The Ultimate Guide to Cheap Flying: Dates, Search Engines, Airlines, And More

August 20, 2019coupons hub

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woman looking at the flight status

So you spent a week of carefully planning your travel itinerary only to discover that the flight costs will blow half of your budget! Bummer, right? How do you know which dates are the cheapest days to fly?

Hold on to your travel bags because we are here to help you get the best flight deals. We believe traveling should be fun and affordable; your hard-earned money is best spent on your travels, not your flights.

What Is The Typical Cost Range Of Flights?

A Christmas Eve flight to Paris from JFK airport onboard American Airlines will squeeze your wallet dry to the tune of $3,400+. And that’s only one-way. On an economy class seat.

The same flight onboard a Norwegian plane via Skyscanner? $255. See the continental size difference? That’s the cost of a flight onboard a major airline versus a budget one. And that’s just the tip of the flight iceberg.

Is It Possible To Get Cheap Flights?

Yes, it is possible. Contrary to popular myths, traveling is NOT expensive. Rather, it SHOULD NOT be. There are many ways to save money, and everything begins in finding the cheapest days to fly.

But before we fly to those details, let’s discuss the factors that affect airfare costs. Know them by heart, and you will be living a jet-setting lifestyle soon (hopefully).

​Which Airlines?

Like the above example, there’s a huge gap between a major airline and a budget one. If it is not clear yet: major airlines = expensive.

People usually equate big airlines to a quality flight. It is true, but only at some points. You’ll get better facilities or maybe better movies and in-flight food. But if you’re only flying for six hours, there isn’t much of a difference between a major airline and a budget airline (you’re most likely asleep during the flight).

Yet there’s a world of difference if we talk about the cost; the thousands of dollars saved will seem like millions!

Budget (sometimes obscure) airlines bring their costs down by doing away with these comforts. And if you can bear with these minor inconveniences for more rewarding travel afterward, then the budget airline is for you.

Flight Class


business class seat

Image Source: pixabay.com

If you are just going to blow your travel budget sipping wine inside a business class suite, then this article is not for you. The economy class is there for the most obvious of reasons: it is the cheapest seat.

If you’re lucky to get business class tickets (ex. contest prize, or air miles rewards) then, by all means, grab those seats. But if you’re doing a backpacking trip or a gap year adventure, then economy seats are for you.

Trust us; there are better seats than business class seats (a lounge chair by the beach, for example).

Fees


Travel fees. Baggage fees. Meal fees. Service fees. Fees, fees, fees everywhere!

The price of the ticket itself is just a fragment of the total airfare cost. You must know these extra charges you can prepare your budget accordingly. If you can avoid these fees, it’s even better!

Number of Bookings


Let’s bust another flight myth: more empty seats mean cheaper tickets.

Well, yes and no. Some airlines offer lower ticket prices so they can fill at least half of the plane.  But no, not all airlines do this and those who do, don’t do it often.

There are many factors (read: complicated mathematics) why ticket prices drop and the number of seats is just one. So don’t waste your time watching the number of seats available on the airline’s website.

Time of Booking


Yet another flight myth: last-minute bookings are much cheaper (because airlines do last-minute sales).

This is one big fat lie. If we follow this logic, if people know airlines drop the ticket prices at the last minute, then everyone will book AT the last minute. The airlines will lose a lot of money, and they won’t allow this, of course.

On the contrary, airlines sometimes raise the ticket prices because they know people who book on the eleventh hour (usually business travelers) have reasons they book at such time and are willing to pay a premium to get that flight.

The general rule of the thumb: book 6-8 weeks (42-56 days) ahead. According to statistics, this is the ideal time when the prices are its “normal range” (not low and not high). Prepare all your documents (especially visa) in advance so you can spend more time looking for cheap flights.

Season


Speaking of timing, there is a reason holiday flights are expensive: everyone wants to go on vacation.
Airlines know this, and they charge higher because of the high demand. And you are better off not booking during these times.

Here are the peak seasons.

  • ​Christmas
  • ​New Year’s Eve
  • ​Thanksgiving
  • ​4th of July
  • ​Summer school break
  • ​Winter school break
  • ​Foreign holidays (ex. cherry blossom season in Japan during April)

If you really can’t avoid booking on these dates (i.e., family Christmas vacation), you can save money by booking well ahead of time (and onboard cheap airlines).

Economy


Fuel price hikes. Tax rates. Inflation. War somewhere.

These are economic factors way beyond your control thus you can’t do anything about the ticket prices. The best thing to do is wait it out because once the economic dust settles, there is a good chance that the ticket prices will drop.

