how to get cheap flights

13 Little-Known Hacks for Finding Crazy Cheap Flights to Anywhere

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Do you want to learn how to get cheap flights and start traveling the world? Travel is an incredible way to explore new cultures, create epic memories, and check off your bucket list. I love to travel but sometimes it gets expensive and hard to budget for.

Typically, the most expensive part is getting there. While you can’t always drive to your destination, flying is typically the only way. But some flights are super expensive if you’re trying to travel halfway around the world! Luckily, now there are so many ways now to get cheap flights.

There are tons of websites, apps, and other services to make it easier for you to find great deals and start traveling the world. Start saving money and start having fun traveling all over.

Check out the 13 best ways to get cheap flights.

How to Get Cheap Flights: 13 Best Ways

Below you will find some of the most unique on how to find cheap flights. Some you may have heard about, but others will be a completely new for you. As the Southwest Airlines slogan goes, “you are now free to move around the country”.

Just next time it will be cheaper.

1. Use the “Hidden City” Hack

This one is so easy it makes it a no-brainer for any destination you’re traveling to in the future. Here’s how the hidden city hack works. I’ve personally used this one as well and it worked great. Let’s say you’re traveling to Phoenix from New York City.

Sometimes you’ll do the research and find the flight from NYC -> PHX is more expensive than a flight from New York to San Francisco with a pit stop in Phoenix. If you find these type of flights, all you do is book the entire flight to San Francisco, even though you aren’t going there. When the flight deplanes just get off in Phoenix.

Yes, all you do is book a cheap flight which connects to your desired city and hop off there opting not taking the connecting flight. But this is slightly riskier and airlines don’t like it. Make sure you do the following before booking this type of flight:

  • Only use carry on luggage. This won’t work for checked bags as you can’t get them at your pit stop.
  • Make sure you can get off the plane if that same plane is taking you to the final destination. This is common for Southwest Airlines.
  • Contact airlines, if possible, to avoid them being late or wondering what happened to you at the connection.

Use SkipLagged

Since there is a website for basically anything now, there is even one to help you find the hidden city deals. Check out Skiplagged while it’s still around. They are currently in a lawsuit with United Airlines so I’m not sure how long this travel hack will last!

2. The Cheapest Day To Travel

Have you heard the popular travel myth that it’s cheapest to travel on Wednesday and book on Tuesdays? While these are true sometimes, they are not 100% reliable. Naturally, to find the cheapest flights weekdays will almost always win the price battle.

Peak seasons, depending on your location, can have a huge impact on the overall price of airfare. The best strategy to find the cheapest day to travel is to look at a visual representation of the entire month.

How to Find the Cheapest Days to Travel

Here’s how you can do it quickly and easily:

  • Step 1. Log on to the Skyscanner or download the app
  • Step 2. Enter your intended departure city and arrival city
  • Step 3. Select “one-way” even if you’re flying round trip. This will show you the best days to find the cheapest flights.
  • Step 4. Then click “Depart.” But instead of entering a date, select “Whole Month”, and then “Cheapest Month”. This will allow you to browse all dates to see which have the cheapest flights. Hit “Search flights” to easily see which date is cheapest.

This is easily done in the mobile app as well. Hit the departure date, then change the view to the chart setting. You can then swipe left and right to find the cheapest date, and tap on one of the bars to see the price.

Do the same steps for your return flight as well. While you can still book a round trip in one booking, this process will let you find the best dates to fly in and out.

Two other good options are Kiwi (see below) and Google Flights. They both work similar to Skyscanner, plus they have map views as well. This is a nice way to see the exact location of the airport. For tracking when and where is cheapest to fly, Hopper also offers price analysis and track fluctuations (i.e. when is best to fly).

3. Find The Cheapest Destination with Kiwi

Let’s face it, some destinations are always more expensive than others. Plus, the further you’re traveling, typically the more expensive as well. A good travel hack to get cheap flights to simply start searching by cheapest destination versus having one set in stone.

What is Kiwi?

Kiwi is a great tool to help you find cheap flights for random destinations that you may not have thought of initially.

First, check out their site and enter your departure city. Then, choose a date range you estimate you’ll go on your journey. The site will then deliver estimated costs for hundreds of different countries around the world!

You can sort by price as well to find the best deal to explore a new city or country. Another huge perk of Kiwi is that they mix and match airlines for you. This almost guarantees you’re saving money on your flight. On the flip side, search engines like Expedia will only suggest routes from single airlines.

