How To Buy The Cheapest Airline Tickets
The most common question I receive as a frequent traveler is simply: “How do I get the best deals on airline tickets?”. It makes sense, since one of the biggest hurdles to travel for most people is simply the high costs of airline tickets to their chosen destination. Especially when you start talking about international travel, tickets often set you back more than $1000. If you’re going to make such a large purchase, you want to be absolutely sure that you’re getting the best deal you can get!
Since airline tickets are priced dynamically, people very often pay vastly different prices for the exact same flight. The key to finding good fares is timing–it matters greatly when you purchase your ticket. Despite what Travelocity or Kayak may lead you to believe, there is no one website that will get you “cheap tickets” or “the best airline deals”. To get the cheapest flights, it’s a combination of timing and of using the right internet browser!
Tip 1: Clear your search cache and cookies or open an incognito mode window before doing any airline ticket searches! Most of the airline companies and aggregate travel search engines (such as Kayak) will raise the rates of your tickets if they can see you’ve searched for that flight route before. It usually will save you a couple hundred bucks to search from a clean browser.
Tip 2: Don’t shop too early or too late for your tickets. The cheapest rates for domestic travel can be found 3-4 months before the departure date. International travel is cheapest 4-5 months prior to departure. Anything before or after this window will cost you extra.
Tip 3: Leave on a Wednesday, and take the very first flight of the day. I know it sucks to get up at 3am for a flight, but if you’re hell bent on getting the cheapest flight, that’s the one to choose. The most expensive days for trip departures are Friday or Sunday, so avoid departing on the weekend.
Tip 4: Buy your tickets on Tuesday, 3pm EST. Statistically speaking, it is the time where tickets are absolutely the lowest in price they will get for that week. Most of these deals and discounted airfares are pulled on Thursday, so if you wait too long, you’ll find those really great prices will disappear, only to reappear again on Tuesday.
Tip 5: When you buy airline tickets in bulk (for more than 1 person), the system must price all the tickets at the same rate. Therefore, if there are seats at a cheaper price, you will not be offered those seats, if they airline does not have enough of them for your entire party. It is a pain, but if you’re buying multiple airline tickets, buy them separately. You will probably save a couple hundred bucks on at least one of the tickets.
Tip 6: Don’t forget to check discount airlines! Southwest, Jet Blue, and other discount airlines (like Allegiant Air) don’t show up on aggregate sites like Kayak, Orbitz or Travelocity. You must check them separately. This often applies for overseas discount travel as well; airlines like Air Asia or IndiGo Airlines often do not show up on Kayak search results. However, SkyScanner app and website DOES include these discounted carriers, but only in Asia and not in the USA.
Tip 7: Be flexible! The singular best way to get great airline prices is to travel with a flexible schedule. I know this is impossible for most of us with jobs, but whenever possible, be flexible about your dates. A lot of travel sites will let you see a fare matrix that will pin point the cheapest departure and return dates for your chosen route. Use this, and use the SkyScanner app to get an idea of what days will be the cheapest for you to choose to fly on.
Tip 8: If you live in a smaller city, drive to the closest hub town, or book your fare there separately. This can often save you a couple hundred bucks, especially flying internationally. Most of the best international airfare deals are from major US hubs and cities, so it helps to book your flight from a larger airport, then either drive, take a bus, or book a connecting flight separately.
Tip 9: Fly from alternative local airports. If you live in a large city, be sure to include all of your city’s local airports in your search. Oftentimes, especially for domestic travel, you can fight cheaper flights out of smaller regional airports. This generally is not true for international travel, but is worth a shot just in case.
Tip 10: “Hacker fares”– This is where you purchase your departure and return tickets separately, as one way tickets. This rarely gets you a discount, but it’s worth a shot. Check the one way tickets to and from your destination and see if the total combined price is cheaper than a round trip ticket. If you’ve waited until the last minute to purchase your ticket, it generally will be.
Those are the tips I consistently use to book my own airline tickets, and I can vouchsafe that they work well and work consistently. Just remember that most heavily discounted tickets come with a lot of travel restrictions–you generally cannot alter the date of the ticket’s travel, the time of departure or the airport of departure or arrival. If you’re looking for a ticket that is transferrable or refundable, discounted tickets will never fit that bill (you should go ahead and purchase a full fare ticket). However, if you’re willing to put up with heavy ticket restrictions for a better price and willing to make the effort to follow these 10 airline purchasing tips, you should get the best possible rates for your trip!