Editor’s Note: Those who want to travel cheaper and take holidays more often should learn how to get cheaper airline tickets. There are a variety of methods to achieve this. This article takes a look at 11 proven strategies for getting cheaper flights every time you decide to take a trip.
Taking a flight to another city or country doesn’t have to be expensive. People are often put off from booking a trip when they see the price of the flight they want, but with a little flexibility and some clever travel hacks, you can significantly reduce the price you pay for every flight that you take.
Sometimes getting cheaper flights involves making small changes whereas sometimes it involves giving up certain perks. However, these tips and tricks can often save you hundreds of dollars on your travels.
Winetraveler Tip: No, searching for flights with an incognito browser or clearing your cookies won’t save you money on airfare.
IN THIS GUIDE:
- Check Dates
- Travel Credit Cards
- Departure Airports
- Destination Airports
- Choosing Which Day To Buy
- Ignore The Extras
- Flight Search Engines
- Connecting Flights
- Loyalty Programs
- …and more
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One of the most simple yet effective ways to reduce your airfare is to simply fly on a different date. Airlines offer different flights on different days. For example, you might find it’s significantly cheaper to start your holiday on a Tuesday instead of a Saturday or to fly during a different month when fewer people are traveling. You can utilize flight search and monitoring engines like Kayak to get notified when prices drop for your preferred travel dates.
Remember to be as flexible with your dates as possible if you want to get cheaper flight tickets. Although this can require some compromises and careful planning, it can also save you hundreds upon hundreds of dollars in the long run. Plus, you might end up finding that you can fly to your dream destination for a lot cheaper than you expected.
For years, many of our staff have been asked how they’ve been able to travel so frequently and in so much style. This is done by employing a strategy we like to call “travel hacking.” All it really entails is using a number of credit cards responsibly to earn points and miles, and then strategically spending them on flights of your choice.
We want to emphasize “responsibly.” It’s easy to get carried away once you witness the power of credit cards, but if you’re able to pay off your balance each month, having an arsenal of travel credit cards in your wallet will allow you to rack up points for many of your daily purchases. In addition, some premium travel credit cards come with high signup bonuses, which are attained after spending a certain amount on the card within a short time frame (usually 3 months).
Below, we’ll discuss our favorite travel credit card. In the future, we’ll publish a more detailed guide on the subject and how you can maximize your earning and spending potential with additional cards. The author of this article carries 10 credit cards in his wallet at all times to maximize his travel abilities, while still maintaining an excellent credit score. Yes, it is possible.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® card is optimal for people who travel frequently or plan to. It does come with a high annual fee of $550, but it’s offset by the perks we mention below, which increase in value if you travel frequently.
Currently, it comes with a 50,000 point signup bonus once you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months of card membership. While the signup bonus is decent, the real perks come with its points earning categories. You’ll get 10x points when you spend money on hotels or car rentals if you purchase them through their Ultimate Rewards portal, and 5x points on air travel booked through Ultimate Rewards. The most lucrative category in our mind though is the 3x points on any travel or dining spend. So, anytime you eat at a restaurant, order Taco Bell, or even call an Uber, you’re working your way towards free travel. While this all sounds great, the perks don’t stop there.
Chase will give you an annual $300 travel credit for any money you spend on travel. That includes airlines, hotels, taxis, Uber and more. Now through December 31st, 2021, spending at grocery stores and gas stations will also count towards your travel credit. This perk alone turns your annual fee into just a modest $250.
This card gives you lounge access to over 1,300 airports worldwide, ensuring a comfortable and more affordable visit to most airports globally. In addition, Chase pays you $100 towards your application fee for Global Entry or TSA Precheck. That again offsets your annual fee to just $150.
Another huge money saver: redeeming flights through the Ultimate Rewards portal will net you 50% more value on redemption. For instance, 50,000 points translates into $750 towards flights (or any travel category in the portal).
Finally, one of the best money-saving perks that also helps with peace of mind, is you have trip cancellation, interruption, car rental collision, and lost luggage insurance simply by being a cardmember.
Another powerful travel hack that will net you cheaper flights is to change your departure airport. Since every airport serves different routes, you might find it significantly cheaper to fly out of one that’s further away. This is especially true in the case of those who aren’t close to an international airport.
For instance, let’s say you’re in Philadelphia and want to travel to Rome. Instead of flying out of Philadelphia International Airport, you’ll likely find a much cheaper flight with one of the various international airports in New York. Although you’ll have to spend more time traveling to the airport, this has the potential to save you a ton of money even for a single flight.
