Researching and booking travel can be an overwhelming experience, even for the most seasoned traveler. With so many different travel websites, apps, tools, and advice floating around the internet, sometimes it’s tempting to throw in the towel and just book whatever flights you see first.
But don’t give up yet! We’re here to rescue you with 21 of the most reliable and creative travel hacks to help you find the cheapest flights available. With tips ranging from when to book flights to how to book them, get upgrades, and more – we’ve got you covered!
Table of Contents
Ready to dive in and learn how to find cheap flights to anywhere? Read on!
Fly Business Class For Less (Wait…what?!)
Sick of squashing into that tiny space in economy and the guy next to you falling asleep on your shoulder? The easy solution is to fly Business class! But how? I know it’s not cheap, and I could never afford to fork out the full price of a business ticket.
Try this hack that has allowed me to travel Business Class on a few airlines while barely paying half the advertised price. Not by some magical sweet talking of the check-in staff, but simply by bidding for upgrades through the airline’s website!
Etihad, Singapore Air, Cathay, Virgin Australia and many more airlines all let you bid for a business class upgrade. There will be a “minimum bid” you can place which varies depending on airline and route.
I usually take a look a week before my flight on the seat selection screen to see how busy the flight seems. If it looks like there’s a lot of space I just place a minimum bid and I’ve been successful that way. If it looks like there are a few passengers I just bid $10 to $20 over the minimum and I’ve won countless upgrades that way. The majority of people just bid the minimum without even realizing a tiny bit more could swing it for them.
Give it a try next time you book an economy flight and who knows you may get to stretch out at the pointy end of the plane!
Sophie Marie | Lifestyle Queensland
Search Flights One Way Instead Of Round Trip
Without a doubt, one of the ultimate travel hacks is having flexibility regarding your travel dates. You’d be surprised how tweaking your departure and return date by one day could save you big dollars sometimes up to 50%. Yes, you read that right! If you have the opportunity to be flexible with the dates, you can save loads.
But how do you go about finding the best dates to leave or to return on? Here’s how. Login my favorite airfare search engine Skyscanner.com. Start with selecting ONE WAY then fill in your departure and destination city. Next click on the DEPART field and instead of entering a specific date chose WHOLE MONTH then press ENTER. The result box will show a price target link which once selected will pop up a calendar box.
Bingo, you’ve made it to the sweet spot, this is where the game is played.
From this display, you can select a Calendar or Chart view to get the best glimpse at the optimal rates. I like to toggle between both views as occasionally some hidden nuggets are snuck into one display mode instead of another. Once you’ve narrowed down a One Way date, repeat the same process for the other leg of your flight. Now you will see the magic happen as selecting a Round Trip option with these two ultimate dates will result in an even lower airfare total.
If you have the flexibility in your travel plans, playing around with dates is a marvelous way to save on airfare and who doesn’t love that!
Nathalie McNabb | Marquestra
Always Clear Your Cookies
Often times when searching for cheap flights, whether it’s on an airline’s website or with a flight search engine like Skyscanner, we’re not ready to purchase tickets the second we find a cheap flight. The problem is, the next time you look up that same flight, even if it’s only a few hours later, you may find that the price has gone up.
That’s because flight booking sites track your cookies aka browsing history. If sites know that you’re highly interested in a certain route, they may bump the prices up for you. Cookies will also track if you’ve been looking up other information about destinations, for example “top activities in Vancouver.”
This means that even if it’s your first time looking up a flight, you may not be seeing the most accurately low prices. To avoid this, clear your cookies before searching for a cheap flight. By clearing your cookies, you will get unfiltered results of the lowest possible rates to your destination.
Clearing your cookies is really simple and easy. On a Mac, go to your Privacy settings on Safari or your browser of choice, click “manage website cookie data,” then click remove all. On a PC, head to the Safety setting on Internet Explorer, then click “delete browsing history” and delete all cookies.
Robyn Robledo | Nomads With A Purpose
Use VPNs To Change Your Location
We’ve used this cheap flight hack many times over the past few years and we have always saved money with it. You will always get the cheapest flight if you are booking from the place you wish to fly from. In the internet world, that means that your computer, laptop or phone needs to be located in the country where you’re booking the flight.
Of course, that’s not always possible. Physically at least. But it is virtually – if you have a VPN.
A VPN – virtual private network – lets you spoof your location to where you want it to be.
The logic here is that the website will think that you’re actually in the USA, making your flight leaving from the USA cheaper. The best VPNs have multiple servers in multiple countries, so you’ll have lots of options.
