How to find cheap flights, how to identify better seats on a plane, where to take a nap at an airport as well as how to get a decent deal on a one way flight
There’s no need to introduce this post that much. Everyone knows that feeling when you finally decide about your next trip and then you start browsing various search engines in an excitement mode to get your flight, only to be hit by some massive airfare with a semi-sobering effect. Is there a way how to find cheap flights? Well, there are certain methods that can certainly increase your chances of scoring a cheaper flight. For instance, I usually manage to get a 10-30% cheaper long-distance flight on average, if compared to standard prices. In case you were interested to learn how do I do that, please read further.
I thought that while we’ll on the subject of air travel, it might be a good idea to throw in few extra tips that can make your journey a bit better. I’m talking about things like identifying better seats on a plane; where to take a nap in an airport during a long changeover; and – who knows – you might even like the little bonus option of downloading few Spotify playlists designed to make you fall asleep on a plane 🙂 And last but not least, we will also talk about getting a decent deal for one-way flights, because that is often really hard.
Please note that I’m going to describe the entire process of searching as well as booking a flight, which might include few tricks some of you already take into consideration when booking your flights. If that was your case, please feel free to jump to the next paragraph.
How to find cheap flights
Search without the cookie traces: go incognito. Private browsing basically prevents websites from using cookies stored on your computer to track your visits to their sites. Your cookies are reset each time you re-open an incognito window so the vendors can’t track you the way they would like to. In case you have never heard of incognito browsing, it’s easy. Just open your browser’s menu, click on ‘File’ and then ‘New private window’ or go: Press: ‘Ctrl + Shift + n’ on Windows, or Press: ‘⌘ + Shift + n’ on Mac.
Search engines and ticket vendors
Well, I’m sure that you are all aware of the various search engines that are on the market. Each of them come with their own algorithm. I’ve tried and tested them all and in spite of all that research, I’ve only booked my flights with three of them (Skyscanner, Momondo, and Kiwi). It could have been just a coincidence but for the periods when I was looking for my flights, one of those three engines always came up with the best deal.
As for what others have to say about which engine has the best deals, here is a little research conducted by The Independent, in case you were interested. As far as the differences between the particular engines are, please read further, if you’re interested. Otherwise, skip to the next paragraph 😉
Skyscanner is the search engine I happened to use the most. It’s a classic broad search engine that often comes with the best deals. It allows you to search the prices of the whole month, rather than just the specific date. If you are a bit flexible with your time, you might get yourself a bargain that way 😉
Momondo works on a similar basis to Skyscanner. The differences between the two are in detail, such as categorisation of the results or options of multiple dates/departures/destinations and so on. In principle, they are both search engines only. It means that they will only point you to ticket brokers to make your purchase, once you pick the best deals. Momondo or Skyscanner will then redirect you to the ticket broker’s site, such as eDreams, Opodo, Gate 1, Supersaver, Travelgenio, and so on, with whom you make the actual booking.
Air Wander is yet another search engine, like the two above. Its biggest advantage is that it allows you to turn your layovers into stopovers. It’s therefore a cool option, in case you have wanted to visit some place, you wouldn’t otherwise consider as a final destination for a short time only before moving on to your major destination.
Google Flights and Matrix ITA
Kiwi: Unlike Skyscanner or Momondo, Kiwi is also a ticket broker so you can opt for booking your flight with them. This engine also allows you to search from multiple departures to multiple arrival airports. Kiwi often produces the cheapest fares but the way they do it is in “mix and match” style. In other words, their fares often come with looooooooong stopovers/changes as they combine all airlines to get you the deal.
Another downside that comes with the “mix and match” system is that when you’re changing flights you have to transfer your luggage by yourself. In other words, you have to pick your luggage up and check it in again with the airline you’re about to fly with. My advice therefore is to keep that in mind when making a booking because if you have to wait for your luggage for a bit longer or if your flight has a little delay, you might miss your connection. To prevent such a situation, you can set up the min/max length of your waiting/changing period when searching.
Kayak is yet another middleman, similar to Skyscanner, Momondo, Matrix ITA, and Google Flights. A search engine, rather than a ticket broker. One of Kayak‘s advantages is that in case you wanted to book a hotel or a car, you can do it with any vendor, rather than being tight to the one you’ve purchased your flight with, to which you’re mostly tight to with other engines. Please note that Kayak has apparently shitty customer service. I haven’t experienced it myself though because Kayak has never produced the best deal for me so I can’t confirm this rumour…
You can also check out some agencies to book your flight with. Among the most popular, there are Vayama, Expedia, or Travelocity. Agencies often offer good deals on a massive selection of airlines, flights, and fares to popular tourist destinations. They also come with certain loyalty advantages. I’d say that if you run out of options, check the agencies out. One never knows…
Check the airline’s price as well
With their large volume-purchasing advantages, the travel agencies, as well as the ticket vendors, often have good deals with airlines as they usually secure a bundle of tickets at a discounted price. Those deals sometimes allow them to offer the same flights at lower prices. But that is not always the case. I’d say that if you have found a suitable offer on one of the search engines, head to the particular airline website to check their prices before making the initial booking with the third-party broker.