Kiwi will mix and match all airlines to find you the absolute cheapest route to your destination. If you’re traveling halfway around the world to Europe or Asia, this can make a huge price difference! Another amazing feature of Kiwi is their own guarantee:

The Kiwi Guarantee

Typically, booking a whole trip with different airlines is risky as delays and cancelled flights can happen. For example, if you book with United and Norwegian Airlines and the first flight is delayed, there isn’t a way to let the connecting flight know as they are different airlines.

In this example, Norwegian does not have an obligation to help you reschedule or even refund your money. But Kiwi comes through to make sure you have protection from this happening.

Kiwi offers their own guarantee, which covers schedule changes, flight delays, and even flight cancellations. As long as you contact them when you’re aware of the delay, they’ll find an alternate connecting flight. If that doesn’t work, they’ll issue you a refund.

This is going above and beyond in the customer service category! Plus, it can save you a ton of money and avoid future stress if this happens on your traveling adventures.

Check Peak Seasons

While checking whole months is a good idea, I encourage you to always check out the weather as well. While it’s more expensive to travel in off season sometimes that comes with the price of bad weather. Depending on your location, this can ruin a trip so make sure to double check weather.com so you have a great trip.

4. Keep Your Flight Searches a Secret

When I first learned about this, I as actually a little peeved. It’s a sneaky little trick the airlines pull and I’m sure you and I have both been a victims of it as well.

How it works:

Just about all websites track their visitors. A perfect example of this type of tracking is when you visit a website like Target. You know if you go from Target’s site to Facebook, you’ll immediately see an ad, right?

This isn’t a coincidence.

Websites are actively tracking your behavior in an effort to get you purchase flights right now. They do so by creating urgency – or making you believe there are only a few flights left.

However, there is a way you can “hide” from the websites tracking you. To do so, only search for flights using an “incognito window”. You can do this inside any web browser:

  • Google Chrome: Ctrl+Shift+N
  • Firefox: Ctrl+Shift+P
  • Internet Explorer: Ctrl+Shift+P
  • Safari: Command+Shift+N
  • iPhone: Inside Safari, tap on “Private”
  • Android: Inside Chrome, tap “New Incognito” from menu

Yes, you need to go top secret and use this hidden browser when finding great flight deals. Otherwise, the website will track your activity and can easily increase flight prices the next time you return!

This means you could see a totally different price on your phone than the person right next you. Again, this is because they know how many times you have looked at that flight information and still haven’t purchased.

However, each time you search for flights in an incognito browser, the website views you as a first-time visitor. This clean slate will ensure you find the cheapest flights and don’t get suckered into buying too quickly!

5. Use the best flight search engines

Did you know that certain search engine websites (i.e. Expedia or Kayak) actually drastically increase the price for flights? Naturally, all of them have to inflate them at some level or they wouldn’t make money. But some search engines are much cheaper than others. Make sure to use these search engines to find the cheapest flight (while using your private or incognito browser):

Best Websites for Cheap Flights

Most of these websites do include the majority of budget airlines. But there are still cheap airlines like Southwest that aren’t on any search engine other than their website. I recommend using a combination of these sites to make sure you get the cheapest flights.

6. Make the Most of a Layover

Most people dread layovers but if you want cheap flights, they seem to always help lower the price of airfare. Eating airport food, drinking $10 beer and sitting in uncomfortable, crowded airports. Sound familiar?

But layovers don’t always have to be a waste of time. Instead, you can find a layover destination that allows you to leave the airport and explore the city a little bit. A friend of mine recently traveled to Tunisia, Africa and took the longest route possible from Phoenix. One was to save money and the other was to stop at different breweries inside Chicago and Frankfurt, Germany.

How to Book a Layover The Right Way

Sometimes when you’re traveling long distance it might even make sense to add an extra leg to help lower the price.If you do this make sure that you don’t book layovers that have minimal time in between.

Connecting Flights

Another dreaded part of flying is TSA and airport security lines. Some airports are much better than others. This is something you want to consider when planning a long layover to ensure you don’t’ miss a connecting flight.

Airports such as New York, Chicago O’Hare or San Francisco are notorious for having long lines and missed flights. Make sure to plan in advance which city your layover is in.

Multi-Day Layovers

If you feel like being even more adventurous, why not turn your layover into a mini-vacation in itself? Instead of spending a day bored in an airport use a site like Airwander to plan in advance.  This site is created to help you create a travel itinerary that allows you to have fun on a layover.

