Whenever you sit down on a plane, there’s a good chance that the person sitting next to you paid far less than you did. This isn’t always because they booked early or had a travel agent find them a deal, it’s usually because they know a few easy tricks to save money on flights.
Dariece and I have been travelling for 7 years and have taken many flights in that time.
Our experience has taught us some serious money-saving tricks. In this article, I’m going to share my secrets with you to make sure you can board your next flight with the confidence that you found the best deal possible.
1. Use The Right Booking Engine
By using a booking engine with the right features, you can save some serious money on flights. Trust me, not all flight booking sites are created equal. A colleague of mine recently introduced me to JustFly.com. This site has all of the features that make a great flight booking engine.
Just Fly is a flight aggregate service like Google Flights & Kayak, but it also offers price adjustments and purchase guarantees. Their overall mission is to sell the cheapest airline tickets possible, assemble the most advanced team of travel experts in the world to help customers make the right purchase, maintain an efficient and technologically stable platform and innovate the market while not imitating any other service.
This site works like most other booking engines, but allows you to choose the most popular flights with the shortest flight times and the cheapest price. It also shows you alternative dates so if you’re flexible, you can save money by flying on a different day.
The site also has a great support team that can you can actually call to ask for help. That’s something I haven’t really seen before and is a feature that would be great for beginner flight bookers.
2. Clear Your Cache
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, any time you’re booking flights you should clear your cache or search in incognito mode. Flight booking sites can be evil. They track customers returning to the site time and time again and they’ll actually jack up the price to try to urge buyers to make a purchase.
This is urgency marketing at its best (and most annoying), but luckily you can avoid it with a few quick clicks of the keyboard. Simply follow the instructions in this post and search for the same flight again. If you’ve been tracking the flight for a week or two, the airline or flight booking site has been tracking you too.
After clearing your cache, you’ll likely see a price that’s $50 – $200 cheaper. Just look at what we saved on a recent flight from Costa Rica to Cuba. We saved $125 / ticket ($250 total) just by clearing the cache.
Note: Clearing the cache is different for every browser, here are instructions for the most common ones:
3. Book At The Right Time
According to a 2014 study conducted by CheapAir.com, the optimal time to book your flight is 48 days (about 7 weeks) before your proposed departure date. There is a lot of debate surrounding this hack, but CheapAir’s study was pretty comprehensive and from experience I can say that I agree with the results.
If we book our flight too early, we often see the prices go down closer to, while last-minute bookings are almost always more expensive. Try to start searching for flights 48 days before departure, book it and stop looking after that… Watching prices fluctuate can drive you crazy!
4. Book Flight & Hotel
Have you ever noticed that you can choose to book your flight with a hotel on most major flight booking engines? What you may not have known is that by clicking this tab, you can access secret savings that are only available to those who book their flight as a package with accommodation.
I’m not talking about booking an all-inclusive holiday or a tour package. All you have to do is click the “Hotel+Flight” tab and book a hotel with the flight. Seems easy enough right?
On a recent sample booking we conducted on a flight from Vancouver to Bangkok, we saved over $100 on the flight cost by including a hotel in the booking. And you can choose a cheap hotel and only stay one night as well. These are huge savings.
5. Use Your Best Rewards Credit Card
You shouldn’t just use your rewards card for flight booking. You should use it for every purchase possible. We use the TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite* Card for all of our purchases and we get 1.5% back in points for every cent we put on the card. The great thing is that if we book with Expedia for TD, we get 3X the points which ends up being 4.5% back in travel.
Even the best American cards only get 3% in travel rewards so for once, Canadians can claim to have the best credit card for travel (usually US credit cards are much better).
There is normally a $120 annual fee for this card, but if you open an All-Inclusive banking account with TD, you’ll get this card for free. If you spend $2,000 / month on the First Class Infinite Visa, by the end of the year you’ll have over $1,000 worth of rewards to spend on travel.
This card is only for Canadians, but most countries have pretty good rewards cards. For Americans, check out this post by WiseBread which lists the best rewards credit cards for travellers.
Book Smart & Save Money
You don’t have to be an expert travel hacker to save money on flights. If you take anything away from this article it should be to always clear your browser cache and book flights using a good travel rewards credit card. These two simple things can literally save you thousands of dollars / year on travel and flight bookings.
What are you tips and tricks for saving money on airfare? Tell us in the comments and help us save some cash!