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How to find cheap flights? tips and tricks

Yes, it is possible to get cheap flights, with these tips you can achieve it. We are going to give you several tricks to fly cheap.

Yes, yes, I can imagine what you must be thinking, that “how to find cheap flights” sounds like a bed-time story. But no, I’m serious, yes you can get cheap flights, you just have to follow the advice that we will give you here, to put the right elements in your favor. So later on you can also say that yes, you can find flights without going bankrupt.

Use the right tools

Tip 1: use a metasearch engine

Oops, oops, wait, that name sounds very strange“, surely you must be saying to me. I apologize in advance, I admit that even the term sounded strange to me the first time I heard it. So in a nutshell:

A metasearch engine is a tool that works as if you were searching many places at once.

For example: if you want to go from Mexico City to Madrid, you would surely start by searching the page of a certain travel agency, or perhaps, directly in an airline, for example in Aeromexico. With this you will have a single price and if you want to have several options you will have to make several queries. Well, with a metasearch engine you only have to do it once and all the options will appear on a single screen.

In my case, the metasearch engine that I use is Skyscanner, it has been very helpful for me to be able to carry out my traveling projects. There are others on the market (such as momondo, kayak, google flights, to list a few). But since the one I use most of the time is Skyscanner, I know the tips I will give you can be applied with this tool.

What you have to be clear about is that these tools only do the search, but in the end you will book in the travel agency or airline that is offering that certain rate. The metasearch engine will tell you who is making the offer. This point will be important to keep in mind for tip 7.

Once we have a suitable search tool, we are going to search for our flight.

Look for that longed-for flight

Tip 2: be flexible

Now it is necessary to be flexible in all the extension of the word. This is one of the key points if we want to figure out how to find cheap flights!. If we want to know how to get those cheap flights that we dream of so much, at least in these three points we must have flexibility in:

  • Dates
  • Schedules
  • Locations

Let’s go through the points one by one (by the way, to put it into practice you can open Skyscanner and do the test while you are reading this article):

Dates: what is the classic departure day for most people? Friday night or Saturday morning? Well, you have to start by avoiding those days. But you can give it a try by doing a search with the traditional dates to compare later.

But if you have to avoid the busiest days, then what days are the best? You have to think that these are the days of the week in which many do not fly, several agree that those days are Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Some also include Saturday, but in my personal experience I would say that it is not a good day to fly.

Schedules: for this, you are going to have to suffer a bit, since, generally, the schedules with the best prices are the ones that most will not want. Do you see any difference between flying at 6 or 11 in the morning? there you have it. By doing the search you can see that the more “comfortable” a schedule becomes, the higher the price.

Locations: reading it this way may sound strange, but no, we must take into account that many cities have several airports that are more or less far away. Or they even have neighboring cities with airports where the price can be more interesting. Of course: you always have to take into account the price of transportation from your place of origin or destination to that alternative airport.

For instance: we were able to go to Peru, thanks to the fact that we took the alternative of leaving from Milan, since from Nice (the closest airport to us) it had stratospheric prices.

The other point is, if you are traveling to a country but you have not yet put together the itinerary, in a certain way, it does not matter if you arrive in a certain city (of course, as long as it is part of what you are going to visit).

If you are going to visit, so to speak, Japan imagine that you had planned to visit both Tokyo and Osaka. Now imagine that once you have searched for your flight to Tokyo you see that it costs what it costs, but if you put Osaka as arrival instead, and in the meantime you can visit Naruto Park that is nearby, the price decreases. Then you can play with combinations like arriving and leaving the same airport or arriving at one airport and leaving another. But those combinations can be searched for in a later phase.

At least, start by locating the city to which it is most convenient for you to fly.

Tip 3: Avoid high seasons

I know, this is an advice that can be very difficult to apply, at times. And there are times when it is impossible to escape dates like Christmas or school holidays. Avoiding high seasons is a fundamental key to how to find cheap flights.

It is something that you have to keep in mind, whenever you can, avoid the busiest dates, since it will be very difficult to find tickets at a good price there.

Tip 4: Don’t get tracked

Let’s see, this point for some is an urban legend, for others it is true. But even among those who know how to weave and handle the pages of travel agencies and airlines, there is no single opinion.

What I’m talking about? of cookies, and no, I’m not talking about the delicious chocolate chip ones. This time I am referring to a tracking element that is saved on your computer and with this those who give us the prices of the flights know how interested you are in that flight.

But to avoid doubts about whether the presence of these virtual cookies affects or not, there is an alternative. And it is to use the incognito mode of the browser to carry out our search. In fact it is a good way to check if cookies affect or not.

If you use chrome you have to go to the three dots on the right, and select the third option. This will open a new window in incognito mode.

And beware, the fact that cookies do not affect a certain flight does not mean that it is the same for another itinerary, since it will depend on the airlines/travel agencies that give the prices.

Tip 5: Do things in advance

I’m not going to lie, some of those stories of people finding very cheap plane tickets at the last minute are true. But, do not expect that it will always happen, in fact, it is most likely that it will not happen. As a general rule, the price goes up as time goes by. So one of the keys to how to find cheap flights is anticipation, but with measure.

The routes and their respective prices are usually available 11 months before the flight. But it is also not convenient to rush to buy the ticket so far in advance, since the prices are constantly changing.

According to Skyscanner, the approximate rule is: on domestic flights, but that can change depending the country, the ideal is to buy the ticket between 6 and 7 weeks in advance. In the case of international flights, the anticipation is converted from weeks to months: between 5 and 7 months.

You have your cheap flight, now what?

Even if you’ve already got it, don’t let your guard down, there are still things you can do to prevent the price from going up.

