How to book the cheapest flights for your trip

How to Find the Cheapest Flights Every Time

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Flights are often the highest cost you incur when planning a trip, especially if you are travelling internationally. Over the years we have gotten pretty good at finding great value flights, so we wanted to share our top tips on how to find the cheapest flights for your next travel adventure.

These tips will have you reducing travel costs and getting cheap flight deals, whether you are flying within your home country or across the world!

Are you ready to learn how to book cheap flights? OH YEAH!

How to book the cheapest flights for your trip

HOW TO FIND THE CHEAPEST FLIGHTS

1 – Decide on Rough Dates

Unless you are planning to travel really soon, the best way to get cheap flights is to plan your trip really early. This gives you time to track flight prices and potentially score some awesome early bird or sale fares for your destination.

Decide on approximate dates for your trip as early as possible to give you the greatest chance at scoring a bargain.

Being a little flexible on your dates can make a great difference to the total cost of flights too. Sometimes arriving one day earlier or later than you initially planned can save you bucketloads, so we always aim to be a little flexible for this reason.

Changing your dates by one day can often drop the price drastically, like these two Skyscanner comparisons only 1 day apart flying Brisbane to Paris return:

How to Find the Cheapest Flights skyscanner results
How to Find the Cheapest Flights skyscanner results

TIP: Certain days of the week are cheaper to fly out than others so this can be a big saving for you as well!

2 – Last Minute Deals

If your trip is on short notice or you’re being spontaneous, you can sometimes score some great last minute flight deals. Most flight search engines will show up great last minute deals. Sometimes they will also show up error pricing that can work in your favour, getting a crazy cheap flight bargain at the mistake of the airline.

These are a rare find but they are fantastic!

Travelling during off season times will reduce the costs further, so if you have enough flexibility to travel in the winter or on the shoulder seasons (spring and autumn), this can make a big difference to finding cheap flights! And this is often when last minute flight sales pop up too!

TIP: CheapOAir can be great for last-minute flight deals. Use CODE LM20 for up to a $20 saving off fees too!

3 – Comparison Sites

Comparison sites are a great way to get a benchmark price for your dates. You can add in your departure and arrival destinations and preferred dates and they will compare several different airlines for you.

We always start our searches with comparison sites, because they are a perfect guide for getting approximate flight costs for your preferred dates. They also allow you to see a few days either side easily so you can check if there is a huge price difference.

Unless there’s an amazing deal showing up, we usually set up a price alert rather than book straight away. We like to keep our options open for cheaper deals because airline sales pop up all the time! But this will help you see if prices for your dates seem to be on the upward rise.

Skyscanner is the best flight comparison website in our experiences and always my first point of call when I have flights to book. Be mindful they do not include every single available airline though.

Here is a comparison of Skyscanner and Google Flights using the exact same flight search details:

How to Find the Cheapest Flights skyscanner results
Google flights comparison saving on flights

Here are some of the best flight search engine sites:

  • Skyscanner – This is our preferred option and works great for Australia, USA & Europe
  • Google Flights – Useful for setting up alerts but rarely the best price
  • CheapOAir – Not always the cheapest but worth a look (Try code FLY30 for a potential discount)
  • Airfare Watchdog – A good one for sale fares

TIP: Set up price alerts for your preferred travel dates to allow you to monitor price changes if you have a lot of time before your travel.

4 – Direct Airline Bookings

Sometimes you will get a better deal booking direct with the airline, rather than through one of their partners. For this reason, if I see a great price on Skyscanner, I always double check the airline website too for the same dates.

This can go either way. It really is crazy how big the discrepancies can be too. So do yourself a favour and check both!

We also recommend subscribing to the email newsletters for any of the airlines you frequently fly with, as they often have special sales or happy hour when you can get a better deal.

Virgin Australia and Jetstar are some of our favourites in Australia for this.

TIP: Sometimes the airlines will send you a sign up bonus to save on your next flight booking, such as Scoot Airlines, or a birthday coupon.

5 – Search Again.. For Secret Flight Deals

This one will blow your mind! Now that you’ve done your research using the flight comparison site and the direct airline look up feature, try doing it again using a different device or go incognito mode.

We have found the prices we get on mobile devices are usually better than those on desktop browsers. Crazy but worth checking out!

You can also do an incognito mode or private browsing mode from your mobile or desktop device as it means there are no cookies impacting the search results.

