For many people, booking cheap plane tickets is a raffle. One day you may find an astonishing deal that’s too good not to book, then a couple of days later that same deal has doubled in price. This can be for a number of reasons, from the deal expiring, maximum capacity for that deal was reached or even an error fare by the airline itself.
Today, with endless search engines, continually fluctuating prices and hundreds of airlines to choose from, booking cheap plane tickets can become overwhelming to say the least.
Thankfully, we have some top tips to share with you on how to book the cheapest plane tickets possible. We’re both frequent budget travellers who love flight hacking in a way that allows us to travel fairly often in business class without the price tag. We learned flight hacking due to Yannick’s last job which basically involved finding cheap plane tickets for business and first class customers!
As a result, I’ll take you through our key tips and hacks that will save you time and money when you book your next flight. The sole purpose of this post is to help you maximise YOUR probability of getting an epic deal. Sounds good? Let’s take off!
1. Be An Undercover Spy When Searching For Cheap Plane Tickets
To stop this from happening, make sure to always search incognito or in private browsing mode to see the lowest prices. If you’re unsure how to open a private browsing window follow these simple steps:
- Google Chrome/Safari: Command (Ctrl if using a PC) + Shift + N.
- Mozilla Firefox/Internet Explore: Command (Ctrl if using a PC) + Shift + P.
These short steps will open a new browser window that looks similar to the image below.
Every time you open a new incognito window your cookies are reset. Therefore, if you want to start with a clean sheet before each flight search, remember to close all your incognito windows, follow the steps above, and then perform your flight search.
Note: When searching for flights on Skyscanner, you don’t have to worry about searching for cheap plane tickets in incognito mode, as they do not implement cookies or use any type of tracking system on flight searches!
2. Use The Right Flight Search Engines
There are hundreds of flight search engines out there, some more regarded than others. Knowing where to look for a specific flight can save you a lot of money. Flight search engines are not good for every area of the world, for example some may be better in Asia whilst others in Europe. Keep this in mind when searching for cheap plane tickets.
Before booking anything, make sure to check out other sites, at least 3/4 to make sure you’re not missing the cheapest flight possible in the route you’re seeking.
Here is a list of the best flight search engines to use:
- Kayak – One of our favourite websites to get a quick and good overview of every airline out there. It’s easy to use, straight forward, and finds everything from small regional or low cost airlines to the well established international carriers. They’ve got a lot of useful gadgets like credit card cost overviews and price alarms too.
- Skyscanner – Often known as THE tool for cheap travel. Skyscanner lets you search with an extremely high flexibility due to their feature of searching “Anywhere” as a destination.
- Momondo – A similar search engine to Kayak, they tend to offer prices from a wider range of booking platforms, however some of the really cheap ones are not reputable. So it’s worth a look, before booking anything
- ITA Matrix – Definitely our favourite tool for long-haul flights. You can literally do anything, from filtering specific airlines or aircraft, to setting a certain routing or your preferred connecting times, building in an overnight stop, and a whole lot more, this is for sure the most advanced tool out there.
However, if you’re not used to advanced booking systems, this platform may seem confusing, but not to worry! We have a ITA Matrix Beginners Guide for you right here!
Kiwi.com is another contender who’s been recently getting a lot of praise and great customer satisfaction. It looks great, but we have yet to book with them.
Whatever you do, stay away from 3rd party travel agencies like Priceline, Orbitz and TripAdvisor Flights who take a huge cut from the airlines and thus generally have higher prices.
3. Don’t Forget To Check The Airlines Website Itself
Whilst third party travel websites like Skyscanner and Momondo can be great, sometimes the best-unadvertised deals can be found directly on the airline’s website itself. This is mainly for low-cost carriers around the world, as they generally have a separate booking system and therefore are not displayed on the international flight search engines.
4. Check Departures/Arrivals From Alternative Airports
Major hubs like London, New York, Moscow, Los Angeles and Rio De Janeiro all have multiple airports within a close proximity. Prices can vary greatly depending which airport you fly into. For example, London Heathrow mainly serves large carriers, whilst London Luton mainly serves budget carriers, thus Luton may be your best bet if you’re wanting to fly within Europe.
