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The Best Way to Find Cheap Flights: The ULTIMATE Guide

Airfares account for one of the biggest costs of booking any trip.  We wanted to put together a guide on the best way to find cheap flights to anywhere in the world.  

This list is the culmination of everything we’ve learned from travelling condensed into one article.

By the end of this guide, you will be an expert in finding the cheapest flights.  

You will learn travel hacks that airlines don’t want you to know about, as well the best flight rewards, best travel credit cards and when to book your flights.

1. Use the Best Search Engine For Cheap Flights

To top off our list of best ways to find the cheapest flights in the world, we recommend using search engines specially designed for finding the lowest cost airfares possible.

In our experience, Momondo and Skyscanner are the two best search engines for finding the cheapest airfares.  Skyscanner, in particular, finds the cheapest deals from the widest range of airlines.

On top of that, the Skyscanner app is the best travel app available for finding cheap flights.  You’ll need to give it a try to see what we mean, but there is tonnes of functionality there to help you find the best deal.  Keep this installed on your phone in case you need a quick, last minute flight somewhere.

Aside from Skyscanner, Momondo is another great flight search engine that searches all airlines, including budget and non-English ones.  

Our recommendation is to start with Skyscanner, but to also check Momondo and Google Flights before making a final decision.  Prices can often vary slightly, so it’s worth a quick look.

Skyscanner home page for cheap flights.

2. Be Flexible With Your Travel Dates, Times & Locations

The two biggest factors in the price variations of airline tickets are when you are flying and where you are flying to.

If you want to maximise your chances of getting the best prices airfares possible, you should try to be as flexible around these two things as you can.  

Avoid flying around major holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving and school breaks.  Don’t forget to check out the holidays in your destination, such as Chinese New Year which could cause an increase in prices at unexpected times of the year.

Time of the week also has a significant part to play in airline prices.  Most people prefer to travel over weekends, so if you are flexible around the day you travel you could save hundreds.  

Data shows that booking flights on a Sunday is the cheapest day on average.  This isn’t always the case, but it illustrates the importance of checking prices over a week and booking which day is cheaper.

Lastly, see if you can be flexible with your destination.  Some places are inherently cheaper to fly to, whether they are closer or less popular.  It comes down to operating costs as well as supply and demand.

For most people, when you decide to visit Samoa, you may not want to purchase a ticket to Hong Kong just because it’s cheaper.  But if a cheaper flight comes up to Rarotonga, this might be worth the savings.  

Try keeping your options open and you may score a cheaper flight to an even cooler destination than you had originally planned.

3. Use Hidden City Ticketing With Skiplagged to Find the Cheapest Route

When we found Skiplagged it significantly reduced how much we spend on flights.  

Skiplagged is first and foremost a flight search engine like Skyscanner and Google Flights.  You can find and book all the normal flights these search engines offer. The key difference is that it looks for loopholes in the way airlines price their airfares.

The first loophole is ‘Hidden City Ticketing’.  This is renowned as the hack that airlines don’t want you to know about.  So much so that both United Airlines and Orbitz in the US filed a lawsuit against the SkipLagged founder Aktarer Zaman – and lost.

The theory behind this is that the tool looks for longer flights that stopover in your intended destination.  For example, if you are flying LA to Singapore it might be cheaper to fly LA to Melbourne with a stopover in Singapore.  You then tactically ‘miss’ your second flight and remain in Singapore.

The second loophole is by combining two independent flights to find the cheapest route to your destination.  We recently found with SkipLagged that it was cheaper to fly from Auckland to Coolangatta then Coolangatta to Singapore than it would be to book any other flight to Singapore including the standard stopovers.

Just be careful when booking Hidden City tickets. The majority of the time, Airlines check your luggage directly into the second flight.  If you go this route, I recommend flying carry-on only and ensuring you don’t overpack your luggage (as if you do, they may check this in too). Check out our packing guide for tips and hacks to save space and pack more efficiently.

Skiplagged homepage.

