11 Tips for Booking a Cheap Flight

cheap flight tips
September 12th, 2014

1. Sign Up for Alerts

First, sign up for one of the brilliant online services out there– like Hopper (http://www.hopper.com), which sifts through millions of online fare searches and billions of flights per day, then tells you the average cost of a flight between two airports over the next six months; or AirFareWatchDog’s (http://www.airfarewatchdog.com/) fare alerts and email newsletters that sends cheap flight deals based on your home airport. Most domestic deals are under or around $200 – and some are so low, it’s mind-boggling. 

2. Follow Airlines on Social Media

Friend or follow carriers you’re most likely to use and keep tabs on what they’re offering. Airlines often tout pretty amazing deals on Facebook and Twitter and they go fast, so get ready to jump on an opportunity when you see one.

3. Be Airport-Smart

Airports with mutiple airlines, such as Denver or Atlanta, are often much more competitively priced than those that single-serve airlines– like Dallas–Fort Worth. Shop around, or....

4. Seek out an Intermediate Destination

Flying into major airports is almost always more expensive than those in smaller cities– especially in Europe, where non-flying public transportation is so well organized, it is well worth checking out your options as far as flying into a city close to where you are headed, then taking a train or bus. This can often save you quite a hefty sum, although may be more time-consuming on the ground.

5. Know When — Exactly — to Buy

While searching for deals, remember that traveling on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday are the cheapest days to fly, while Friday and Sunday are the busiest travel days and the most expensive. The most cost-efficient time to fly is also first thing in the morning and red-eyes, followed by lunch time and dinner-hour flights. The best times to purchase an airline ticket, however, is Tuesday at 3 p.m. or Friday at 4 p.m. ET, as discounted flights hit the sites. Want to know how far in advance you should be booking your flight for the best rate possible? Check out this thorough analysis done by cheapair.com.

6. Use Priceline for Last-Minute Trips

Short on time to purchase airfare? You can name your own price on Priceline.com. Although you won't know the exact flight times or airline you’ll be flying with until you pay, it’s possible to save 50%. Hotwire.com can also be useful for last minute trips.

7. Hire a Travel Agent

Despite the plethora of websites mentioned earlier designed to allow anyone to snag deals on airfare, there are many instances when contacting a travel agent makes sense. Hiring a professional at Flight Centre or the Adventure Travel Company, for example, will often pay for itself and more with the discounts they’ll find you, not to mention the time and hassle of sifting through all the information they’ll save you. 

8. Consider Hotel + Air Packages

If you are planning on arriving to your destination a few days prior to your trip start date, it's often cheaper to buy an air-plus-hotel package rather than airfare alone, especially for last minute travel. In some cases, the deal will include wholesale airfares that are only available as part of a package. Travelocity’s "TotalTrip" offerings often pop up with hotel-plus-air for half the price of air alone. Lastminute.com is also a great source for finding last minute packages.

9. Test the 24-Hour Rule

After booking your flights, check the next morning to see if the price of your airfare fell. If it did, give the airline a call to see if you can cancel your flight and rebook without penalty.

10. Become a Frequent Flier

It pays to cozy up to your airline of choice. Become an elite member of the airline's frequent-flier program or use a credit card that's tied to the airline to get a leg up on other travelers. This is especially worth your while if you live near a major airline's main hub. For example, if you're near Delta-dominated Salt Lake City, it's likely worth looking into their client credit card. In general, be sure to use a credit card with travel rewards and to rack up points on an Air Miles card whenever possible.

11. Check out Google Flights

Google’s new Flights feature is super basic but super fast and effective. Check it out: https://www.google.com/flights