My Way of Finding Cheap Flights
Every traveler has their own way of searching for the best flights. I don’t think there is a wrong way to search for a flight, but some methods are better than others. Regardless of how you search for flights, I’m sure that I can offer some tips and tricks to improve them.
In 2016, I had over 20 trips. Most of those trips were domestic travel, but three were international. I used the following tips and tricks to help me purchase the cheapest flights possible.
1. DELETE YOUR COOKIES
Have you ever continuously searched for flights or concert tickets throughout the day and noticed after checking the website a few time a day the price mysteriously goes up? That’s because some purchasing sites track your cookies.
COOKIES: small files created and stored on your computer by your web browser when visiting different sites.
You can prevent this from happening by either going in “incognito web mode”, turning off your cookie tracking, or deleting your cookies. These settings can be changed in your Internet Options. Follow these steps to see what internet cookies are already on your computer.
Example for Google Chrome:
Do you see those three vertical dots in the top right hand corner of your web page? Look to the right of the address field bar. Now from there click the following: Settings > Content settings (under privacy) > All cookies and site data (under Cookies)
Displayed here should be most sites you have visited with information of locally stored data. Look at what you have and notice the option to remove all the cookies at the top right hand corner of that pop up screen. REMOVE ALL COOKIES during the process of purchasing a flight on an airline’s page.
2. STALK YOUR FLIGHT
You don’t have to be sure you’re flying somewhere to stalk a flight. For example, if you’re in college and you know that you must fly home during Christmas Break, after finals, then STALK THAT FLIGHT. If you’re the person that goes to visit your mom for every Mother’s Day, then STALK THAT FLIGHT. If you have a conference you may want to attend, but you’re not sure 100% sure you’re attending, still STALK THAT FLIGHT. I know that was repetitive, but I want you to understand the importance of stalking (tracking) flights.
There are several ways to stalk a flight you’re interested in. In 2016, I used Airfarewatchdog (recommendation from my little sister @krissscarstarphen) and the Google Flights’ tracking feature. This feature allows you to set up email updates for flight price changes. Recently, I’ve added the Hopper app to my flight tracking toolkit (recommendation from @gor_jess13). I love this tool because in addition to it tracking the prices for you it also provides predictions on the best time to purchase the ticket. This can get tricky however because they’re not always right, but so far, it’s been amazing for me.
3. THE CONNECTING FLIGHT (HIDDEN CITIES)
I can’t believe what I’m about to tell you is even legal. Skiplagged is another app that finds cheap flights. They’re so good at finding cheap flights that United Airlines sued them for it. Skiplagged finds the standard fares, like any other airfare searching tool, but it also finds hidden city flights.
A Hidden city flight: a layover city or a connecting city that in turn becomes the final destination.
For example; a flight from Detroit to Atlanta might cost $275, but a similar flight from Detroit to Fort Lauderdale, with a layover in Atlanta will cost $175. If you’re going to Atlanta, skiplagged will show you both flights; and if you choose the cheaper flight, you get off the plane at the layover (Atlanta) rather than going to the final destination (Fort Lauderdale). Confused?
You need a one way flight, but you have two options.
Flight 1 vs Flight 2
Both flights are going to Atlanta.
Flight 1 is a from Detroit to Atlanta for $189 (EXPENSIVE)
Flight 2 is from Detroit to Fort Lauderdale with a layover in Atlanta for $89 (CHEAPER)
Both flights are going to Atlanta.
Which flight do you choose?
I would choose Flight 2.
I’ve done this several times and I recommend it if you’re trying to save money, but there are some things you might want to consider before booking a hidden city flight. Do not check bags, remember you’re getting off at the layover not the final destination. All checked bags go to the final destination. Also, keep in mind that there’s a chance that your itinerary may change at the discretion of the airline because of irregular operations such as bad weather. This has never happened to me, but there’s a very slim chance that it can.
For more things to consider visit skiplagged FAQ.
4. B BE HUMBLE. SIT DOWN.
Don’t discriminate against budget airlines. If you know me or follow me on social media, then you know that I’m an avid budget airline flyer, specifically for Spirit. There are some restrictions that may stop a budget airline from being the best option, but if your trip duration is four days or less then there is not much that you can say to me in a debate arguing that a budget airline isn’t best, ESPECIALLY if you’re trying to save money. I understand that there are pros and cons to every situation, so we’ll explore both for this topic.
1. They’re inexpensive. 2. They will get you to your destination.
1. You must read and understand what comes with the deal.
So, if you’re okay with reading the fine print then you’re already on your way to saving money by choosing a budget airline. Just commit to the following: No checked luggage (unless you want to pay), no carry-on baggage (unless you want to pay), no snacks on the flight (unless you want to pay), and print your own ticket (unless you want to pay). That’s not too bad, right?
Oh yea, one more thing, the planes on budget airlines are pretty standard. You have a seat, a seat belt, air conditioning, and a small tray table. If you're looking for luxury then budget airlines will not be your top pick, but remember they will get you to your final destination.
5. PRIME TIME TUESDAYS
Most of my flights purchases have been booked on Tuesdays. Most North American airlines have cheaper flights available on Tuesdays. To be honest, I’m not sure what the exact reasons are, but flight trends show that you are more likely to find a cheaper flight on a Tuesday versus any other day of the week. Hopper predicts that the best time to purchase flights is Tuesday at midnight.
6. DON’T WAIT
“I’ll just wait to get the flight closer to the date.” If you know the date you’re traveling, then why are you waiting? If you plan to travel in less than six to seven weeks, then I recommend booking as soon as possible. Typically, purchasing your flight between one and a half to two months before your departure date will get you the best deal.
Rule of thumb, whenever a flight is under $100 - $150 round-trip go ahead and book the flight. If the price drops within 24 hours most airlines will allow you to get a refund. If your flight price does drop within 24 hours of your purchase, refund your ticket and purchase the cheaper option. This applies if you don't spend the extra money to buy a fully refundable ticket.