10 hacks every confident traveller knows for scoring the cheapest flights
Looking for an affordable flight? With a little research, some smart planning and a powerful travel search tool like KAYAK, you’ll be on your way in no time at all.
Top tips on how to score cheap flights
It pays to plan ahead, quite literally. Typically when booking, the closer you are to your travelling day, the more you pay. Why? Because a while back, airline companies figured out that business travellers tend to schedule meetings at the last minute and have the least flexibility. So while the airlines stick it to the business folk, well-organised, confident holiday planners can take advantage.
To find the best travel fares for you, search for your trip on KAYAK and complete your booking 21 days or more in advance; for next best, try for 14 or more. Still here? Try our KAYAK Explore tool to see where in the world you can go for your budget.
1. Make sure you use a tool that searches all the important travel websites and companies
This is a bit of a shameless plug, but instead of having multiple windows open on your browser and trying to second guess every website’s extra costs and hidden fees, just stick to one website that does it all. And unlike other travel search websites, KAYAK displays all-inclusive prices, meaning no hidden fees, extra costs or surprises. We compare hundreds of airlines across hundreds of travel sites to get you the best price. You could say we have a flair for finding the cheapest fare (but maybe not for poetry). Make sure you download our app as well; it makes it easier for you to search while you’re on the go. Those flights to Amsterdam aren’t going to search themselves.
2. Be flexible with your dates to get the best flight prices
Which day is cheapest to fly? While there are many theories, the truth is you can’t always predict this in advance. But don’t let this hold you back – with our flexible date search, you can easily search more than one day to find the cheapest times to fly. The flexibility to travel on another day can result in dramatically lower fares. So next time you search on KAYAK, try changing ‘exact’ to one of our flexible dates option when choosing travel dates for your search. You’ll probably find that flying Saturday is cheaper than Sunday, and that travelling mid-week (Tuesday or Wednesday) is usually cheaper than on a Monday or Thursday/Friday. And don’t forget, you can always stop over in another city for a day to further enhance the experience of your holiday (and save money while you’re at it).
3. Avoid peak travel seasons
See a theme here? Don’t travel when everyone else is. Not only will the flights be cheaper, but the queues shorter, too. Instead of summer, travel in spring or autumn, when the weather is still nice but the prices are lower – and avoid the crowds while you’re at it. You can also save by flying on holidays like Christmas day when many airlines have lower demand and lower prices (and the flight attendants are extra nice).
4. Know when to book
If you absolutely must travel during those pesky peak seasons, our 2018 Travel Hacker Guide can help you through the process. The moment you have an inkling of where you want to go, or if you’re keen to take advantage of the many long weekends we have a year, then make sure you bookmark that guide and check back for tips on our top places to travel this year including Venice and Belgrade.
This is pretty much a given, but you’d be surprised how many points you can collect from credit cards and other loyalty cards after a few months. Take the time to study which credit card, hotel and mileage programmes work best for you. It’s always key to use miles for free upgrades and it’s better value for money (miles) to claim one expensive long-distance flight than to divide them up between several short distance routes.
6. Location, location, location. Fly into an alternative airport.
Many airlines fly into alternative airports (like Stansted instead of London Heathrow) and what they save in airport fees, they pass onto you. If you’re planning a trip within Europe, you may find this especially useful, as many of the low-cost airlines tend to base their operations out of these smaller alternative airports. You may also appreciate the added benefit of less traffic, cheaper rental cars and fewer people at the airport bars, too. Whenever you search with KAYAK, you can choose to also see flights to nearby airports.
7. Be prepared to travel by red-eye or at weird hours
Life is all about timing. The key to getting the lowest fare is to fly when others are not. These times will vary by route, but early-morning and late-night flights are generally least popular among the majority of travellers. Adjust the slider on the ‘Take-off’ and ‘Landing’ times on the left-hand side when you get your flight options; keeping it open lets you focus your way to a cheaper fare. Of course, it’s also key to confirm that you can check into your accommodation when you land at odd hours and take into account the availability of transportation and its costs. The last thing you need when you save money on a flight is to spend all your savings on an expensive taxi because public transport options are unavailable.
8. Take advantage of search functionalities for flights and hotels
Our Fare Assistant was designed to help you better understand how flight costs change according to baggage and credit card fees. The Fare Assistant sits right above your flight search results. Select your preferred payment method and number of bags, and watch as your results magically update. Now, you can easily see how these fees affect the overall flight price. We do this to avoid any surprises with hidden fees, so you can feel more confident about your purchase.
9. Set Price Alerts
What if we told you there was a better way to track prices on flights and hotels than repeating the same search every day? No, this isn’t spam, we promise. Our Price Alerts will send you a notification as soon as the price drops. This is often a win for long-haul flights, which can sometimes have huge fluctuations in price.
And, if you’re wondering whether you should book that great flight you found or wait a bit longer, we can help with that too. With every flight search, we offer our advice in the top left corner of your search. While we can’t predict the future, our data scientists use current and past prices to predict whether costs are bound to rise. Unfortunately, we can’t tell you if you’ll meet an attractive stranger on holiday.
10. Use KAYAK Explore to see how far you can go on your budget
Sometimes you just want to go somewhere. You may not be sure where, but you probably have some idea of how much you can afford to spend. Enter: KAYAK Explore. Also available on our app, this tool lets you see where in the world you can fly to on your budget. Whether you’re looking for a weekend adventure or a month-long journey, Explore is a great place to start. The results will include the cheapest routes by every airline within the next six months or so, including direct flights and stopovers, which you can easily adjust based on your preferences.