Where can I find cheap flights? How do I book cheap flights? What are tips for searching flights? Questions about questions….
I’m a big fan of cheap flights! Because I’d rather spend my money on stays on the spot and, above all, on good food than on transportation. It is not easy to get an overview in the jungle of airlines. However, it is worth it to do some research on the Internet before booking a flight ticket.
While going to the travel agency can be worthwhile for long-haul trips or journeys with many stopovers, shorter trips are better booked on the Internet.
With the following small but nice tricks you will find flights in your price range. Sometimes you can save a lot of money with it. So I never travel within Europe for more than 50 € for return flights. For example, I booked my flights to Scotland for 30€ and those to Italy for about 40€.
Here are some tricks for cheap flights:
1. Use flight search engines!
By now everyone knows for sure that the first thing to do when looking for cheap flights is to use a search engine on the Internet. Use at least two different providers, as all airlines will be searched for your criteria.
In addition to the selection of specific travel dates and destinations, you can also get yourself inspired by all search engines. The advantage here is that round-trip flights can be arranged by different airlines.
This means that you are more flexible in terms of time and not tied to the flight times for the return flight of a single airline.
I have become used to Skyscanner* and have been using it for many years. But there are some others like Kayak, Swoodoo and Momondo (especially for open jaw flights).
Google has also expanded its search tools to include flights. Take a look at them all and decide which flight search engine is right for you.
BUT: Don’t rely on flight search engines alone for the overall booking. For long-haul flights, it may be worthwhile to book individual routes.
2. Book early
Especially cheap tickets for low-cost airlines are extraordinarily cheap months before the departure date. So book your flight as soon as possible and avoid the price increases.
Unfortunately, the idea of a cheap last-minute booking for flights is still holding steady. However, while it can be cheaper to book late for all-inclusive travel, this does not always make sense for cheap flights.
Usually, business travelers book vacant seats at short notice. The airlines know this and can be sure that their aircraft will be fully booked. Only in very few cases, a short-term booking is worthwhile.
A recent study by CheapAir deals extensively with people’s booking behavior and the resulting price development. The classification is seasonal and worldwide. The funds thus only roughly reflect regional fluctuations. However, this is very helpful for orientation.
For Europe applies:
Domestic flights are cheapest 58 days before departure
International flights are best booked 171 days before
Best day for bookings is Tuesday: Here the prices are lowest
Departure day should be between Tuesdays and Thursdays
3. Be flexible with travel dates
It is now generally known that the prices for flights change with demand and also fluctuate significantly within a year. During the high season in the summer holiday months and around popular holidays (e. g. Christmas), airfares are particularly high.
But not just that: the search behavior within days also influences the price.
This means that the more you search for a particular destination, the more prices will rise. However, it is also the case that airline employees do not always approach price changes according to plan.
Sometimes these are also carried out according to the employee’s own choice. Nevertheless, the fact remains: the airfares are fluctuating!
If possible, be flexible with your data. For example, flights are more expensive on weekends than during the week. Or a certain date is expensive, the next day is cheaper.
For example, plan your flight first and then apply for a holiday at work. Some airlines cooperate, at least for long-haul flights, with railway companies such as Deutsche Bahn. Rail & Fly tickets include tickets to travel to a farther away airport.
More detailed information can be found on the websites of the airlines.
4. Be flexible with the airport of departure
If possible, don’t just settle for one airport. Some airports are not flown to by low-cost airlines. It is also worth looking beyond country or city borders in some places.
In addition to large airports, smaller airports can also be located, which are flown to by regional low-cost airlines.
Singapore and Johor Bahru are examples of this. Singapore is a large international airport, also for intercontinental flights. On the Malaysian side, Johor Bahru airport is located just a few kilometers across the border. It is home to a regional low-cost airline (Air Asia) and offers several flights to the entire region.
One example from Germany is Frankfurt and Frankfurt/Hahn. The low-cost airline Ryanair does not fly to Frankfurt International Airport (the largest in Germany, by the way), but to Frankfurt/Hahn Airport, which is one hour away.
You can search very well in the environment with the matrix of IATA. You can’t book flights here, but you can research neighbouring airports and view fare changes in real time. Google has now purchased IATA software and it’s only a matter of time before this technology is integrated into Google’s own flight search.
5. Use long-distance buses as airport shuttle service
The long-distance bus network is well developed in Europe and most of the rest of the world.
Due to the strong competition, prices have fallen sharply in recent years and most lines run several times a day. So why not use the long-distance bus as an airport shuttle and save extra on a bargain flight? Bus bookings can be made online or in mobile apps.
6. Save time with fork flights
Especially when traveling across a country or region, you save a lot of time by adapting the departure airports for outbound and return flights to the respective location.
This way the outbound flight to a city can take place while you book the return flight to where your route takes you across the country. You don’t have to take the bus, car or train back to your destination.
You don’t usually save money, but you do save a lot of stress and lifetime. And that’s worth something, isn’t it?
Forked flights are particularly suitable for trips through several countries. Please note, however, any visa or entry requirements.
For example, if you have bought something that is allowed in one country, it does not necessarily have to be allowed for import in another country. Inform yourself in advance!
7. Use stopovers as a travel component
Particularly cheap flights outside of cities are hardly ever direct. Often you will have to make a stopover with a change and a more or less short stay. Within Europe, you can arrive anywhere in Europe, but a stopover is a common practice on longer flights. Use this stop wisely. When will you be able to get to know another country so cheaply and easily?
In addition, such a stopover is a welcome relief for long-haul flights from 10 hours upwards.
Choose flights with stopovers of 24 or 48 hours or longer if you like. This can be set as a filter in most flight search engines.
