After more than 20 years of sleuthing out the best airfare to destinations around the globe, I often find myself sharing my tips about finding great deals on airfare in various forums. I’ve finally compiled all those tips on how to save money on flights into one spot.
Unfortunately, there’s no shortcut for finding cheap airfare. If you’re shopping for any major purchase like electronics or home goods, you probably shop around for the best deal. Well, that’s the same concept with shopping for airfare.
I shop multiple websites, check nearby cities, and even check split fares. I know it sounds like work, but if you’re willing to spend a little time shopping around, you really could save big on your next flight.
1. Shop around.
Start your search by checking some of the major travel providers like Expedia, Kayak, or Travelocity, aggregator sites like Trip Advisor Flights that go out and search many sites all at one like CheapoAir and Hotwire, and consolidators like CheapTickets.com. Other great source for cheap airfare are Vayama, Airfarewatchdog and Skyscanner which allow you to search from your departure airport to anywhere to get an idea of the going fare.
Be sure to also check directly with the airline. Head directly to the airline website to see if the same flights are any cheaper and check to see if the airline is running any sales. If not, you can generally still save another $5 by booking directly with the airline and avoiding the small fees on travel provider websites.
Don’t be afraid to bide your time before booking that fare. Most of the websites I mentioned above offer a widget you can download to your desktop or alerts you can sign up for to keep an eye on fares.
2. Know when to shop.
Airlines release their sales on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Many an industry expert will tell you the very best time to search for airfare is on Tuesdays at 3pm EST when airlines update their websites with these new sales.
3. Clear your cache and cookies.
Ever searched for a fare only to return a little while later and find that the fare has already gone up? It’s never been proven but consumers will swear up and down that airlines use tracking cookies to track movements on their sites. So just be on the safe side and clear out your cache and cookies before searching for that fare or browse in privacy mode.
4. Be flexible.
Try searching for nearby airports or even try searching for multi-city fares in which you department from one airport and return to another. Even adjusting your travel dates by a week can make a big difference in your fare. Flying on a Tuesday or Wednesday and including a Saturday stay also returns you better fares.
5. Try split fares.
Split fares have become my friend in my years as a professional travel blogger. One September I was dying to join my husband in Iceland while he was there for work. At an $1800 round trip price tag from Venice to Keflavik, he just wasn’t biting. But when I pointed out I could fly to London for just over $100 and then book a separate ticket from London to Keflavik for just $199 on Icelandair, he could hardly gripe. I was saving over $1400 by traveling on a split fare!
Sure, there are risks with split fares. They are two separate reservations, so if you miss the first flight or land late, you risk missing your second flight altogether. Just be sure to book enough time between flights to compensate for potential delays. I’ve successfully traveled on split fares to Iceland, Finland, Norway, the Canary Islands, and within the United States without any problems over nearly a decade now since discovering this travel money saving trick.
6. Don’t forget about the discount airlines.
Discount airlines or budget airlines often don’t appear on the major booking sites and can be somewhat difficult to find. Try using Skyscanner or Which Airline to search for multiple discounters all at one time.
7. Use frequent flyer miles.
It’s free to sign up for frequent flyer programs, so why not? Not only do airlines look at their frequent flyer card holders first for upgrades, racking up those miles can pay for future flights.
I’m also an American Express Delta Skymiles Platinum card holder and a Capital One Venture card holder. I use these card for regular purchases and earn points per dollar I spend, adding to my frequent flyer miles every month. I get a companion certificate each year on which a companion can fly for just $99 and I even have lost baggage insurance for every trip that I check my bags when I use my Amex to purchase my ticket. It doesn’t matter what airline I fly.
My card has come in handy awarding me free flights from Phoenix to St. Maarten three times, a free flight from Phoenix to NYC, and the miles I rack up are often used to get discounts off the total airfare with Delta’s Pay With Miles scheme. My Delta AMEX has also covered me for necessities when my luggage has been lost on at least two different occasions.
8. Ask for a refund when a fare drops.
Ever booked that flight only to find the fare dropped a few days later? Go ahead and ask for a refund of the difference. The worst the airline can say is no. And, many airlines don’t publicize the fact that they will refund you the difference. It never hurts to ask.
9. Claim flight delay compensation for inconveniences.
In the event of a flight disruption, remember that you do have rights.
In Europe there is Regulation 261/2004, which entitles passengers to reimbursement for the inconvenience caused by delays, cancellations and overbooked flights. If you are curious about how to claim delayed flight compensation, head over to SkyRefund. Their website has all the information needed.
We’ve just used SkyRefund ourselves to see if we can get any delay compensation for our recent cancelled flight during Storm Ciara / Storm Sabine. The process is straight forward and easy enough with filling in details such as the flight numbers and passenger information. You also upload documents such as your booking confirmation, boarding passes and any receipts for additional expenses incurred.
We ended up stuck in Frankfurt overnight when the second leg of our flight home to Bordeaux was cancelled. While the airline did provide us with vouchers for food, it only covered lunch for both of us at one of the Frankfurt airport restaurants. The airline also booked us at a decent enough hotel, but it was located a ways from the airport and a bit in the middle of nowhere. With waiting in various lines at Frankfurt Airport to get rebooked and get our various food and hotel vouchers, it took us nearly 7 hours before we could actually leave and head to the hotel.