I’ve saved hundreds of dollars, euros, pesos and GB pounds on flights this way. This year we’ve saved on flights in Colombia, but some time back we saved 700 euros on last-minute emergency flights in Europe too!
As well as the money you’ll save, you really should use your VPN when you’re booking anything to make sure that your credit card and login information isn’t being snooped on by anyone on the public WiFi networks!
Sarah Carter | ASocialNomad
Check Out The Deals From Scott’s Cheap Flights
Scott’s Cheap Flights is a great tool to use if you are looking to travel on a budget. The website allows you to sign up for free flight alerts, which will let you know of price drops and flight deals based on your preference and location.
Scott’s Cheap Flights will send out daily emails with discounted flights and booking instructions, making the process of finding cheap flight extremely easy. Using both software and human flight experts, the website can ensure up-to-date deals that are useful for their customers.
Unlike many last minute deals, the website sends out alerts 2-8 months prior to the departure date, which gives people ample time to prepare for their upcoming trip. They also have a blog spot that focuses on flights-and-airports-related content that helps others make better trip decisions.
If you’d like to opt for more options and benefits, they also have a membership that provides additional flight alerts, error fares, and discounted traveling opportunities during peak season. After signing up on the website, I’ve received daily email alerts with prices much lower than I’ve found on other platforms.
The site notes that on average, people have saved up to $500 on a flight found through their platform, which I think is quite fantastic!
Daisy Li | Beyond My Border
Rack Up Miles By Joining Loyalty Programs
When you sign up for airline loyalty programs (which are completely free to join), it’s really easy to rack up a ton of miles doing everyday things, like buying plane tickets, online shopping, or even just going out to dinner.
These miles are easily converted to flight upgrade, plane tickets, or even companion passes – all for free (although, please note that you usually have to pay fees and taxes for these perks). Truth be told, air travel is the slowest way to earn miles – if you want a major injection of free miles, keep an eye out for awesome special sign-on bonuses for credit cards (these happen a lot around Black Friday or the beginning of the year).
Lots of premium cards offer up to 50,000 airline miles or more (a $750+ value) if you spend a designated amount of money within the first few months of opening the card (pro tip: open a credit card when you have a major life event, like a wedding or moving, to pay for).
If you pay for all of your living expenses using one of these cards (and, I cannot stress this enough, pay off your balance every month!), these points will add up quickly and you’ll be flying business class before you know it. So what’s the best hack to get cheap airfare? Rack up those free points, of course!
Jessica Schmit | Uprooted Traveler
Give This Layover Trick A Shot
One of my all-time favorite ways to book cheap flights is by utilizing Skiplagged’s handy dandy Layover Trick. While this little-known tip forces you to only bring a carry-on (which you should already be doing if you want to save money on flights!), it can chisel hundreds off ticket prices.
So how does the layover trick work? By scouring numerous flight paths with a specific layover at your desired end destination and showing you the cheapest option!
For example, not long ago I booked a flight from Nashville, Tennessee, to Minneapolis, Minnesota. The actual flight as a whole went all the way to Toronto, Canada! It just worked out that this particular flight had a layover in Minneapolis and ended up being cheaper than a flight booked directly to the city. Cool, right?
But the best part? There’s no secret or difficult way to take advantage of this virtually unknown cheap flights tip! Skiplagged does all the work for you. All you have to do is put in your starting destination and end destination and it’ll show you the cheapest option.
Just make sure to only pack a carry-on if you do utilize the Layover Trick, as any checked baggage will continue on to the final airport!
Sophie | The Wanderful Me
Try Booking Each Ticket Separately
When you are searching for a cheap flight online and know that you are traveling with more than one person. One hack that you can do is to use a website such as Skyscanner to save money on your tickets. The hack is to purchase each ticket individually. Here is how I usually do it when booking flights to Jamaica from the United Kingdom.
Whenever I select 2 people and look through the search results, the prices are usually slightly more expensive. Instead, what I do is a search for 1 adult in two different browser tabs. Then, if I find that the ticket price is cheaper, I go ahead and purchase each ticket individually.
If not being able to sit together during the flight is a deal breaker, there are 2 things you can do to make sure that you and your companion are both seated together. Depending on the airline, once you have received the e-ticket, you can go to the check-in page and select the desired seat numbers that you want.
If you have purchased the tickets via a travel agent, you can contact them and ask to make sure that both passengers are seated together on the plane.
