Globetrotting on a Budget: The Ultimate Guide to Finding Cheap Flights Around the World
Globetrotting on a Budget: The Ultimate Guide to Finding Cheap Flights Around the World - Know When to Book for the Best Deals
Knowing the best time to book flights can save you hundreds of dollars on airfare. While there is no one-size-fits-all rule, understanding airline pricing strategies and sale cycles can help you score amazing deals.
According to data analyzed by Hopper, domestic U.S. flights should be booked 1-3 months in advance for the lowest fares. International flights, on the other hand, can be booked further out - about 3-8 months ahead - without significantly impacting price.
- Book at least 2-3 weeks before departure for shorter domestic routes like New York to Miami or Los Angeles to Seattle. Prices normally go up in the last two weeks.
Sign up for airfare alerts and monitor fares to get a sense of trends. If fares drop after you book, you can usually rebook at the lower fare (for a fee).
Be ready to pounce when sales roll around. Domestic sales tend to hit on Tuesdays around 3 p.m. Eastern while international sales often start Thursdays at midnight Eastern. Sign up for airline emails and follow carrier social accounts for announcements.
Aim to book at least 3 weeks before major holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year's when seats are scarcest. For other peak seasons like summer, spring break or ski season, try booking 4-6 months out.
What else is in this post?
- Globetrotting on a Budget: The Ultimate Guide to Finding Cheap Flights Around the World - Know When to Book for the Best Deals
- Globetrotting on a Budget: The Ultimate Guide to Finding Cheap Flights Around the World - Use Flight Search Engines to Your Advantage
- Globetrotting on a Budget: The Ultimate Guide to Finding Cheap Flights Around the World - Be Flexible with Travel Dates and Destinations
- Globetrotting on a Budget: The Ultimate Guide to Finding Cheap Flights Around the World - Consider Alternative Airports for Savings
- Globetrotting on a Budget: The Ultimate Guide to Finding Cheap Flights Around the World - Fly Budget Airlines When Possible
- Globetrotting on a Budget: The Ultimate Guide to Finding Cheap Flights Around the World - Use Miles and Points for Free Flights
- Globetrotting on a Budget: The Ultimate Guide to Finding Cheap Flights Around the World - Travel Light to Avoid Baggage Fees
- Globetrotting on a Budget: The Ultimate Guide to Finding Cheap Flights Around the World - Consider Open Jaw and Stopover Flights
Globetrotting on a Budget: The Ultimate Guide to Finding Cheap Flights Around the World - Use Flight Search Engines to Your Advantage
Gone are the days of spending hours clicking through airline sites to find the perfect flight. Flight search engines are your new best friend when it comes to scoring cheap airfare. These sites scour hundreds of sources and surface the most affordable fares all in one place.
Skip browsing individual airline sites and head straight to tried and true flight search engines. Options like Google Flights, Kayak, Skyscanner and Momondo compile fares across airlines, online travel agencies, consolidators and more. That exposes you to the widest range of deals.
Flight search sites make it easy to customize your search with filters. Look for nonstop only flights, specific cabin classes, preferred carriers and ideal takeoff and landing times. Adjust the number of stops, layover airports and length of layovers to create your optimal route.
The flexible date grids show the cheapest travel days at a glance. Quickly spot when to depart and return to keep costs down. Set up price alerts and get notified when fares drop on your chosen route.
Don’t just rely on the initial search results. Utilize all the tools at your disposal to uncover hidden gems. Try removing filters or tweaking dates slightly. Broaden nearby departure and arrival city options. Check alternate airport codes for smaller regional airports.
Be sure to compare results across a few different flight search sites. Due to variations in sourcing, one engine may surface an exclusive deal the others missed. Devise searches based on your origin, destination and budget.
Sign up for newsletters from flight search sites for the inside scoop on promotions and travel tips. Cash in on coupon codes which often provide a percent or dollar amount off bookings.
Globetrotting on a Budget: The Ultimate Guide to Finding Cheap Flights Around the World - Be Flexible with Travel Dates and Destinations
Flexibility is the budget traveler’s secret weapon when it comes to scoring cheap flights. Savvy jetsetters know that nailing down deals often means compromising on perfect timing and destinations. Remaining open-minded with your travel plans opens the door to major savings you’d miss by rigidly sticking to preconceived notions.
The most affordable fares inevitably pinpoint less popular travel periods when demand dips. School holiday peaks, summer vacations and special events all drive up airfare. Aim your sights on shoulder seasons like September/October or April/May when the crowds thin. Travel midweek instead of jam-packed weekends for fewer crowds and lower fares. Consider red-eyes, early morning or late-night flights to capitalize on unpopular schedules.
