Here are some tips on how to book cheap flights.
I know how much you want to get the best deals out there when it comes to planning your holiday. I understand. And you can bag some good deals if you have some basic knowledge on how to find them.
Use popular search engines
There are many popular search engines out there. The ones that I use are kiwi.com, momondo.com, skyscanner.com and kayak.com
I also use some specialist websites that are built for a specific purpose – for example to design my stop overs I use airwander.com.
Kiwi’s website and app are good for finding the cheapest flights. I can easily look for several flight combinations that will give me the cheapest prices. That is what I like the most about kiwi.
The search engine does this by checking with different airline companies and joining them, instead of sticking with just one airline. Or flying you into a major hub in a region and then taking a domestic connection from there.
Because the legs of the trip can be from different airlines, there will not be any protection from the airlines if you miss the second leg of your trip. Here’s where Kiwi’s connection guarantee comes in very useful.
If your first flight arrives late and then you miss the second leg, you’re protected by this guarantee. You can book an alternate flight or the cost is refunded to you.
Flight delays, cancellations and schedule changes are covered.
Once I identify the cheapest flight (and the most convenient to me – I don’t always go for the cheapest one – cheapest and most convenient lets say) on kiwi, I check for the same routes on Momondo. I have consistently found cheaper rates on kiwi and momondo.com than skyscanner and kayak.
Anyway, make sure you check all these search engines to find the best possible ticket prices.
Popular search engines
Be flexible with dates
Sometimes, midweek prices are better than on the weekends. You can never really know which dates have low prices unless you check it every time when you search.
I will tell you, though, I have observed the ticket prices tend to be cheaper on Tuesday-Thursday and on Sunday. And sometimes on Saturday. So highest is usually is on Mondays and Fridays. That is a general observation.
Do check on every search.
How to do it?
Use the date range feature when you start your search. Once you fill in the from and to on kiwi, the calendar updates with prices for the route you are searching.
Look for the prices in green – that means the prices are lower or same than average prices. Red means they are higher. Select a date range than a specific date to see the best prices after clicking on the departure date. Simply drag the slider across several dates to search over a date range.
There is also an anytime option. This is a bit wider search, but it will find you the cheapest ticket available. If you have selected a date in the calendar, click on the close (X) to reset the date to anytime.
You can do the same (date range, anytime), when selecting the return.
You also have a time of stay option – if you are flexible with the return date and you know roughly how many days you want to stay at the destination– for example, 10 days, 5 days – you can use this option. It is a good planning tool when you know how many holidays you want to take from your holiday balance. To get the most out of this option use it in combination with the Anytime option.
Checking the trends with Momondo
In Momondo, you have the flight insights section once you enter in your from and to in the search query.
Here, you can find information such as the cheapest month to fly, cheapest time to fly – and the cheapest time to book.
For example for search from London to Bangkok
You can also the price calendar on the top to have a look at which days have the lowest prices on your outbound and inbound journeys. Click on the arrows to scroll through the dates.
Checking the trends with google flights
In Google flights, they have a similar view to check the trends.
The tool tells you the best dates, price graph, best airports to land and depart from and some extra tips.
Also with google flights, you can get see the prices for dates when you enter your dates into the search query.
In skyscanner, when you select the dates for your trip, select the whole month option for your dates.
You can then select a whole month or select the cheapest month.
After selecting the dates click search – this will take you to the price calendar. This thing shows the prices for the dates and also has a chart available on the top.
This will give you a calendar view of the prices for dates. If there are no prices shown, and instead you see a magnifying glass, click on the magnifying glass to reveal the prices.
It is not the best tool, because you can’t always see the prices on the calendar in case no searches have been cached (stored in the system due to a previous search from you or another user).
In kayak you have few options – to search with +1-3/-1-3 dates on either side of your search dates. Click on the drop down that says ‘exact’ on the calendar to reveal these options.
You can also see the green dots on the calendar which indicates that the prices are fair on those dates.
Use the weekend option to set the departure dates and inbound dates – so you can easily book your weekend trip.
Using the month option, you can specify an outbound date and enter the desired duration of the trip.
