Perhaps one of the most frustrating things about booking travels is seeing the cost of flights fluctuating up and down. Just when you think you’ve found a great deal, you realize that it’s much cheaper on another booking engine, or just after you book your flight, the price goes down by 20% for no apparent reason.
Booking flights is a guessing game for many, and while there will always be an element of gambling involved, expert flight hackers can minimize the risk of paying too much for airfare.
In this article, I’m going to share with you 10 of my favourite hacks for finding the best price on airfare. Some of these you may already know, but I’m confident that there will be a few brand new hacks in here that will blow your mind!
Let’s get started…
1. Use The Trip Price Function
This is a relatively new feature of Google Flights and it’s a great one for finding the best possible flights based on your destination and duration of your proposed trip. If you’re looking to book a return flight and you know the duration of your trip, this feature can save you huge money.
Let’s say you know that you want to go on a 14 day holiday sometime in May or June. Head to Google Flights and enter your departing and arriving airport, then choose any 14 day period in the months you plan to travel and hit search.
The magic happens now when you go back up to the dates and hover over the calendar. Google Flights will now show you the cost for a 14 day trip on every day of the month. Each day will have a price attached to it and this will be the price if you leave on that day and return 14 days later.
Book your holidays for the cheapest flight dates and save upwards of 50% on your entire journey. In the example above, the cheapest fair in June is 36% cheaper than the most expensive. It pays to shop for the cheapest flight days!
2. Use Different Search Engines
I know I’ve listed Google Flights quite a few times in this post, and that is because I’m a big fan of their user interface and the options it gives me to narrow down my search results, but that doesn’t mean that Google will necessarily always have the best prices.
Whenever I’m searching for flights, I’ll use my favourite search tool to find the days that are typically cheaper, and then I’ll go search those same flights on other websites like Kayak, Expedia and Cheapoair.
My favourite site search with is Google Flights, but I almost always book with Expedia because I trust them 100% and they offer 24 hour free cancellation on most flights. No matter how loyal you are to one company, it’s important that you always shop around because you can sometimes find the flights for 20-30% cheaper just by searching on another website.
In my experience, there is no one website that ALWAYS has the cheapest flights, which brings me to my next flight booking hack…
3. Sign Up For a Deal Tracker
Because no one website can find you the absolute cheapest flight deal, it’s often worth it to sign up for a cheap flight deal tracker like DollarFlightClub.com. Once you enter your email address on their site to sign-up, they’ll send you the best international flight deals available from all websites and airlines based on where you are departing from and where you want to go (like $305 roundtrip to New Zealand or $395 roundtrip to London).
It’s really that simple. Once you join their program of 500,000+ frequent flyers, you’ll get email alerts when cheap international flights to your dream destinations pop up from your home airport. The average savings per ticket is over $500 USD, so if you end up buying a flight from your subscription, the service pays for itself 10X.
4. Search One-Ways First
Often times, there are specific dates that are cheaper to fly on. Either certain (cheaper) airlines only fly out on those days, or the fares are just lower on certain days for some reason. Whatever it may be, it does pay to search one-way flights first, to see which days are cheaper in each direction.
Using the first hack in this post, you can find the best prices on a 15 day journey, but if you’re flexible on how long your trip will be, then it pays to search one ways in each direction first.
What you do is, head to Google Flights again and choose a one-way flight from your departure airport to your planned destination. Then click on the calendar to view the dates of the month and every day will have a price attached to it. Find the cheapest day and write it down.
Then switch your arrival and destination airports and check the prices on every day again for your return journey. Often you’ll find that there is one day of the week / month that is much cheaper in each direction.
Now search a return journey using the cheapest day for departure and the cheapest day for return that you discovered in the previous steps. Oftentimes this return flight will be the cheapest possible fare you can find between those destinations within a given month.
In the example I’ve used in these screenshots, I found that departing Vancouver on the 6th and returning on the 21st were the cheapest one way price days and it turns out that the return journey is much cheaper than other days as well.
5. Utilize Meta Searches
Most flight search engines including Kayak, Expedia and Google Flights will give you a lot of options when it comes to meta searches. Meta are the check boxes and sliders that allow you to narrow your flight search based on criteria that you require.
When I’m searching for flights, I generally don’t want to depart earlier than 10am. I don’t want more than 1 stop and I want the flight to be a certain duration. These are the three meta searches that I focus on.
By changing the meta in the search, you will potentially be losing some of the cheaper flights from the results, but if you refuse to have 4 stops in your itinerary anyways, then it’s worth ignoring those less comfortable flights.
To sort flights by duration, simply scan the page for “Duration” and there is usually a slider that allows you to choose the longest desired duration you’re comfortable with for your proposed journey.
The same goes for departure times, arrival times and stops. On Google Flights, these meta search tools are usually at the top of the screen in the form of sliders and check boxes, but oftentimes with other search engines, they appear on the side of the screen.
