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How to Find Cheap Flights

A Guide for Traveling Affordably

TIPS TO FIND CHEAP FLIGHTS

Purchase international flights 2-3 months in advance.

The prime time to book international flights typically ranges between 2-3 months before your trip.

Although this can vary, a study by "Cheap Air" analyzed more than 350 million airfares and found this to be the sweet spot.

Purchase domestic flights 3 weeks to 3 months in advance.

There are a lot more domestic flights than international ones so the price is more difficult to predict. However, based on the study referenced above, 3 weeks to 3 months before a trip is about when you want to hit the book button.

It's a somewhat wide range but if you set up price alerts, you should be able to find the sweet spot.

Sign up for the right frequent flyer programs.

There are a lot of frequent flyer programs and it can feel overwhelming. Don't worry, we have a way to make it easy on you.

Without trying to sign up for every program, you can focus on the big 3 airline frequent flyer groups. As a result, you will be signed up for nearly 20 different frequent flyer programs when you account for their sister airlines.

Sign up for Star Alliance and by default, you will be a frequent flyer member for United, US Airways, Copa, Luthfansa, SWISS, & EVA Air.

Sign up for One World and become a member for these airlines: American, British, Cathay Pacific, Iberia, LAN, & Qatar.

Sign up for Sky Team & you'll be a member with Delta, KLM, Aero Mexico, Air France, & China Airlines.

Find the right credit card for you.

We recommend only trying to get credit card points for travel if it's a right fit for you. It's a very personal decision.

And unfortunately, many people intend to get credit cards just to accumulate points to get flights for free, but in the process, actually pay far more in interest on the credit card than they're saving on flights.

So proceed with caution. If it is the right fit, you can get tens of thousands of miles just for signing up. Some have fees, others don't. Some have a really high APR, others can be directly linked to a specific frequent flyer mile program.

If you do pursue a travel credit card we suggest you signup during a bonus period. Over the course of the year, credit cards will run specials for bonus points! Read more about bonuses & credit card rewards.

Since this is a very personal choice, we are hesitant to make any recommendations on what you should do or what company you should go with. However, staff favorites include Chase Sapphire Preferred, Southwest Rapid Rewards, & United Milelage Plus!

Book during the right time of month.

If you are booking on your credit card, you should be paying attention to your cashflow.  If your billing cycle turns over on the 30th, for example, you may want to book your flight the next day.

This strategy gives you extra time if you need it.

Book during the right time of week.

Based on historical data and watching trends, it's best to book flights in the middle of the week.

Booking flights Tuesday - Thursday seems to be the most economical.

FareCompare.com did a study here stating Wednesday at 3PM ET is the best time to book flights but we recommend you test this yourself by setting up price alerts.

Set up airline price alerts.

Many sites allow you to set up price alerts notifying you when the price increases or decreases.

This can be an very helpful tool in determining when to book and can save you hundreds.

To dive deeper, you can even set up price alerts for some places you'd like to one day visit and pay attention to how the price changes.

Apps like Hopper are a great resource as well. Enter your desired airports and when you intend on flying and Hopper will notify you when flights drop in price.

Watch the price predictors.

Some websites, like Kayak and Bing Travel, use data from past flights to predict prices of upcoming airfare.

This can be a really helpful tool as you consider which country you want to fly to based on the time of year you want to travel. Between setting price predictors and price alerts, you can really set yourself up for getting the right price.

Take advantage of free-stopovers.

Some of the most affordable flights have long layovers. Obviously, that's because most people don't want to have long layovers.

But if you can change your perspective on this and take advantage of a long layover, not only will you likely get a cheaper flight, you may get to experience another country in the process.

One traveler had a 24-hour layover in Taipei. In one layover, you have the opportunity to explore a brand new city affordably (without paying for another flight). Many airports even offer lockers to store your luggage while you're out and about traveling.

Flying to Europe? Icelandair offers up to seven days free stopover in Iceland if you connect in Reykjavik. You can explore waterfalls, the blue lagoon, and glaciers all on a 'layover' that may have saved you money!

Buy travel insurance if there's any uncertainty.

It won't save you money off your flight but we HIGHLY recommend purchasing travel insurance prior to an international trip. We recommend World Nomads as an affordable choice.

Travel insurance protects you against flight cancellations, or unforseen circumstances like lost luggage.  If you get sick, a relative dies, or your trip gets interrupted because of inclement weather, travel insurance can reimburse you!

Know where to book.

There are so many different sites online where you can book flights. It can be a bit overwhelming trying to choose the right one!

Sites like Kayak let you compare prices between some big names like Orbitz, Expedia, & Booking.com. But it neglects many others. Although it can be a great resource, it's worth looking at a few other sites.

CheapOair, Airfarewatchdog, Skyscanner, and Google Flights are all great resources for booking flights. Many of us at Under30Experiences use Skyscanner on a daily basis!

If possible, you should also check the airline's website directly. Southwest Airlines, for example, rarely appears on bigger sites so to see their rates, you have to visit their site directly.

For ease of changing flights and checking-in we recommend you book the flight directly through the carrier even if you spotted the low fare on another site.

Search other destinations and buy a connecting flight.

Sometimes you'll find it's actually cheaper to fly to a different destination and then purchase a connecting flight from there to get to your desired destination.

If you're flying to Asia or Europe, for example, this can work great.

Here's an example of what we did for one of our trips to Bali. First, we researched the regular cost of just flying directly to Bali so we could compare that to the cost of trying to find connecting flight.

So we researched flights that flew into Bali’s DPS airport from our departure city. Then, we compared those prices with flying to other cities like Hong Kong, Singapore, and Shanghai. Hopefully, this will be less expensive. If so, then search for a local carrier like AirAsia to get you the rest of the to Bali's DPS airport.

There's a chance the cost of those two tickets is less than trying to fly directly from your departure city to Bali.

Superhack: Search your flight to Bali, and then see what airports are the cheapest flights to connect in.  This is how we found Taipei- not a city in Asia we'd usually fly to but it's where most of the cheap flights were stopping.

Also, check out our guide to exploring Taipei on a layover!

Search In “Incognito” Mode.

Sometimes you'll find it's actually cheaper to fly to a different destination and then purchase a connecting flight from there to get to your desired destination.

If you're flying to Asia or Europe, for example, this can work great.

Here's an example of what we did for one of our trips to Bali. First, we researched the regular cost of just flying directly to Bali so we could compare that to the cost of trying to find connecting flight.

So we researched flights that flew into Bali’s DPS airport from our departure city. Then, we compared those prices with flying to other cities like Hong Kong, Singapore, and Shanghai. Hopefully, this will be less expensive. If so, then search for a local carrier like AirAsia to get you the rest of the to Bali's DPS airport.

There's a chance the cost of those two tickets is less than trying to fly directly from your departure city to Bali.

Superhack: Search your flight to Bali, and then see what airports are the cheapest flights to connect in.  This is how we found Taipei- not a city in Asia we'd usually fly to but it's where most of the cheap flights were stopping.

Also, check out our guide to exploring Taipei on a layover!

Have Flexible Travel Dates.

If possible, have flexible travel plans
Many booking sites (like Google flights) allow you to view an entire month and the prices

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