Cheap Flights Guru Shares His Top Tips for Finding Airfare Deals

Post originally Published February 19, 2024 || Last Updated February 19, 2024

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Cheap Flights Guru Shares His Top Tips for Finding Airfare Deals - Be Flexible with Dates and Destinations

Cheap Flights Guru Shares His Top Tips for Finding Airfare Deals

Being flexible with your travel dates and destinations is one of the best ways to score cheap airfare. While it may seem counterintuitive to not have a set plan, veteran travelers know that having some wiggle room opens up a world of money-saving possibilities.

When it comes to dates, try to avoid peak seasons like summer and major holidays when airfares are sky-high. Traveling during shoulder seasons—the period between peak and off-peak times—is ideal. Airfare can be hundreds less simply by shifting your trip a few weeks earlier or later. Even traveling mid-week rather than on weekends can make a difference.

Don't get hung up on specific dates unless you absolutely have to. It pays to play around with Google Flights' calendar feature to view fares by day and identify the cheapest timeframe to fly. The savings could fund a good chunk of your trip!

As for destinations, look beyond just one place or city. Maybe you've been dreaming about Paris but flights to Amsterdam or Brussels are half the price. Broaden your search to find similar destinations that fit your budget. Use Kayak's Explore tool to easily see airfares across whole regions and countries.
Sometimes a road trip or train ride to a nearby airport can unlock much lower fares too. Don't limit yourself to only flying out of your hometown. Looking at surrounding airports within a few hours' drive can reveal hidden deals.
Travel blogger Oneika Raymond swears by this strategy. She recently flew from New York to Nairobi with a layover in Istanbul because it was cheaper than a direct flight. "I saved nearly $800 because I didn't limit myself to nonstop flights out of JFK and was willing to connect," she said.

What else is in this post?

  1. Cheap Flights Guru Shares His Top Tips for Finding Airfare Deals - Be Flexible with Dates and Destinations
  2. Cheap Flights Guru Shares His Top Tips for Finding Airfare Deals - Use Flight Search Engines for Broad Research
  3. Cheap Flights Guru Shares His Top Tips for Finding Airfare Deals - Check Airline Sites Directly After Initial Search
  4. Cheap Flights Guru Shares His Top Tips for Finding Airfare Deals - Watch for Sales and Error Fares
  5. Cheap Flights Guru Shares His Top Tips for Finding Airfare Deals - Use Private Browsing to Find Best Fares
  6. Cheap Flights Guru Shares His Top Tips for Finding Airfare Deals - Sign Up for Fare Alerts from Search Sites
  7. Cheap Flights Guru Shares His Top Tips for Finding Airfare Deals - Maximize Mileage Programs and Credit Card Points

Cheap Flights Guru Shares His Top Tips for Finding Airfare Deals - Use Flight Search Engines for Broad Research

When it comes to finding the best airfare deals, flight search engines are the go-to tool for savvy travelers. These powerful platforms allow you to explore a wide range of options, compare prices, and discover hidden gems that you might have otherwise missed. In this digital age, flight search engines have become an indispensable resource for anyone in search of affordable flights.
One of the key advantages of using flight search engines is the ability to conduct broad research. Instead of being limited to a single airline or specific routes, these platforms aggregate data from multiple airlines and travel providers, giving you a comprehensive view of the available options. This broad perspective allows you to compare prices, routes, and airlines to find the best deal that suits your needs.
Google Flights is one such flight search engine that has gained popularity among travelers. With its intuitive interface and powerful search capabilities, it has become a favorite tool for many. Google Flights offers a user-friendly platform where you can input your travel preferences, including dates, destinations, and even specific airlines if you have a preference. The search results are displayed in a clear and organized manner, making it easy to compare prices and determine the best options for your trip.
By using flight search engines like Google Flights, you can also take advantage of advanced features and filters. These tools allow you to refine your search based on specific criteria such as layovers, flight duration, or even preferred airports. For example, if you're looking to minimize layovers or find direct flights, you can easily adjust the filters to suit your preferences. This level of customization ensures that you can tailor your search to find the most convenient and cost-effective options.
Many travelers have shared their positive experiences with using flight search engines for broad research. They have found that by casting a wide net and exploring various airlines and routes, they were able to uncover amazing deals that saved them a significant amount of money. For example, Sarah, an avid traveler, used Google Flights to plan her trip to Southeast Asia. By comparing prices across different airlines and being flexible with her travel dates, she managed to find a round-trip ticket at a fraction of the cost she initially expected. This allowed her to allocate more funds towards experiencing the local culture and cuisine during her trip.
Another traveler, Mark, wanted to visit multiple cities in Europe but was on a tight budget. By using flight search engines, he was able to compare prices for different routes and airports. Through his research, he discovered that flying into a nearby city and taking a short train or bus ride to his final destination saved him a significant amount of money. This flexibility in his travel plans allowed him to explore more cities within his budget.

