How To Find a Cheap Flight
Trying to find a cheap flight is the bane of my travel existence, but with some patience and a few tips and tricks, I can typically find a ticket within my price range. Here's how.
1.Start with Google Flights. I love this tool and it's my first stop when I'm beginning to plan for a trip. You can search for flights based on price, airlines, number of stops, and destination choices. The map will automatically show select destinations that match your preferences. This is how I ended up going to Nicaragua last summer; I knew I could only afford $500 for a flight, so I entered that as my price limit. Internationally, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Canada were my options. So that's how I chose Nicaragua.
2. Be flexible in your destination. You might be dead set on New Zealand (I am, too), but NZ will break your bank if you have not had enough time to save funds. If you are looking for a budget friendly destination (less than $50/day), be openminded. Consider Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, Central America, or South America. This google doc shows a quick comparison I did as I searched flights in Dec. 2014. I was literally willing to go anywhere; I just wanted to go.
3. Be flexible in your dates. The ability to fly out a day earlier or later could mean hundreds of dollars in saving. Airline prices are funny that way. Play around with the flight calendar to see differences. Flying out on a weekday is cheaper than a weekend, especially on an early or late flight. Flying out after a major holiday is also generally cheaper.
4. Know the high/low seasons. Each country has peak tourist seasons, as well as low seasons. High seasons offer favorable weather, but come with higher accommodation costs, increased tourist crowds, and faster travel bookings. Traveling during the low season might mean a few rain showers or higher temperatures, but the costs are lower, including the plane ticket.
5. Use Momondo and Skyscanner. These sites do not have partnerships with major airlines, so their search results are less biased. Do not use sites like Expedia or Orbitz; they typically do not show budget, regional, or obscure airlines.
6. Know your price. Everyone waits for the "cheapest price." Then they wait. And wait. The price just keeps increasing as they keeping holding out for that magic number, and before they know it, the price is far higher than they originally thought (it's not coming down). You need to know what you are willing to purchase your ticket for, so that when you see that number, you buy instantaneously, at a price you feel comfortable.
7. But be realistic. If the average price for a flight is $1000, don't hold out for $600. It's probably not going to happen. You need to be prepared to pay $800-1000, and if you're not, you should pick a cheaper destination or change your dates.
8. Set up daily price alerts. Prices change constantly. As you prepare yourself to buy a ticket, make sure you getting price alerts through text or email. Buy when you see your price.
10. Pay attention to departure & arrival times, flight duration, and stopovers. Long flights are inevitable for many destinations abroad, but I pay particular attention to the time I land upon arrival. I got a cheap ticket to Nicaragua, but at a price (literally): my flight landed at 1am in an unsafe city, and it was up to me to find transportation to where I was staying, nearly 45 minutes away (I was also stubborn and refused to spend the money to stay at a hotel til morning). That cab ride to Granada in a car with two men could have gone a whole lot differently. Now, I never arrive in a new destination at night, especially as a solo traveller. I paid a little more than the average price for my ticket to Thailand, but it was important to me that I arrived in Bangkok in the morning or early afternoon.
11. Select "ALL airports" when you're searching. This will include the major international hubs, but also smaller airports that usually cater to budget airlines. This will require more investigative work to ensure you are saving money even though a smaller airport might be further from your main destination, but even a savings of $100 could pay off here. For example, for my trip to Florida, I flew into Orlando's international airport. To go home, however, I am flew out of Sanford Airport, which is an hour away from Orlando but the plane ticket was half the price.
Hopefully these tips help you find the best price - just be as flexible as possible!