How To Get Cheap Flights

Now that we know the factors affecting flight costs, let’s dive a little deeper and find out HOW to book the cheapest days to fly.

Getting the best prices is a skill that requires experience and yes, a bit of luck. But if you can’t be lucky, you can always be good and resourceful. The cheapest days to fly just lurk in the corner, and you just need skills and tools to find them.

Use The Best Flight Search Engines

If you call yourself a serious traveler, you must have at least one travel search engine app on your mobile device.

Flight search engines are what it says on the label: websites to look for flights. Some call them “aggregators.” They are either browser-based or mobile apps. What these search engines do is scour the internet for all registered flights for the specified flight. Just input the flight date (and return date if round-trip), the number of people flying (ex. 1 adult, 1 adult + 2 children, etc.), and the airports (departure and arrival).

The search engine will display all the flight results and the corresponding prices. NOTE that these are just the ticket prices; other charges like baggage fees are not included. Having one search engine is good, but having multiple is always better. This way, you leave no stones unturned, and you can compare all the prices.

But not all flight search engines were created equal. Some have features that are better than the others. Just to be sure, these conditions make or break a search engine:

  • Search listThe best search engine includes budget airlines on their search list. Big search engines like Kayak or Expedia only displays major carriers.
  • Navigation. Pick the search engine with a simple layout and easy navigation such as Google Flights or Skyscanner.
  • Nearby airport option. Some search engines have this feature to help you craft your flight plan carefully.
  • Extra features. Search engines like Skyscanner or Expedia offer vacation packages, hotel bookings, and car rentals. These are good options if you don’t have one yet.
  • Price alerts. The reason to download a mobile app: price alert. Most search engines send emails or notifications to tell you about price changes for the specified flight to help you decide which cheapest days to fly are.
  • Deals and recommendations. Sites like Skyscanner have splash pages showing deals from various airlines and recommended destinations.

Top 16 flight search engines

  • ​Google Flights
  • ​Momondo
  • ​Skyscanner
  • ​Airwander
  • ​Expedia
  • ​Kayak
  • ​Orbitz
  • ​ITA Matrix
  • ​Cheapflights
  • ​Travelocity
  • ​Hipmunk
  • ​Kiwi
  • ​Cheap Tickets
  • ​Flight Hub
  • ​Seat Guru
  • ​FareCompare

Identify The Cheapest Days To Fly

As mentioned above, the cheapest days to fly are during the off-peak season or the period during which not many people are traveling. In other words, don’t plan your vacation alongside everyone else’s.  

The secret: be flexible.

There are many holidays aside from the usual Christmases and New Year’s Eves around the world. Every country has its national holidays and festivals that fly under the airlines’ radar. Choose some obscure holiday and plan your vacation around it. It is the perfect time to soak in a country’s culture while having fun at the same time.

If you plan to escape winter and go somewhere warm, booking a flight to the nearby Caribbean may sound like a good idea. Problem is everyone is thinking about the thing. Why not make the most out of winter break by booking a flight to Asia? The Philippines has beautiful beaches all year round, for example. Sure, the flights may be a bit more expensive but regarding “value,” this week-long vacation is better than a 3-day trip to the expensive Bahamas.

Let’s say you really want to spend Christmas in Europe. The thing is, you don’t have to fly at exactly Christmas Eve, during which time the tickers are prohibitively expensive. But if you are planning to spend a week in Europe anyway, why not fly days before Christmas? This way you get to spend Christmas without the expensive ticket price.

And avoid weekends.

Note Down The Best Airlines To Use

At the end of the day, it is the airline that will determine the ticket prices and the cheapest days to fly. As mentioned, stay away from big carriers, as they are more expensive.

For budget fares, go budget airlines. These small companies have sprung up like mushrooms over the years, which has made air travel much more accessible. More airlines mean more competition, and more competition usually means lower prices.

To illustrate, AirAsia roams Australia and Asia for as low as $100 one-way. Norwegian Airlines can shuttle you to Europe for as low as $250. This means you can literally go around the world using only budget airlines!

But budget airlines come with a caveat though. Their business model is simple: earn profits by getting as many bookings as they can. In other words, to compensate for the low ticket prices, they have to cut costs somewhere else. This means not having gourmet meals that big airlines offer, or not having comfy seats and ample leg space. Don’t expect luxurious travel. You get what you pay for, after all.

Another is hidden charges. The allure of crazy-cheap tickets are indeed tempting, but be careful of the fine prints. Some airlines charge higher on baggage fees, for example. Just be wise and examine the total price breakdown, so you don’t get blindsided by these hidden charges.