Here are those results earlier with Skyscanner in a standard browser compared to the same search in a private incognito browser 2 minutes later:

Standard browser

How to Find the Cheapest Flights skyscanner results

Incognito Safari browser: 

How to Find the Cheapest Flights skyscanner results

That’s almost $200 saved on these flights from Brisbane to Paris just by using a private browser and eliminating cookies from your search.

Google is smart. It knows what you have been searching for, which is a big reason why suddenly you start seeing advertising pop up all over your websites and social media related to your recent search terms.

So there’s a good chance prices will bump up after you’ve searched for a certain flight route. Secret flight deals remove that search history influence!

TIP: Try incognito or private mode on more than one device for your search so you can ensure you get the lowest option

6 – Travel Expos

Most cities will have regular travel expos that have great on the day deals. These are worth checking out if you are ready to book and pay on the day as usually the deals are only for bookings made at the expo.

Before you visit a travel expo, make sure you write down the best available prices based on the comparison websites and airline websites so you can reference them on the day.

You can sometimes get some pretty amazing package deals on these days too, which have flights and accommodation included if you want an easy done for you trip booked.

Beware the hidden costs though and make sure you know what you want and need before the expo.

Tip: We usually get a travel agent quote for flights before we book our own just for reference. They are almost never as cheap as booking flights online, but it is always good to check. You are paying for the service of an agent and they only work with certain airlines.

7 – Full Service or Budget?

You’ve found a great flight price and you’re ready to book. Sure a better price may come up. Don’t look!

This is always possible as we cannot predict the airlines next big sale! You’ve done your research and you’re ready to book your flights.

Full service flights are great and some people choose only to fly full service, as it is a more comfortable experience knowing you get meals and luggage all incorporated under one ticket. But it can also cost a lot more money!

If you are flying short-haul or for short time frames, a budget option is always great because you can probably get away with 7KG carry on baggage.

If you need the works, this is where you may need to do a little extra maths to see where the best deal is.

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Budget airlines or tickets allow you to add on luggage and meals during the booking process. This means extra costs piling onto what you thought was an incredible cheap flight price.

Usually, it is still cheaper even if you add on standard luggage per person and you can buy snacks or take your own pre-packaged airport sandwiches on board with you! Sometimes it isn’t cheaper once you’ve added everything on.

Check the total at the end of your booking before you reach the payment screen and compare to the full service flights on your same travel route to see if it is still the best option.

TIP: If you are flying with others, you may want to add on luggage for just one or two travellers in your group. We do this travelling with our kids as they are too young to be much help, and we are great at packing light so we go with one or two checked suitcases between the 4 of us if we can manage it.

8 – Fly Via a Different Airport

Many cities have regional airports that fly to the same or similar destinations that may add less than an hour extra to your transit time. Where we live in Australia, our nearest international airport is Brisbane, however, Gold Coast’s Coolangatta Airport is only an extra half hour or so away.

Often there are cheaper flight deals for certain destinations if we fly out of the Gold Coast instead, such as our recent flights to Christchurch.

We saved around $100 each by choosing a different airport.

It is worth knowing the distance between airports from your departure and arrival cities so that you can compare this option of flying via different airports. This simple flight hack can save you loads of cash!

TIP: Try the nearby airports option in Skyscanner to easily compare alternative airport options

9 – Book Your Own Connecting flights

This is another sneaky way to get better savings. Try a flight search engine for your full route, that includes connecting flights. Sites like Skyscanner will often pair different airlines together for the connecting flights and package them up for you, so you don’t have to worry about booking them separately. This is convenient, but not always cheaper!

So next try searching the flights separately.

For example – Brisbane to Singapore return for your start and end dates and Singapore to Paris return for your second leg flights, rather than just searching Brisbane to Paris.

You can experiment with different connection cities and see if you can find suitable options that work out much cheaper.

The important thing to consider when doing this is that you have enough time between connections.

If you are booking them separately, they are not considered a single ticket so if you miss your connection, they may not put you on the next flight.

Having a big gap between connections can be a good peace of mind if you do try this flight savings tip.

When we did California and Punta Cana a while back, we originally had just planned to go to the Dominican Republic direct, but it is literally halfway around the world from us.

We were also flying with kids, so we weren’t too keen on that much flying time all in one go.

Instead, we ended up booking several days on either side in Los Angeles then Anaheim, so the kids got a break between long flights. It also worked out cheaper than booking the flights on a single booking. A double win!

TIP: Turn your connection destination into a mini-break by staying a night or two in your connecting city. This is a great way to see somewhere else new.