Destinations themselves impact pricing. Competing airlines aggressively lower fares to fill seats on less trafficked routes. Direct your compass off the predictable tourist trail to cities like Milwaukee, St. Louis, Pittsburgh or Cincinnati. Connecting flights provide more possibilities to position affordable segments. Don’t rule out alternative airports serving the same region like Ontario/Orange County/LAX or Newark/JFK/New York City.
Remain open to flying budget carriers like Spirit, Frontier and Allegiant. Their no-frills base fares offset fees for seat assignments, bags and snacks. Pack light, skip seat selection and bring your own entertainment to avoid ancillary costs. Reputable flight search sites like Skyscanner clearly break out add-ons to compare true end prices.
Consider one-way journeys when roundtrips prove costly. Separate one-ways sometimes add up to less than a roundtrip ticket. Look at driving or taking ground transport one leg of the trip to reduce air miles.
Follow fare sales calendars to capitalize on regularly scheduled discounts. Sign up for Scott’s Cheap Flights alerts on mistake fares which offer once-in-a-lifetime low prices. Watch for airline flash sales that may only last 24-48 hours.
Ultimately view flight bookings as fluid rather than fixed. Remain vigilant post-purchase as deals emerge. Set fare alerts on your chosen route. If the rate drops, call the airline immediately to rebook at the lower price.
Flexibility necessitates managing logistics like lodging and activities less far in advance. Wait to lock in hotels and tours until airfare is secured. Consider hostels and shared Airbnbs to keep accommodation budgets in check. Travel light with mobile gear like iPads versus clunky laptops.
Embrace spontaneity and view schedule shake-ups as part of the adventure. Avoid non-refundable purchases that lock you into rigid plans. Seek flights, hotels and activities with generous cancellation windows. Review COVID entry restrictions and test/vaccine requirements which continue shifting.
Globetrotting on a Budget: The Ultimate Guide to Finding Cheap Flights Around the World - Consider Alternative Airports for Savings
Savvy travelers know that expanding airport options opens the door to serious flight savings. While your home airport may seem like the obvious choice, looking at alternate airports in surrounding regions can unlock deals you’d otherwise miss.
Alternative airports essentially give airlines more channels to fill seats in markets with lower demand. Carriers utilize tempting fares to drive bookings through underutilized hubs. Exploring these secondary airports allows you to capitalize on lightly trafficked routes hungry for passengers.
Begin by researching all airports within a 100 mile radius of your departure and arrival cities. Google Maps and AirportCodes.com make this a breeze. For example, those departing NYC can look at Newark (EWR), LaGuardia (LGA) and JFK. Boston fliers could consider Providence (PVD) or Manchester (MHT) in nearby New Hampshire.
Don’t assume the major airport will have the best rates. I frequently spot cheaper nonstop fares out of Ontario (ONT) versus overcrowded LAX when heading West. Newark (EWR) often trounces JFK and LaGuardia with deals to Europe. Washington Dulles (IAD) offers better rates than DCA for long haul international routes.
Run test searches from your target airport as well as all alternates. Optimize parameters like cabin class, number of stops and length of layovers. On a recent NYC to San Francisco search, JFK was $347 roundtrip while EWR was only $257 - over $90 in savings!
Factor in the added ground transportation costs and time required when pricing alternate airports. Could you save up front on airfare but lose out on rental car or parking expenses? Will you tack on hours to connect through public transit or shuttle services?
For short domestic hops, alternate airports often make sense. But long international journeys may prove costlier when adding in lengthy cab rides or train connections. Crunch the numbers to determine if the airfare reduction justifies additional logistical planning.
Sign up for alerts from all airport options along your route to stay on top of fare changes. If a major sale crops up from a secondary airport, you can jump on it quickly before seats disappear. Schedule frequent searches as deals come and go rapidly.
Consider flying into your destination’s main airport but departing from a smaller alternate on the return. This allows you to avoid lengthy connections coming home while still enjoying easy access on arrival.
Partner with locals knowledgeable about ground transport to identify airports with direct public transit access. For example, those heading to Chicago could fly into Midway (MDW) then take the L-Train back to O’Hare (ORD).
Avoid locking in departure and arrival cities prematurely. Look at even broader surrounding regions like flying into Oakland with ground transport to San Francisco. Scoring cheap airfare often requires frameworks beyond literal airport codes.
Globetrotting on a Budget: The Ultimate Guide to Finding Cheap Flights Around the World - Fly Budget Airlines When Possible
Budget airlines have transformed the world of affordable air travel, branching out from their early roots serving short-haul domestic routes into full-scale global operations. While budget carriers were once viewed as cramped experiences to be avoided, many now offer premium cabins, top-notch service and lavish perks rivaling legacy flagships. Savvy travelers know embracing budget airlines opens up a world of possibilities for navigating the globe on the cheap.