4. Use Incognito Mode or Delete Your Cookies

As digital marketers, we’re well aware of what other digital marketers are capable of doing with cookies.

We can confirm that airlines and online flight websites can place cookies in your browser that show different prices personalised to you (e.g. higher prices if you’ve been looking a few times).

Realistically, we doubt many websites do this, due to price competition.  If Skyscanner was to start showing you a higher price, then you would be able to go and find the original lower price somewhere else – they don’t want you to do this.  

It’s in their best interest to show you the lowest possible prices, especially on your third or fourth visit.

On top of this, it’s super easy to check and prove when a site is personalising prices.  Jump into an incognito browser and run the same search. Compare the prices in your logged-in browser to the incognito window.  If they are different, then the website is showing you personalised pricing based on your cookies.

If a site did this, we think it would quickly earn a negative reputation.  It seems unlikely to us, but it’s easy enough to check. So go ahead, clear your cookies to confirm.  But don’t lose sleep over it.

5. Book Early – Like Now.  Book Your Flights Now.

You often hear people say “book your flights five months out for the cheapest flights”.  Or six months, or seven. The truth is, no one knows when prices will be the cheapest.  

Airlines are smarter than this. If everyone was booking their flights five months out then they would make this the most expensive time to book to maximise their profits.

Sure, sometimes airlines will run promotions.  Air New Zealand has Grabaseat to get rid of last-minute seats.  Jet Star has sales twice a year that are well worth holding out for.  But unless you know for certain that a sale is coming up, then you will most likely watch the price of your ticket go up.

For that reason, book your flights now.  Jump on Skyscanner and Momondo, do your research and find the cheapest flight available today and book it.  This is one of the easiest and best ways to find cheap flights.

6. How To Get the Cheapest Flights Last Minute

Firstly, if you are months out from your flight go to tip #5 and book now.  You shouldn’t intentionally wait until the last minute in the hope you’ll get a cheap flight – you probably won’t.

But if it already is last-minute, then it pays to know how to get these flights as cheap as possible.  

Our advice here is simple:  Be flexible with your destination and look for last-minute specials.  

A lot of airlines try to offload any leftover seats last minute directly on their website.  Check out every airline and choose a cheap flight to a destination you find interesting.

If you have a single destination in mind, then this may not work for you.  In this case, be prepared to pay much higher than if you’d booked sooner. You need to be either flexible or prepared if you want cheap flights.

7. Utilise Airline Reward Schemes to Fly Cheaper

Our process of booking cheap flights generally involves choosing the cheapest flights we can find.  It’s never worth locking yourself into one airline just for the rewards.

However, we have preferred airlines which we try to use when the prices are similar.  By prioritising a few airlines you can maximise the benefit you get from frequent flyer reward schemes.  This is as opposed to randomly booking any airline and spreading your rewards points across too many different airlines.

Almost every airline has a rewards program, so make sure to join it when you fly.  You have nothing to lose. Over time these do add up and they become a great way to score free flights, discounts, upgrades and sometimes products to purchase online.

Singapore Airlines rewards program.

8. Consider Booking Separate Flights

There have been times we’ve found booking two flights and including a short trip in between has turned out to be a lot cheaper than booking a direct flight.  

This is especially the case when booking flights to locations that aren’t typical stopovers for the route you are taking.  

It can take a fair bit of extra work, but all you need to do is create a spreadsheet and record the prices for flights to a range of different airports and the prices from those airports to your final destination.  Then work out which route is the cheapest.

9. Finding Cheap Airlines

Budget airlines offer opportunities for budget-conscious travellers to fly for cheap.  They strip back the flying experience allowing you to purchase only what you require.

By using these airlines, you can purchase a seat on a plane with no luggage, meals or entertainment.  By cutting their costs, they pass these savings on to you with cheaper flight prices.

Just bear in mind, it is very common for these airlines to arrive and depart at odd times (like the middle of the night).  A lot of them also have reputations for poor customer service and delayed flights.