These additional options are available only for round trip tickets.
Be flexible with destination
If you don’t have a set place in mind to go, be flexible with the destination. This is one of my favourite things to do when it comes to travelling. It allows me to explore places that I would not normally think of.
This is easily done using something like the ‘explore’ or ‘find inspiration’ feature on search engines.
Kiwi.com is excellent in this. You can just put ‘Anywhere’ and the date of departure in, in your search query and hit search. Voila! You get the cheapest destinations.
Select the Anywhere option when searching for flights.
From London to New York, I can see these destinations for a date and the prices are as low as £170. Isn’t that crazy?
In the results, by default, it shows the popular destinations. By clicking on the cheapest you can see the cheapest option.
Kiwi also looks for bus trips, to avoid this – From under the transport option select the flight option and uncheck the other ones.
You also have an option to draw a radius. This way you can fly to another airport near your final destination. From there you can take a local train or bus from there to your final destination.
To do this, right click on your destination inside the map, and select expand radius.
Add multiple destinations that are convenient for you as well. Type in the destinations one by one into the to box of the search.
Also, you can use regions as the destinations in the search query. Like Europe, Asia, Eastern Europe etc.
Try also, a mix of a specific airport, a region or a specific attraction like Grand Canyon into the destination field. Kiwi’s search is very flexible that way.
BTW I am not paid by kiwi to write highly of them, I just like the tool very much.
Also make use of the map view to set destinations and departure points.
Momondo – explore different destinations.
Similarly, you can choose the anywhere option on Momondo as well. You can put in, in the to box, Europe, North America, Oceania etc. plus anywhere.
Depending on the specificity of your destination your date selection option will change. You won’t be able to pick a specific date, for example for something like Asia, but will be able to specify a month, any month or a season such as fall, winter, summer, spring.
For a more specific region like Eastern Europe, you will be able to pick a specific date.
To plan comprehensively, go to the explore tool.
Here, you can choose a theme from the left pane, like, romantic escapes, UNESCO heritage sites etc.
Kayak explore – very similar to momondo
Kayak explore has two options.
Options to search not only by the flight price – but also to search by the total cost of the trip. The first option is below. Click the toggle as shown below to switch to total cost trip planner.
With the second option the search takes into account, cost of living, average hotel price and the flight ticket price etc. This data may not be super accurate as it is all user submitted data.
Switch on or off this option using the toggle slider on the upper right corner.
Just put anywhere in the to box of the search query. And that is pretty much what you get with Skyscanner.
Be flexible with dates and destinations.
Combine both techniques as described above.
One of the things that I like to do in kiwi is to use the date range option in the search tool and fill in ‘anywhere’ in to the destination. It will look for the best combination of where to go and when to go that is the cheapest.
Try the same with other search engines.
Buying tickets in bulk can be cheaper
I personally never buy tickets in bulk, because I like to keep where I want to go next open. I am a last-minute buyer. So I don’t always get the cheapest tickets, but that is the cost that I pay for a bit more flexibility.
If you happen to know, more or less, where you are going and on what dates, you can use options like ‘multi city’ options in the search engines and buy them in bulk.
Kiwi.com also has a nomad option that is in beta, that you can try out as well. (useful when you know your final destination but can be flexible with the destinations in the middle).
While you may be able to save some money, this may not be very flexible as the dates are locked on into your itinerary.
Kiwi, momondo, skyscanner and kayak, all have these options.
Don’t wait for the prices to further come down – grab it as soon as you see it.
During your search, if you see a price below than the average price that buy it. Don’t wait, like a gambler, holding on to the hope that the prices will further come down. More often than not, they don’t.
Use tools like Momondo flight insights and google flight trends, the green dots and indicators on calendars to have a feel of how much an average ticket costs to where you want to go.
Once you find a ticket around this price range – buy it.
So often, I have repeated the mistake of waiting for the prices to come down expecting a last minute price drop – they do happen, but usually, they go up rather than come down.
Momondo has a small graph on the left side above the filters – that says something like “now is a great time to book”. Hover over the “I” to reveal what it says.
Similar options are available on Skyscanner and kayak.
