We’ve previously written about booking the cheapest flights on the web and tips on flying deeply discounted European carriers. For more in-depth specific information, consult these previous posts. This post is a general overview of how to save on booking plane tickets worldwide, broken down in a simplified manner.
1) Play the Credit Card and Airline Points Game for Free Flights!
Utilize credit cards with big bonus point offers to get free flights to amazing destinations around the world. With some cards, if you cancel within the year, you don’t have to pay the annual fee either. The Delta Skymiles American Express Gold Card is free the first year and just $95 each year after. They give a 40,000 point bonus (sometimes enough for a free international flight) after you charge just $1,000 so this is a great card. There are a lot of other perks to having the card like free checked bags on Delta flights.
The Chase Saphire Reserve includes a priority pass, offering complimentary airport lounge access (with free wi-fi, food and cocktails!). They’ll also compensate you $100 for free Global Entry and TSA pre-check to skip airport lines. The annual fee seems steep at $450, but you receive $300 back in travel credits (even Uber counts towards that), so it’s really only $150 for travelers. Their 50,000 bonus point sign up is good for $750 in travel credit, enough for a free ticket overseas! We’ve found the perks of the Chase Sapphire Reserve easy to use and it’s currently the most popular card among travel hackers.
2) Search Multiple Aggregate Sites
Aggregate sites like Momondo, Matrix Airfare Search and Skyscanner search many sites at once (including most discount European carriers like Ryanair), and are generally the best places to find the cheapest tickets online. They spend more advertising on the web and less advertising on TV, which is less expensive for them and you.
3) Not every airline offers their fares on aggregate websites
A good example is Southwest. If you’re booking plane tickets within the USA, always check the Southwest website along with Momondo, Skyscanner and the Matrix.
4) Throw out your allegiance to any one airline
If you’re a casual traveler, because the industry has generally diluted the value of miles. But it’s always worth signing up for frequent flier programs because they’re free and miles don’t expire with many carriers, so there’s nothing to lose there. The airline and credit card points game is still very worthwhile.
5) Call a travel agent
Despite the endless internet, sometimes it’s a good idea to just pick up the phone andWe know many of us out there have developed an aversion to speaking to real humans, but travel agencies sometimes have promotional deals with certain airlines and can have a special on your desired route not offered anywhere on the internet. For longer journeys, it might be worth contacting multiple travel agencies.
6) 6-10 weeks in advance is usually the best time to book
Generally, don’t book plane tickets too far in advance when flying in off peak season, because airlines are usually not desperate to unload seats before then.
7) Book in Advance for Summer and Holiday Season
If you’re flying in peak season (like Europe in summer), or going to a major festival or event, book as far in advance as you can. The tickets will generally only get more expensive otherwise.
8) Always check which discount airlines service your route of choice, and check neighbouring airports
But be sure to read the fine print carefully. Deeply discounted airlines like Ryanair make a lot of money off the penalties passengers must pay for not following the rules. Ryanair turns a big profit, but they save a lot of people money too. They revolutionized flying in Europe and many airlines have followed their model, making flying in Europe more egalitarian than flying in the US.
9) The cheapest day to fly is usually Wednesday
Wednesday is typically the slowest day of air travel because fewer business and leisure travellers are flying mid week.
10) Search separate roundtrip fares on aggregate search sites
Let’s again use Europe to Australia as an example. Search from your home European location to the most common stopovers in Asia. On the Australia route these would be Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Then make a separate roundtrip search from one of these Asian cities to the Australian city of your choosing. You could save quite a bit of money, and you can experience a bonus country while breaking up an exhausting trip. This last tip can work on many other routes, find out where the major stopovers are by checking the connecting cities on your initial aggregate search.
Please let us know any additional tips or websites you’d like to share to save us all money and keep the industry competitive!
UPDATE: July 15th, 2014- In addition to the sites listed in tip 4, we’ve found recently established Google Flights to be a great source for conveniently searching for cheap fares. It’s really user friendly and shows you which dates are cheapest to fly if you’re a little flexible dates.
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