When it comes to knowing how to book cheap flights, there are travel hack maniacs that will spew all types of crazy formulas at you like exact hours to book your flights and booking through questionable methods that are risky, all while making a simple process pretty complicated.
Yes, there are loads of websites, apps and ways to save on flights but for me, I like to stick to a few tricks. Budget travel and booking cheap flights doesn’t have to be difficult, and it’s actually pretty easy. Here’s how:
Use Google Flights.
I am a diehard Google Flights fan, I know some people are the same way with Skyscanner, but I use Google Flights the most. It’s simple and can be used if you have strict plans or are flexible just looking for a deal. Here’s some elements I love:
#1 Google Flights shows the cheapest options for someone who already has a trip planned. Enter your destination and your dates, and GF got you. It will take you directly to the airline website to book. If not, GF usually doesn’t add an extra fee for booking through them (other services like Expedia often do).
#2 There’s a calendar to show you price differences depending on the day you fly. So no need to remember which day is cheapest to fly on, Google Flights literally shows you.
#3 If you’re looking at flights far in advance or aren’t ready to book just yet, Google flights has the option to track prices on a specific flight. You’ll receive price alerts on that trip directly to your email.
#4 To find cheap travel deals, use the “Explore Destinations” option. From there you can browse the map and find cheap flights to destinations around the world. If you’re flexible, you can find some awesome deals this way.
Sign up for Scott’s Cheap Flights.
When you hear about people getting insane deals on flights like flying to Europe for $50 bucks, there’s a high chance they got it from Scott’s Cheap Flights.
Scott’s Cheap Flights is a service that sends flight deals directly to your inbox. They only send insanely good deals (40-90% off!) and only deals from your home airports, that way you don’t need to sift through a bunch of insignificant discounts.
Typically it’s $50 to sign up, but right now there’s a deal going on for $24 which is huge! There is also a free version, but the difference in deals sent to you is significant. For the budget traveler trying to see as much of the world as possible, Scott’s Cheap Flights is a must.
Book all your flights with a travel credit card.
If you have a travel credit card, you need to be using it to book every single flight so that you’re getting points back. And if you don’t have a travel credit card, you seriously need one...it’s a game changer.
With travel credit cards, you get a lot of points back on purchases (especially those regarding travel) and can later use those points towards flights and other things. Many also have signup bonuses that award you thousands of points for spending a certain amount of money on them in the first 3 months.
For example, I got the Chase Sapphire Preferred card right around the time I knew I had some big purchases to make and received 60,000 points. Then later I used the card to pay for everything travel-related (flights, hotels, gas, restaurants etc.) From those points combined, I was able to take a few FREE flights, including from the Philippines back to the United States!
Use Hopper Flight Alerts.
Hopper makes searching for a flight so easy. While I don’t usually use the app to actually book my flights (they charge a service fee) I do use it as an easy way to search for a flight.
The calendars are easily color coded so you know when is cheaper or more expensive, and then once you select your dates, Hopper will tell you if it’s best to wait or book now for a cheaper deal.
If they advise you to wait, then you can select “Watch This Trip” and you’ll receive notifications when the prices drop. In a way it’s similar to Google Flights, but I like receiving the notification vs. just an email.
When searching for any flights, always use an incognito window.
While you’re searching the internet, websites are constantly gathering data. If you’re not on an incognito/private window browser, then the flight search engines will essentially take note of which flights you’re looking at, and then raise the price if you don’t book right away. To avoid this, always always check for flights on private browsers.
When is the best time to book a flight?
I’ll be honest, I’ve heard so many contradicting formulas or stats that I’ll never remember which is why I prefer to find my cheap deals via all the means I’ve mentioned above instead of relying on a set of days and times.
Because the truth is, there’s no one formula for the best time to book. There’s so many things to be accounted for: domestic vs. international, which season you’re flying, airlines are constantly changing how they do things, and now in a COVID world it’s even more unpredictable.
Even that myth we’ve all heard that Tuesday's are the best day to book on? Yeah, Skyscanner actually says it’s Saturday. But even that can change.
So in short - if I want to know the cheapest day to fly somewhere, I check Google flights calendar. If I want to know if the price will drop between now and my trip, I check Hopper. If I have an amazing deal from Scott’s Cheap flights, I’m booking it NOW!
Booking cheap flights doesn't need to be complicated. And now that you have all the tools, it won't be.