How to Find the Absolutely Cheapest Flights
As one of the biggest travel expenses you will face, you can save a heap of money by doing a little bit of research. Here, I will amalgamate everything I have found on the internet on how to score the cheapest flights. I plan to update this article as I come across more and more ways of getting cheaper flights.
Free (or only taxes):
- Travel Rewards Cards (ex. Airmiles/Aeroplan): As you rack up points with these cards, you can eventually get enough to fly somewhere basically free (taxes usually cannot be paid by points, unfortunately). If you’re gonna spend money anyway, you might as well get points along with it.
- Travel Rewards Credit Cards: Similar to Rewards Cards, if you are spending money, you might as well collect points on it. These are usually associated with one of the above mentioned rewards cards, or may just give you points that can redeemed through the bank. Cards that offer signing bonuses (like Aeroplan credit cards) are the best, as you can sign up, use the points, then cancel the card with little/no penalty.
Rule Number 1: Be vigilant. By doing research, and keeping your eyes and ears open, you can find insanely cheap flights.
- Use Flight Search Engines: My favorite ones are Google Flights, Skyscanner, and, although you can’t book flights directly through it, Matrix Airfare Search (owned by Google). These are all very powerful tools, with the ability to see fares for a whole month, to see ALL flights from a destination, and plan complex multi-stopover routes.
- Subscribe to airline email lists: Although your inbox is already filled with spam, it can sometimes be worth it. Airlines sometimes have promotions, and it is in your best interest to know when. For example, as of this writing, Air Canada has a “game” on their website where you can win 10-20% off, or even a free flight. Many companies will often send out promo codes for discounts as well.
- Join Online Forums and Groups: There are websites and forums out there dedicated to finding mistake fares (see this article) and the like. If you keep your eye on these, you’ll eventually find a too-good-to-be-true-but-is flight. Check Facebook as well, as you can find groups for the specific city you live in.
- Incognito Mode: While I’m not 100% sure on this one, I’ve seen it around enough that it probably can’t hurt. Reportedly, flight companies can track your visits to their site though cookies, and if they notice you searching for the same flight repeatedly, the price may suddenly go up. Most browsers have a mode that deletes cookies after you close it. Just use this mode before you check flights.
- Book “locally”: This method can cut an extra few bucks off your fare. If you’re going to book a flight from Munich to Istanbul, for example, use an IP address from Germany (you can do this though the use of a proxy). I tried this method by doing the same search, one using my own IP address (Canada) and one using TOR to use a German IP. By booking from a local IP address, I could save $38. Not a huge sum, but every bit helps.
- Book on the right day: A quick internet search will give you mixed results. Some say Tuesdays, others says Sundays. Your best bet is do trial and error. The same goes for how early ahead of time you should book. It seems to differ depending on where your destination is, but usually 2 months ahead of time is a good bet.
- Bail on a stopover: A word of caution: the consequences for not showing up for a flight can be serious. Do your research and understand the risks involved. Skiplagged is a site that helps you find cheaper indirect flights to your destination of choice by routing you through different layovers. Instead of going the whole way, you can leave the airport at your desired layover and not come back. The advantage of this is getting a cheaper fare for a more popular route than paying more for a less popular route. For example, say you want to fly to Portland from Vancouver. A flight from Vancouver to Los Angeles is $180 CAD one way. A flight from Vancouver to Portland is $193 CAD. To save money, you can book that flight from Vancouver to LAX, then just get off at your stopover in Portland and save $13. While this is a minor example, it works the same for many flights, and you can save much more. Too good to be true? It kinda is. If you have checked baggage and you bail on your 2nd leg, the luggage will go to your final destination. Besides that, there are other possible consequences, such as possible legal action (skiplagged is currently being sued, in fact). Use your judgement on this one.
By Ian Stone