Booking flights can be a disappointing hassle. With consistently fluctuating prices and a sheer unlimited number of routes, finding the best flights is often tiresome. The following are some of the most effective flight booking hacks to get cheap flights.
My Top 10 Flight Booking Hacks
Finding the cheapest airfares to anywhere in the world is all about timing, routes, and flight booking hacks. On this basis, here are ten tips that will help you get the cheapest flights.
1. Go Incognito
The first step toward finding the cheapest flights is to browse in private mode.
We’ve all seen it. After searching for flights over multiple browsing sessions, the prices suddenly go up. That’s the result of cookies. As such, the browser knows that you already searched for the same or similar routes – leading to a price increase.
To avoid that scenario, always search in incognito mode. In Google Chrome or Safari, hit command (or control on PC) + shift + N to open an incognito tab. Firefox has the same function with command (or control on PC) + shift + P.
Once you browse in private mode, the browser won’t save your search information, and the prices won’t increase.
2. Compare Multiple Flight Booking Search Engines
Comparing multiple search engines is among the top flight booking hacks as prices can vary across different sites.
The following are some of the best flight booking search engines to find cheap flights:
- Google Flights: my favorite way to look for flights. Shows multiple airlines and a calendar with prices for the whole month;
- Skyscanner: shows multiple booking sites, routes, and dates;
- Momondo: like Skyscanner and sometimes cheaper;
- JetRadar: a great website for budget airlines;
- Kiwi.com: strong at combining routes and airlines;
- Secret Flying: finds error fares; and
- Fluege.de: only in German, but sometimes offering exceptional deals.
3. Be Flexible When it Comes to Dates and Departure Points
Another essential point is to be flexible with times, dates, and airports.
Let’s start with the time. Airlines often have multiple flights on the same day, and the cheapest will be the least popular hour. As an example, if you’re flying from Paris to New York, the cheaper flight will be the one that arrives late at night.
Next, always check flights for different days. For various reasons, flights are cheaper on certain days, and the differences can be immense. It’s usually best to fly between Tuesday and Thursday.
Finally, if you have the option, fly from a hub airport. Hub airports serve as main departure points for one or two airlines. Because they connect these airlines, they have more flights, and by extension, cheaper route combinations.
Some of the best hub airports are Dubai (Emirates), Doha (Qatar Airways), Istanbul (Turkish Airlines), Amsterdam (KLM), Atlanta, LAX, Hong Kong, and Singapore Changi.
In this context, I once got a flight from Tokyo to Frankfurt for 300$ via Dubai. The route would cost around 1,000$ without the layover.
4. Use Budget Airline Flight Booking Hacks
Budget airlines are an entirely different category when it comes to flight booking hacks. Their fares are generally lower, but there are often hidden costs. In that same vein, there are ways to get the price down to ridiculous levels.
The fares of Air Asia, Ryanair, and Wizz Air look cheap, but you have to pay extra for luggage, food, check-in, and everything else. If you need to check in your bag, it can double the price of your ticket.
On this basis, if you book with budget airlines, be mindful of the following:
- Use hand luggage only if it’s possible;
- Get a member card for these airlines: I’ve saved lots of money with Air Asia’s and Wizz’s membership;
- Be careful with fees for checking in at the airport or extra luggage. You’ll get have to pay a hefty fine if you forget to check in online – or if your luggage is one kilo too heavy.
5. Look Out For Airline Error Fares
One of the best lesser-known flight booking hacks concerns error prices.
Airlines often put wrongly-reduced flights on the internet, and it usually takes them a few hours or even days before they rectify the prices. In consequence, a super-cheap flight appears in search engines. A limited number of people will see it, and those lucky souls will have incredible deals.
Scott’s Cheap Flights is one of the best platforms to get access to these flights. You’ll have to pay a membership, and they only work with US airports, but the deals are undoubtedly worth it. Jack’s Flight Club is their UK equivalent.
If those aren’t an option for you, search over an entire month on Skyscanner. The site has a function to see prices for 30 days, and that view will enable you to spot potential error fares.
6. Master “Hidden City” Flights
The best airfare hacks also include the concept of “hidden city” flights.
Seasoned travelers refer to “hidden city” flights when they book a flight to destination X but actually go to the layover destination. As an example, you want to travel from Amsterdam to New York, but it’s cheaper to book Amsterdam – New York – Los Angeles than Amsterdam – New York directly.
With hidden city flights, you have to be careful of three things:
- only use hand luggage as your checked-in baggage will go to the final destination;
- find out whether the same plane continues to the final destination. If that’s the case, you might face issues getting off; and
- check whether there are penalties for not taking the second flight.
In the current climate, people miss flights all the time, and many airlines softened their no-show and cancellation policies – adding to the popularity of the hidden city method.
7. Check Different Currencies
Sometimes, cheap flight hacks are as straightforward as changing the currency on the booking website.
As a rule of thumb, always book your flight in the currency of the airline. The Turkish lira, for example, has been in freefall for the last few years, making it cheaper to book your Turkish Airlines flights in the local currency.
8. Collect and Use Miles Whenever Possible
Many people endlessly travel the globe on credit card miles.
The system works best if you’re from the US. The credit card culture is different in Europe and other parts of the world, but there are non-US (mostly UK) options as well.
In the US, one of the best credit cards for points is the Chase Sapphire Preferred, but there are many others. In the UK, the American Express Premium Plus is a solid option.
If you’re neither a US nor UK resident, sign up for frequent flyer memberships and earn miles with flights, hotels, and shopping. There are three primary alliances: Star Alliance, One World, and Sky Team. The best course of action is to sign up for ONE airline in each alliance.
As such, you could, for example, sign up for KLM (Sky Team), Qatar Airways (One World), and Turkish Airlines (Star Alliance). Emirates and Etihad aren’t part of any alliance, so you could sign up for those as well.
Whenever you book a flight, you can enter your membership number and earn miles within the alliances. The problem with this method is that it will take a lot of flying to earn serious money-saving miles. My preferred method is to earn miles through hotel bookings.
In conclusion, it can save you a lot of money (and provide free upgrades) if you fly a lot and stay in a lot of hotels. It’s worth it in the end, but only works if you’re a super-frequent traveler.
9. Research Lesser-Known Local Routes
One of the top flight booking hacks for domestic routes is to use small carriers that might not appear on search engines.
Airlines like JetSmart (South America), Frontier Airlines (US), and Lade (Argentina) have booking websites, but local travel agencies sometimes have insane deals on domestic routes.
10. Check Multi-City Bulk Routes
Finally, multi-city bulk routes can be a great way to reduce the prices of your airline tickets.
Booking four flights together – from point A to point B – and returning from point C to point D can drastically decrease prices.
Try to combine multiple airlines on Skyscanner and also different modes of transportation. I once got a combination of Frankfurt to Miami and Bogota to Amsterdam for a total of less than 500$. One flight from Frankfurt to Miami would have been more, but the Skyscanner combination made it cheaper.
For the flights in between, you can use the same tactics. It’s often much more affordable to book small connecting flights yourself than to add them to your main itinerary.