Recently, I realized I have been telling you all about all the amazing deals I find, but I haven’t shared how I do it! Well, this post is here to answer some questions. I have created this post as a step by step to help you save on flights. Let me start off by saying that this is something that takes some time. What I mean by this is I research and wait, research again, wait some more — then buy. It’s a process! This post covers my basic process when I look for a flight and purchase. I’ll be posting later about places to stay and things to do, plus other favorite apps to use.
Note: average flight costs are taken from www.fareness.com
Step 1: Be flexible and keep an open mind if you can.
This step is not one that is absolutely necessary, but has helped me save a lot. It’s a good first step if you have not chosen a destination yet or are looking for a cool vacation. If you want to save on a specific flight, skip to step 2.
Deciding where to go is half of how I save flights. Of course, I have a list of places that I seriously want to visit! However, I don’t normally say, “I am going to go to X country for X number of days no matter what the price!” This is key because it leaves me open to the cheapest options. I have a list and start looking at what is cheap on that list instead of going for a specific place.
My advice is to follow other travelers and learn about places as a first step. Why? I am at a point where I have seen enough Instagram pics, Pinterest pins, ads on Facebook, and websites in general about travel that I have an idea of the types of places I want to visit and how long it takes to see them. I also have learned from reading about them how much on average a trip costs. Nashville? A long weekend is probably enough and will be about $300 for a flight. Peru? There’s a ton to do there and will be about $600, but I’ll need a few weeks to really experience it.
This is step 1 if you want to save money on travel: Read about places, follow people on Instagram who travel, search ‘Europe travel’ or ‘South America travel’ (broad categories) on Pinterest and see how long people typically spend places. Start to learn about travel and experiences you want to have so that you have a bit of flexibility when deciding where to go. Of course there are bucket list places (Australia and Israel are on mine!), but I haven’t been to those places yet because I am still waiting for a deal.
If I have a week off, I search for places that I could spend a week in. If I have a long weekend, I search for places to spend a long weekend. This may seem simple, but this is an easy first step that helps you be prepared and not overspend on a vacation.
Step 2: Search on Google Flights and again – be flexible if you can.
Even if you don’t have flexible dates, you can save this way so do keep reading!
The more flexible you can be the better! For example, when I looked at flights for spring break last year, we ultimately chose Greece. Why? Well, for one, I knew Greece would be an incredible place to visit but also… When I searched on Google Flights using their explore the map feature, there were amazing deals for the week I had free to Greece. People spend about $800 on average for flights from DC to Athens; I paid $525 (plus a $100 change fee, long story).
Here’s how you use the explore feature:
- Type in your originating city
- Click the explore tab
- Click on the map and go around the globe looking for tickets within your price range. You can also set your price range on this page.
- Click on the flight you are interested in and play around with dates for the cheapest options.
If it’s a domestic flight, I always check with Southwest Airlines first. I love that airline and have a credit card with them. Since I do get points, if a flight is reasonably close to the same price as what I find on Google Flights, I’ll buy the Southwest Airlines ticket.
Step 3: Look at Momondo with flexible dates in mind. Are you seeing a trend here?
Even if you don’t have a flexible location, you can save money doing this!
After I’ve searched on Google Flights, I check on Momondo. Momondo has a great tool that will let you play around with dates and see what days have the cheapest options. I found a $140 flight from DC to Denver (average price is $240) this way and a $200 flight from DC to LA (on Thanksgiving when most flights are over $400).
To do this, you have to search the place you want to visit, click on the tabs in the middle and click around on days to find the cheapest days. I like this site better than Google Flights sometimes because they will often show you “weird flights” and international websites that Google won’t. For example, I discovered that both my flights to Denver and LA found on Momondo were not listed on Google; they search different sites. An example of a “weird flight” not listed on Google I found was my flight to Zambia. I made a purposeful long layover in Dubai so I could check out the city. This made it cheaper, and I got to explore another city. They also show you flights with two one-way tickets on different airlines that work out to be cheaper which Google doesn’t do. Momondo has a lot of flights with really long layovers. These flights are cheap because they are trying to fill empty seats on specific flights. It’s a great way to visit another destination if you have the flexibility and can save you money.
I always do this step second because it tells you how much you will most likely spend on your flight. It can be tricky to budget, and for international flights, it’s always good to have a ballpark number. If you have the time, you are able to save up for a few months before taking the plunge and buying the ticket.
Step 3: Head over to Hopper and check for the best times to buy.
Hopper is another travel site you can use to search flights as well. They don’t often list flights that are cheaper than Google Flights or Momondo, so I don’t recommend buying a ticket here. However, they have one specific feature I love. The feature I use on Hopper is their “when to buy” feature. You save a flight you are interested in by setting an alert for it. Then, you take that flight and it tells you if you should wait or buy now. They will also tell you when the price will most likely change. This gives you an idea of when you need to be ready to purchase your plane ticket.
Step 4: Purchasing
Once I have my money and I am ready to buy, I then go back to Hopper to make sure the price won’t go down. I go to Google Flights and Momondo to double check for the cheapest dates. I use both to search since I may find a flight that doesn’t exist on the other site. Then, I make my final purchase!
I don’t like to buy any plane ticket from third party sites if at all possible. I would always rather go to the airline directly. Most times they will offer the same price so I also check there before buying.
I hope this post was helpful as you think about saving on flights. Everyone has their favorite sites for saving and there are tons of flight websites out there. I’ve found these have the best options to fit my needs.
Now you know how I am able to find such cheap flights! It seems like a lot of steps, but I have actually saved hundreds of dollars doing this on each trip and so for me, it’s worth it!