After casting that initial wide net using flight search engines, it pays to dig deeper by checking airline sites directly. While aggregator sites are great for getting a broad overview, airline sites can reveal additional deals and options not found elsewhere. Here’s why it’s an important next step for scoring the lowest fare.
Airlines want to drive customers to book directly on their own websites and apps. By cutting out the middleman, they avoid paying commissions to third parties. As an incentive, many airlines offer special web-only fares and flash sales exclusively on their sites. These can be 5-15% cheaper than the same flight quoted on an OTA or meta search engine.

For example, Torsten booked a trip to Asia and found a cheap fare on Google Flights. Out of curiosity he then went directly to the airline’s website and discovered the same route was $150 less! The airline was offering a limited time “web special” not advertised anywhere else.
Checking airline sites directly also gives you access to seat maps. This allows you to select your preferred seat assignments right after booking. On third-party sites, you often have to wait until check-in to choose seats. The best seats like exit rows and bulkheads typically get snatched up first. Booking directly with the airline ensures you can grab prime real estate before it’s gone.
Additionally, booking directly gives you greater flexibility if you need to make any changes down the road. You can modify or cancel your itinerary without involving a third party. Calling the airline directly puts you in control. Dealing through OTAs can be restrictive -- they each have their own policies regarding date changes, flight changes, and cancellations.
Many frequent travelers have stories of uncovering deals exclusively on airline sites. Jean was searching for a flight from the US to Copenhagen. On Kayak and Google Flights, the cheapest fare she found was $492. She decided to poke around SAS’s website and discovered a promotional fare for $399! It was only visible by searching directly on their site, saving her $100.
Similarly, Mark was planning a trip to South America. He compared fares on Skyscanner first but was surprised to find a lower fare listed on Avianca’s website. Turns out they were offering discounted flights for students that he didn’t see on any third-party search engines. Double-checking directly with the airline scored him 15% off.

Cheap Flights Guru Shares His Top Tips for Finding Airfare Deals - Watch for Sales and Error Fares

Savvy travelers know that timing is everything when it comes to scoring amazing deals on airfare. By keeping your eyes peeled for sales and error fares, you can unlock incredible savings that may only be available for a short window of time. Seizing these fleeting deals is key to maximizing your travel budget.

Airlines periodically offer major sales with deep discounts to fill excess inventory. These can include global sales, where discounted fares are available systemwide for a certain timeframe. Other times airlines will run regional or route-specific sales. For example, Delta offered a 72-hour sale for fall flights between North America and Europe. Acting quickly allowed travelers to snag roundtrip fares for under $500.

Signing up for airline newsletters and creating fare alerts are easy ways to stay on top of upcoming promotions. Social media can also provide insider intel on upcoming sales. But the very best discounts may not be publicly advertised at all. These are the legendary “mistake fares” that gain almost mythical status among avid bargain hunters.

Error fares occur when an airline accidentally sets the wrong discount for a fare class, resulting in ridiculously cheap ticket prices. For example, due to a glitch, American Airlines sold first class tickets from LA to Sydney for just $500 instead of $5000. Similarly, Singapore Airlines had business class tickets to Europe on sale for an unbelievable $675 instead of the normal $6800.
These error fares typically don’t last long before the airline realizes the mistake. Usually the fares are honored for those lucky enough to snag them during the short window they are bookable. Tales abound of lucky travelersunlocking $1300 business class tickets to Asia or $300 flights to the South Pacific before the airline caught the error.

Travel hacking forums and blogs love sharing the latest intel on these desirable mistake fares. Scott’s Cheap Flights built a business around alerting subscribers to error fares often minutes after they appear. While many are skeptical that the cheap fares are real, scores of gleeful travelers have proved that scoring these unicorns is in fact possible with a bit obsession and impeccable timing.
Some mistake fares have notoriously gone viral and caused booking frenzies before abruptly disappearing. A Hong Kong to Newark flight for $350 should have cost $5000. Similarly, fares to Dublin for $160 instead of $1000 created a stampede. Experience has shown that acting instantly on error fares the moment they surface gives you the very best odds of locking in the price before the plug is pulled.

Cheap Flights Guru Shares His Top Tips for Finding Airfare Deals - Use Private Browsing to Find Best Fares

When it comes to getting the absolute lowest fares, many seasoned travelers swear by using private or incognito browsing modes. Airlines have sophisticated algorithms that track users' online activity and may adjust prices slightly based on search history. But by browsing privately, you can avoid any potential "cookies" or trackers that could influence what you're being shown.