I religiously monitor budget carriers like Southwest, JetBlue, Norwegian, EasyJet and Ryanair for deals from my home airport. While I wouldn’t blink at a $400 legacy roundtrip fare to Europe, budget brilliance gets me across the pond for a quarter of the price. A recent EasyJet deal had return flights from London to Santorini for under $65 roundtrip – yes, you read that right! Norwegian Air frequently offers East Coast US to Europe fares below $250 with a LowFare+ bundle including seat selection, meals and checked bag.
While the major carriers tempt you to burn points and miles, budget carriers force you to directly face fares. That motivates staying flexible across dates, airports and routes to capitalize on sales. Sign up for newsletter alerts – I once snagged Madison to Denver for $33 roundtrip on Frontier, perfect for a long weekend ski escape! You’ll need to dodge fees for bags, snacks and seat assignments which quickly erode savings. Pack light, BYO entertainment and get comfy being randomly assigned a seat at online check-in.
True budget brilliance combines carriers by using low-cost legs to position pricey segments. I typically book international long haul flights on legacy airlines where service quality matters over 10+ hours. But I’ll gladly grab no-frills short hops on Allegiant or Southwest to ferry me between budget-busting airports. This opens up one-way booking options to capitalize on directional sales.
Recent adventures mixing and matching budget and legacy carriers include San Diego up to Seattle on Alaska for $78 one-way, followed by Iceland’s WOW Air D.C. to Reykjavik for only $99. I landed London New Year's Eve flights avoiding holiday gouging by hopping BudgetAir from Eindhoven to London Stansted then catching Norwegian from London Gatwick to New York JFK.
If you approach budget airlines as a game, you’ll uncover amazing global journeys for pennies on the dollar. Sign up across brands to discover flash sales before they disappear. Scout forums like AirFareWatchdog and Secret Flying for early intel on budget promos. Avoid lumping in ancillary fees until final checkout to accurately compare base fares. Remain diligent post-purchase to rebook at lower rates if sales emerge.
Globetrotting on a Budget: The Ultimate Guide to Finding Cheap Flights Around the World - Use Miles and Points for Free Flights
Frequent flyer miles and credit card points have become liquid gold, unlocking jaw-dropping free flights for those skillful at racking up and redeeming rewards. While newbie dabblers only score lackluster redemptions, true mileage mavens fly the world in First and Business minus lofty price tags. Mastering this high-stakes game delivers unbeatable value, transforming points hoarding into a profitable pastime.
Mileage-earning activity starts by assessing spending patterns and habits. Are particular merchants like gas stations or supermarkets budget line items which could shift to bonus-earning cards? Does work travel bookings justify a co-branded airline card? Are large recurring bills able to be paid via Plastiq or other points-friendly platforms?
Patience and persistence pay off when accumulating miles and points over months or years. Resist the urge to cash out at lower redemptions for gift cards or statement credits. Earning potential multiplies through channeling within larger point ecosystems like Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards which pool points across cards.
Redemption sweet spots emerge through mastering award charts and site quirks. British Airways Avios unlock meager 4,500-mile short haul US hops versus 30,000+ miles on other programs. United allows one-way awards while Delta requires roundtrips. Southwest points pool across holders to easily fund free flights for companions.
Flexibility makes or breaks award flight success. Broaden airport and route options to increase award seat availability. Remain open across cabin classes and consider mixing legroom economy seats with lie-flat business on ultra long haul. Set flexible dates with a range of several weeks and sign up for ExpertFlyer alerts if ideal flights are currently waitlisted.
Dedicated mileage runners go to extremes maximizing frequent flyer incentives and elite status acceleration. These road warriors plan elaborate routes hitting several regions to trigger distance-based bonuses. Matt in New Jersey shared, “I booked a mileage run flying Newark to Hong Kong via Vancouver, Istanbul, London and back for under $650 that earned over 26K miles in a long weekend.”
Award travel standbys swear by sweet spots like United’s Excursionist Perk which builds in a free one-way when booking a roundtrip with stopovers. Others extoll niche programs like Avianca LifeMiles which offers reasonably priced Star Alliance awards. One popular tactic - transfer Chase or Amex points to Virgin Atlantic to book partner Delta flights at improved rates.
Globetrotting on a Budget: The Ultimate Guide to Finding Cheap Flights Around the World - Travel Light to Avoid Baggage Fees
Savvy travelers know that excess baggage invites excess fees which quickly devour travel budgets. Packing light stands as one of the easiest yet most overlooked strategies for avoiding the costly weight and size restrictions imposed by many global airlines. While an afterthought for carefree overpackers, veterans view traveling light not just as penny pinching, but enhancing the entire journey experience.