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10 – Keep Track of the Cheapest Flights

You can get great flight deals if you are willing to put in a little leg work and do some research. It does not take a lot of time to find cheap flights but it does require some organisation!

Use a notepad or a spreadsheet to track your different quotes and date comparisons so that you can keep all the information together. Otherwise, you will send yourself crazy trying to work it all out!

Flight prices change so quickly so when you see a great deal, jump on it!!

And to stay organised once you start booking, make sure you have a great travel planner that you can update with booking numbers and reservation details.

TIP: Each site will have a different price, so keeping them all in one place is an easy way to ensure you don’t lose track or get confused 

11 – Credit Card Benefits

Some credit cards have bonus perks for their card holders that will benefit you with reducing travel costs.

One of my credit cards is with Virgin Australia and they offer a flight voucher every year towards domestic flights. Depending on where we are travelling, this can be a massive reduction in our domestic travel costs.

Other credit card companies offer free flights or free travel insurance. These are fantastic benefits that come with some of the more premium credit card memberships and they may be benefits you already have!

Although this next one is going to really speed up your travel savings.

Have you heard of points hacking?

TIP: Check your credit card benefits and if it has none, consider moving to a different card that allows you to enjoy rewards points or travel bonuses

12 – Travel Points Hacking

Most major credit cards, supermarket and department store chains have their own rewards programs.

Here in Australia we have Qantas Frequent Flyer, Virgin Velocity Rewards and Flybuys as some of our leading rewards programs.

Each of these are a brilliant way to score FREE travel with points!

I have flown Australia to Los Angeles for FREE on points. We have also used points to pay for accommodation and domestic flights as well. And it is by doing what we would normally do.

We aren’t serious points hackers, but we do use rewards based credit cards and always scan our rewards cards at participating stores.

Rather than redeeming points for savings off groceries or purchases, we convert our points into flight rewards with Qantas or Virgin.

The programs available to you will differ depending on your location, but find them and join them all!

If you are forgetful with leaving your membership cards at home, scan them to your phone. There are apps for that!

How to save on flights by point hacking with credit cards

And look for bonus points offers.

Our local supermarkets and department stores often have bonus points, such as buy this product and get 500 bonus Flybuys points.

These are often things you may normally buy anyway or inexpensive items that you can put to use. Those bonus points help you add up your earnings super quick!

Also look for rewards partners with your utilities or services. We get Qantas points from our electricity company and healthcare funds.

With credit card points hacking, you need to be smart with your credit card use so you don’t end up in financial trouble. Aim to always pay off your credit card monthly so you aren’t paying interest.

If you are in a habit of doing this, you can start using your card to purchase everyday items like groceries and bills, so that you can earn points for every spend.

Then simply transfer your money across and pay off the balance before the interest period.

TIP: Most rewards credit cards do have an annual fee and the interest is typically higher than the low interest, no annual fee cards. This is the downside of being able to earn points towards your travel, but if you are careful with your use, it is worth it!

There are so many ways to reduce travel costs. When you can save money on flights before you even book the rest of your travel, this puts you ahead! Flights are the first thing most people book when planning a holiday.

And if they aren’t, it’s usually because the current flight prices are really high and you’re hoping to score a cheap airline deal!

Make sure you check out our top tips for flying with kids, which includes loads of airline reviews to help you find the best airline for your travel. Often if the price difference isn’t huge, it comes down to preferred airlines!

Right, we’ve covered a lot of different methods for getting the cheapest flight deals in this article, so we wanted to do a quick recap on all those different methods. Many of these can be used together to really help you with how to get cheap flight tickets.

Quick Tips For Booking the cheapest flights:

  • Narrow down your dates as early as possible
  • If late notice, check out last minute flight deals
  • Use flight search engines and comparison sites to find current pricing 
  • Set up price alerts with Skyscanner or Google Flights
  • Check the airline’s flight booking sites for pricing as it can differ 
  • Do a secret flight search by turning on incognito mode on your device
  • Attend a local travel expo for on the day deals – but know your prices before you go
  • Consider budget airlines or skipping full service if you don’t need it
  • Fly via a different nearby airport 
  • Book your own connecting flights
  • Set up a spreadsheet or notepad to keep track of prices
  • Check your credit card programs for flight benefits and discounts
  • Try point hacking with reward programs to earn free flights

Do you have some flight booking hacks to help save cash that we haven’t mentioned? Leave a comment below. We would love to hear it! And share this post to Pinterest via the image below! Be sure to follow us on Facebook or YouTube for more travel tips like these!

How to Find the Cheapest Flights every time