Daniel James | Layer Culture
Use Skyscanner’s ‘Everywhere’ Feature
One of our favorite flight hacks is also the simplest! We’re never that picky with where we want to go. Truth be told, every country in the world is on our bucket list! That’s why we love using the ‘Everywhere’ function on Skyscanner.
It couldn’t be any easier to use. Head over to Skyscanner and start by indicating your location in the ‘From’ field. Then, instead of picking a location, just let Skyscanner show you where the cheapest flights from your destination are. This is the pop-up that will appear as soon as you click in the Destination field. Pick it.
Then, depending on if you know what dates you want to travel, you can either pick the whole month, your specific dates, or even the cheapest month. Skyscanner will then list all the places you can fly to and their respective costs. It’s that easy!
The best way to take advantage of this option is to be very flexible, as much with your dates as with your location. That way, you can really get the best deal from the city you’re in. We used this function so many times while we were traveling for 15 months. We didn’t know what our next destination was going to be, but we didn’t mind because we knew that we wanted to visit most of the countries in South-East Asia.
So if your bucket list is long, and you don’t mind where you’re going next, Skyscanner’s Everywhere option is perfect for you!
Carine & Derek | We Did It Our Way
Purchase Tickets In Person
Want to make a bargain flight deal even cheaper? Then visit your local airport terminal! Both Spirit Airlines and Frontier Airlines waive their online convenience charges if you purchase your tickets in person.
Spirit Airlines calls it a “Passenger Usage Charge (Carrier Fee)” and Frontier Airlines calls it a “Carrier Interface Charge” but they essentially have the same premise. They are fees the airlines tack on top of the flight price for the convenience of booking their tickets over the web.
Since they are fees and not federally mandated charges, both airlines will waive these costs if you purchase your tickets at the airport terminal. You’re rewarded with a savings of $15-$30 each way per ticket. If you’re purchasing multiple tickets (family travel anyone?) these savings really add up!
If you want to calculate your exact savings, visit the airline website (third party sites won’t do), select flights for your desired itinerary and tree out the costs for your final total. Look for the convenience fees charged and subtract that to get your bargain price.
It is worth noting that there is no special line for those purchasing airline tickets at the counter. You will have to wait in line with those hoping to catch outbound flights (and other bargain hunters like yourself). However, depending on your potential savings, I would note the effort as a worthy cause!
Montoya Hudson | The Spring Break Family
Be Flexible With Your Dates
We are always looking for great ways to save money on our flights, and one thing that’s always worked for us is to be flexible with our travel dates. Airlines tend to have better prices if you fly during the week versus on the weekend. We’ve typically found midweek to be the best time to travel for cheaper flights.
So if you can go early, or hold off a couple days, try checking out the prices for Tuesday-Thursday. Make sure you aren’t flying around a holiday, as those prices will tend to go up a lot, since it’s a very popular time to travel. If you can delay your trip until after the holiday traffic dies down, you can save lots of money.
Another way you can be flexible with your dates is to go during the low or off seasons. If you go when it’s most popular, then your flight will most likely be a lot more than if you went during a slower time of the year.
Being flexible with your dates whether it be time of year, which day you fly in and which day you fly out, or traveling when it is not near a holiday can help keep your flight cost down and keep more money in your pocket.
Sara | Our Kind of Crazy
Use A Flight-Finding App
I recently discovered the smartphone app called Hopper. If I have a flight to book, it’s the most valuable tool I use to ensure I get the best price.
After entering in your search criteria, Hopper tells you what the prices are like, how they’re trending, and when will be best to book. Hopper continues to monitor the prices and alerts you when they’re at the lowest price that their sophisticated prediction mechanisms have determined.
I will say, don’t try too hard to get the rock bottom price that Hopper predicts will happen. If you’re within $20 or so dollars of their lowest price prediction, just book it. I waited once and got burned when the prices never went back down.
And while I generally insist on booking airfare directly with the airline, I also discovered that Hopper occasionally offers even better prices than the airline does! I saved almost 40% off the cost of a short-haul flight by booking directly with the Hopper app, and everything went smoothly.
Nora Dunn | The Professional Hobo
Opt For Stopovers Rather Than Direct Flights
We try to save money on long haul flights by choosing stopovers rather than direct flights. A great tool to use for this hack is Google Flights.
Go to Google Flights and enter your route and preferred date of travel. When the prices pop up, go to the calendar overview and look at all the pricing options around your preferred date. Cheaper rates are usually flights with stopovers.
We examine these flight times to see which flights have short stopover times and do not involve overnight stays – stopovers with three children in tow can be a lot of hassle and added expense if not planned carefully.