Check the vendor’s reviews
In case you have decided to book your flight with a ticket broker (or agency) you don’t know, I advise you to check their reviews first. Not all of them are super-popular among customers. But then again, not every review is objective and helpful. I’ll elaborate on the subject of reviews a bit more later…
Check the currency prices difference
Sometimes you’re being asked to pay in your local currency. If we’re talking about an expensive long-distance flight, it might be worth checking if the rate is cheaper if paid in another currency, that’s of course if you have a credit card that’s free of exchange rates.
Other options of getting cheaper flights
Fare Errors and good deals
There are also various websites that highlight various deals or even fare errors. The most notable of them all are Secret Flying, Fly 4 Free, Holiday Pirates, and Airfare Watchdog. Ideally, follow them on Social Media and get alerted as soon as they post a new deal. That however produces a lot of notifications and – what’s worse – unless you’re flexible with your time, you’ll also get multiple consequent regrets because you won’t be able to take advantage of those deals if you are tight to work or other duties 🙂
Sometimes, the two connecting flights between A and B are cheaper than just flying to C in between them. Those weird pricing policies of various airlines produced space for people to find their ways around to get better deals. One of them is the Hidden City, which practically means ditching the connecting flight. In case you have wanted to explore such an option, Skiplagged is the engine to use.
Before you do so, please note that it comes with certain dangers. For example, if you have your luggage checked in, it will most likely travel to the final destination marked on your ticket. Furthermore, airlines naturally hate these tricks because it’s too late for them to try to fill your seat so they fight back any way they can, including penalising the customers, such as miles reductions and so on. My advice? Read the small print properly before making a decision to go for it…
When to fly cheaper?
The most obvious timing is to pick the off-peak (no holiday) time of the year. If your job doesn’t allow you to, then try flying on Tuesday or Wednesdays, when the flights are often a bit cheaper than towards the more busy weekends. If there are multiple options, try picking an early hours flight, those and the late-night ones are often much cheaper but with the early hours, you won’t have to worry about finding your hotel late at night.
How far in advance to book the flight?
Don’t wait too long is the general advice here, otherwise, you’ll most likely observe that your flight getting more and more expensive each day you check. We’ve all been there, haven’t we?)) Speaking for myself, I’ve booked my intercontinental flights from 5 days to 30 days in advance. In the early days of my travels, I often went back and checked the price again later but I don’t do that anymore because there is no point.
Are there any stats? Well, according to CheapAir.com, which analysed the booking data from roughly 1.3 billion airfares, the best time to purchase a domestic flight is 54 days in advance. But when it comes to international flights, they say “book sooner rather than later” as it depends on the locations. Which makes sense, if you think about it. More details are here, in case you were interested, but I can tell you that it won’t give you a specific answer…
Where to fly?
For long, intercontinental flights, think travel hubs AKA large international airports with multiple connections to a variety of destinations. Those are for example Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur in South East Asia; Frankfurt, London, Paris, Madrid, and so on in Europe, etc… I’m sure you get the picture.
Then there are economic, cultural and various interest ties to be taken into consideration. Do you want to fly to Latin America from Europe? Think Madrid or Lisbon. Another example is Fort Lauderdale when it comes to USA – Latin America connections.
Oh well. I admit that I’m not one of the eager miles collectors. My little problem with these schemes is that it restricts my freedom when it comes to who to fly with, especially if the best flight to pick is with an airline from a different airlines alliance. I however know people who are geniuses with miles, which allows them to enjoy quite a few privileges. I therefore believe that if you are a frequent flyer, collecting miles is a good idea.
Because I am a crappy miles collector, I better leave the explanation for someone who knows a lot about it. Here’s Samatha Rosen‘s Beginner’s Guide AKA Everything you need to know about points, miles, airlines, and credit cards at The Points Guy site. Although it concentrates on North American users, the basic principles the post describes should be useful for anyone. The best loyalty programmes in Europe are here.
How to find cheaper one way flights
With increased air traffic, booking a one-way flight became a rather rare activity. For the airlines, it’s obviously easier to count on a passenger to get back where he or she came from. The pricing policies of one-way flights therefore evolved into a bizarre situation, when one-way flights often cost the same or even less if compared to a return flight on average. There are however few options to possibly strike a decent deal:
- Some airlines, such as Norweigan Air, JetBlue, Air Lingus or Southwest price their fares based on one-way purchases. It doesn’t mean that you’d pay 1/2 the price for one way flight because they might not be of the same selling value, it only means that you’d pay their value for one way flight. It’s naturally usually less than the full return flight and this option should save you few bucks, if applicable
- Thomas Cook used to have last-minute or let’s call it late sales of their empty seats but I don’t know if the bankrupted company’s reinvented incarnation will keep that policy
- Like with return flights, think economic and cultural travel hubs. For example, the higher numbers of expats or immigrants (whatever label you prefer) or perhaps retirees from your destination could create a higher demand for such flights, so the prices might be lower
- If you have time for several changes, think large airlines. They’d combine their spare seats in order to accommodate you but that often comes with long waits. For example, I’ve flown with Thomas Cook from Cologne to Santiago de Chile via the Dominican Republic and Panama. Long flight, many changes, and horrible jet lag but the price was at 60% average of a single flight to any South American destination at the time of my booking. You can also mix&match the various airlines to do the same. Kiwi search engine could be rather useful in this case.
