Lately I’ve gotten a lot of questions on how I am able to continually book inexpensive travel.
While I always refer people to this article, my most comprehensive post on easy ways to travel cheaply, I also wanted to do a separate post on saving money on airfare.
Often – and especially if you’re flying internationally – airfare can be the most expensive part of your trip. So if you can save money on flights then your trip budget is off to a great start!
Whenever I plan a major trip (like this summer’s week in France!), I always start by searching for affordable airfare. Here are some of my top tips, along with really great links (seriously, check them out!) to additional resources . . .
1| Pay in Points
There are a multitude of credit cards and airline rewards programs that allow you to earn points and fly for free. I’ve written before about how I charge everything I can to my Southwest credit card – even $2 coffees. If I have to spend money on necessities (like gas, car insurance, groceries, toothpaste), I’d rather get some money back from an airline to do it. This is a great way to rack up points for your next vacation, at no additional cost to yourself.
Now – if you have a credit card spending problem, this tactic is not for you! I never charge anything to my credit card unless I have the money in the bank, and I always pay my bill off in full each month. This prevents me from paying the sky-high (haha, get it?!) interest that most credit cards charge.
I am also signed up to many different airline loyalty programs, meaning that every time I fly on a specific airline and use a frequent flyer number specific to that airline, I earn points. Between frequent flyer miles and airline credit card points, you can earn free flights pretty regularly.
One last note . . . never open an airline credit card without a signing bonus! Most airline credit cards will offer 40,000, 60,000, 100,000, or even more points if you sign up with them. Wait for a really great signing bonus deal before opening up a credit card. I have earned as many as 4 roundtrip flights just through signing bonuses.
2| Clear your Cookies
While there’s ongoing debate about whether or not airlines track your website search history and jack up pricing every time you peak at that April flight to Paris, my philosophy is, “rather safe than sorry!”
3| Travel Off-Peak
For every destination, there is an off-peak season. Sometimes this can be as simple as flying out on a Tuesday and back on a Wednesday (historically less popular days to fly). Other times this can mean visiting Prague in November and Hawaii in June. It may mean taking a redeye or a really early morning flight. Whatever your destination, it’s worth poking around on various airline sites to see when the lower fares occur. Most sites have a month-by-month breakdown that will let you scope out the cheapest dates to travel.
4| Book through a Stopover Program
One of the best – and most underutilized – ways to get the most bang for your airfare buck is to book a stopover.
A stopover is simply a level up from a layover. Rather than having a layover in an airport for a couple of hours, a stopover allows you to extend your stay in a city en route to your final destination for several days for no extra cost! So let’s say you’re flying from Washington, DC to London on IcelandAir. They have an awesome program that lets you stopover in Reykjavik for up to 7 days at no extra charge before continuing on to London.
This is a great way to fly to two destinations for the price of one. There are numerous airlines that offer stopover programs. Check them out before booking your next trip!
5| Hunt for Deals
I tell people all the time that when it comes to traveling, you have to make a choice between time and money. Do you want to just spend the money and book the first thing you find, or do you want to spend the time to hunt for the best deals? Either is fine; it just depends what resource you have the most of.
If you have the time, hunt for deals. One of the best ways to do this is by using the right sites to track down cheap airfare, and to set alerts for specific locations/dates. A few of my favorites include: Airfarewatchdog, Scott’s Cheap Flights, Momondo, The Flight Deal, Secret Flying, and Kiwi. There’s also a great app, Hopper, that will help you deal hunt on mobile.
6| Purchase a Package
Another tip I swear by is to shop around for package deals. I’ve purchased trips through Gate 1 Travel numerous times, booking airfare, hotels, and sometimes even add-on excursions or activities at a rate that’s cheaper than just purchasing the airfare alone. There are many, many travel sites that offer combo packages, you just have to do a bit of research.
I always recommend that if people only take one step towards cheaper travel, they sign up for TravelZoo’s Top 20 email list. Every week they send a comprehensive list of the Top 20 travel deals in the world, and THEY. ARE. INSANE.
7| Read the Fine Print
Lots of times people book their airfare through a budget airline and get (what appears to be) a really great deal. Budget airlines are awesome, and you should definitely utilize them! But don’t be fooled by a low sticker price . . . read the fine print. Many airlines charge for checked luggage, but some budget airlines even charge for carryons! They’ll also charge for meals, drinks, reserved seats, and more. Make sure you read what is included in your ticket, tally up the numerous airline fees, and then look at the total price before booking. Sometimes a more standard airline is ultimately the better deal.
I hope these tips help you find cheaper flights so that you can visit more places. Let me know if you have any go-to resources that I overlooked, and definitely keep me posted on your travel plans. I’m always seeking inspiration for my next getaway . . . after all, a flight just might go on sale!