Although oil prices have been on a downward trend, you may have noticed that the cost of airline tickets hasn't gone down as much. But even though cheap oil hasn't yet translated into cheap flights, it is possible to find great deals on air fares if you know the tricks to getting them. By savings on tickets, you'll have more money to spend on other things (think more food, drinks, gifts, souvenirs, savings and so on and so forth).
If you're big on traveling and exploring the many wondrous destinations within or beyond US borders, we'll show you how to save some money on airline tickets without compromising your well-deserved vacations.
Here are the 10 tips that can help you find cheap flights and travel deals in the US this season.
Make Use Of Travel Search Engines
If you aren't already doing this when you search for cheaper flights, it is definitely time you start making use of these sites to scour and narrow down cheaper flight options to save yourself some money.
The main thing to keep in mind is that you leave no stones unturned, search on different sites and compare prices! You will likely spend a fair bit of time on this, but digging up the best deal can shave hundreds of dollars off an expensive trip. For most of us, the time spent will be a good investment.
Some sites that you can check out are Travelocity, JetRadar, Orbitz, Wego, Skyscanner, Kayak, Momondo, Hipmunk, CheapOair, Airfarewatchdog, Dohop, Mobissimo, TripAdvisor, Google Flights and Expedia.
Image source: hipmunk
Image source: travelocity
These websites are a breeze to use. Ok, that may not be true for all, but even the less user-friendly among them aren't rocket science. So, do not brush these sites off if you want to search for and compare air fares. For the most part, all you have to do is enter your preferences and keep experimenting with different combinations and options until you are satisfied. Easy peasy!
Kayak is pretty efficient for those who are looking to travel to different cities. All you have to do is key in your intended destinations, date of departure and preferred timing. Their clever system will churn out all plausible routes for you in a jiffy, sorted according to price, without your having to lift a finger. How's that for convenience?
Consider Flying Budget
This is a no-brainer. Flying on low-cost carriers will help you get cheaper air fares for the most part, though it pretty much means you have to factor in a ton of "extra" charges when you're doing your airfare comparison homework!
Flying budget may not fit into everybody's idea of a relaxing vacation, but flying on low-cost carriers wherever possible can save you a lot of money. Low-cost carriers in the U.S. include airlines such as AirTran Airways, JetBlue Airways, Horizon Air, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, Allegiant Air and Sun Country Airlines.
If you are uncertain about the routes that these low-cost carriers fly, check them out online. For instance, JetBlue serves many of the major U.S. cities, particularly on the East Coast. It also has numerous vacation destinations in Central and South America and the Caribbean; Southwest serves most major U.S. cities as well as a few in Central America and Puerto Rico; Frontier serves most major U.S. cities as well as vacation spots in Mexico, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic; Allegiant Air's focus is transporting leisure travelers to warm vacation destinations like Punta Gorda, Tampa Bay, Las Vegas, Orlando, Los Angeles and Phoenix.
When traveling Europe, you can pick up flights on airlines like easyJet, Ryanair, Air Lingus, CityJet, German Wings and Vueling for peanuts, especially off-season.
Extending from the point above where we talked about using travel search engines smartly, be aware that most online travel/flight comparison sites leave out many of your favorite budget carriers conspicuously.
Just in case you're wondering, JetRadar is one of the rare travel search engines out there that includes even budget airlines, so be sure to check it out if you want more travel for your moola!
And as with any other flight search that you make online, make sure not to jump at the "cheapest" air fare that pops up on the screen until you sum up all associated charges first to determine the real cost of your flight ticket.
Take An Indirect Route
If time is no object and you don't mind spending some time in airports (a lot more pleasant if you can get complimentary access to lounges), then one of the surest ways to save money on travel is to fly an indirect route to your destination.
Stopovers can range from a mere hour to even a full day (or more), so it's really up to you whether you would prefer paying less for your flights in exchange for doing some time at the connecting airport. The biggest issue is that time spent in airports eats into the "free" time you would otherwise enjoy at your final destination. If you do settle for a trip with a long layover, check into sights to see or activities to do near your layover airport. A 10-hour layover might provide the perfect opportunity to visit a famous landmark or explore a new city. To each, his own.
