Airfare is usually one, if not the, biggest travel expenses. It can cost as much as your hotel, food, and activities combined, especially if you’re going to a budget-friendly destination.
Fortunately, it’s also one of the easiest to save money on, whether you go crazy with rewards cards and frequent flyer programs or just get a little smarter with how you book.
Here are 10 tips to save money on your next flight.
Use a Flight Aggregator
Not only do they search through prices for dozens of airlines and marketplaces for a particular route, they allow you to easily find the cheapest days or months for where you’re going.
There’s no easier way to save big on airfare.
Be Flexible with Dates
Not everyone has the luxury of traveling whenever they want. That being said, the more flexible you can be with your dates, the better.
Flying on cheaper days or months can save you hundreds of dollars in an instant. So, even if your work only gives you limited vacation time, try searching for the best flight deals before you schedule it.
Fly on Cheaper Days and Hours
Did you know that it’s cheaper to fly on certain days of the week? The specific days can vary a bit depending on your destination, but the middle of the weekday – think Tuesday and Wednesday – are usually a safe bet.
Early-morning and late-night flights are also cheaper, and they’re usually not terribly inconvenient when you’re flying internationally, since you can sleep on the flight and then breeze through immigrations without a line.
Don’t Fear Layovers
Tickets with connecting flights are cheaper. Even more so if they have a long layover.
And hey, if you’re on a business trip or just a short vacation, it makes sense to avoid them. But if you’re a little more flexible and want to get the best bang for your buck, long layovers can be great.
Not only can they save you hundreds on your plane tickets, they can actually add a whole new destination to your itinerary. For instance, a 10-hour layover in a world-class airport, like Incheon International in Korea, is more than enough time to ride the express train into the city for a little sightseeing and bulgogi.
Many airports even offer free transit tours specifically for folks waiting on connecting flights.
…But Beware Baggage Fees
Baggages fees can really add up, especially on budget carriers. Depending on the route and airline, 1 carry-on and 1 checked bag can sometimes cost 30 to 100% as much as the ticket itself!
So, not only should you think hard about how much stuff you actually need to bring with you (do you really need 5 pairs of pants for a 5-day trip?), it’s also something to be aware of when searching for flight deals.
Sometimes a flight that includes baggage is cheaper than one where you pay separately. This can also make international flights more attractive than domestic, since the former are more likely to include a free checked bag.
Location, Location, Location
If you’ve always wanted to go to [insert location], we’re not here to convince you otherwise. But if you’re a little less attached to a particular place, it can really work in your favor.
Because surprise, where you’re flying is one of the biggest factors in your ticket prices. And where you’re flying from matters too. For instance, if you’re on the US East Coast, particularly New York, you’ll have access to some of the cheapest flights to Europe. Whereas the Southern states, especially Florida and Texas, get incredible fares to Latin America.
Clear Your Cookies
There are other, hidden factors that can influence your ticket prices when you’re shopping online, including your search history. Have you searched for flights to Mexico for the first week of July ten times this week?
A site may see that – and raise the price on the ticket, knowing you’ll be more likely to pay it as your trip’s date approaches.
Fortunately, you can throw them off by clearing your browser’s cookies and search history, using incognito or private mode, or by turning on a VPN.
While you’re at it, changing your location with said VPN – or just on the flight aggregator site – can also help you get cheaper fares.
Become a Frequent Flyer
In the short term, signing up for an airline’s loyalty program probably won’t save you any money on a single flight. But if you fly with a particular carrier a lot, it can really add up over the long run, in the form of both savings on flights and all sorts of perks and upgrades.
Of course, not all frequent flyer programs are created equal, so it helps if you have access to the better ones.
Use a Rewards Card
For more immediate rewards, look for a credit card with travel rewards.
You’ll not only get big bonuses for every dollar you spend on flights, many of them give you introductory bonuses in the form of miles or points after the first x-amount of dollars you spend, usually between $500 to $2,000.
And hey, you’ll book with a card anyway, so you might as well get some points from it.
Split Your Tickets
Buying separate tickets for separate legs of a trip can save you a ton of money. Depending on the route, you may even get to fly on a better carrier.
But there’s a catch. This strategy can backfire spectacularly if the first flight is delayed long enough to make you miss the second. You could end up forfeiting the second ticket entirely! Note: Another advantage to booking long layovers.
However, despite the risks, it can still be a valuable strategy in many situations. Especially if you’re flying internationally to or from a non-major US city like, say, Charleston.
Find the “Hidden City”
Another ticketing loophole of sorts is something called a hidden-city ticket.
Let’s say you’re flying to New York. But you find a ticket to Atlanta with a stopover in New York that’s cheaper than the direct flight to New York. So, you book it – and simply stay in New York, without every taking the last leg of the flight to Atlanta.
To be clear, airlines aren’t exactly a fan of this practice, but it can save you a decent chunk of change. And sites like Skiplagged make these hidden fares easy to find.
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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling. Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories