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What’s the Best Way to Book Travel and Find Cheap Flights?

A lady on the flight

I’ve done my fair share of traveling over the years, mostly while I was young and living on a tight budget (counterintuitive, I know). As well as collecting an unnecessary amount of magnets, I also gained a few tips for booking cheap flights.

If you’re willing to put in the legwork, you could save a decent chunk on flights and accommodation by combining money-saving methods and strategies. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or planning your first international trip, these tips can help you navigate the booking process with more confidence.

This article will include:

  • The best sites to book flights.
  • How to find the best flight deals.

Read more:

Best Ways to Book a Vacation

Since all my international friends have suddenly decided to get married, I’ve spent a grand total of $800 on flights this year (and we’re only in May). And no — I’m not thrilled about it, but it could have been a lot more pricey without a few tricks of the trade.

Cutting costs means comparing prices across different platforms, avoiding hidden fees, and being flexible with your dates, accommodation, and airport locations.

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Here are the best ways to find cheap flights and save money on travel bookings:

Change Your Location With a VPN

When you book travel from the U.S., you might be paying up to 70% more for international holidays than if you were searching from another country.

Yep, you read that right — that’s based on research by NordVPN, a cybersecurity company that analyzed prices on popular booking sites like Booking.com, Hotels.com, Hertz, Europcar, and Enterprise.

They found that Americans can pay hundreds of dollars more for the same deals. 

So, why does this happen? The popularity of a destination can drive up prices if it’s in high demand in your country. Wealthier countries also see higher prices because companies know the residents can afford it. Local holidays can also affect costs since more people travel during these times.

You can potentially bypass these price hikes using a VPN, as it lets you change your virtual location to search for travel deals as if you were in a different country.

For example, NordVPN also found Americans can save $137.67 on a double room in Paris if you set your location to France.

Note: If you use this method to rent a car internationally, make sure they accept a U.S. driver’s license.

But it’s not just about flipping a switch on a VPN. You need to be strategic. Try different VPN locations and booking sites to compare prices. Use an incognito browser to avoid tracking and clear your cache and cookies.

Remember: Sometimes doing all this extra searching can lead to price increases, and using a VPN isn’t a guaranteed way to save money — still, it’s worth a try!

Use Flight Comparison Platforms for Research

Search engines like Skyscanner, Google Flights, Kayak, and Momondo are my top picks for researching airlines and routes. They let you compare prices across multiple airlines, giving you a wider view of your options.

Just enter your departure and arrival locations, dates, and other preferences — these platforms will work their magic and show you a list of results from several airlines.

One of my favorite search engine features is the “explore” option. Whenever I get a (rare) moment of spontaneity, it’s fun to see which destinations are the cheapest and possibly inspire your next trip. My British friend took a day trip to Barcelona this way for just $40 — not bad!

Remember: When you see a price on a search engine, it’s usually for a basic economy ticket. Be aware that airlines will try their damnedest to upsell you and add extra fees when you click through to book.

While these tools are great for research, I recommend booking directly with the airline after finding a good deal. This can save you a lot of trouble with cancellations, delays, or other issues. Dealing with the airline directly can make resolving these problems much easier than going through a third-party website.

Note: Southwest Airlines doesn’t usually show up in third-party search results. If you want to fly with Southwest, check their website directly after using search tools to compare fares.

After finding a flight on a search engine, you can also head to an online travel agency (OTA) like Expedia, Orbitz, or Hotwire to book. These agencies can combine two one-way flights on separate airlines into one itinerary. They also monitor price trends and let you set up alerts if prices drop.

Compare Airline Tickets and Prices

Airlines love to tempt you with low fares, only to add extra fees for baggage, seats, insurance…you name it. But don’t just accept the final price if it’s over budget — dig a little deeper by comparing the final costs across different airlines. Sure, it’s a bit of a hassle, but the extra cash you save could go towards those overpriced gelatos.

One trick is to skip seat selection. Most budget-friendly options will offer random seat allocation. Sure, you might end up stuck between a snorer and a talker, but that’s usually better than paying the hefty fees for seat selection.

That said, I’ve scored plenty of window seats by checking in early online.

You’ll also get offers for add-ons like “trip protection” and rental cars during the booking process. They might seem like a good deal, but do you really need them? Plus, if you have elite status with an airline or a travel credit card, you might already get similar perks, like travel insurance, free checked bags, or discounted seat selection.

So, how to get cheap airline tickets? The lowest-priced flights often have odd departure times, like very early in the morning or late at night.