Last, budget airlines are often fully booked. This is the downside of having cheap ticket prices. To avoid getting blocked by fellow budget travelers, sign up for price alerts, or book promo deals, or book flights months ahead of the flight to assure yourself of a seat.

Here are the best budget airlines by country.

United States

  • Southwestst
  • ​Spirit Airlineses
  • ​Sun Country Airlines
  • ​Allegiant Air
  • ​Frontier
  • ​Virgin America

Canada

  • ​Air Canada Rouge
  • ​WOW Air
  • ​Swoop
  • ​Jetlines
  • ​Flair Airlines
  • ​Air Transat
  • ​Porter
  • ​Air Transat

​Europe

  • ​Ryanair (Ireland)
  • ​WOW Air (Iceland)
  • ​Easyjet (UK)
  • ​Aigle Azur (France)
  • ​Eurowings (Germany)
  • ​Flybe (England)
  • ​Vueling (Spain)
  • ​Norwegian Air (Norway)
  • ​Wizz Air (Hungary)

Asia and Australia

  • ​Cebu Pacific (Philippines)
  • ​Air Asia (Malaysia)
  • ​Scoot (Singapore)
  • ​Peach Air (Japan)
  • ​Cathay Dragon (Hong Kong)
  • ​Spice Jet (India)
  • ​Tiger Air (Australia)
  • ​Spring Airlines (China)
  • ​Vietnam Airlines (Vietnam)
  • ​Nok Air (Thailand)
  • ​T’Way Airlines (South Korea)
  • ​Vanilla Air (Japan)
  • ​Jeju Air (South Korea)
  • ​Jetstar (Australia)
  • ​Hong Kong Express (Hong Kong)

​Africa

  • ​Kulula (South Africa)
  • ​Fastjet (Tanzania)
  • ​Mango (South Africa)
  • ​Fly Safair (South Africa)
  • ​JamboJet (Kenya)

Take Advantages of Deals

Remember: the “value” of a flight is not only about the “price” of the ticket. It also includes other benefits such as waived fees, travel packages, hotel bookings, etc.

​There are many ways to learn about promo fares and other deals:

  • ​Sign up for email alerts – Go to the websites of search engines or airlines and sign up for email alerts regarding price changes
  • ​Download apps for notifications – Download the official apps and set your price notification alert on
  • ​Maximize your air miles – Credit card companies and airlines offer privileges that can be converted to free flights and other perks 
  • ​Monitor social media posts – Check  Twitter, Facebook or Instagram for deals and promos
  • ​Check blogs/ influences – Some bloggers have affiliate deals and coupons that can give you flight discounts
  • ​Ask friends – Word of mouth always works so ask your friends to inform you about deals they know
  • ​Join contests/ raffles/ promos – A free trip-for-two is always a good thing, right?

​Other airlines also offer discounts and other perks for certain people such as students, senior citizens, membership privileges, etc. so take advantage when the opportunity presents itself.

Other Tips For Getting Cheap Flights

Here are more tips about the cheapest days to fly.

Don’t Always Fly Direct

The trick is to plan your flight plan wisely. You don’t have to fly DIRECT to one country; do “smart stopovers” instead.

For example, if you plan to go to Sweden, you don’t have to book a direct flight to Stockholm. You can hop on a flight to Iceland, then book another flight from Iceland to Sweden.

Combine Airlines

If you search for a flight via search engines, you will see that sometimes the departure airline is different from the return flight. This is good, actually. You can do the same and mix and match airlines when you plan your flight. This way, you don’t get stuck to the rates of one airline.

Look For Flights In Other Currencies

It needs mathematics, but sometimes you can get cheaper flights if you book in that country’s currency. Always check the conversion rates and if that country’s currency is weaker compared to yours: that’s a chance to shave some bucks off the price.

Search Incognito

This requires a bit of computer wizardry, but basically, you need to clear your computer of cookies and browse privately using your browser’s incognito mode, or via a private network.

The idea is to hide from the prying eyes of airlines websites, who use your cookies to determine your preferences and using this information, they change the price for you. So turn the tables and search for “true prices” behind the veil of anonymity.

​Conclusion

travelling essentials with a map underneath

Image via Pixabay

Knowing the cheapest days to fly is not unlike knowing when to hunt for wild games.

It needs skills, patience, timing, and the right tools. It also requires knowing how to “read the air.” In other words, you need to develop the gut feeling to know when to hit the “BOOK” button on the screen. It needs time, of course. But with the help of this guide, that time starts today.

 
 

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