Go in offseason
Go places in the offseason. This way you will avoid the touristy kind (no offence, if you are one of those). I like to soak into a place when I am there and avoid the crowd.
If you go somewhere like Prague or Budapest in the high season, you can only see other people, not the actual sites.
I once went to see the Charles bridge in Prague and I could not see the bridge!
Use the local versions for search engines – make use of currency exchange rates
Instead of booking through the main US/UK or Australian version of the airline search engines, try using the local version where you are going. For example try using the Romanian version of kiwi, skyscanner, momondo or kayak if you are flying to Romania.
Make sure you pay in the local currency.
I have saved plenty of money just by making use of exchange rates and paying in local currencies.
Even paying in euros and dollars works for me, where otherwise I would normally pay in pounds. Depending on the exchange rate you can play with this.
Never allow the airline website to convert the price for you. (By selecting the currency at the top if you are to use this method)
Scroll down to the bottom of the homepage of the search engines, to see the region specific search engine websites.
Or, just simply do a search in google, something like “momondo Romania” or “kiwi flights spain”.
Add a stop over to your journey
Adding a stop over to your journey can sometimes save you a lot of money.
If you know that your flight has a layover anyway, you might as well get out at your connection and explore that place a little bit. It works well if you have the time do to so. You spend a day or two there and then catch your connecting flight.
A website that you can use for this is airwander.com. The site allows you to add stop overs to your existing flight and then will show you how much you can save for that trip.
Simply put in the departure point and the destination in the search query and hit search.
Then a plus sign will appear, click on this.
Add multiple stop overs to get the price down even further.
Here, when I search for a flight from London to Bangkok, I can search for stop overs by clicking the plus button.
Then it shows all the available stop overs and also the price difference. A negative price means that will bring down your overall ticket price. Plus means, obviously a higher price.
Usually, I have found that one stop over does the trick, anything more than that the prices tend to go up than reduce.
Play around with this.
Use a VPN
Some claim that they save money using a VPN. If you connect to a server in say, Bulgaria, and book a flight that way, you may be able to save some money. Worth checking out.
I have not personally tried this option, but I have heard from different travellers that I met, they do this sometimes. This is slightly different to the searching a local search engine website. For example you can look for flights on the uk site from the us through a server in Bugaria, and you may see some slight price difference.
Grab Error Fares
Sometimes airlines make mistakes when publishing their prices on search engines and the websites that sell their tickets. And these ones can be tremendously cheaper than a normal ticket.
There are tools and websites that you can use to stay on top of this game. The only problem with this approach is that you are bound to the trips with dates and destinations that error fares affect. Not a lot of flexibility with the destinations here.
Check out these websites.
Make Use of Throwaway ticketing – Buy a roundtrip and discard the inbound trip.
Sometimes roundtrip fares are cheaper than one-way trip fares. So you book the roundtrip ticket and just not use the return inbound flight. You can only do this if you intend to use the outbound leg. If you don’t show up for this part, your ticket will automatically get cancelled.
Use Hidden City Ticketing Strategy
This is a variant of throw away ticketing.For example, sometimes, flying from London to Paris is more expensive than flying from London to Rome. An say you want to go to Paris, which is significantly higher prices. So, you book a ticket to Rome (which is lower price) with a connection in Paris. And get off at Paris and discard the second leg of your journey.
Don’t abuse this, because most major airlines don’t like it. Use this technique once in a while. Though the airlines don’t like it, these tickets are not illegal.
When caught, the airlines have the right to come after you for the price difference – bear that in mind.
There is an app/website making use of this pricing loophole – Skiplagged.com.
These guys were recently sued by United airlines and Orbitz but won against them.
This business insider article writes about this kind of ticketing.
“Business Insider says – If you’re caught, don’t lie about what you’re doing — this could result in a fraud charge — but be honest and remember that though the airlines hate it (a lot), these tickets are not illegal.”
Subscribe to price alerts
Subscribe to price alerts from the major search engines that I gave in the beginning of this article. Airline prices are affected by a lot of factors and these price alerts are useful.
Kiwi.com – click on the bell icon on the left hand side of the search results – just above it.
