“Traveling is an unaffordable luxury.” – Internet folk and other people
Oftentimes, the above quote is false. But I’m not here to lecture you on spending habits or money management. That is not my area of expertise. However, this month I’ll share with you tricks on saving money on flights, accommodation, and more, so you can learn to ball on a budget. Let’s start with the biggest expense: flights. These are the best hacks on how to save money and get cheap airfare!
1. Travel during the off season.
One of the pros of not having a full-time job means that you’re no longer solely tied to traveling during peak seasons and holidays. This means you can book your flight for off season or shoulder season, and score some great deals and get really cheap airfare. For example, a round-trip ticket from Los Angeles to Madrid costs $1100 in August. In November? $800. Winning! The same strategy works for the day of the week you fly. If you can fly on a Wednesday, it’s much cheaper than flying on a Friday, for example.
2. Be flexible on destination.
Did you know that Skyscanner and Kayak both have an “everywhere” feature? Both sites let you put in dates and see how much it costs to travel to, well, everywhere. If you’re willing to fly to a different place on your bucket list, you can save a ton of money. Last year I decided to visit Turkey instead of India because it made more sense economically. I’ll get to India eventually.
3. Check multiple search engines.
Do not go to Expedia or Kayak and book the first flight you see. Bad, bad, bad. I almost always find the best deals on “alternative” search engines. My favorites are Skyscanner and Momondo. Why? Because they include budget airlines in the search results, which can save you hundreds of dollars – especially when traveling in Europe and Asia. Momondo has an excellent feature which allows you to compare the cost of the flight for the entire week you’re traveling. Definitely worth checking out!
4. Use incognito mode.
Never search for flights in a normal browser window. Take it from someone who worked in advertising. Everything you do on the internet gets tracked, and your prices will change accordingly. Searching in incognito mode allows you to effectively hide your browsing, and once you close the window, it’s like you never searched for a thing. File > new incognito window. It works!
5. Be savvy with your searching.
Let’s say you want to visit Spain. This summer, my flight to Spain cost me $980 instead of $1100. You know why I managed to get such cheap airfare? Because I booked a round trip flight to London, then booked a separate flight to Spain. If you’re going to multiple destinations, play around with your options. You might find that booking separate, shorter leg flights, or flights to alternate destinations, actually saves you money in the long run. Plus, now you get to spend a couple of days in another city / country! Use the same strategy when choosing your airports. It was much cheaper to fly into London Gatwick than into London Heathrow, so always check the “include nearby airports” button when searching. It can’t hurt!
6. Pack lightly.
I know, I hate packing lightly too. But it saves you money in more ways than one! Not only can you avoid baggage fees if you have just a carry-on, but when you arrive at your destination, you can easily take a bus or the metro to your hotel instead of having to spend money on an expensive cab because your bag is too large and heavy. Been there, done that. It’s not worth it.
7. Subscribe to email alerts.
I don’t know about you, but my travel bucket list is really, really long. So more often than not, my next destination is dictated by economics. And airlines often have amazing deals for cheap airfare hiding in plain sight – you just need to know where to look. If you don’t already, subscribe to The Flight Deal and Airfarewatchdog. They curate the best deals (including error fares) in airfare so you don’t have to dig around, and you might luck out and find that a flight to your dream destination is much more affordable than you think. The other day I found a flight from Los Angeles to South Africa for $900. That flight is normally $2,000+. What’s two more email subscriptions in your inbox when you can get a deal like that?
Read how to score an error fare here.
8. Use hidden city ticketing …if you’re feeling ballsy.
This one is a bit tricky, and I’ve personally never done it. Essentially, it involves buying two separate one-way flights that include a layover at your destination. For example: let’s say I want to fly from Los Angeles to Kansas City. If there’s a flight that goes from Los Angeles to Chicago that stops in Kansas City, and it’s cheaper than going direct, you would buy that one. HOWEVER, there are some caveats to this. You have to buy two separate one-way flights. You can’t check any luggage. And technically, airlines get really angry about this so…it’s definitely a run at your own risk sort of thing. I’ve never had luck finding a cheap flight this way, but others have. Skiplagged helps you find these deals, and it could be a way to get really cheap airfare.
9. Use the fake location ploy.
Again, I’ve never done this, but it seems to work for countless users, so I’m sharing the secret. International tickets are usually cheaper for people in countries with a lower cost of living. Let’s say I want to fly to Buenos Aires from Los Angeles. The ticket would probably cost me somewhere around $900 on a good day. If the airline thinks I’m booking it from Argentina, the price could go down to the equivalent of $700. You can save money by booking in the local currency (pesos), either by using an airline’s regional website, or by using a VPN to mask your location. Maphappy has a detailed explanation of how this works. Don’t forget to use a card without foreign transaction fees though!
I’ve tried the majority of these tricks and have saved tons on flights. There are lots of other golden rules and theories, such as booking a specific number of days before departure, etc. I agree that booking early is always a good idea, but I have to admit that I rarely do so, and still manage to find good deals. Next time you’re booking a flight, try some of these tricks out and see how much you save. Happy traveling!
Did I miss any tips for finding cheap airfare? Share your favorite airline travel hacks in the comments below!
P.S. Want another way to save money on flights? Check out Nomadic Matt’s Ultimate Guide to Travel Hacking.