Tip 6: use the cheapest payment method

Not all cards are the same when it comes to paying for a plane ticket. It doesn’t happen with all airlines or travel agencies, but when it happens you have to be attentive. When you arrive at the time to pay, you have to make sure that no extra charge is made.

Sometimes it is written in small, so you have to check that the price does not change when selecting the card with which we are going to pay.

Tip 7: Book with the airline whenever you can

When we see the flight offers on Skyscanner, or any other metasearch engine, we must try to find, if present, the airline that sells the tickets. If the price difference is not abysmal between it and the cheapest on the list, my advice would be to try to book directly with the airline, now I’ll explain why. This is dedicated to those who like to do things directly on the computer 😀

Many of the airlines have online tools, so that you can reserve your seats yourself, and most importantly, to carry out post-sale operations: suppose you need to refund your ticket and the airline has an interface to do so. Well, the problem is that if you made the reservation through a travel agency, the airline will not let you use their interfaces to make changes to your reservation, they will tell you that you have to go through the agency that issued the ticket. Something that for me is very cumbersome, but this is because I prefer to do things directly. So, just for you to keep in mind.

This happened to me: when we went to India, I had booked a flight from Varanasi to Delhi with SpiceJet, but going through lastminute. The flight was very late in the afternoon, but we decided that we preferred to leave earlier, when we entered the SpiceJet page to see how much difference in fare I had to pay to make the change of date (we had already checked that yes, there were places on the flight that we wanted to use), problem: post-sale modifications cannot be made to a ticket issued by a travel agency.

I sent an email to lastminute, but obviously, with the time difference, they didn’t answer me when I needed to. I even called the airline and they told me that nothing could be done if it wasn’t through the travel agency. It really bothered me a lot, I have to say, feeling powerless not having control of my tickets.

The story ended with us having to buy another ticket for the time we wanted and wait for lastminute to reimburse us, which did happen but with the blackmail of either receiving the amount in my account but with a 20 euro handling fee deduction or leave it all on a voucher from them. Since the refund was only 40 euros, you can imagine that it wasn’t worth it and in the end I never used the voucher, so it obviously expired, so lastminute kept the money. It was very frustrating.

So moral: unless the price difference is going to be HUGE, I always book with the airline.

Although it is that, the price difference, even now it happens from time to time that I have had to book through a travel agency, and it continues to bother me that if I contact the airline to see some detail of my reservation they always tell me I have to see it with the travel agency.

Don’t stop being alert

Tip 8: Turn on price alerts

In the metasearch engines where possible, in my case I can do it with Skyscanner, create price alerts. Once you have searched for an itinerary, the metasearch engine will give you the option to create a price alert, so getting cheap flights will be much easier since you will receive the good news in your e-mail. So you don’t forget that travel project 🙂

Bonus tip: receive our offers

Yes, I know that nothing will replace your own searches, but nothing like getting a little help. I’ll explain. In our monthly newsletter we usually send flight offers that we find interesting. So why lose the push? Subscribe here (newsletter is in Spanish language).

Hacks to fly cheap

These tips must be taken carefully, if they are not applied well the result may not be as expected.

Tip 9: Do not take the last segment of the flight

It is well known that if you do not take the outbound flight, the return flight is automatically cancelled. The same thing happens with segments. When I speak of a segment, I mean the portion of the trip that corresponds to a plane taken.

I think I can illustrate it better with an example:

As I mentioned above, to go to Peru we took the plane in Milan, which is about 4 hours from where we live. But there was no problem, we could take the train, it was quite cheap, everything was fine. Only that on the way back, the flight was: Lima – Paris – Milan and honestly, we no longer wanted to go back to Milan and take the train, since due to the flight schedules it meant sleeping there, which increased the cost.

Solution: as in Paris we had to change airports, we were able to retrieve our bags. Only that when we arrived at the airport instead of going to the airline counter to leave our bags to continue with our trip to Milan, what we did was go to the counter of the low-cost airline with which we had booked, separately, a Paris – Nice. It was much cheaper than the hotel night in Milan plus the train and we would be directly close to home.

The moral is that, if the price of the flight is very good and only the last segment does not suit you, then do not take it and go your way elsewhere. Just make sure that the situation is conducive to recovering your bags. If not, they will go to the destination of the original trip.

Mind you, in moderation, the airlines don’t love that we do this. This to say that you are not going to do it every month, per say.

And you have to be clear that the moment you stop taking a plane, all the following segments will be canceled, that’s why I say that where it is more feasible to do this is in the last segment of the flight.

Tip 10: Buy the flights separately

This hack is risky, but if it goes well the savings can be considerable. This consists of buying the flights separately, that is, if we want to go to a certain place but getting to another intermediate point is cheaper, then we buy that flight and then separately, the flight from that intermediate place to our destination.

This happened to me on one of my first flights, when I was not yet using metasearch engines, here it was the travel agency itself that did the hack. I was going to fly from San Diego to Marseille. But the flights were very expensive, so what they did was buy me a San Diego – London and issue a ticket, then separately they bought the London – Marseille.

The reason that the price did not add up, I understand now, there was no airline alliance for the total itinerary at that time, that was the reason that buying the flights separately was cheaper.

Now we must take into account the risks of this, and assume them, if one of the flights is delayed and we cannot take the next one, the one with the other ticket, we are totally discovered. So, if this hack is done, you have to leave a wide margin of time to avoid eventualities.

How to find cheap flights? the key points

Put these tips into practice and you will see that you will find good deals. As you have seen, it is a combination of:

  • Have the right tools
  • Be flexible
  • Take risks, but with measure
  • Know what we’re paying for
  • Always be alert

I hope that for your next flights you can make your tickets much cheaper!

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Olga Grijalva

Olga is a traveler and travel content creator with 17 years of experience. Her goal is to share useful information to help you plan your adventures. She has visited more than 40 countries and is excited to share her experience with you.