One thing to keep in mind, if you’re located within America, Europe or other nations with easy access to other countries, don’t rule out flying there and then taking the flight you originally wanted to book. For example, if you’re located in London and wanted to fly to Sydney, it may work out cheaper flying to Frankfurt and booking a flight from Frankfurt to Sydney. We do this a lot, and have saved hundreds with this little flight hack. Check out how we’ve travelled to 43 countries before we turned 21!
5. Be Flexible On Your Travel Dates
This means both for destinations and travel dates. You’re more likely to find cheap plane tickets by flying at unsociable times, for example during low season, early morning or mid–week. In the past we have seen that a difference of one day can result in hundreds of pounds being saved, purely because you’re travelling when demand is at its lowest.
6. Don’t Always Fly Direct
Whilst non-stop flights are usually more desirable, sometimes you can save a significant amount of money by booking flights with 1 or more stops. A 1-stop flight may also give you more options, and the chance to see another destination.
We have seen some amazing places because we haven’t booked a direct flight AND it worked out cheaper!
For example, on our last trip back to Europe from Australia we went via Abu Dhabi to Johannesburg, spent 5 nights in Kruger National Park (read about our Amazing Safari Here), then back to Abu Dhabi and on to New York, where we spend 3 nights exploring what this amazing city had to offer (read How To See New York In 3 Days), before heading back home! Yes it was a lot of travelling, but that’s what we love and I’m sure you wouldn’t turn down that offer either!
7. Budget Airlines Are Your Friend
Before you start to complain about their customer service, reliability and secret costs hear us out.
Budget Airlines and Low-Cost Carriers are usually significantly cheaper than their full-service counterparts, and if you’re only looking to get from A to B this is a great option. Although this does result in generally less attention to detail, stricter baggage policies, paid seat selection and other factors, if you’re wanting a cheap plane ticket this can be the way to fly.
There are a few downsides to booking with low-cost airlines, which include:
- Airport Location – Many tend to use secondary airports further away from the city.
- Check In Luggage Extra – These low prices only include hand baggage (which is strict as well). If you want to check in baggage you will have to pay extra. Note: Within Europe, nearly all carriers now charge for check-in luggage, even BA and Lufthansa!
- Don’t Forget To Print Your Ticket – Airlines like RyanAir, will actually charge you if you haven’t printed it out beforehand!
- Nothing Is Included – Forget food, drinks, seat selection etc. For nearly all budget carriers these are paid extras.
From our own experience, we think low-cost airlines are GREAT value-for-money, with their ticket prices ranging anywhere from 20 to 50% cheaper compared to usual airlines. We’ve flown within Asia, Europe and Australia with many different ones and never had an issue.
Below is a list of the most popular budget airlines around the world, and ones we recommend in each continent.
|North America||South America||Oceania||Asia||Europe||Africa||Middle East|
|Spirit (USA)||Azul Airlines (Brazil)||Jetstar (Australia & NZ)||AirAsia (All over)||EasyJet (All over)||Mango (South Africa)||FlyDubai (UAE)|
|Frontier (USA)||Viva Air (Peru)||TigerAir||IndiGo (India)||Eurowings (Germany)||Kulula (South Africa)||Air Arabia (UAE & Jordan)|
|WestJet (Canada)||Wingo (Colombia)||Vanilla Air (Japan)||Wizz Air (Eastern Europe)||JamboJet (Kenya)|
|Porter Airlines (Canada)||Sky Airline (Chile)||Scoot (Singapore)||RyanAir (All over)||FastJet (Tanzania & Zimbabwe)|
|Volaris (Mexico)||GOL (Brazil)||NokAir (Thailand)||WOW Air (Iceland)|
|Allegiant Airlines (USA)||Jet Smart (Chile)||Lion Air (Thailand & Malaysia)||Norwegian (Norway)|
|JetBlue (USA)||Easyfly (Colombia)||SpringAirlines (China)||Vueling (Spain)|
|Cebu Pacific (Philippines)||Transavia (Netherlands)|
8. Check If It’s Cheaper To Pay In Other Currencies
Before booking a flight, consider if the rate you are quoted is cheaper if you paid in another currency. Often budget airlines will make you pay in the currency of the country you’re departing from, but this isn’t always the case.