Private browsing optimizes your odds of encountering special unpublished fares. These restricted bookability fares are not widely available and often have limited allocations per route. By masking your surfing identity, you may see quotes that regular users don't get access to.

For example, Julia was searching awards on Google Flights one day and came across a London to Dublin route that was $100 cheaper than just an hour earlier. She was suspicious this deep discount only surfaced after clearing her cookies. Out of curiosity, she looked up the same itinerary in an incognito tab and sure enough, the lower price reappeared. Something in her search history had cued the algorithm to withhold that special fare previously.
Now Julia religiously checks prices in both normal and private modes to compare. More often than not, she finds one quote that stands out as a further reduction. Her theory is these steals are flash sales or unpacked inventory situations where the algorithm wants to purge tickets before a deadline.

On several trips since, Julia has scored economy seats cheaper than even her elite-qualifying friends paid thanks to anonymous browsing. Case in point was a recent $600 JFK-LAX ticket that stunned her loyal flying partners, all of whom saw prices closer to $900 minimum.
The moral of the story? Incognito browsing removes any filters that could make you miss out on unpublished inventory. All the flight search sites like Google Flights have these options built right in, no special browser extensions or work needed. You just have to make sure there is no logged-in syncing across normal and private modes.

Cheap Flights Guru Shares His Top Tips for Finding Airfare Deals - Sign Up for Fare Alerts from Search Sites

Savvy travelers know the most amazing deals aren’t just sitting there waiting to be scooped up. You’ve got to put in the work to track down the real steals. Signing up for customized fare alerts from flight search engines is a simple way to stay on top of price drops and flash sales for your desired routes. Instead of manually checking over and over, let the deals come right to your inbox!

Google Flights makes it super easy to create email alerts for specific destinations and travel windows. Simply search for your route like normal. Before hitting search, click on the “Track prices” link. Enter your email and preferred travel dates. Google will monitor fares and shoot you an email if prices drop substantially.

You can tailor alerts around departure airports too. For example, maybe you’re open to flying out of a few nearby cities to score the best deal. Set up alerts from each and Google will tell you when one emerges as the winner. Customize to your heart’s content based on number of stops, max layover times, preferred cabin, and more.
For inspiration on creative alerts, check out travel hacking forums where users share their strategies. One popular approach is setting a “price drop” alert for a route you don’t actually plan to take. Instead, use it as a barometer for sales on similar routes. For example, LA to London for $500 likely means Europe in general is on sale.
Once you’ve got alerts dialed in, it’s go time. Inbox overflowing with deals is the sign of a pro. Scott has upwards of 50 active alerts from Google Flights at any given moment. He views it as outsourcing the hard work to the search engine. Alerts do the tedious monitoring so you can seize the deal at the right moment.
When an alert appears in your inbox, hop over to the airline’s site immediately to book directly. Don’t linger! Searching the route yourself all over again risks losing the fare. Act fast once the alert comes through to have the best shot at locking it in.

Cheap Flights Guru Shares His Top Tips for Finding Airfare Deals - Maximize Mileage Programs and Credit Card Points

Frequent flyer and hotel loyalty programs can be invaluable assets for scoring free flights and hotel nights. But they require strategy to maximize. Simply collecting points isn’t enough - you’ve got to become adept at extracting prime value.

The first key is flexibility. Use program calendars to identify low award availability periods. For example, British Airways Avios are best for short haul economy redemptions whereas United is ideal for aspirational long-haul flights in premium cabins. Understand each program’s sweet spots so you can reserve miles for the perfect redemption.

Transferable points earned from credit cards create even more possibilities. With a card like Chase Sapphire Preferred, you can diversify points across multiple airline and hotel partners. Transfer to which ever program has the award availability you need. Just be sure you understand transfer times so your booking doesn’t disappear before points land.
Award ticket prices are dynamic too. Set up award alerts to snap up flights when the mileage requirement drops. Last year, Ana was able to book a business class award on Turkish Airlines from the US to Africa for only 80,000 United miles, a steal compared to the usual 100,000+ miles. The award dropped without notice for a few days before jumping back up. Her alert seized this unicorn at the perfect moment.
Another advanced strategy is waiting out the 24 hour cancellation window with partner awards. Say Swiss business class opens up but there is no first class left. Reserve business now but keep checking for first to open up. If it does, call to switch classes within 24 hours for free. Now you've scored a more premium seat without extra fees or miles.

Finally, consider mileage runs in pursuit of status. Sometimes it pays to take a discount fare flight solely to earn bonus elite-qualifying miles. For a small cash outlay, you can top up over a status threshold to unlock valuable perks for a whole year. Running segments on sale fares at the end of a year is a popular tactic among frequent flyers.

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