Airfare is by far the largest expense when travelling, but does it have to be? I recently booked my trip to Paris from NY for only $298 including taxes and fees, which saved me over $250 bucks! After sharing with friends and family, the comments and replies I received made me realize so many people are missing out on scooping similar ultimate airfare deals!
If you think searching Orbitz and Priceline on a Wednesday afternoon is going to magically produce the best airfare possible, I have to politely tell you you’re wrong. While these sites may provide a bit of savings, their prices are just mediocre. And when you’re trying to travel on a budget, mediocre just doesn’t cut it, you need the best of the best.
So First things first; there are a few qualifications before you’re able to find the ultimate deals. And it primarily boils down to flexibility. So ask yourself the following questions:
Am I flexible with my dates? (It could be a few days of difference or even a different month)
Am I flexible with my destination? (Some international hubs are larger than others and have better rates. They may be in the same region of your final destination but will save you hundreds by taking a short bus trip)
Am I flexible with my airline? (If you’re a frequent flyer, great. But many deals specifically international may be on a budget airline)
Am I flexible with my departure hub? (If you live near a major city or hub, such as Chicago or NYC, traveling to a major hub may save you hundreds on your ticket. Of course the convenience and cost to do so should always be factored)
If you said yes to any of the above questions, you have a qualified! Great, let’s get on with the nitty-gritty.
Lets go over how to find some flat out flight deals without using reward programs and huge credit card sign-up bonuses (which is a great way to fly for free,but may not even be an option for leisure travelers).
First, play with your flexibility. My all time favorite site to use is: Skyscanner.
Enter in your local airport, then select ‘Add Nearby Airports’. Most likely the larger airport that is near you will have a better fare and Sky Scanner will pick that up.
Then type in your chosen destination. If you are flexible with your destination airport, select just the country you are wanting to visit and Select ‘All nearby airports’.
Now if you are even more flexible to what country you want to visit, Skyscanner has a really cool feature where you can ‘Search Everywhere’.
Even if you have your heart set on a destination, I recommend just taking a look at what options come up with using this tool. You may be surprised by some countries that have very reasonable flight prices, and may peak your interest to move them up the bucket list.
Next select your dates. This too of course has a flexibility option. You can select by your specific dates, by a single month or even better- the cheapest month available.
By manipulating the many options Skyscanner provides you have a broader view of many ways you can save money i.e. different departures, cheapest month etc.
Make sure to note: Always calculate any travel costs that may occur to get to a different departure airport and even consider convenience. Sometimes it’s worth paying a little more for convenience, its up to you on what’s more important.
For example: From where I live Albany, NY it takes 3.5 hours of travel time to get to JFK. $20 round-trip for a discount bus ride and an additional $7.50 in subway fare. Taking the same example of traveling to Paris France- I saved an additional $530 by traveling to New York City for departure. Is it a little less convenient? Yes, but for me by far worth it for the extra savings!
Now wait- don’t book just yet!
We’ve just looked at what better options are available to you, now is where the patience game begins. I know what you’re thinking, the longer you wait for a flight, the higher the price will be! Not exactly.
If you have a few months before you want to travel, it is best to be on the look-out for what are called FLASH or HOT deals. (This primarily works for major hubs such as JFK, ORD, LAX, MIA, DFW but in some cases smaller hubs will be included)
There are many sites that post such said deals as they are discovered. My top I follow are:
Make sure to bookmark their websites and follow them on all social media websites and make sure you get notifications! Why? Because most of the FLASH or HOT deals are very literal in their terms, they’re gone in a flash, and you need to be willing to book as soon as possible!
Don’t worry, according to Federal Regulation you have 24 hours to cancel your flight without penalty so you’ll have some time to confirm if it’s do-able or not.
TIP: Most international budget airlines charge crazy high baggage fees, so prior to booking make sure to review them!