“I never check bags unless completely unavoidable,” shares frequent flyer Marie. “It saves so much time bypassing bloated check-in and baggage claim. No waiting at the carousel or stressing about lost luggage. I can breeze straight from the gate to transportation on both ends.”
Fliers staying under airline size and weight allowances avoid fees averaging $30 for the first checked bag and $40 for the second. Regional airlines with rock bottom base fares like Frontier and Spirit charge up to $60 per checked bag which erases much of the initial savings. Even full-service global carriers like United and American have added checked baggage fees on many international routes.
“I stick to a 40L backpack as my sole carry-on,” explains budget traveler Chris. “It fits all my essentials - few clothes, toiletry kit, electronics. I hand wash sink-friendly items to rewear over multiple days. Shoes take up space so I try to get by with a pair of walking sneakers plus flip flops.”
Experienced jetsetters carefully curate wardrobes that maximize versatility and minimize bulk. Light fabrics like silk, linen and breathable merino wool work across seasons and occasions. Neutral color schemes encourage mix-and-match layering in varied climates.
Travel-size toiletries replace jumbo bottles. Electronics consolidate into multipurpose mobile devices like iPads capable of entertainment, work and communication. External battery packs eliminate bulky adapters. Digital nomads transport tech tools like e-readers, wireless earbuds and slim laptops.
Carry-on compliant luggage with built-in organization keeps contents accessible in flight without unpacking. Features like clamshell openings, expansion zippers and removable inserts optimize packing. Compression cubes, packing cubes and foldable toiletry bags maintain tidy structure.
Avoid impulse purchases dragging down bags during trips. Seek out laundry services, travel-size toiletries or disposable razor kits from local pharmacies and grocers when needed. Wear bulkier shoes and coats during transport to avoid occupying interior bag space.
Globetrotting on a Budget: The Ultimate Guide to Finding Cheap Flights Around the World - Consider Open Jaw and Stopover Flights
Open jaw and stopover flights are strategic tools yielding major savings for globetrotting travelers. Rather than limiting yourself to mundane roundtrips, crafting multi-segment journeys with extended layovers opens the door to two-for-one experiences.
“I recently booked an open jaw ticket from New York to Milan, returning from Lisbon on TAP Air Portugal,” shares mileage maven Carla. “This allowed me to visit multiple destinations on one ticket and took advantage of TAP’s free stopover program. I got nearly a month of European adventures while only paying for one roundtrip fare.”
Open jaw tickets have travelers arriving at one destination and departing from another. They essentially combine two one-way fares with a break in the middle versus retracing steps end-to-end. Open jaws work beautifully when tackling regions like Europe where low-cost carriers like EasyJet hop between nearby countries.
“On a recent Eurotrip, I booked Lufthansa from LAX into Berlin then returning Madrid to LAX on Iberia,” details frequent flyer Alex. “This let me hit Germany, Poland and Spain on one ticket for barely over $500 when standard LAX-Berlin-LAX would’ve been $800+. The open jaw provided flexibility to hit multiple cities versus a rigid out-and-back.”
Segmenting one-ways also allows capitalizing on directional fare differences. Due to supply-demand variances, LAX-Europe can differ wildly from Europe-LAX pricing. Savvy travelers like Alex build optimal one-way combinations to ride price discrepancies.
Stopovers further enhance open jaws by letting you halt for days or weeks mid-journey without paying extra. Carriers like Turkish, Emirates and Singapore Air all permit free stopovers on roundtrip awards.
“On a Singapore Air redemption, I stopped in Tokyo for two weeks en route from New York to Singapore,” shares expert flyer Malia. “This essentially baked a bonus destination into my existing itinerary without adding miles or cash fares. Stopovers give me flexibility to slow travel between endpoints.”
While most airlines restrict stopovers to the destination region, some sweet spots exist. Cathay Pacific allows a free stopover in either direction worldwide like haltlng in Europe when flying New York-Hong Kong-New York.
Maximizing stopovers and open jaws requires advance planning and booking. Carefully study route maps and mileage rules to identify the most generous opportunities aligned with your preferred destinations. Jot down all potential airports within each region.
Many stopover perks apply exclusively on reward tickets, so consider saving those hard-earned miles for complex multi-segment trips. Nearly all standard economy fares block lengthy stopovers which are reserved for premium redemption bookings.
Utilize online tools like FlightConnections and Google Flights to visualize feasible open jaw and stopover routings across continents. Set up alerts for when affordable one-way fares price out legs of potential journeys.
Consider even broader possibilities like choosing one-way car rentals versus roundtrip. Drop a car off in another destination or country to emulate open jaw freedom. Some rental companies charge minimal fees for cross-border returns.