Booking Flights: How I Find Good Airfares
No matter what people tell you, it’s still possible to fine cheap airfare these days. Between mistake fares, flash sales, getting creative with your options, and collecting points, there are a few ways you can make flights more affordable in 2018.
Ignore the hype
There are a lot of urban myths about booking cheaper flights. Book on a Tuesday. Use an incognito window. Book at midnight. In truth, there’s no magic bullet to getting a good deal.
Don’t be too anxious to book
While we all know that booking last minute doesn’t lead to flight deals, booking too far in advance doesn’t do you any favours either. Airlines set their base seat prices far in advance and prices tend to fluctuate before hitting a sweet spot and then climbing. Generally, 2-3 months out is a good time to book your flights. I like using Hopper to help with predicting when that sweet spot will happen.
Be flexible with dates
I’m sure you’ve heard this one before. It’s not new advice. While I understand that not everyone has the luxury, being flexible with your travel dates can save you hundreds of dollars. Prices on any particular route vary by day of the week, proximity to holidays, how many seats are already sold, and more.
That being said, it’s typically cheaper to travel in the middle of the week (Tues-Thur) and a day or two out from when most people would travel for a holiday.
Try different routes or airports
This is one of my best tips for finding more affordable flights. Flying to London? Don’t just search for Heathrow. London alone has 5 airports to choose from. New York has 3. Tokyo has 2. Keep your search open to all nearby airports to your destination and you may find a sweet deal. Skyscanner has a handy option to automatically pull in nearby airports for you.
Along this line, try looking for nearby cities as well. If you want to visit Miami, check out flights to Fort Lauderdale as well. Look at connecting transportation like trains and buses to determine which cities are feasible for your trip. Perhaps it’s cheaper to fly into Dublin and take a bus to Limerick than it is to fly into Shannon airport.
Consider booking two legs
I’ve used this technique to save hundreds on flights before. I wanted to fly from St. John’s, NL to Slovenia. It was actually cheaper for me to book a flight to London and then book a second flight on a European budget airline to Ljubljana than it was to book a single itinerary from YYT-LJU.
This thinking can be especially helpful when flying to places like Europe or Asia where there are more budget carriers than in Canada. Just get yourself to a hub and then look for the deals.
Though it’s rarer these days, sometimes looking for two one way flights is cheaper than booking a single return. It’s always worth a look.
One of the ways I routinely save money on flights is to collect frequent flier miles. I mainly do this by using a branded credit card and putting all of my purchases on it (always paying the balance monthly). I’m not a hard-core travel hacker but I manage to at least get myself one or two highly discounted flights every year this way. For fellow Canadians, follow RewardsCanada.ca for tips and alerts about bonus deals.
Keep an eye on deal alert sites
I belong to one mailing list that sends out deals for my particular airport. I’ve seen big savings come through that way and it saves me from having to monitor sites myself. Others like ThePointsGuy.com and AirfareWatchdog.com will also alert you to sales. Sign up for a few of these newsletters and be prepared to pounce when they find you a killer deal.