Sometimes there are other added bonuses too! For example, on our round-the-world trip, we utilized this hack to fly from Honolulu to Christchurch in New Zealand. Flights were very expensive and most ‘direct’ flights involved either returning to Los Angeles or flying further to double back to Christchurch, changing planes in Auckland or Sydney.
We found a cheap flight with Fiji Airways that stopped in Apia, Samoa and Nadi, Fiji, with only very short stops involved. It was perfect but then we decided to contact the airline to find out if we could extend the stopover. We discovered we were allowed to extend the stopover at one of the two locations for no extra cost.
We ended up spending the money we saved on a ‘direct’ flight (over one thousand dollars) on a fantastic two weeks exploring Samoa!
Sinead Camplin | Map Made Memories
Use Dollar Flight Club To Snag Deals
One of the best cheap flight hacks that will not only save you money but also reduce the amount of time you spend searching for airfares online is to sign up to Dollar Flight Club.
The online service sends you the best flight deals directly to your email or via SMS-based on the preferences you select when you sign up. Their premium plan allows you to pick any number of departure airports, ideal destinations and preferred airlines and will send you any deals they find as soon as they become available.
You can also log in to a dashboard and see any deals that you have been sent that are still active or have expired. Any deals that Dollar Flight Club sends you direct you to Google Flights, which means that the deal is available directly through the airline’s website and not through any third party that might have extra hidden fees.
Dollar Flight Club is most worth signing up to if you’re a frequent international traveler who predominantly chooses to fly economy — they don’t typically send domestic or business fares. To be able to take advantage of the deals you get sent, it is recommended to have some flexibility on departure dates and the departure or destination airport.
Michael Rozenblit | The World Was Here First
Book Cheaper Tickets On Student Universe
If you’re a student or young person, there’s an entire website devoted to helping you find cheap flights called Student Universe. All you need to do to start finding discounts on flights around the world is to create an account on Student Universe, then confirm your age and/or student status by submitting some basic documents.
Their mission is to encourage young people to travel the world, and I’ve had great success with Student Universe flights over the years including a return trip to London for about $200.
To get the cheapest deals, simply choose the “Flexible” option when searching for dates. This will give you the cheapest flights within a range of about a week either way, and the absolute rock bottom deals are marked with a diamond shape.
If you’re not a student, Student Universe can still get you cheap flights. For instance, if you’re between the ages of 16 and 25, there are also “young person” fares that you can take advantage of.
If you’re a teacher or college faculty member, you will be eligible for additional cheap fares as well. And finally, if none of the above apply to you, or perhaps you graduate soon – don’t worry! There are still cheap flights to be found in the “Adult” fare section of Student Universe, so it’s worth a shot to check them out.
Kalyn Franke | Girl Gone London
Don’t Avoid Flying On Holidays
If you need to fly during peak periods, such as the holidays, flights tend to be more expensive compared to other times of the year. A great hack for traveling over the holidays is to try to fly on an actual holiday, such as Christmas Day.
If you don’t mind spending part of the day traveling, you can often save money this way, as it’s not generally a desirable time to fly. I’ve done several flights on Thanksgiving and Christmas Days, and have definitely saved money compared to flying a day or two before or after.
It wasn’t bad at all flying on the holidays, as I found most people were in a happy and festive mood, making the airport and flight a bit more fun.
If you are flying over school holidays, the same principle applies – if you are able to time your trip to start or end a few days before the start or after the end of the holidays, you are likely to find better deals. Not always possible for families though, I know!
Definitely shop around as much as you can if you’re traveling over the holidays- although it is generally more expensive, good fares can still be found with a bit of searching and flexibility.
Katie Dundas | The Accidental Australian
Ditch Your Big Suitcase
One of the best tricks I’ve learned in my travels is the art of packing carry-on only. However, the goalpost on what exactly airlines allow on flights seems to constantly keep moving.
Budget airlines in Europe like Ryanair first started putting restrictions on cabin bag size, and then airlines in the U.S. followed suit by offering “Basic Economy” fares that even charged for an overhead bin-sized carry-on. Now, you can only bring a small underseat bag for free on most flights — a long way away from the free checked bag of the old days!
As a result, I’ve had to get a bit savvier with my packing when planning short jaunts and I’ve streamlined my packing style to match. I’ve started using a bag that fits under the seat in front of me on airlines like Ryanair and Wizz Air in Europe and Spirit and United Airlines back in the U.S.
