Flights are often the biggest outlay when it comes to international travel. If you can nab yourself a great, cheap flight deal, you’ll find yourself with a lot more money to play with when it comes to the real stuff –
… you know. All the fun stuff.
(Although I have to admit I am one of those dorky people who actually loves a long-haul flight. When else do you have the time to watch three newly-released films back to back?)
As a person who spends an inordinate amount of time – even when not travelling – scrolling through emails from flight search engines and idly browsing booking websites, I have a pretty good idea of how you can shave off the maximum amount of cash off those the cost of those precious tickets. And today, I’m going to share that wisdom with you, in the hope that you’ll learn some tip or trick that you didn’t know before.
How to score some seriously cheap flights
Disclaimer: this article may contain affiliate links, so if you click through and purchase something I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only ever recommend service that I use myself!
Use a private browser
Hopefully this little nugget of wisdom is already known by most, but please – PLEASE – put your browser into private or incognito mode before you start merrily searching for flights. If you don’t, the cookies will be stored in your browser and the prices will go up every time you come back.
At least, this is generally accepted wisdom. There has been some debate over whether this is actually a real thing, but honestly you might as well browse in incognito mode, just in case.
Airlines are smart and they want your money: it seems like a reasonable precaution.
To do this, you just have to go up to the top of your internet window and in the right or left hand corner there will be some dots or lines. Click on these and then select ‘new private browser’ or whatever the equivalent is for you.
Below is an example of what I mean, in Google Chrome (circle in red is the important part):
Book as far in advance as possible
Though there are definitely occasions when spontaneity is good (i.e. in the case of flash sales), in general the vast, vast majority of the time your flights are going to be cheaper the further in advance that you book them.
Organisation is boring, I know, but when it saves you money I can be on board with it.
More: take a look at my rookie’s guide to travel insurance
Be flexible (if you can)
Obviously flexibility can be a bit tricky if you have a full time job, or work as a teacher, or indeed have kids who need to work around school holidays, but really the key to finding cheap flights is flexibility.
This way you can book for the day that is cheapest in the month, instead of having a specific set of dates in mind and having to slog through all the different websites to find the best price.
I tend to use Google Flights or the Skyscanner ‘whole month’ feature to get an idea of the best times in the month to fly. These search functions allow you to see how prices fluctuate, and you can then book accordingly or search more in-depth around these dates.
If flexibility just isn’t feasible for you, try following Skyscanner’s advice for making the most of your flight booking:
- Book on a Monday
- Fly on a Friday (surprising)
- Avoid booking on a Saturday
- Avoid flying on a Sunday
They got this info from analysing three years’ worth of flight data, so it must be fairly accurate…
Book a return flight
It’s not always possible to book a return ticket (I know this because I’m more of a one-way ticket kind of gal), but if it is then it’s almost always better value than buying two single tickets.
It sucks, but it’s true.
Book through an online travel agent
Booking through a third party website – perhaps surprisingly – tends to be cheaper than going direct to the airline. Jack’s Flight Club explain this as being because they search through all the available booking agents for the same flight, which almost always ends up saving you cash. I tend to use Skyscanner for this.
Sometimes you save a little, sometimes a lot – but every penny counts, right?
The downside is that by booking through an OTA you get less flexibility and therefore more hassle if you want or need to change anything. But, if you’re pretty set on when and where you’re going then you should be all set – and of course, you should have travel insurance for if anything should change due to an emergency situation.
But also check the airline website
However, I am a bit obsessive about these things, so I always like to double check by searching for the same flight there – in the past it has sometimes come up cheaper that way. Usually not, though
Companies like Ryanair and Easyjet (for the UK) do tend to have the most rock-bottom prices, though, so that’s an example where it makes sense to double check.
Sign up to all the flight company newsletters
Signing up to flight company newsletters is the best way to quickly and reliably be alerted of things like flash sales and specials – which is arguably the only way you might get a cheaper deal than booking in advance.
I would also seriously recommend signing up to a service like Jack’s Flight Club, as they send you some unbelievably cheap flight deals on a weekly basis – and all for free. Even though I’m already travelling I still idly browse through the deals on there!
The only way to take advantage of said flight company newsletters is to be willing to be spontaneous!
European city break this weekend? Why not!
Really, though, you don’t necessarily need to plan out your journey months in advance – if there’s a great deal available for the taking, you should definitely go for it. And who knows, you might surprise yourself and visit an off-the-beaten-path destination that turns out to be incredible.
A step by step guide to finding cheap flights
For the sake of clarity, let me go through an example itinerary with you.
Let’s say I want to book a flight from London to Morocco, for anytime within the next couple of months.
So first, I open up a new private browser window (important!).
Then, I head to Google flights to get a general idea of prices.
You may have to put in specific dates at first, but then you can click on the dates you’ve chosen and change it to ‘flexible dates’ so you can just see an overview of the cheapest prices, like so:
As you can see, you have options for which month you’re roughly aiming for, and how long you want the trip to be.
Marrakesh turns up the lowest price at first look, so I select that and then take a look at the overview of prices for the month.
As you can see, leaving on Thursday 15th May and coming back on the 24th May is the best price for this month, at just £86! Compared to the most expensive flights – £253 – that’s a pretty hefty saving.
I might then click through to the best option straight from Google, to see what price the airline itself offers. Unsurprisingly, it’s a Ryanair flight (so you’ll have to pay more for luggage!) – which also means that it’s likely to be the lowest possible price.
Even so, I would then go to Skyscanner and input the same dates to try and search for a better deal.
This time Skyscanner turns up the same price – but it’s good to know that the search engine really does include all the best deals!
Hopefully this has been helpful and informative – if so, feel free to share!