Sign Up For Flight Deals Mailing Lists
Nobody likes a cluttered email inbox but if there are travel gems among the outwash, I'd say bring it on! Why miss a potential deal delivered right to your inbox?
Both of the sites that I'd like to recommend are fantastic options for wanderlusting travelers on the lookout for travel inspirations.
Just in case you're curious, theflightdeal.com has a pretty good list of curated flight deals from New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Baltimore, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Dallas, Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and Chicago that are 6 cents per mile or less.
Their site is equal parts easy-to-navigate and neatly compartmentalized to say the least - that alone will help you save time altogether, alongside the straightforward blurbs and beautiful complementary photographs in each specific deal featured that add to the pleasantness of using the site.
Another website that you could check out for awesome flight deals is holidaypirates.com. This site is particularly handy for those who intend to embark on an exploration adventure from Europe generally.
Their team prides itself on sussing out the best travel deals with an independent eye by making use of multiple sources on a daily basis, and "only publish deals which are good value for money and exciting!"
Check Out Airlines' Own Sites And Compare Prices
It wouldn't hurt for you to check on airlines' own sites. Who knows whether you'll score an even better deal without a merchant straddled in the middle?
More often than not, you will find exclusive fares on their own sites which are not shared with travel search engines or travel agencies. But keep in mind that these discounted seats are usually somewhat limited!
Compare between different airlines (regular and budget) and between the different classes of seats offered! If you can enjoy business class on a budget airline for the same money you'd pay to fly economy on a more "prestigious" airline, more power to you. You end up in the same destination but get to enjoy a more comfortable, luxurious experience. Why not?
You may also want to compare the fares for 1 and 2 passengers as some airlines do offer special fares for a pair of travelers from time to time.
You have to be flexible in many different aspects if you really want to score the cheapest flights out there. Here are some pointers that you can take note of the next time you're looking to snag some cheap flights:
Day and timing
Flying in the middle of the week, late at night or in the wee hours will likely result in you paying lesser than your counterparts who fly on weekends and at convenient timings like late morning or noonish hours though you probably have to tackle tired, red eyes.
Flights during and around major festive seasons like Christmas, Thanksgiving, the Fourth of July and New Year's tend to be more costly as well, just like those during school vacations as demand for air tickets surges.
Try adding a couple of days to your trip before or after intended travel days to see if such combinations will lower the fare. There's no harm clicking a few more buttons anyway!
To find out which day is indeed the cheapest for jetting off, simply search with the "one-way ticket" checkbox ticked and play around with the system.
Sometimes, the difference of just one day can mean a few hundred dollars in savings! So if you aren't flexible on the dates you want to fly and/or return, it is pretty difficult to ensure that you find the cheapest flight for yourself.
If you have no choice but to fly during peak traffic days, make sure you play around with the booking systems on the myriad of websites to compare all-in prices to see which airline have the cheapest overall fare on that day, at what time, with what combinations.
By this, I mean for you to really embrace the art of wanderlusting and go wherever the cheapest destination (bounded by your own budget) is.
This makes of a lovely alternative travel experience for those who are looking to travel to anywhere in the world as long as they get the cheapest possible fares to anywhere but home!
After all, you never know where those travel gems are hidden across the world, so if you are flexible on where you'd like to travel to, you could very well bag an amazing deal and explore somewhere new (and fun) altogether.
Keen to find out how on earth you could possibly embark on such an exciting journey?
Use Kayak's "Explore" tool or Google Flights to help you start planning for your adventure! These are a breeze to use and pretty responsive, too.
It pays to book your flights as early as you can, when you are very sure that you can travel during that intended period. According to the Internet, the best booking window is 6-8 weeks before your flight, or approximately 3 months before your flight if you are traveling during peak season.
Generally, air tickets' prices soar the later you book.
In an arbitrary search we ran on JetBlue's site, non-refundable 1-way flight tickets from New York to Los Angeles started at $199 when booked 3 days prior to the flight, and a much lower $143 when booked 3 months in advance.