6. Clear Your Cache
This is an old hack and I’ve mentioned it many times before on this blog and on our social media accounts and to our email subscribers, but in case you haven’t heard, you need to clear your cache before booking any flight.
When an airline or booking site sees you returning time and time again to check the price of flights, they know you’re more likely to book said holiday if you see the prices going up, rather than down. So, the evil marketing geniuses place a cookie on your browser which means you, and only you, will see a higher price. It sounds like it should be illegal, but it’s not.
If you have been booking flights without clearing your browser cache, then I can guarantee you that you’ve lost a lot of money on flights.
Don’t worry, clearing your cache (aka deleting cookies) only takes about 5 seconds and it’s easy to do. To learn how to do it on the most popular browsers, click them below:
To always ensure that you’re searching without cookies, you can turn off browser cookies in your browser all together, or search in incognito by clicking Control+Shift+N when your browser is open. This will open a new “incognito” tab which is cookie-free. Search for your flight in this window and you’ll likely see a cheaper price.
Don’t believe me that you can save money by simply clicking one button in your browser? Just check out this screenshot below. That’s the exact same flight, the bottom one is the price I was seeing at first, and the top one is the price after clearing my cookies. That’s a savings of $125 and it only took me 5 seconds to do!
7. Check Price Trends
If you’re not too picky about what time of year your trip is, or you don’t care about exact dates within a given few month period, you may want to check historical price trends on flights. Many flight booking engines will give you price trend charts. These are typically estimates of prices for fares on given dates based on historical data.
Tools like FareDetective will give you historical data of flight prices. Oftentimes flights can vary by as much as 200% based on the time of year. By entering your departure and arrival airport, FareDetective will search their database to tell you what time of year will likely be the cheapest.
If flight prices dip every year in the middle of October for your proposed journey, you’ll see that in the trends charts.
To see the price trends on Google Flights, enter in your dates and airports and hit search, then you’ll see a small box below the calendar that says “Price Graph”. Click that box and Google will open up a graph of the prices for any given dates. Use the left and right arrows to see when your flight will likely be the cheapest.
This very much uses the same data as the first hack in this list, but it will give you a much more visual representation of the cheapest days to fly.
8. Utilize Google Flight Insights
Before booking any trip, it’s worth clicking on the Tips icon on Google Flights. Different flight search engines have different ways of displaying their recommendations, but I find Google’s to be incredibly useful.
If you click on Flight Insights and then “Tips”, not only will you likely find useful travel guides and information, Google will also search to see if there are cheaper flights available from different airports for you, and it will also sometimes show you discounts on First Class or Business Class flights.
9. Hack Your Credit Card Rewards
We’ve covered credit card hacking extensively in this post, so I won’t go too much into depth here. Basically what you should do (particularly if you’re American where the best cards are available) is sign up for 3 new credit cards that have a good sign-up bonus.
Sometimes you can earn $500 in travel rewards just by signing up for a new card. Then you’ll need to spend the required minimum amount each month on all 3 of the cards (usually for a year). Then you can either cancel or keep using the cards, up to you.
By obtaining the bonuses on three cards and by racking up points on all of your spending over a 1-year period, you could easily have enough to pay for a trip.
When booking with points, always check 1st class and business class as well. Oftentimes you can get insane deals on higher flight classes if you use points to book the ticket.
10. Watch Out For Checked Bags
If you can travel carry-on, great! You can save yourself anywhere between $25 and $50 per lag of your flight journey. If you’re not a carry-on traveller, you need to be savvy about booking.
If you’re booking two separate tickets to get you to a destination, you will likely have to pay for a checked bag on both flights, meaning that you could be adding $100 onto your one way flight cost.
Whenever you’re searching for flights, do a quick Google search or call the airline to ask about checked baggage fees. If you find a flight that is $10 cheaper, but you end up having to pay $50 in checked baggage fees, that’s not really worth it is it?!
Always do your research and find out what you’ll be charged for your checked luggage before you enter in your credit card information and book the flight. If you do have to pay for your luggage, always pay online or while you’re booking as it is typically more expensive if you pay at the airport.
Bonus: Make Sure You’re Covered
We’ve personally had our flights delayed and cancelled and at times we weren’t covered and had to spend a lot of unnecessary money out-of-pocket. This is an easy fix! Sites like AirHelp.com can help you claim up to €600 flight delay compensation under a European law called EC 261.
You may be entitled to reimbursement when:
- You arrive at your destination more than three hours later than planned.
- You have checked in for your flight on time (generally no less than 45 minutes before departure).
- You encountered these problems on a flight operated no more than three years ago.
- The airline is responsible for the delay (e.g. operational circumstances and technical difficulties).
- The flight took off in the EU (from any airline) or landed in the EU (provided that the airline is headquartered in the EU).
- It doesn’t matter whether the airline has already provided you with food, refreshment or travel vouchers.
No matter where you live, if you’re flying from a European airport, or flying into Europe on a European airline, you can claim for flight delay under EC 261. Don’t let airlines get away with delaying, cancelling our completely ruining your European vacation. Get compensated!
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