Similar like with the Hidden City travelling mentioned above, there’s something called “throwaway ticketing”. If you’re guessing that it is basically ditching the return flight you have purchased only because the return was cheaper, you’re right. If you considered the “throwaway ticketing” as a way to save up on your one-way flight, please read the terms and conditions carefully. It’s pretty much the same story as with the Hidden City travelling. The airlines hate it and most of them would hit you with some sanction.
Aeroplane comfort tips
Pick a seat
When it comes to comfort, you’re pretty much in the hands of the airline once you finalise your booking. You can however affect few things prior to that. Seat Guru provides rather a useful guide where you can pick the best seat in your price range by using specific seat maps for particular plane types. You can also check the flight shopping deals as well as various flight information there. It’s a great useful site, especially for long flights, if you can’t afford a Business Class seat. I recommend checking Seat Guru out 😉
Sleep in the airport
To have a nap at the airport during a long wait is far from being ideal but as we all know, the hotels in the close range to airports often take advantage of that and often charge nearly criminal prices. For those who want to save few bucks and stay at the airport, there’s the Sleeping In The Airport website. It’s a user review-based site that would basically tell you in which area of a particular airport is the best to have a nap. Furthermore, you can find out how to get to various airport lounges and so on. In case you had a lot of time when changing planes, I definitely recommend this site.
Reviews and human nature
When it comes to reviews, we know that they are not all to be trusted. Except for the fact that there are numerous fake reviews when people get paid or awarded in some way to produce a nice review, there’s also vanity that sometimes plays its role in review-writing. I mean that a lot of people only bother to write a review if something went wrong.
In other words, imagine that a million people fly in a certain period of time and only a few of them have an unfortunate experience. Those few are far more likely to complain that the 999 950 people with normal experience to write about their normal experience 🙂
Now, I’m not saying that a negative review is always a question of someone’s vanity or lack of empathy (of course many of them are objective and very useful) but we all know that it happens. People sometimes forget to take few deep breaths. Well, and there are also some who seek an opportunity to complain because it gives them certain satisfaction, but that is for a different debate 😉
Although going through other people’s negative reviews is not exactly a happy activity, I personally advise you to learn to identify and base your opinion around some reasonable reviews, rather than falling for the negative complaining crap, the Internet is being increasingly filled up with…
Summary of how to get cheap flights
- Switch your browser into Incognito/Private searching mode
- Pick a good search engine, like Skyscanner, Momondo, Kiwi, or other
- Time your departure for midweek, outside the major holidays, if possible
- When you have found the best deal, double-check the price against another search engine and then with the airline that operates the flight you’ve picked
- Make sure the ticket vendor you’re about to book your flight with is legit
- Check what currency is the best to complete the purchase with
- For a long flight, check what seat would be the best on Seat Guru
- Don’t forget to collect miles
- Enjoy your trip 🙂
- If you’ve achieved a better result using the information this article has provided, share it on your fav social network, please, so more people can take advantage of it 😉
Bonus: long flight music playlists
Here are some playlists filled with epic tunes set in a special order with an intention to help you to settle with your hectic departure day, clear your head and eventually enter the dreamland. The music BPM naturally follows that intention. The playlists commence with some downtempo vibe, then they gradually ease to more and more calm tunes, while they always conclude with dreamy ambient music 🙂 More travel-related playlists could be found here on Spotify, in case you were interested 🙂
More practical info about travelling, particularly in Latin America, in case you were interested
- Budget: in case you were interested, here‘s an article listing the country-by-country basic expenses for a traveller in Latin America
- Safety: Few safety tips on how to secure your valuables, what to watch out for and more could be found here
- Cheap Flights: advice on how to score a cheap/er flight
- Transport: Information, safety and some other practical advice regarding public transport in Latin America can be found here
- ATM withdrawal charges: Some practical info, including the list of free-of-charge ATMs in Latin America, can be found here
- Border fees: To find out how much will you have to pay to enter or exit certain countries in Latin America, please click here
- Pre-trip preparations: Few things you can do ahead of time before you’ll become frantically busy prior to your departure are listed here
- Packing list: What to take with you for an extended trip as well as some security tips could be found here
The featured image by Gerhard G. from Pixabay.