Changing your departure airport isn’t the only quick change that can make your flights significantly cheaper. You can also find much cheaper flights by flying to a different departure airport. Not only is this a smart way to save money, but you could even extend your trip by visiting two destinations at once.
For example, instead of flying from London to Lille, you could fly from London to Paris. Then all it takes is a cheap train or coach ride after you touch down at the airport. Alternatively, you could spend a wonderful night in Paris before taking the trip to your final destination. This works better for some locations than others, but it’s well worth checking.
You can also get cheaper flights by buying your flight on a different day. That doesn’t mean you have to change your departure date – simply wait a couple of days to finalize your purchase. Flight prices fluctuate significantly from day to day depending on consumer demand and various other factors.
There’s a common myth that you’ll get the cheapest flights on a Tuesday or Thursday, although this isn’t always true. It largely depends on each airline’s algorithm and it’s often a lucky draw to see when you get the cheapest flights. With that said, you can often find cheaper tickets during weekdays when demand is generally lower.
Many airlines offset the cost of cheap flights by making customers pay extra for their luggage. Even if you only have to pay an extra $20 for each flight, this can still result in you spending $40 more than you need to for each return trip, and $400 more within ten trips. Not to mention that baggage costs are often much more expensive than that.
Fortunately, there’s an easy way around this. Simply check your airline’s website to see their free baggage restrictions and adhere to them. If you can take a small carry-on bag that weighs less than 10kg, grab some packing cubes, pack light clothing, and reduce excess weight from things like electronics. You’ll save money and won’t need to worry about waiting for or losing your suitcase when you reach your destination.
The cost of extra luggage isn’t the only thing you’ll have to deal with. Many airlines also charge extra for things like meals, seat selection, travel insurance, and even skipping the queue at the departure line. Although some of these luxuries may be tempting, you’ll save a lot of money by avoiding them.
Plus, there are many easy ways around these costs. Instead of paying to book a seat, wait till the flight departs and ask the flight attendant to move to an empty seat if you end up in the middle aisle. Instead of paying for travel insurance for one trip, get an affordable quote from an external insurance company. Instead of paying for drinks and meals, grab some cheap snacks and fill your water bottle at the airport before departing.
It can be tricky to use all of these travel hacks, especially if you’re looking for flights via airline websites. Luckily, you can find many great travel search engines out there. These will help you seamlessly adjust your dates, change your departure and arrival destinations, and even compare prices between different days and months.
Google Flights is particularly useful. This contains many helpful features. For instance, you can make your dates flexible or even search for the cheapest destinations from a specific airport. It aggregates prices from airline websites across the internet and even other flight search engines, meaning you’ll regularly find good deals. Once you’ve settled on your travel dates, home airport and arrival airport, use Kayak to track when prices drop.
We know, direct flights are always more ideal. However, if you value your cash over your time, and you’re more of a patient person, this is an easy way to cut back on flight costs. Another perk to layovers is you get to utilize airport lounges if you have a credit card that offers lounge access. This is a great way to maximize your time and money and get the most out of your annual card fee. Stop in to rest, relax, work or eat and drink.
Credit cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express include access to Centurion Lounges.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® grants members access to Priority Pass Lounges and restaurants.
The United Club Infinite Card lets you and your travel companions use United Club and Star Alliance lounges around the world.
The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® lets you use Admirals Club lounges.
Last but not least, the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card provides access to Delta SkyClubs lounges.
Join Every Travel Rewards Program
If you’re a frequent traveler or you simply wish you were, one clean strategy for racking up savings and upgrades is to simply be a member of every airline, hotel and car rental program out there. These are almost always free to join, and just being a member automatically will give you perks when you fly, stay or drive with any given company. Not only will you be able to accrue points in each program’s travel bank, but you’ll get class upgrades, free drinks, free WiFi, hotel room upgrades and more. We list and provide links to signup for most of the best travel rewards programs out there right here.
Many airlines make it surprisingly easy to get cheaper flights. Simply do a quick search for discount codes before you book. You might find some on the airline’s landing page or even find some on Google. If you don’t, you can still check various alternative options to make your flights 10 to 20% cheaper, and sometimes more.
Students should check student discount websites to see if they serve particular airlines or booking sites like TripAdvisor. If you have buddies who travel a lot, they might also have a discount for the airline you’re using. Signing up for airline email newsletters can also occasionally bag you a nice discount.
Take the trip!
If you’re looking for cheaper flights, these travel hacks can help you. Even if you only save $50 for one return flight, the savings can quickly add up the more you use these tips for your trips. On top of that, the process of searching for and booking trips becomes easier and more enjoyable.
Do you have a favorite travel hack for traveling more affordably? Share with the community in the comments!
Editorial Disclosure: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer or bank.
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