Travel can be expensive, but there are lots of tips to help you save. Oftentimes, the most expensive part of your trip can be the flights. Below are some expert tips on how to find affordable flights without going nuts!
Skiplagged– This site is pretty cool. It basically finds hidden cheap fares by looking at the cost of stopover flights, which can often be less expensive than a direct flight to your final destination. For example, say you’re looking for a flight from L.A. to Chicago. A flight from LAX to Nashville with a stopover at O’Hare in Chicago might cost $340, while a flight from LAX direct to Chicago could be over $400. If you can forgo checking a bag, why not get off at the stop in O’Hare and save $60? Skiplagged only offers the information; you can’t book direct from their site. But it’s a pretty cool way to save money on a one-way flight when you are packing light.
Google Flights– In our opinion, the best way to search for flights with a visual map, especially when your route and destinations are flexible. If you’re searching for flight options on an overseas trip, the map can come in handy, showing the cost of flying into multiple airports. You have to pre-select a departure date, which is the only caveat. The other issue- the map can be tough to view on a mobile device.
Kayak– A travel search engine, owned by Priceline, that helps you search for flights, hotels, cars and travel packages. If you’re not using it, you’ve probably been hiding under a rock. It makes searching for flights through multiple airlines seamless, instead of having to go to the actual airline’s website. You can also set a price alert so that the website will send you a notice when it finds a cheap flight from your A to B. Only downside is that it doesn’t include Southwest Airlines.
ITA Matrix– This is another powerful search engine tool for flights, but it can be a little cumbersome. Owned by Google, the tool is great at showing the cheapest options for a specific route over a 30-day period. You also can’t purchase flights from the site- it’s only for search purposes. It also doesn’t include Southwest Airlines.
Yapta– An airfare and hotel price watcher, this site will tell you if a flight or hotel price has gone down even after you’ve purchased. With their FareIQ™ and RoomIQ™ trackers, they total the cost of change fees for you, and if there’s an option that’s less than your current flight (including the fees) it will send you an alert. Pretty cool.
Fly on a Private Jet (for real!)- This is a fun option if you’ve ever flown private before… which is oh-so luxurious compared to commercial. A few websites offer ways to book a leg on a private jet for cheap. One website, Sky500 provides a search tool for you to browse the empty flights on private jet charters. The aircraft operators don’t want these to go unsold, so they’ll often give a killer deal for you to fill the open spots. You can even bid on a flight if the price is too high and your offer will be considered.
Plus, the standard tips that every experienced flyer knows but should be mentioned-
You probably won’t find the best deals for flights on weekends, but there’s no real science to this, so setting an alert is your best bet. Otherwise you’ll end up wasting a lot of time hitting refresh and searching day after day for a flight.
Get a frequent flyer or member card for the airlines you fly often (to accumulate miles and free flight points). Southwest offers free drink tickets throughout the year to credit card holders, which is a nice little perk.
Search for flights to multiple cities close to where you’re headed. For example, it’s often cheaper to fly into Dulles versus Reagan National when you’re coming from Denver. Also, if you’ll probably have better luck finding an affordable flight if your flight dates and times are flexible (we know lots of people don’t have that luxury though!)
Lastly, beware of all the fees involved with flying today. Lots of budget airlines now charge for everything from water to checked or carry-on bags to picking your seat. While the original fare might look enticing, add up the total cost before you choose a budget airline over standard airlines.