Updated: Dec 28, 2019
We've all experienced the tiresome, repeated searching when trying to book the cheapest possible flights to any given destination. With endless search engines and continually fluctuating prices, the approach to frugal flight booking is overwhelming. Here's some key tips that will save you time, frustration and most importantly money when booking your next flight.
1) Keep your searches secret
You're not crazy for thinking that a flight price has changed after searching it a few times in your web browser. Based on the cookies in your browser, flight prices do increase when a particular route is repeatedly searched, as the site wants to scare you into booking the flight quickly before prices get even higher. Always search for flights in incognito or private browsing mode to see the lowest prices.
2) Use budget airlines
Budget airlines offer significantly cheaper tickets than their full-service counterparts. It should be obvious, but this comes with compromises such as less leg room and no “free” food/drink on-board (which by the way, is normally covered in your higher-priced ticket with full-service airlines).
3) Use points and miles
Airline rewards programs are a great way to get free flights, free upgrades, and free companion tickets. No matter how often you fly, you should be signed up for the airline’s reward program. I stick to US-based airlines since they are involved in all the major alliances and you can earn miles on their partner flights. For example, if I fly Singapore Airlines, I can earn United Airlines miles because they are partners. Likewise, if I fly Air France, it’s credited to my Delta rewards account.
4) Be flexible with your destination
If you can’t be flexible when you fly, at least be flexible with where you fly. It’s best to be both, but if you really want to save the most money and get a cheap flight for your trip, you should at least do one!
Airline search engines have made it really easy to search the entire world to find the cheapest ticket — you no longer have to search manually. While Kayak offers the “Explore” tool that allows you to put in your home airport and see a map of the world with all the flights on it, Google Flights also has a similar – and better – tool to use.
5) Use the best flight search engines
All search engines have inflated flight costs as part of taking a cut from the airlines. Some search engines (e.g. Expedia) consistently inflate much higher than others (listed below). It pays to familiarize yourself with sites that offer the best prices.
And there you have it, my top tips on how to score cheaper flights.