All you do is enter in your departure, arrival, and number of days you want to spend on your layover. It will do the rest of the work for you by returning a list of things to do on your layover. Not to mention it usually finds cheaper flights than a normal search engine which is a huge plus!

I understand this idea won’t work for everyone but it’s a great way to make the most of the trip instead of rushing to get back to reality.

7. Book Flights Yourself

99% of the time it’s a great idea to book your own flight as you can create your own itinerary.

Booking flights on your own might require a little more work on your end but you’re almost guaranteed to save money over using a travel agent. Plus, when you book you can play around with different schedules to find the cheapest flights.

But What About Using a Travel Agent?

That being said, booking cheap flights isn’t always easy. Especially if you’re traveling to a remote area, have multiple connecting flights or going half-way around the world. Oftentimes travel agents will help save you your time and money.

Also, keep in mind travel agents usually do not have to charge you an upfront fee. Instead, they will receive a referral commission from the airlines or places you travel to. Another great perk if using a travel agent is they are much more in the know than you and I are. For example, we recently used a travel agent and were advised to take a longer layover because she knew that airport was notoriously slow at customs. If it wasn’t for her advice, we would have definitely missed our connecting flight.

Lastly, booking with a travel agent does come a little extra hand holding. We once arrived to connection in Miami and saw the flight to Phoenix had been cancelled. After a few text messages to our travel agent, we were booked onto a flight a few hours later and still made it home the same day. The alternative was to wait in the long line at the ticket counter to hopefully find another flight.

8. Use Budget Airlines (If You Dare)

Honestly, this step comes down to how much you really want to find cheap flights. Budget airlines might cost less but they often times are a risky bet.

I’ve had several bad instances with Allegiant Air where I was delayed 10-12 hours or totally canceled. And since it was such a small airport there weren’t any other flights so I was totally stuck! I ended up having to take a 300 mile Uber ride to another airport because all other flights were sold out.

But, budget airlines do offer significantly cheaper tickets than their full-service airlines like American, Delta or United. Like everything in life, you get what you pay for. Not only do you risk late take-offs or canceled flights, you’ll also have more compromises on board. Smaller seats, less leg room, no free food and drinks, and definitely no free TV.

If you can manage without these amenities and want to spend the most of your travel money on the trip, then it makes sense to fly with budget airlines. Lastly, I always recommend reading all the fine print with budget airlines and going through this quick checklist:

Budget Airlines Checklist

  1. Always confirm which airport you are flying int too. Some budget airlines like Spirit and Allegiant don’t fly into the bigger airports. For example, in Phoenix, AZ budget airlines actually go to Mesa Gateway which is a much smaller airport about 25 minutes away.  Make sure to confirm the airport you will fly into so you don’t miss any connecting flights.
  2. Verify the luggage allowance. Budget airlines will nickel and dime you at every turn, including your carry on luggage. Make sure you pack light or pay in advance for your bags, carry on and regular checked baggage. Also, double check their size restrictions online as they tend to have smaller planes than bigger airlines. Otherwise, you could waste a ton of money on bag fees when you arrive at the airport!
  3. Re-read the fine print. I can’t stress the detail enough when it comes to booking budget airlines. A great example is Allegiant and Ryanair. They will make you pay a fee to print your own boarding pass at the airport! Make sure to download the app or print at home so you don’t waste money when you arrive.

Remember, if you want cheap flights you’ll have to make sacrifices at times. Be adaptable, read the fine print in advance, and confirm everything with airlines.

Complete Budget Airline List

Here is a complete list of budget airlines around the world. I didn’t include all the local ones as that would make the list endless. Make sure to also check for smaller, local airlines as well. More on that coming up.

United States

Canada

Europe

Australia & New Zealand

Asia

Make sure to bookmark this list so you can regularly check for the best deals and rates consistently. I recommend finding a few places you really want to go and find the top two or three airlines to that destination. Then, begin the process of continually looking for deals on a daily basis.

Don’t forget to check their websites a few times per day as things change quickly. Also, add them on social media as they regularly post deals on Facebook and Twitter. And make sure to sign up for their email list if available. You want to make sure you don’t miss out on any great flight deals.

Money Tip: If you fly Southwest Airlines, make sure you follow them on Twitter where they are extremely active! I have found a few great deals from the LUV airline on my Twitter feed.

9. Buy Flights In Bulk

Yes, buying in bulk, aka Costco style, is another great way to get cheap flights. As a general rule, you get a better value on your flight tickets if you buy more than one at the same time. This only works if you are on the same airline or in the same alliance group.

