There are some aspects of modern life that the human brain just hasn’t evolved for, and buying plane tickets is a prime example. Between comparing prices, calculating layover times, figuring out which airport you prefer, deciding when to buy your flights, and more, all the considerations are just mental overload. So, if you’re like me and you’re flying several times a month, you have two choices: Find tricks to getting good flights, or get completely stressed (and go broke).
If your number one goal is to get the best deals possible, the key is to let your flights dictate your destination and travel days instead of the other way around, travel bloggers Greg Victor and Jo Mae ‘Jumi’ tell Bustle. It may not always be possible to go anywhere at any time, but when you do have some flexibility, it can be exciting to be spontaneous and travel somewhere you know little about.
Another piece of advice I would give is to not spend too much time on flight searches. Decide in advance that you’ll only spend, say, half an hour or an hour on it. After a while, all the lost time isn’t worth the money you save.
To make this whole process less stressful, here are a few tips for snagging cheap flights.
1. Compare Search Engines
I’ve had this happen both ways: Sometimes, Orbitz, or Expedia offer me a better price than Google Flights is showing me. Other times, it pays off to go directly to the airline’s site. To make sure you’re getting the best deal, check a variety of sites. Don’t rely on flight search engines to show you all the best prices.
2. Travel When You Have Less Competition
If you can, pick a day and time when the demand for your flight is low. Google Flights will show you the best days based on the flight you want, but weekday, early morning, and overnight flights are generally cheaper. I used to try to avoid flights at odd hours, but the truth is, flights are exhausting no matter when you take them, so you’d might as well save money.
3. Create Your Own Combinations
If you’re willing to have a long layover (and perhaps even take advantage of it by exploring the city it’s in), there’s a chance that flight search engines won’t show you all the combinations that might work for you. For example, if you’re OK with flying to Miami in the morning, spending a day in Mexico City, and going to Puerto Vallarta at night, a search for flights from Miami to Puerto Vallarta may not show you all your options. Try searching for each flight separately to make sure you’re not missing anything.
4. Track Your Flights
If you want to keep an eye on a particular flight’s prices, locate it in Google Flights and click “track this flight.” You’ll get an email if the price goes down (and you should snag it, because it’ll go back up again), and you’ll also get an email if it goes up (and you should snag it then, too, because it’ll keep rising).
5. Book One Person At A Time
Bizarrely, the cost of two seats on a flight is sometimes more than double the cost of one. Lifestyle publicist and blogger Colleen Gwen Armstrong gave me this tip, but I double-checked it, and it’s true. If this is happening with the flight you’re booking, book each passenger separately.
6. Switch Browsers
“It’s an open secret that frequently searched flights go up in price,” Armstrong says So don’t let Google know how much you want that flight. Switch browsers or open incognito windows so it’s not obvious how much you’re searching.
7. Follow Flight Deal Accounts On Social Media
8. Search The Whole World
If you’re willing to be flexible about where you go, Greg and Jumi suggest going to Skyscanner.com and typing “everywhere” as your destination. You’ll be amazed by the prices that come out. By doing this just now, I learned you can go from New York to Martinique for $63 and to London for $119.
9. Make Your Destination Your Layover
This sounds contradictory, and it really doesn’t make sense, but such is getting flights: Sometimes, a flight that passes your destination as a layover is cheaper than one that ends up there. For example, flying from JFK to LAX may cost more than flying from JFK to PHX with a layover at LAX. Go figure. To take advantage of this, Greg and Jumi recommend using Skiplagged.com to find flights with your destination as a layover.
Be warned, though, this only works if you don’t check bags. It’s also not the nicest thing to do to the airline staff, who will be searching for you and potentially leaving late because you appear to be missing your connecting flight.
Getting flights may always be a timesuck, but it doesn’t have to be a wallet-suck — at least not completely.
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