Use Your Credit Card To Your Advantage When Traveling
Use your credit card to reward yourself with miles that you can redeem for flights, cashback or other travel perks from a specific airline or from a group of airlines. But of course, the fastest way you can earn miles is to use a credit card that rewards you with miles for all, or a large portion, of your spending!
Note that typically, you'll have to register yourself with the airlines' loyalty programs and set up an account first though. In some cases, signing up for an airline credit card automatically creates your own frequent flyer account, if you don't already have one.
Different credit cards offer different spending-to-miles conversion rates, so be sure to pick one that suits your lifestyle inclinations and airline preferences.
Check If There Are Alternative Airports
Although this tip may not apply to all countries in the world, there's no harm checking if there are alternative airports in your travel destination.
Airlines most likely have lower fares for smaller and/or less popular airports, so if you don't mind landing somewhere apart from the main airport and traveling to your intended destination by whichever mode of transport applicable, it may help for you to take a look at these airports to shave some money off your flight.
Just make sure that you do some basic cost-benefit analysis (i.e. simple math) and examine if savings from flying into a smaller and/or less popular airport outweigh the costs of flying into the popular airports, including additional transportation costs (if any).
Avoid Traveling During Peak Seasons
I know this is incredibly obvious but if possible, avoid jetting off to go on a holiday during long weekends, as most people would want to travel then to avoid eating into their precious annual leave.
Another peak season to avoid, if possible, is the school holidays. In the U.S., summer break usually occurs from May/June to August/September.
This point is pretty interesting but it helps (to varying extents) to check into the lull periods for your intended travel destination. When you visit during lull seasons, the hotels and flights will generally be cheaper.
Case in point, I happened to fly to Phuket during June (their low-peak season) so I got to stay at a fantastic villa at a steal! Even the massages, drinks and dining deals at the 5-star villa were heavily discounted (think 1-for-1 promotions).
In A Nutshell…
The cheapest flight may not necessarily be the best since it may come with a whole host of terms and conditions that make your deal a very inflexible one, especially in times of unforeseen circumstances.
For instance, you've booked tickets months ahead but your child falls sick during the period where you all are supposed to be flying, getting the flight dates postponed may incur a sizeable amount of money! And if the airline doesn't allow any postponement to be made at all, you may very well have to forfeit the tickets.
Using a credit card that offers trip cancellation/interruption insurance to book your flight can help your wallet avoid taking a huge hit.
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In fact, many people use their credit card to pay for travel without even knowing that doing so may entitle them to travel benefits. Perks which you may be entitled to when you use your credit card to pay, like medical evacuation coverage which can cover the cost of transporting you home in case of a medical emergency, airline credit towards incidental costs and even towards airfare, discounts at hotels and restaurants (Visa, Mastercard and American Express offer these, and your bank may offer more).
Another thing to note when you're booking your flight tickets online is to consider extra fees and "hidden" charges such as credit/debit card fees, baggage, meals, certain seats, extra leg room et cetera. Factor all these in before you compare between different airlines and flights before making the final purchase. Most online travel portals require you to pay via credit card, and may charge you a hefty credit card fee. But some sites also accept PayPal (including American Airlines website aa.com, Agoda.com, hotels.com). If you buy tickets directly from most airlines, you also won't be charge a credit card fee, and you should take those charges into consideration when choosing between booking through an airline website or other travel websites. Some online travel agencies let you pay via wire transfer from your bank account.
Although it is arguably quite tough to save up enough miles to get a free flight, using the miles that you've accumulated to offset ticket prices or upgrade seats can still help you save some serious money. Taking advantage of the bonus offers you get when you sign up for top travel credit cards is definitely the easiest way to collect enough miles for 100% free flights.
Nevertheless, it is entirely up to you whether you prefer to splash out on regular air tickets or put in the effort to score some of the amazing deals out there! But even if you're a very busy person and don't feel the savings are worth your time, you can still use a concierge service like those you get with good credit cards to do all the grueling work for you. You can never be too rich to save money.
What's most important is that you have to be comfortable with how much you are willing to pay for a flight. Ask yourself how much you're willing to part and whether you are genuinely happy with that figure. Then go about hunting for the best deal. Anything you save off the amount you budgeted means extra spending money (or savings).