The Only Real Way To Find Cheap Flights

The Only Real Way To Find Cheap Flights

There are so many articles on ways to find cheap flights that its a task in itself to sort through and figure out what works and what’s just written as filler so they can add another 3, 5 or 38 ways onto a list. Here are few examples that make me roll my eyes.


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Don’t Always Fly Non-Stop. Really? You mean I can save money if I choose a less convenient flight that requires a layover somewhere?

Use Budget Airlines. Thank you Captain Obvious and I’m not talking about the Captain Obvious from the Hotels.com commercials. But really, did you know that you can save money if you use a budget airline option?

The truth is that there’s no big secret to finding cheap flights. Whether it’s you or someone else doing the leg work, it takes work to save money and it’s time consuming. Luckily, what you save is usually worth the time spent on researching your options. Once you know what you’re doing, it gets a lot easier.

These are the legitimate ways I find cheap flights for myself and my friends and family.

View from airplane window

Do My Research

Finding cheap flights is a combination of knowing where to look and hoping that your travel plans align with whatever deals happens to already be available. That’s the gist of it. You can do all the research you want, but if you need to get from Managua to Big Corn Island in Nicaragua on a specific day, you’re limited to a handful of flights provided by La Costena. On the hand, if you are flexible, the research takes more time, but you can find the best price/time combination to get you to your destination using readily available online services like Matrix by ITA Software, Skyscanner’s Everywhere Search, and Kayak’s Travel Hacker.

The Matrix by ITA Software is a very powerful and intimidating-looking site where you can find and filter for a combination of different flights. It’s pretty easy to use, but difficult to master. Upgraded Points provides an excellent and in-depth guide on using the software, including more advanced searches with airline routing codes.

Screenshot of Matrix by ITA Software

Expert Tip: Skyscanner is a search engine that collects information about flights across different travel search providers and gives you some of the best live prices for flights. I highly recommend using this site, but if a fare looks too good to be true, double check. After you’ve found a flight, Skyscanner provides several options to book that flight. Sometimes, I will see one option that will be drastically different from the others. In theory, most of the sites should be similar depending on whether they charge a service fee or not. Some of these end providers might have rules in their fine prints that you may or may not be ok with. Read this fine print before you book. I’ve definitely paid a few dollars more to go with a trusted site that I’ve used in the past.

This is where I start my research and the first thing I do use the option to “see calendar of lowest fares” to search for different combinations of return and one way fares. I search for a couple of different months out to see the range of prices for this particular route.

Kayak’s Travel Hacker page is another great resource especially if your plans are open. Using their data, they’ve compiled lists after lists about the best time to fly to certain locations, as well as price ranges so you know if you’re looking at a good deal.

I usually switch to Skyscanner after this. It’s an inevitable step since you can’t book your flights on the Matrix software anyway. On the Skyscanner site, I will run a similar search if I already know my destination. If I don’t, I will do a search for EVERYWHERE. This will provide me with a general idea of where I can go and the prices over a bunch of different countries and cities.

If I like what I’m seeing, my research is 90% complete. I just use Skyscanner to look for the specific flight based on my earlier research and I’ll generally find the best deal on flights.

Skyscanner Screenshot

Fly When Others Cannot

Some people believe that the day of the week you book a flight will determine the price. There is NO basis to this. Prices will change for any number of reasons, but always choose to book on a Tuesday does not guarantee the best prices. However, flying out on a Tuesday does seem to return some of the better fares.

It’s all supply and demand. Think about when most people CAN and WANT to fly. If you are going somewhere for the weekend, you want to get out as soon as you can on a Friday. Flights from 2 pm to 10 pm on that day will be in high demand. The same with the return flight. If I’m popping into Vegas for the weekend, I’ll probably try to fly out as late as possible on Sunday or as early as possible on Monday morning.

When I fly, I try to avoid flying when most other people fly. That means flying on Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday. I usually start my search with these dates. It’s not always the cheapest as some airlines and routes only fly on certain days. Holidays will affect this as well.

The time of day will also determine the fare. If you’re on a heavy commuter route, early morning and late afternoon flights will generally cost more. Consider a contrarian view on a flying and travel when others cannot.

Bottom Line: I find Tuesday and Saturday to be the best days to fly for the cheaper flights.

Sign Up For Flight Deal Mailing Lists

There are people and companies out there who dedicate all their time to scan through and look for the best flight deals and pricing errors. And you can sign up for their free mailing list to get daily alerts on all these deals they find. If you’re a spontaneous traveler, this is perfect for you. But even if you aren’t, sometimes you’ll find deals that match up perfectly with your plans.

I hate mailing lists, but here’s two that I highly recommend.

Scott’s Cheap Flights. This is pretty straight forward. There’s a guy named Scott and he finds cheap flights. Some of these are sales, and some are pricing errors, so he’ll also let you know how long he thinks the deal will last. If you are flexible, you can take advantage of some pretty massive discounts, which in turn means you can afford more mango smoothies and massages.

TravelPirates. Arg! These guys will send you a compiled list every few days of travel deals. They also include deals on accommodations, so that might save you some time on researching there. There newsletter is pretty to look and they have a search engine that allows you to look up search for a specific date on these deals.

If you don’t mind more potential junk mail, subscribe to your favorite airline’s mailing list. You’ll get a lot pitchy deals that are irrelevant sometimes, but sometimes you’ll get notified of sales that you can actually use. This happened recently with Southwest and I booked two separate flights to LA for $35 each. WOW is one of those budget airlines that most people hate on, but if you know what you’re getting into, you can get some great deals to Europe. Their flash sales sometimes cuts it down even further. Random note: I just booked WOW flights (not even on sale) for my family from Los Angeles to Copenhagen with a day stopover in Iceland for $225 each. I paid an additional $45 for a carry-on for a grand total of $270. It sucks to have to pay the same carry-on that is allowed on other airlines, but I don’t look it that way. The next cheapest flight was $350 with Norwegian, which also charges carry-on if you go over 10kg and $550 with another airline.

Note: There are Facebook pages that show some of these deals, but with their algorithm, you’re either going to see only a few posts or you can choose to see every post and flood your feed with flight deals. I don’t recommend this.

And That’s All She Wrote

Really. The cat’s out of the bag. I hope you found some of this useful and can get some good deals for the next time you travel. Subscribe to my mailing list if you’d like. It’s on the left side of the screen, just a few scrolls up. I don’t have any regularity to when and what I send, but if something is relevant and useful, I’d like to share it with you guys. If you need some travel ideas and inspiration, jump to my Bucket List and see if anything cool jumps out at you.

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