For example, flying a return ticket from San Francisco to London with United Airlines is much cheaper than 2 one-way tickets. Plus, you can also take advantage of this on multi-city flights as well.

A good example is Virgin Atlantic. They have routes in New York City to London, London to Shanghai, and Shanghai to New York.  By booking all of these flights at the same time using the multi-city search function on Skyscanner, you will save a ton of money!

Use Regional Passes

Another way to bulk-buy flights and save money is with round the world tickets and regional passes. These are special tickets that are unique to airline alliances which allows you to travel around the world at a discounted rate. How cool is that?

10. Search For Airline Errors

Airlines make mistakes, and if they do, you can save a ton of money and buy a bunch of super cheap flights! I’ve been “lucky” enough to do this once in the past and literally booked a flight at 90% off the normal rate. It was $40 roundtrip and a ton of fun.

Sometimes airlines make mistakes when posting their fares or have a computer malfunction.  This can happen for various reasons including human error, currency conversion mistakes and technical glitches. If you’re in the know-how on where to find airline error fares, you can save yourself some serious money on a ticket.

But this isn’t a great strategy. The reason is because airlines are doing everything they can at all times to minimize their mistakes. But, you should still use this an option at a chance to save a ton of money. AirFareWatchdog and Secret Flying are two of the best resources to help you find mistakes with airlines and book your trip fast.

The third option to help you find cheap flights from airlines making mistakes is Skyscanner.  This site allows you to easily notice a deeply discounted fare against the typical price for the month with the visual calendar. I’ve known several friends who check this site once or twice a day in the morning or at lunch to find a great deal.

11. Check Local Airlines

There are so many different airlines today it’s easy to forget the smaller, local airlines as a great way to save money on flights. Local airlines are typically in smaller, more remote areas, that aren’t as frequented destination. The next time you feel like taking an adventure to somewhere less well known, do a quick Google search for a local airline.

If you have any luck finding local airlines make sure to visit their website. Of course, do your own research on the airline to make sure it’s a good (and safe) idea. I recommend booking on their sites even if they are on bigger search engines as well as you can typically save money with deals they might offer.

12. Don’t Wait To Book Your Flight

I have made this mistake more times than I care to remember. Flights rarely, if ever, go down as the departure date gets closer. If you have to fly on a specific date, don’t wait as seats will get booked and ticket prices will increase. I’m saying it again, don’t wait when you know you have to travel somewhere on a specific date!

Budget airlines like Southwest are a good example of ones that continue to increase as you get closer to the departure date. Unless there is a specific sale that you are 100% sure about, don’t wait to book it. Otherwise, you might miss the flight entirely, get stuck in the middle seat, and have to pay more money.

13. Go Beyond the US Dollar

This is a great travel hack that I hadn’t thought about before now. Instead of always booking in US Dollars, see if it’s cheaper if you pay with another currency. Some budget airlines will make you pay in a specific currency while others will give you an option. Do your research and make sure to double check specific websites as well.

The only catch to paying in a different currency is to make sure you have a credit card that makes it worth it. If you’re hit with high foreign transaction fees it will defeat the entire purpose.

14. Actually Use Your Travel Rewards

Did you know 31% of rewards points go unused every year?

Yes, I know rewards points are obvious but they are still worth to mention. Let this be a reminder to look up some of those forgotten points and put those to some low-cost flights. If 31% of the rewards are going unused, this means there are a majority of points going towards something good.

Like your next flight out of town!

Summary of Finding Cheap Flights

It’s an awesome time to be alive. You can use Ubereats to deliver food to your door, call an Uber to catch a ride anywhere, and now book a flight all over the world with so many options. Traveling internationally and cheaply has never been easier thanks to all these resources.

If you want to explore the world and cross off your bucket list, I recommend getting started with these budget airlines and discount websites. Remember that with the low prices,  sometimes you will have to make some sacrifices. You won’t have a huge, cushy seat with lots of legroom.

Plan for delays and don’t book flights too close together just in case something happens.

Once you’re booked, make sure to review the airline procedures, pack accordingly, and print your ticket ahead of time. If you want to have an adventure book a long layover to explore a cool city that you’ve always wanted to visit.

Start stalking these websites to plan the trip of your dreams and create memories that will last forever. And if you need to make some more money to fund the travel dreams, do not miss out on these top 84 side hustles where you can make extra money right now!

 


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