An important note when doing this: make sure you’re using a credit card that is free of foreign-transaction fees, otherwise your attempts to save money doing this will be lost, and you be actually be paying more money for the plane ticket in the end!
9. Search For Crazy Deals & Error Fares
This is our favourite part of searching for flights, we love finding error fares which are too good not to pass! As I’m writing this, Yannick has just found a one-way business class flight from Sri Lanka to Frankfurt via Kuwait for £115 (roughly $150) and booked it a few hours ago! Deals like this are too good to be true!
So what exactly is an error fare?
Put simply, airlines sometimes make mistakes when posting their fares, leading to seriously discounted flights. This can happen for various reasons – currency conversion mishaps, technical glitches, or human error. If you’re in the know-how on where to find airline error fares, you can save yourself some serious cash on a ticket.
Note: Error fares usually do not last long at all, airlines pick up the error fare quickly due to the high influx of bookings, and thus alter the price back to its usual benchmark. If you want to use error fares to your advantage you’re going to need to be quick and willing to book a cheap flight ticket right away.
There are a few websites which are great for finding error fares and crazy deals, a few of our favourites include:
10. Sign Up For A Frequent Flyer Program
Frequent flyer programs are great for scoring free flights (only pay taxes) and free upgrades.
Even if you’re not a frequent flier we recommend signing up for an airline rewards program, as after all it’s 100% free to sign up. You can earn points by shopping at partner stores, taking advantage of special email offers (sign up for their newsletter) and by flying of course.
You might want to check which program best fits your travel needs. For instance, we fly a lot from Europe to Australia, so what suits us best are airlines that fly to both Europe and Australia, for example Etihad. We earn miles every time we fly with them, and as a result we are both a Gold and Platinum Etihad Member. Because of this, we can use their First Class Lounges, priority check-in, upgrades are highly possible and more baggage allowance.
To be aware, some frequent flyer programs are more beneficial and rewarding than others, here is a list of the best frequent flyer programs around the world:
- North America: American Airlines (OneWorld)
- South America: Avianca Lifemiles (Star Alliance)
- Middle East: Etihad Airways
- Oceania: Virgin Australia
- Asia: Asiana Airlines (Star Alliance) and Japan Airlines Milage Bank (OneWorld)
- Europe: Turkish Airlines (Star Alliance) and British Airways (OneWorld)
- Africa: Ethiopian Airlines (Star Alliance)
11. Go Where The Deals Go
If you start with a flexible approach, with a fairly wide range of dates and you’re not too bothered on the destination, going where the deals go is a great way to find cheap plane tickets. Searching specifically for a flight departing from Frankfurt to Bangkok on the 26th March and returning on the 10th April isn’t giving you must leeway for price alterations. Being flexible and open can secure you some of the best deals around.
Wrapping It Up – The 5 Golden Rules to LuxuryBackpacking
Securing and banking truly cheap plane tickets has become the holy grail of travel today. Plane tickets are one of the biggest expenses of a travellers budget, so it’s no wonder people are constantly searching for the cheapest flight possible.
The great news for everyone is that there are amazing airline deals happening right now. Over the years, the one thing we’ve learned is that finding these affordable flights is not hard, as long as you know where to look at the right time. Hopefully after reading this post, you’re well on your way to finding cheap plane tickets every time you travel!
And again, this just proves you DON’T need to be wealthy to travel!
As a final takeaway of this article, make sure you follow the 5 rules below.
- Search incognito for no alternations in price.
- Use the right search engines, and don’t forget to look on the airlines website itself.
- Consider booking numerous stops and go where the deal takes you.
- Join a frequent flyer program.
- Keep a look out for error fares.
Do you have some awesome and secret techniques to save big on flights and finding cheap plane tickets? Share your thoughts below!
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