When it comes to finding the right flights, cost is a significant factor for most of us—if you really don’t care how expensive your flight is, then you’re probably either traveling on the company dime or rich enough to have your own private jet anyway. For everyone else, there are certain tips and tricks to know for hunting down the best deals.
Combine multiple airlines
Airlines around the world operate on a complex and ever-changing schedule, and sometimes you can save yourself some cash by combining flights from different companies. It depends when and where you’re going, and you might have to spend longer traveling as a result, but there are savings out there if you know where to look for them.
One of the best places to look is Kiwi, which gives you a wealth of options to pick from when you put in departure and destination locations. The cheapest deals from multiple airlines will be shown first by default, and you can easily adjust your criteria (including the number of stops and the days you want to travel on) via the filter options on the left.
See two destinations in one trip
One of the ways to get more value from a trip is to turn a stopover into a longer (but still quite brief) stay. If you have to connect two flights together to reach your chosen destination anyway, why not make the most of it and see a bit of the place you’re changing flights in? It’s important to ensure it’s actually somewhere you want to see, of course.
Several popular flight search engines can help you out here (see the other tips in this article for some ideas), but it’s also worth checking with airlines directly. Take Icelandair, for example, which has a dedicated page for stopovers: When you fly transatlantic with the airline to any destination, you can add a 1 to 7 day break in Iceland at no additional cost.
Wait for the right moment
As you may well have noticed if you’ve been spending a lot of time searching for flights, how much they’ll cost you will vary depending on how far in advance you book: There isn’t really a cheapest time that applies to all airlines and all destinations, and it can be difficult to know whether to book as early or as late as possible in order to get the cheapest deal.
Skyscanner is one of the best flight search engines on the web, showing you how prices for trips vary across particular months. If you click the Get Price Alerts button on the search results screen, you can have Skyscanner keep you updated about price fluctuations for your chosen route, so you can seize the moment to book when costs start tumbling.
Find sale prices quickly
Airlines will often offer deals and discounts on flights for all kinds of reasons—to attract new customers, to fill up flights, and so on and so on—but unless you’re able to sit at a computer around the clock for days on end, it can be difficult to catch these deals when they pop up. Fortunately, several websites will do the tedious legwork on your behalf.
One website that’s very impressive in this regard is Scott’s Free Flights. You put in the place you want to go to, and the place you’re setting off from, and it will ping you whenever there’s a bargain to be had related to your travel plans. It’s free for international economy deals, with paid-for plans available for more deal types and extra customization options.
Vary your travel times
If you don’t absolutely have to go and return on specific days, then you can save yourself some money. Although there’s no one-size-fits-all rule when it comes to the cheapest day to travel, most of the flight search engines out there can return a range of prices split up by day of the week (and even time of day) so that you can choose the least expensive option.
Google Flights is one of the most comprehensive flight search options out there (as you might expect from Google). On the search results after you’ve entered a starting airport and destination airport, select the Any dates toggle switch next to Track prices—you’ll then get email updates when prices drop for any dates within the next 3-6 months.
Visit somewhere different
Being flexible isn’t something we all have the luxury of, but as we’ve already mentioned above, it’s one of the best ways to get cheaper deals. This applies to destinations as well as travel days, and an alternative (and potentially much cheaper) way of thinking about your next vacation is to search by budget, rather than where you were thinking of heading to.
One website that’s great for this is Kayak. If you click on the Explore link in the navigation bar on the left, you can then enter your starting airport and see what prices are like for destinations all across the globe (zoom and scroll to see more deals). Use the slider on the left to set your budget, then click through on any deals you like the look of to buy tickets.