How to find cheap airfare
We all know that the airline industry is directly dependent on so many factors that affect airfare prices like; oil, current economy, season of the year, materials, and so many other costs. Most of the time the airfare can take most of our travel budget; that’s why, finding a cheap airfare is as important as finding a good hotel, tour, backpack. Even more, airfares can dictate your trip destination and time of travel. But, there are many ways of finding good deals, and we will point most of them here:
1. Flexibility Pays
Being flexible is one of the best ways to find cheap airfares. Flexibility alone can save you hundreds of dollars in long distance flights. There are many ways of being flexible…
- Which day of the week to travel – Depending on your route, the day of the week can affect significantly your airfare. If your route is mostly touristic, you’ll have better luck finding a cheap airfare if you travel on a Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. But, if your route has a bigger business traffic, you’ll be better flying during the weekend, since business travelers only travel during weekdays. Also, the time of the day has a big influence on the price. Flights that are early in the morning or late at night (red eye) are usually cheaper because these are the least desired times of travel. Test alternate travel dates to see which departure/arrival combination one is the best for your trip.
- Holiday travel – Normally, traveling during the holidays tends to be expensive, since everyone wants to take the opportunity to enjoy those extra days off. But, sometimes traveling after the holiday or even right at the holiday can save you a lot of money. Why is that? Because people want to spend the holiday on their vacations or with their families, not on an airplane. I did this on a flight from Miami to Madrid during New Year’s celebration. I can’t say it was my best New Year’s, but I can say that I saved hundreds of dollars by taking that flight.
- Alternate Airports – If you live near more than one airport, there is the possibility that one airport can be cheaper than the other one. For example, New York City has three major airports within a 10 miles radius (JFK, LGA, NWR), and all three of them have very different prices for the same destination. Why? Because each airport charges a different landing fee and different carriers charge different prices. So, try different airports for your departure and arrival destination.
- Flexible Itinerary – Sometimes we like traveling to more than one city. We can either do it as a closed circuit (arrive and depart from the same city) or as an open jaw (arrive at one city and depart from another one). Open jaws give us the flexibility to test the itinerary “start to finish” and “finish to start”. For example, we can check airfares for out trip that begins in Madrid and ends in Paris just in the opposite direction; start in Paris and end in Madrid. The price difference can be significant. Let’s just be aware that sometimes open jaw tickets can be more expensive than round-trip tickets.
2. Flying to secondary airports
Many cities have secondary airports. Most of the times, secondary airports serve Low-Cost Carriers. Low-Cost Carriers, or budget airlines, are cheaper since they pay lower landing fees and have fewer perks than the bigger airlines. Usually, these secondary airports are far from the city center, so be sure to check how easy it is to get from the airport to the city center.
Have in mind, sometimes these local transportation costs can make Low-Cost Carriers more expensive and/or not time efficient. But generally, these airlines are a good deal. In addition, you can combine major airlines with Low Cost Carriers to reduce your airfare total price (for example: Flying from New York to London on a major airline and from London to Frankfurt on a Low Cost Carrier). There are many option to choose when it comes to Low-Cost Carriers, particularly in Europe.
3. Plan with time
A good rule of thumb is to check for airfares between 90 to 60 days before the trip. Usually, this is the timeframe when airlines have the cheapest fares. If the trip is closer than that timeframe, usually buying the ticket at least 21 days before the departure can still give you a good deal. Since the airline industry is very volatile, always look to book your flight at the price you are willing to pay, not at the cheapest price you could find. You never know if the price will go up or down the next day. Although it’s not so recommended in terms of planning, last minute deals can also save a lot of money. Sometimes being spontaneous pays!
4. Difference in search engines
Some search engines are the big dogs in the airfare industry, but that doesn’t mean they are the cheapest. Not all search engines are the same, and not all of them offer the same price. Some search engines offer exclusive prices, no booking fees, special discounts, and more. For some reason, the best deals are found while searching for tickets after midnight. Some of the most popular search engines are Expedia.com, CheapOair.com, Vayama.com, Kayak.com, Orbitz.com, Skyscanner.com, among others.
5. International Airlines Webpage
It is possible to book a flight in a website located in another country. International Airlines can offer different prices on their international websites (for example, the Canadian website for a US airline). Most of the time the prices are shown in the native currency of the site’s country, so a quick conversion to your currency will show you if it’s cheaper or not to buy on that site.
6. Frequent Flyer and Rewards Program
Frequent Flyer programs are an excellent way to get discounts and even free tickets (just pay the taxes that can be as low as $2.50). These programs and their awards vary depending the airline, but all of them have the same purpose; reward you for being a loyal customer. It’s always good to join these programs, as they are free. Also, credit cards offer rewards programs that offer you the option of converting your points into free tickets, discounts, or upgrades. Points.com is a convenient website that lets you transfer points/miles between different participating rewards programs. This way, you can transfer certain points from various rewards programs, under a conversion rate, to your preferred program.
7. Mailing lists
Many search engines and airline webpage offer the option of signing up for a mailing list. They usually send you their current offers and even alert you when a specific airfare you are searching is on a record low price. It’s good to sign up to some of these mailing lists as many special deals are offered for a short period.
8. Student Discounts
As a student, there are many discounts available. Check STA Travel or other student-oriented travel agencies for more information. Just be sure to have a current student ID.