Momondo.com – above the filters on the left side there is a toggle button
Kayak – similar to Momondo, toggle the button on the left side to start tracking the prices. If you have an account it will be added to the watchlist. If you don’t it will ask for an email to send the alerts to.
Skyscanner – big ‘Get price alerts’ button on top of the results. This requires you to have an account.
Subscribe to deals from airline websites
Airlines run promotions every now and then. This is very common with budget airlines, for example Ryanair, Easy jet and Wizz Air directly from their website. Visit their website and subscribe to their notifications about deals and promotions.
Airline websites in Europe
Subscribe to Scott’s cheap flights
This guy has written couple of books on how to book cheap flights. His website gives good advice on how to book cheap flights, as far as I can tell.
Basically, you give your destination and email address, the service finds you the best deals.
Use Frequent Flyer Programs
I am not a point collector and hardly use them, I am not a member of any frequent flyer programmes. I am lazy that way.
But you don’t have to be.
Join the frequent flyer programs. You can see the major frequent fliers and airline alliances in the search engines.
Popular ones are
Membership in any of these programmes gives you full access to all the airlines in the whole alliance network, with no need to register with individual airline frequent flier programmes.
Use a travel credit card to book flights
Use a credit card that will give you points for the miles you flown and the normal day to day purchases that can be converted to points and then be used to purchase tickets. Here is an article from Nomadic Matt https://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-tips/picking-a-travel-credit-card/
I am not a big fan of credit cards – so I stay away from this now. Check out the above link if you’d like to know more.
Take longer flights
This is self-explanatory. Sometimes a flight that takes 14 hours with a few connections is cheaper than a direct flight that takes 7 hours to reach your destination..
Fly into a major hub and then take a local airline
Want to book a cheap flight to Europe? Try this.
When travelling to Europe from Asia, North America or Australia, it is better to travel to a main airport in the region like London, Munich, Paris, Amsterdam or Barcelona – and then takes a budget domestic carrier like Ryan air, Easyjet or Wizzair to reach, say, Krakow in Poland..
Kiwi.com uses this technique by default as far as I can tell. Try the radius search using kiwi as explained in the beginning of this article.
Multiple departure points and destinations
When searching for flights, consider flying out and flying into nearby destinations as well. For example, include Birmingham and Bristol airports along with London when flying out of London to find the cheapest possible flight. You can then take a train or local coach to, say Birmingham for £10 and then fly out from there.
Kiwi.com automatically includes any nearby airports when searching, you can also add multiple destinations as well and use the same strategy. You have the same options in other search engines as well (check the include nearby airports) option when searching.
Try booking directly with the airlines.
Sometimes booking directly with the airlines are cheaper than booking through an agent listed on a search engine. Also check directly on the airline website once you have found a trip that you like using a search engine, to see if the prices can be brought down further.
Try flying at odd times
Flying out at odd times, like leaving very early in the morning and arriving very late in the night will bring you ticket prices. Do this when you are familiar with the destination that you are going to.
Don’t do this if you are not familiar with your destination or travelling to a third world country (even parts of Eastern Europe). That potentially can be dangerous at night times to get a taxi to get to your hotel or Airbnb.
An alternative is to spend time at the airport – read a book, work or watch Netflix. Also you can consider staying at an airport hotel if you are with a friend and share the costs.
I am not sure about the legitimacy of the this one. Because some say this affects the prices you see. Personally, I have not seen much difference using a private browsing window. And most times I use the app on my phone rather than using the website version. It is worth a try, you are not losing anything by searching in incognito or private browsing mode.
With all these tips in your arsenal now, you are equipped to find better flight fares. There is no need to get obsessed with this. If the savings are nominal it is not worth the effort of spending so much time and energy on the internet to find the perfect fare.
There is no reason to spend 5 hours to save that $20 dollars. If it is something like a difference of $100 then yeah, then it makes sense to spend some time there. The point is weigh in the mental effort and the stress involved in trying to find the perfect price and the cheapest deal before sitting down to doing so.
That being said, try these tips out.
Search Engines and Tools
Some budget airline websites