Using underseat luggage means that you’ll pay the bare minimum baseline fare and not have to pay for pricy upgrades. These upgrades can range anywhere from a more reasonable $7 or so on Wizz Air or Ryanair for a priority upgrade booked in advance, to a more price-gouging $25 service fee plus checked baggage fee on United (yikes!) if you try to bring your carry-on to the gate.
Either way, knowing exactly what you’re allowed to bring on board makes a huge difference, as any packing mistakes you make at the airport can become quite costly!
Allison | Eternal Arrival
Compare Flights On Kiwi
One of my biggest lifesavers, Kiwi.com is a savior for us travelers. The best thing about Kiwi.com is that it allows you to check the
flight costs for more than 1 destination at the time. And it gives you a broad area for searching the dates and airports. In fact, I can
choose the entire country so that I know which city will give me the cheapest flight options.
Here is what you need to do. Go to Kiwi.com and choose your country in the ‘From’ box. Then, fill in a couple of countries which you are planning to go to in the ‘Destination’ section. And for the ‘Departure’ dates, choose the date range option.
For the date range option, you can click on a date and then drag it to another date which you want your range to be. Finally, choose Trip Length option in ‘Return’ and select the tentative number of days you are planning to stay. That’s it.
Kiwi.com will give you a list of the cities with varying dates and duration and you can simply choose the cheapest one out of it.
Now, you can book the flight directly from Kiwi.com or you can find the same carrier and dates on another site where you might get some discount. But honestly, this is one of the best ways to find cheap flights for your desired destination.
Rachita Saxena | Nomllers
Consider Different Airports Near Your Destination
Check prices from airports that are within a few hours’ drive of your departure city and destination. Sometimes you can find much cheaper (or more direct) flights from a nearby airport.
This can be especially helpful if the other airport is in a different country. For example, I live in Seattle, so I check flights out of both Seattle and Vancouver. Canada has different airlines than we do, and the exchange rate comes into play. The flights from Vancouver are almost always a better deal.
Flying from Vancouver requires that I drive 3 hours north, and pay to park the car. Even taking that into account, I sometimes save hundreds by doing so. Then I spend at least a few hours in Vancouver at either the beginning or end of my trip, and it’s like a bonus getaway!
Similarly, if I’m going to Europe, I almost always fly into Amsterdam. It’s a relatively cheap direct flight from Seattle, and it’s easy and cheap to jump from there to anywhere else in Europe.
Google Flights makes it especially easy to check multiple airports at a time. Make sure you’re aware of any visa requirements if you’re looking at flying into or out of a different country.
Include nearby airports in your next flight search – you might be surprised what you can find!
Dani Ward | Diapers in Paradise
Use Airline Websites In Their Native Language
When you are searching for flights on an airline’s website it is a great idea to perform the search in that countries native language as opposed to the translated website in English. Many airlines offer their website in English as well as their own native language but sometimes the English translated website is more expensive!
I first found out about this when I was backpacking in Brazil. I was looking for a domestic flight and found that not only were flights cheaper on the Portuguese website but there were also more flights to choose from! When I hit the “English” button the prices changed and I had fewer choices.
Booking a flight on a website in a different language can be easier said than done though (especially if you don’t speak the language of the website your booking on.) The best way to do this is to get a local hotel or hostel staff member to give you a hand for a moment when booking your flights. Otherwise, Google Translate will be your best friend.
I have found this hack works best on domestic flights and is less likely to be useful for international flights. But regardless, it is a great thing to check and has literally saved me hundreds of dollars!
Bailey Busslinger | Destinationless Travel
Book Your Flights 6-12 Weeks Ahead
One of the most consistent ways I’ve found to get cheap flights (whether domestic or international) is to book the tickets at just the right time. In my experience, booking tickets six to twelve weeks in advance of your departure date is the most reliable way to snatch up those juicy deals.
If I’m able to plan ahead, I typically start checking prices around three to four months in advance which will give me a baseline current prices.
Additionally, you can also do some general research on forums and around the Internet for what a ticket from, let’s say, LAX (Los Angeles) to BOM (Mumbai) usually costs, and then you’ll have a way to know if the prices you’re seeing are a good deal or not. In this example, a fantastic deal would be under $700, while a normal ticket will cost you around $1,000 or more.
So, if when you’re looking three months in advance, you see a deal for $657 – I would book it right then and there. Whereas, if it’s saying $1,500 then I would wait until the six to twelve week window and it will almost certainly be way cheaper than $1,500.
This tip has definitely saved many thousands of dollars over the past fifteen years of international travel.
Asher | Asher & Lyric
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