But these times can be awkward, especially if public transportation isn’t running and you need to pay for a taxi. Cheap flights might also come with long layovers, which can add unnecessary travel time and extra costs at the airport. I suggest adding up these costs before booking that 1 am flight. 

Tip: Hotels use “dynamic pricing” to adjust rates based on demand, so checking prices frequently can help you catch a deal. Don’t hesitate to call the hotel directly and mention a lower rate you found elsewhere; they might match it.

Understand the Booking System

When you book travel for multiple people, you might notice that the great deal you saw suddenly disappears when you add more passengers.

This happens because airlines sell tickets in different classes called “fare buckets.” These are groups of fares priced similarly based on certain rules and restrictions. When adding more passengers, you might be bumping into a higher fare bucket, increasing the overall price.

Tip: If the price jumps when you add passengers, purchase one ticket at the lowest price first. Then, buy additional tickets separately. This way, you get at least one ticket at the lower price before moving into the higher fare bucket.

Now, when is the best time to buy cheap tickets? The number of times I’ve heard people insist that I’ll get the best airline prices by booking on a Tuesday. The truth? There’s no set time or day to guarantee cheaper flights.

Airlines used to load fares at specific times, but now prices change daily, sometimes even hourly. So, there’s no magic day to book your flights.

However, the cheapest days to actually fly are often Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. Business travelers tend to fly on Sundays, Mondays, and Fridays, which drives up demand and prices on those days.

One thing that’s still true is that waiting until the last minute to book your flight is a big risk. Airfare tends to climb up as the departure date approaches, so book your tickets well in advance.

Be Flexible With Dates, Airports, and Accommodation

First, let’s talk airports. If you always fly out from the big-city airport closest to your home, you might miss out on cheaper fares from smaller, nearby airports.

Big-city airports often have the most flights and carriers, but they don’t always have the best prices. Sometimes a short drive to an alternative airport can save you a hefty amount on airfare.

When it comes to accommodation, think outside the box. Of course, there’s Airbnb, but prices aren’t so different from hotels in recent years, plus you often need to pay extra for cleaning costs.

That said, it’s still worth taking a look — booking a single room in a family or shared home is usually way cheaper than an entire house (I did this in Germany and ended up partying with the locals)!

Platforms like RedWeek let you book top resorts through timeshare marketplaces, often at direct-from-owner pricing. This can be much cheaper than traditional hotel bookings and give you access to high-quality accommodations.

Timing is also crucial.

Flying during holidays, special events, and long weekends tends to be more expensive. Try to travel during off-peak periods for significant savings if you’re flexible. Consider flying the day after a holiday or even on the holiday itself, but avoid traveling just before these peak times.

Consider Combining Flights and Hotels

Using sites like Kayak or Expedia makes it easy to book trips all in one place by bundling flights and hotels. This convenience can often lead to better rates — but do your homework. Take your time comparing the bundle prices with booking flights and hotels separately to ensure you’re getting the best deal.

Hotels and airlines may be willing to offer discounts when you book them together as a bundle. They can get away with this as the total cost becomes less transparent, allowing them to give you a better deal without making it too obvious.

Airlines like Delta, JetBlue, and American Airlines may also offer their own vacation packages. For example, JetBlue Vacations currently offers $300 off select Hilton Hotels & Hilton All-Inclusive Resorts if you spend a minimum of $3,000.

FAQs

How to find cheap flights?

Finding cheap flights involves being flexible with your travel dates and times. Use fare comparison tools like Google Flights, Skyscanner, or Kayak to monitor price trends and set alerts for drops. Also, consider flying during off-peak days, like Tuesdays or Wednesdays, and look at alternative nearby airports for better deals.

What is the best website to book flights?

Top contenders for comparing flight prices are Google Flights, Skyscanner, and Kayak. These platforms provide comprehensive searches across multiple airlines, showing you the best available fares.

Google Flights is particularly user-friendly, allowing you to explore different dates and destinations easily. Once you find a good deal, book directly through the airline’s website to avoid potential issues with third-party sites.

How to find the cheapest round-trip flights?

To find the cheapest round-trip flights, start by being flexible with your departure and return dates. Use fare comparison sites like Momondo or Skyscanner to see a broad range of options. Set up price alerts to get notified of any drops. Also, check if booking two one-way tickets is cheaper than a round-trip ticket.

What’s the best flight comparison site?

Skyscanner stands out as one of the best flight comparison sites. It searches a wide array of airlines and travel agencies, often finding deals that other sites miss. Its flexible search options let you explore different dates and even entire months to find the cheapest times to fly.

Additionally, Skyscanner’s “Everywhere” feature helps if you’re open to various destinations, showing the lowest fares to various locations worldwide.

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