, and airlines are no exception. And when these airlines make mistakes, it can mean huge savings for us. But who has the time to sit around and watch these airlines? Umm, well Airfarewatchdog does. Just input your departure airport and it’ll list out all the top deals for the day. Another great one is Secret Flying which does the same thing.
I’m also subscribed to Scott’s Cheap Flights which sends these deals straight to your inbox so you’ll never miss a good one. I’ve seen deals even up to 50% off, so if you’re serious about your savings, you need to add these guys to your list.
4. Take advantage of your layovers
Most of us dread layovers, but it doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. If you’ve got a little time on your hands, how about seeing 2 destinations for the price of 1? Especially if your trip requires a stopover, you don’t necessarily have to stay stuck in the airport. How about extending your stopover and venturing out of the airport and turning it into a trip on its own?
AirWander searches for flights based on your departure airport, arrival airport, and the number of days you’d like to spend at your layover city. Often you’ll find cheaper prices because most people just want to get to their destination with the shortest layover time. So if you’ve got time on your side, take advantage of that and get more bang for your buck!
5. Look for loopholes in airfare pricing
Now, this loophole is known as “hidden city” flights. Okay, so this one is a little complicated and is a lesser-known trick though it’s been gaining traction with frequent travelers over the years. Simply put, sometimes booking a flight that connects to a city that you want to go to may be cheaper than flying directly to it. Say, for example, you’d like to fly from Miami to New York. Instead of booking that straightforward flight, Skiplagged will find you a flight that takes you from Miami to Chicago with stops in New York, where you’ll get off, which is cheaper than if you bought a direct flight! Make sense?
However, there are a few risks associated with booking these types of flights. For starters, you can’t check in your luggage. Nowadays, it’s standard for most airlines to check your luggage all the way to your final destination, so if you’re getting off at one of the layover stops, you won’t be able to claim your luggage!
I have personally not used this method as I have not found any cheaper flights for my trips, but I would be keen to try this out if I ever do! Use at your own risk though.
6. Be flexible
Of course, this may or may not be something you can control, especially if you have a full-time job and have to work around your vacation days. If you have some flexibility, it can be beneficial to study the best times to fly to your desired destination.
Skyscanner and Google Flights have a great graph that will show you the best times to book a certain flight.
The other way to do it is to decide on your dates, and then let the algorithm decide the best destination for you based on your budget with Google’s Explore function.
Alternatively, you could try Rove that’ll find the perfect destination for you based on your month of travel and find the best weather and experience.
If you’re a digital nomad, a backpacker, or just someone who loves last-minute adventures, FlightList.io was made with you in mind. Ever been stuck with two browser tabs, switching back and forth between Google Flights and Skyscanner, trying to find the best deal? So has FlightList’s founder, Hans Desjarlais. He’s been there, done that, and decided it was time to make life easier for all of us.
FlightList.io allows you to browse more than 750,000,000 flight combos from 700 airlines, including those wallet-friendly options, and discover cheaper routes you never knew existed.
7. Book when the price is right
If you know when you’ll be flying, and the price currently looks good, especially when you compare it to the average prices on Farecompare.com as I’ve highlighted above, book it! Airline price changes are a game that trust me, you do not want to play. If you think a price will drop, bear in mind that there is an equal possibility that it will rise too. So if it is within your price range, book it and forget it!
When is the best time to book flight tickets?
Some may speculate that Tuesdays are the best time to book airline tickets, but I haven’t found this to be very accurate. I do tend to steer away from booking on weekends though, as airlines assume most people book their flights when they’ve got some extra time on their hands on the weekends.
When is the best time to fly?
Again, there isn’t data specific enough to confirm this, so your best bet is still to do a quick graph search of flight prices as I’ve highlighted above.
Ugh… this is the one I kinda hate the most cause I kinda hate clogging up my mailbox with unnecessary emails. But I for one have surely missed out on some pretty awesome deals because I wasn’t signed up for the airline’s newsletter, so I would highly recommend doing this!
