With a few holiday weekends around the corner, now is the best time to start looking for flights for your next vacation. There are many ways to hunt down good deals if you know the best places to find them. To help you get started, here are 7 ways I like to find cheap flight deals – which have recently led me to Cuba, Madrid, Morocco, and Slovenia.
1. Sign up for flight watch summaries
Sometimes looking for airfare on several airlines can be tedious. That’s why I enjoy perusing all of the flight sales/cheap prices in one place. Sites like Airfare Watchdog offer a unique free service – a regular email update (you can choose the frequency) with all of the flights that are below averages prices at that time. It’s a great weekly activity to make sure you can see what flight prices look like across airlines, and to jump on a deal when you see prices dip.
2. Opt in for airline newsletters
Airlines have fare sales all the time, and they are likely to notify their newsletter subscribers first. If you are signed up for a frequent flyer program, you’re likely already registered to receive email notifications. However, it’s worth opting in for email updates from any carrier that flies out of your home airport. Don’t forget low-cost carriers like JetBlue, Frontier, Spirit, WOW, Norwegian, etc. If there’s a flight sale out of your home airport, you’ll be the first to know.
3. Follow popular travel deal websites
Some of my favorite bedtime reading is on my fellow travel bloggers’ sites, where I go to find cheap flight deals regularly. The Points Guy is one of my personal favorites, as there are daily updates on the cheapest flights originating in the United States (many of which fly from the Washington, DC area!). Other sites I subscribe to for cheap flights are Scott’s Cheap Flights and The Flight Deal, which broadcast updates on mistake fares, sales, and other crazy good deals.
Additionally, some cities or regions have helpful flight deal sites that you can subscribe to via email or social media. In Houston, there is Escape Houston, which gives updates on Houston-specific flight deals. There are sister sites through the same company for Dallas, Austin, Chicago, and New York. Check to see if there’s a similar flight guide for your city.
4. Search flight aggregators without a destination
Most flight aggregators, such as Kayak, Momondo, and Google Flights, have an option to search for flights from a particular airport and see a list of the cheapest flight deals and destinations for a particular set of dates. My personal favorite is Google Flights, where you can specify the region or country you’d like to go and it will spit out the corresponding flight prices. The tool even mixes and matches airline tickets for the best deal.
5. Look for travel package deals that include flights
Sometimes the best deals are travel packages that include hotel, rental car, and flights. One of the largest sites that offers these types of cheap flight deals is TravelZoo. If you subscribe to their updates, they’ll send you a digest email weekly with the different travel deals, ranging from hotel nights to all-inclusive packages. With these, be sure to read the fine print, ensuring that you understand the policies and have the flexibility you need to enjoy your trip.
6. Try some flight gymnastics
“Flight gymnastics” is my snazzy way of describing my typical flight tactic – planning around regional hubs. For now, it’s best to know the biggest regional hubs in each area where you can base your searches. For example, if I’m trying to get to a place like Slovenia, which has a small airport in Ljubljana, I could find the cheapest flight from the US to a larger travel hub airport like London or Frankfurt. Then, I’d purchase another flight on a separate airline to get to Ljubljana. Likewise, I could fly into a nearby city like Venice, then take other means of transport (trains, buses, rental car, etc.) to get to Ljubljana.
One thing to keep in mind about these flights is it’s generally best to travel very light so you can avoid checking in bags. Another important tip is to ensure you have a good amount of time between flights, as you’ll be less protected in the event of a delay or missed connection. However, if you’re willing to take the risks associated with these cheap flight deals, the savings are worth it.
7. Combine points and dollars
Part of doing flight gymnastics is figuring out which is the optimal balance of points and dollars (or if one or the other is best). There are a lot of different types of points and miles, so figuring out which ones to use can be tricky. Depending on your budget, you can use points and miles to bridge the difference in any flight price and the amount you’re willing to pay. For example, if you’d like to buy a flight for $500, but the flights you’ve found are over $800, you could buy a one-way ticket in miles and the return flight in dollars. This way, you’re only paying $400 out of pocket.
In summary – finding cheap flights is easy if you keep your eyes peeled and check back often. Get creative and you might score a great deal.
American readers: want more flight hacking tips? Check out this guide on finding cheap flights in the USA.