How to find a cheap flight – the question everyone asks themselves when planning a trip. Sadly, most flights these days are anything but cheap, especially for us folks in the United States. I remember once explaining to an Irish man why I’ve never been to New York City before. I was 19, lived in the Midwest at the time and a flight to NYC would easily cost me $400 (cue his jaw dropping – it’s easy to nation hop in Europe for 30 euros or less).
Luckily, there are tips and secrets I’ve learned for scoring what I like to call “more affordable” flights out of the United States. Here are my secret tips for finding cheap flights.
Search on 4-5 airline sites, then actually book through the airline Not all airline sites are created equal. Hit SFO to DUB into Kayak, Sky Scanner, Expedia and Google and you’ll get different flights, different prices and different airlines available. My advice is to spend a lot of time shopping around, comparing across all the channels, and then, when you think you’ve found your flight, actually book directly through the airline. Not always, but sometimes booking airline directly is a bit cheaper.
But, before you book, clear your cookies. I actually always look at flights at home, then book at work, or the other way around. Cookies will track what flights you are looking at and boost up the price, but only for you. Not cool, but the work around is booking on different computers to act as a “fresh” user.
Choose your location at the last minute. I’m serious. You’ve probably heard advice to have flexible dates, but that doesn’t work for most people who work. (Nobody can tell their boss they may or may not be leaving on May 15th – and they aren’t sure when they’re getting back.) Instead, use SecretFlying.com to browse incredibly cheap, last minute flights. The concept behind this site is that airlines frequently have errors in their ticketing system and humans don’t always spot them. This site rounds all of them up for you so you can pounce on the savings. As I’m writing this, there’s a listing for a $19 flight from Boston to Palm Springs and another $300 flight from SFO to Asia. For reference, I paid close to $1000 for a flight to China from Chicago a couple years back.
If you are seeking an affordable adventure, use SecretFlying.com.
Take a different route. Heading to Paris? A flight from Chicago to Dublin is usually around $600, but a flight to Paris from Chicago is closer to $900. But, once you are in Europe, flights get very cheap. Think $30 flights to Spain via RyanAir or $100 flights to Italy. Or, $50 rides from Ireland to France. If this concept interests you, also note that Iceland Air just started a program where you can book a “stopover” flight in Iceland. You can stop at Iceland on your way to that Paris trip for up to 7 days without any extra fees. Two trips in one = my kind of deal.
Rack up points. I held out on the reward points card for a long time and I have no idea why. I finally took the plunge and got a Delta rewards card, which was great for getting a free flight home for Thanksgiving, but not much else. So, a couple of months ago, I got the new Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit. And MAN, does this totally change the game of travel. $100,000 signup points (think easily two roundtrip flights to Europe), 3x points for any travel purchases and dining out (this means ANYTHING that sells food for the most part). There’s a bunch of other bonuses I won’t go into, but you can check it out here. Basically, get yourself a travel rewards card that works for you and use it to help you travel farther and cheaper.
I hope these tips help you find affordable travel! For more travel tips, check out these other blog posts.