9. Do the multi-city trick
We don’t always need to fly return all the time, especially if you’re doing a road trip from East to West or North to South and don’t want to drive all the way back to your starting point. So multi-city flights can save you a ton of time, as you can fly into your starting city and then fly out from another airport that’s in the city of your last stop. Sometimes, multi-city flights are more expensive, but sometimes, they can come up cheaper. Unfortunately, most search engines don’t allow you to search for flexible dates if you select a multi-city trip. Here’s a quick workaround!
Search for your flights as one-way flights and note the cheapest days to fly. For example, I’m looking for a multi-city flight that will fly into Toronto and out of Vancouver. So in Google Flights, I pop in my Singapore to Toronto flight as a one-way flight and note which day is the cheapest day to fly.
Then I do the same for my Vancouver to Singapore flight.
And voila! I plug in those dates into the multi-city field and I would’ve found the cheapest dates for my multi-city flight!
Ready to book your trip? Read my post on How To Plan A Trip Like A Pro: The Ultimate 8-Step Guide!
As always, the aviation business is ever-evolving, so if I discover any more hacks to finding the cheapest flights, I will be updating this so watch this space! And if you know of any tips I have not included here, be a darling and share it in the comments, will ya? 🙂 xx
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MY TOP TRAVEL TIPS & RESOURCES
Here are my top travel tips and resources to help you save money and plan your trips effectively! If you're looking for more tips, head over to my travel tips resource page or my comprehensive guide on trip planning.
- Booking Flights: When it comes to finding great flight deals, I always start my search on Google Flights or Skyscanner. To save some cash, consider flying mid-week or on the weekends, opt for carry-on only with budget airlines, and be open to red-eye or early morning flights. Check out my in-depth guide on how I find the cheapest flights.
- Accommodations: I'm a stickler for finding the absolute best deals on my stays, so I will obsessively oscillate between a few booking sites: Booking.com (in general) and Agoda (for Asian destinations). When it comes to vacation rentals, there's Airbnb or VRBO.
- Travel Insurance: It's always a wise decision to purchase travel insurance for international trips. I can't stress this enough - it's highly recommended! For international travel insurance, I suggest considering World Nomads or SafetyWing. SafetyWing, in particular, stands out as one of the few policies that cover Covid-19. They also offer excellent monthly policies that are perfect for digital nomads and long-term travelers!
- Travel Credit Card: My go-to travel credit card for booking trips is the Wise travel card. I love that there are no foreign transaction fees, so I can pay like a local and never get any surprises at the end of my trip. You can also withdraw cash from the ATMs wherever you are. With Wise, you are always guaranteed the best exchange rate, and I have saved sooo much money just by using this card. Most of the time, I get charged the exchange rate I see on Google, plus or minus a few cents.
- Tours: Most times, I prefer traveling independently but sometimes, getting a guide and a local's perspective makes the experience all the more enriching. When it comes to tour bookings, I trust Viator and GetYourGuide to provide me with excellent options. In Asia, I choose Klook as they are the biggest provider in the region. Plus, you can often get entrance tickets and discounted prices!
- Transportation: To navigate through public transit options and plan my journeys from one place to another, I rely on Rome2Rio. When it comes to rental cars, I compare rental companies and find the best deals through DiscoverCars.
- Connection: It's essential to me to have seamless connectivity wherever I go. I need it to navigate to new places, Google what's around me, and keep in touch with my loved ones. But fumbling around with multiple SIMs has always been a nightmare, which is why I choose Airalo when I travel. No more switching SIMs, just purchase a plan on your phone, on the go, anywhere, and stay connected.
- Luggage Storage: Whenever I need to check out early or take advantage of a long layover, I securely store my luggage with LuggageHero. It's a reliable service that allows me to roam around freely. As a bonus, you can use this link to enjoy your first hour of FREE luggage storage on me!
- What to Pack: I always have packing anxiety once I've left home—you know the phantom feeling that you've forgotten something even though you've checked 372836 times. So I made my own packing list and use it religiously before every trip, and by religious I mean I tick off that list at least 7 times before I zip up my bag. Check out my in-depth packing list here.