Flying is almost back in full force now that vaccinations are becoming readily available, and with each additional plane in the sky, prices are starting to soar back to pre-pandemic costs.
As the daughter of a flight attendant, I’ve picked up some insider knowledge about getting the best flight deals, and I’m going to share my secrets with you.
Below are my eight best travel tips for finding an affordable flight to save you money.
Try an Incognito Window to Browse or Clear Your Cookies
An incognito window is a way to browse the internet that doesn’t save your history, cookies, site data, or information entered on forms by users.
Some articles have debunked using incognito web browsers, claiming that if flight prices fluctuate mid-search that it’s “likely a coincidence.” However, I know first-hand from my own personal experience that browsing privately, and avoiding being tracked, has usually always paid off.
According to Million Mile Secrets, “studies show that it is a good idea to search for travel using different browsers, both logged in and incognito to find the best deal.”
At the end of the day, it won’t hurt you to try both and see what results you get. You can find out how to open an incognito web browser here.
Purchase Your Flight at the Optimal Day and Time
Comparefare states that “the best time to book a U.S. flight is usually Tuesday at about 3 p.m. eastern time.” Flights are cheaper on Tuesdays because many airlines release discounted tickets on Monday nights.
By booking on Tuesday, Skyscanner has determined that “you’ll save somewhere between 15 and 25 percent.” It’s also typically more affordable to fly on a weekday. Departing on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday should lower your flight cost. Flight prices tend to start increasing on Thursday, and skyrocket on the weekends.
When it comes to flights overseas, “in general, the best time to buy an international plane ticket is between 120 to 160 days before departure,” Trip Savvy, says. “While this isn’t true for every destination, this is generally the case for Asia and Europe.”
Like domestic flights, international plane tickets are usually cheaper when purchased on a week day.
To be sure you get the best rate, you should be checking fares at least a few times a week. Cheap Air has set up a website to give you peace of mind to cross-reference if you are getting a decent price, but I would personally trust your own market research.
Pick Destinations Based on What’s on Sale at the Moment
Have you ever heard of someone throwing a dart at a map, or stopping a spinning globe with a finger, and then choosing that mark as their next travel destination?
Well, if you have, the dart thrower might have spent an arm and a leg for that snap-decision, but luckily you don’t have to!
Instead, Google cheap flight destinations and see where it’s affordable to go during the time you are searching, then plan accordingly. I once met a woman who traveled to countries exclusively based on the deals she found, and that is how she was able to venture to as many exotic places as she did.
Google Promo Codes and Promotions for Your Airline of Choice
You might not know this, but some airlines offer promo codes. You can easily find them by doing a quick Google search. Simply type the words “promo code” and the airline you want to book with into the search bar to check. Bargain hunters should also know that airlines occasionally offer timely promotional deals. For example, Alaska Airlines gave new California Mileage Plan members a “California, on us” trip to the first 25,000 California residents who signed up for Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan by March 3rd, 2021, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for when those deals surface, which leads me to my next tip…
Check Prices Often and Sign Up for Free Price Alerts
The more you check flights for a certain destination, the more you will be able to recognize when a ticket goes “on sale.” Think about how you shop for clothes. If you watch a certain shirt you’ve been eyeing at full price suddenly dip down, you know it’s a good time to buy. The same principle holds true for flights!
If you have exact travel dates in mind, you can cut down your efforts by signing up for free price alerts. These alerts notify you when the specific trip you have your heart set on scales its price back.
Fly on Christmas Day, Thanksgiving, July 4th, or Other Major Holidays
Flying on a holiday is often considered the best time to find the cheapest ticket. Any time I wanted an economical ticket to my hometown, New York, from Los Angeles, I would sacrifice a holiday.
I either flew directly on Christmas, Thanksgiving, or even July 4th for the cheapest rate possible. It is not always fun or ideal to give up a day that comes around only once a year, but it’s worth it if you are really trying to save big and stretch your money.
Keep in mind that if you do choose to fly in on a holiday, you probably want to budget for a shuttle, Uber or Lyft— that way you won’t be pulling your family or friends away from their festivities to meet you at arrivals.
Be Flexible With Your Travel Dates and Times
If your travel dates are adjustable, you can be patient and wait for the best deals. Patience pays at the airport. What most people don’t know is that if you are waiting to board your plane, and a flight is overbooked, it won’t be long before you hear your gate agent over the loudspeaker asking for volunteers who can wait for the next flight out. If you’re fortunate enough to have a go-with-the flow attitude and the flexibility to wait, you should because the airline will often reward you a few hundred dollars in travel vouchers for being so accommodating.
Accrue and Use Travel Points From Airlines, Credit Cards, Etc.
When you use the right credit cards, you can acquire points and miles to help fund your next adventure. For instance, when you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening with Capital One’s Venture card, you get a one-time bonus of 60,000 miles. You can find tips on choosing the best travel credit card here.
Airlines also offer loyalty programs such as frequent flyer miles or travel points that can be used towards future flights. These programs are free, and you can easily rack up miles with every flight you take with the airline, or its affiliate airlines. Once you sign up, you will receive a number that you input every time you purchase a flight on their website. Once you accumulate enough points, you can redeem them for a free or reduced flight.
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