Most of the time we aim to fly with more premium airlines, especially when the price is just a bit higher and the flight is longer than three hours.  But if you are on a very strict budget and you’re willing to forego some of the amenities, here are a few cheap international airlines that we recommend for their low prices:

  • Jetstar
  • AirAsia
  • Scoot

10. Use a Travel Rewards Credit Card

Travel Rewards Credit Cards won’t help you find cheaper flights, but they basically equate to free money every time you book a flight.

This works by rewarding you with a number of points for every dollar you spend on airfares.  We ensure every flight we book goes through our American Express card where we get miles for every dollar spent on flights.

Some cards also offer perks such as airport lounge access or free domestic flights to use. 

Even if you don’t qualify for any travel rewards credit cards, purchasing flights is a big expense so putting this on a rewards-based card will offer benefits in the long run.

On top of the points you accrue when purchasing flights through the card, if you sign up for the right travel rewards credit card at the right time you will receive bonus rewards points just by using the card.  These points are sometimes enough to pay for your flights outright.

American Express Airpoints Card.

11. Consider Long Stopovers For Cheap International Flights

We love this travel hack as it allows us to visit a new destination essentially for free.

When booking your international flights, look out for the ones with long stopovers.  These are often cheaper as people aim to get from point A to B as quickly as possible.

When you’re on a holiday, you may as well take the time to explore a new place.  Try to push it out for a day or two, but even a 10-hour stopover can be enough time for a quick look around a new city.  

12. Find the Best Flight Deals

If you really want to find the cheapest flights to anywhere in the world, the best way is to look out for flight deals offered by airlines throughout the year. Some airlines offer significant discounts, in particular, the budget ones.

As much as we try to book with premium airlines like Singapore Airlines and Air New Zealand, there have been times that the discounts offered by the budget airlines have converted us.

Jetstar, for example, is an Australian airline which runs a ‘return flight for free’ promotion once a year on it’s birthday.  We managed to score return flights for two to Rarotonga for $200 each. The next best price we could find was over 2.5 times more expensive at $500 each.

Was our flight delayed?  Yup. But who cares when you’re saving $600.  We were more than happy to wait.

So, how did we know about this deal?  We signed up to their newsletter. If you are serious about travel and want to find the cheapest flights possible, then we highly recommend joining email lists for all major airlines.

It will clutter your email inbox. But if you bother to check them, you will find out about all of the airlines’ sales before anyone else.  And the best deals always sell out.

Jetstar is a cheap airline.

13. Get Cheap Flights With Student Discounts

Thankfully, we are no longer students.  And to be honest, when we were, we could barely afford to travel.

But for all the drawbacks of being a student, businesses do realise how small students’ disposable incomes are.  This leads to great discounts on a lot of things. Most of the time, we used our discounts at the cinema.

But if you’re a student looking to travel in your break, a lot of airlines offer great discounts.  Check out the airline’s websites and get in touch with a travel agent. STA Travel hooked us up in the past with discounts on a number of things since we were under 26.

STA Travel cheap flights for students.

14. Search for Flights in Different Currencies

We always found it strange how this works.  You would think that airlines would have consistent pricing across currencies to prevent arbitrage through purchasing flight tickets.  Yet somehow, they don’t.

That said, this usually doesn’t work.  But it’s always worth having a look at the website’s pricing on different country versions.  Also, try switching the currency to see if it improves.

There have been times we’ve found lower prices in different currencies, it seems to just come down to which currency is stronger at the time.

If you are doing this, make sure to take note of your foreign exchange fees for your credit card.  Ours charges 1.5% which is fine, but yours may have a fixed fee.

15. Travel Light to Save on Baggage Fees

Sometimes you’ll be in the process of booking a super cheap flight, only to find out it costs twice as much for the checked-in baggage as it did for the ticket itself.

This option isn’t for us – we need to carry all of our tech and clothes everywhere we go.  But if you’re a minimalist who can get away with just a backpack you’ll be able to save a tonne on your flight costs.

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