These stopovers are often free of charge, but some airlines charge for them, mostly on long-haul flights.
At some airports, however, you will have to pay a small fee for leaving the airport. Please note the visa regulations of the respective country and check in advance whether your ticket for the onward flight might lose its validity when leaving the airport. You can get such information on the pages of your booked airline.
8. Do not book one-way flights
One-way flights don’t make sense in 85% of cases if you know when you want to fly back.
Taken together, individual bookings of flights are much more expensive than when you book a return trip together.
9.Check the websites of the airlines
Also check the websites of the airlines directly. Flight search engines display all prices, including offers and promotions, but there may be a time delay.
Flight search engines primarily use information from the cache of the browser or app you last used to search.
On the websites of the airlines, it is often not possible to directly save on prices, but there may be lower fees for payment methods. It is worth taking a quick look there.
10. Check which services you need
Low-cost airlines, in particular, can charge for many extras, which are included in the prices of other airlines.
This starts with the choice of seats, includes catering and ends with cancellation conditions. It is especially important to pay attention to the luggage included in the price.
While hand luggage is free of charge for all airlines, the weight limits for check-in baggage may vary considerably.
Many low-cost airlines charge extra for check-in baggage at high prices, while traditional airlines often include it. It is worth comparing prices and booking with a traditional airline at the same price, not only because of the luggage, also you get nice extras like a drink or snacks and free seating.
Please pay attention to the terms and conditions of booking changes or cancellation. With low-cost airlines, this is often not possible or only at a cost that often exceeds the actual fare. So if you need to be flexible when traveling, take a close look.
11. Clear the browser cache before booking
Again and time again, we hear that the more often you search for a destination on the same computer, the higher the prices rise. That’s the truth!
This is due to cookies that are stored locally. Cookies are small text files that contain information about how often and what potential customers searched for on a website.
So, if you repeatedly search for a certain flight or region within a certain period of time, this indicates interest and willingness to buy to the provider or the flight search engine.
Here, prices are gradually being raised in order to persuade interested customers to make a quick booking.
The psychological component of fear of a further price increase has an effect on many people and it is being booked hectically. Don’t play along!
In an interesting article, the American and former consumer protectionist Jo Fitzsimons passionately describes the mechanism of dynamic prices.
Solution: Clear the browser cache before booking or simply book the flight of your choice on a technical device other than the one you used to search.
Nowadays, most people have two to four Internet-enabled devices that can be used for this purpose. You can find out how to delete the browser cache HERE.
12. Inform yourself about big events in the destination country
The most thoughtful approach to booking a flight is pointless if there are holidays or major events in the country of your choice.
Check in advance if your desired dates are convenient.
Not only are airfares on holidays generally higher, but also for hotels or other accommodations prices may go up or even be fully booked.
Think of trade fairs, events or festivals and check on the internet before booking your flight.
Unfortunately, I have just made this mistake myself. On my flight to Israel I booked the cheapest connection. I did not notice that exactly on the day of arrival and the following day there were Jewish holidays on which public transport was completely shut down.
I had to pay a taxi for the money I saved on the flight, which took me to my destination 1 hour away from the airport. So don’t make the same mistake I did!
13. Myth error-fare
Fully automated booking processes have a vulnerability that you can use: once you have booked tickets, nobody controls them.
Due to calculation errors, it is possible that airfares have been incorrectly entered in the booking system or were incorrectly calculated. They can be bought by anyone fast enough.
Taking this as a precondition, a real hype about so-called error fares has developed lately. Entire platforms, have taken advantage of this and made it an integral part of their offer.
But this is exactly where the catch is. The airlines have obviously come to this conclusion and are now reacting very quickly to booking peaks from certain sources that indicate an error fare.
Customized terms and conditions make it possible to cancel flights within a certain period of time and this is increasingly being implemented. Being able to actually take a flight at a faulty price has become rather rare in the nowadays.
So always count on a cancellation of the flight and don’t book accommodation yet. A detailed description of Error-Fares can be found HERE.
A known source of faulty fares can be an incorrect calculation of the surcharges on the actual fare, so-called fuel dumps. Ingenious people have even found out how to trigger such a dump so that you can book it. You can find instructions here. However, this takes a lot of time and experience.
14. Check your entitlement to compensation for delays
In recent years, the EU has massively strengthened the rights of passengers with new regulations.
Especially in the case of massive delays or missing connecting flights, you can claim your rights and get back a few euros.
Note that circumstances of force majeure (such as snowstorms, thunderstorms, earthquakes, etc.) are usually excluded from compensation payments.
The insolvency of AirBerlin and the associated uncertainty surrounding canceled flights is a current example.
15. Do not fly during high season
In the high season, everything is more expensive. Not only flights but also hotels, excursions and restaurants on site. Therefore, if possible, try to arrange your stay outside the main tourist season.
For Europe this means: In the high summer and around Christmas / New Year’s Eve everything is expensive, in spring and autumn is the best and cheapest travel time.
However, it is not only the season in your own country that is important. Local holidays and national holidays should also be taken into account, as well as different seasons when traveling overseas.
16. Book flights no one else books
I’m not just talking about the time. On days when no one else wants to fly, you can sometimes make surprisingly cheap deals. For example, on New Year’s Eve (31 December) or Christmas (24 or 25 December).
If you are not superstitious, you can also find good cheap fares on Fridays, which are a 13th.
Good luck with the flight-hunt! 🙂
* these links lead to affiliate sites. If you book through these pages, I will receive a small percentage as commission, which means no additional costs for you.
Also published on Medium.
Read this in: Deutsch