You’ve got 30 seconds to search: “book cheap flights.”
Ready. Set...Go! 30, 29, 28, 27....
If you see what I see (and even if you don’t, no worries), there are about 83,000,000 Google results of how to score a cheap flight. That’s not surprising because thousands of people are posting about their adventures on Instagram with any hashtag that starts with #Travel. International travel is more affordable than ever and now is the time to take advantage, even on a budget. It’s a movement and the solution to your wanderlust. Let’s get into how.
Use an incognito window
Ever since a friend told me about this window, I’ve been traveling happily (and cheaply) throughout Europe. Any time you search a flight, use the incognito window as a security blanket. It protects you from airline tactics such as increasing prices while you search, or showing a flight is suddenly unavailable. These are ways to force you to buy a more expensive flight.
Subscribe to Scott’s Cheap Flights and The Flight Deal
The deals I’ve seen on Scott’s email list are unbelievable. Go to his website to sign-up for the free emails. He sends one to three deals per day to international destinations all over the world (including non-European locations) from the U.S. There’s also a premium option that requires a login and offers multiple payment plans in your budget. It’s not 100% necessary, but if you work remotely and can travel often, you get more options. Scott even tells you how long he expects the deals to last. Have your money ready and turn on those email notifications to snag them quickly. The Flight Deal is comparable too for U.S domestic destinations.
Example: The past 3 weeks, there have been three or four flight deals to Europe for $300 to $400 roundtrip from almost every major U.S. city with Scott’s Cheap Flights!
Depart and return on non-busy days and times
With a flexible schedule, it’s easier to book flights on “off” days. For example, leaving on a Wednesday or Thursday, and returning on a Monday, can be cheaper than leaving on a Friday and returning on a Sunday. Also, earlier flight times are cheaper. My 1:30am Friday morning departure to Greece from Madrid was at least 50 euros less than a later time the same day. This gives you more time to explore a new place and you save money!
Don’t book too early
While planning is good, over-planning is not. Saving money a year in advance is a wise decision, however you shouldn’t buy a flight that early. With international flights from the U.S, book 3 to 6 months in advance depending on the destination (ex. Europe is on the lower end while Africa is on the higher end). A general rule: 6 to 8 weeks beforehand is the safe zone for anywhere.
Already abroad? Use budget airlines
Yes, I know the customer service on these flights can be undesirable sometimes, but you sacrifice comfort and friendliness for the price. Ryanair, Vueling and Easyjet are the three I would recommend for European travel. Buy no more than a month in advance if it’s time and location sensitive. However, if it’s high season for tourists or the dates fall during Spring Break, those are the most expensive times to book (specifically for a European destinations or warmer climates). Book sooner rather than later because prices will begin to increase closer to the departure date.
Quick tip: For non-EU citizens: Ryanair also requires a stamp so get to your gate early. Also, check-in and print out your boarding pass before you fly; you’ll save a lot of time. I got a 44 euro roundtrip flight from Madrid to Brussels on Ryanair!
Don’t fly direct
Direct flights are wonderful and relaxing because you don’t have to run from one plane, or through passport control and security, to another flight. Yet, they are pricier. Consider a long layover for a cheaper price tag.
Don’t book flights on the weekends
To be honest, I’m skeptical about “the best days” to book flights; it changes too often and I think it’s location-dependent. But, I do know to avoid weekends because they are the worst options. Prices are always hiked up! Tuesdays are commonly regarded as the most cost-friendly day, with midnight being the ideal time of choice. Personally, booking earlier in the week (Monday to Wednesday) have never failed me.
Quick Tips: Hopper is the app to use to schedule and watch multiple flights at once. In January, I bought a $541 roundtrip flight, with only a 1 hour layover in Paris, from Madrid to O’Hare in Chicago for my brother’s wedding in May.
No plan, no problem: hello Skyscanner
Skyscanner is an oldie, but reliable goodie. For the adventurous travelers, or those who don’t plan a month in advance yet still want cheap flights, Skyscanner’s “Everywhere” option is perfect. You can find the cheapest destination to visit that weekend with a click of a button. This is also great for people working 9 to 5 and are looking for weekend escape in your home country or abroad. Skyscanner even compares flights for you and lists them from cheapest to priciest and shows layover lengths.
Quick tip: Skiplagged and Google Flights also have similar options for you to “explore anywhere” too!
Have a solid internet connection
If your internet connection is slow, your flight can become booked while you’re loading and you miss out on a deal! Find a cafe with good Wifi, a friend's house, or a hot spot when flight searching. A stronger connection means a stronger chance of a good deal.
Quick Tip: Compare with multiple search engines! Different algorithms produce different results.
Student and teacher discounts
I don’t know about you, but I’m staying a “college student” for as long as I can. Just kidding...kind of! Discounts are welcome in every department, travel is no different.STA Travel and StudentUniverse are two websites that offer student travel discounts. STA Travel also offers teacher, under 26 and many more cheap alternatives to save money. Just buy their ID card and you're set.
Cheap travel is possible! Patience and research are key to booking your next adventure. Be flexible in your search and always prepare for the unexpected. That’s the only thing that’s constant with travel.
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I'd rather splurge on a good meal than a nice hotel, wine than water and plane tickets than club covers. Traveling and eating are my two favorite things, so follow my journey to see where I go and eat next! I'm just living my best life.