I don’t travel nearly as often as I’d like to because I’m a lower-middle class millennial paying rent in Chicago and getting robbed by Great Lakes (student loans) not once, but TWICE, a month. We all know travel isn’t cheap, but where there’s a will there’s most certainly a way. I already published a post about the general tools I use to travel on a budget, but now I’m going to highlight some methods I use specifically when booking my flights.
No, you aren’t going to find a $34 roundtrip ticket to Indonesia using these tips, but they will certainly help you compare and compile the best prices available.
#1 – BE FLEXIBLE
Unless the days and times you have to travel are absolutely set in stone, I suggest always, ALWAYS being as flexible as possible with your planning. For domestic flights, you’d be surprised at how much adjusting by just a few days could save you. I once knocked $87 off of a roundtrip ticket to California by returning on a Tuesday instead of Sunday like I originally planned.
For international travel, expand your potential travel dates even more. Look at this roundtrip flight from Denver to Copenhagen for example. The average price in March is just about $1,000, but leaving in April has the potential to save you up to $300!
Lastly, if you have ultimate flexibility, consider varying your length of stay. Searching 3-5 nights instead of just 4 (or whichever number) offers a range of prices on each departure day. That’s 3+ options for flight prices on each of the 30-31 departure days that you get to now choose from. Sh*t like this, my friends, is why I have
totally healthy control issues.
#2 – SEARCH SMART, NOT HARD
For a long time, I only booked travel directly through the airlines. This method is time-efficient, but not very cost-effective. Then enter sites like Expedia, which compare multiple airlines, but don’t particularly allow for including any flexibility in your searches. Now there are sites like ITA Software Matrix (pictured above) or Skyscanner, which allow you to tailor searches down to the most minute detail. If I know my destination, the matrix is always my go-to. If just want to know where I can go under a certain price, I’ll hit Skyscanner – which allows you to search departures from one location to literally “Everywhere”, giving the lowest prices for various cities listed by country!
#3 – STAY INFORMED
Airfare glitches and specials are your best friends! Despite how much I’m sure we all hate spammy emails, signing up for those newsletters is the quickest way to get information about great deals. Remember last August, when hundreds of people flooded Abu Dhabi after the Etihad glitch offering roundtrip flights as low as $187? Or more recently, the $29 one-way flight special for departures on Leap Day (February 29th) with JetBlue?
Another strategy is to be constantly be on the lookout for new airlines and/or new flight routes. Nine times out of ten, they will offer super low prices as a marketing strategy. When Virgin Airlines started their route to Hawaii last April, prices were as low as $199 roundtrip (yes, that’s cheap for Hawaii).
In addition to being vigilant and signing up for those airline newsletters, monitor sites like The Flight Deal for glitches and insanely low prices, sign up for price alerts at Airfare Watchdog, and join other travel communities that share tips and information that can help with all your general traveling needs!
How do you fly when you’re on a budget? What’s your ultimate go-to resource?
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