Looking for a cheap flight? Frustrated with your search? Yes, welcome to the most annoying part of travel planning.
Finding affordable plane tickets can be an incredibly frustrating experience. Unfortunately, it's somewhat necessary, as the cost of a plane ticket can be a significant portion of any trip's budget. Saving money on a flight means that you can spend that money elsewhere, such as on a better hotel, more exciting experiences in your destination, and nicer restaurants. But alas, we're often stuck dealing with an endless loop of hunting for a better ticket price.
As you probably already know, the cost of plane tickets fluctuates based on travel dates, supply and demand, the whims of computer algorithms, and your daily astrological horoscope. Well, maybe not that last part, but it sure seems like it after you've seen the prices fluctuate so much!
So, how do we find the best price? Here are some tips and advice for your next "hunt" for cheaper flights.
Shopping around is one common strategy to find cheaper flights (or anything cheaper, for that matter). Sometimes this can be frustrating, but now that we have the entire internet on our team, we can use a few select websites to find the best ticket prices as quickly as possible.
Kayak is a great resource for comparing flights. Just enter your departure and arrival cities and their website will find all of the prices across all major airlines to show you not only the lowest prices but also the different schedules, number of connections, and any extra fees. While some people say you can get the best prices directly from the airline websites, price comparison websites like this often send you to that airline's website anyway. So yes, you're getting the best deal, but only after their system instantly compares the prices across all airline websites. Hooray for that!
CheapOair is another great website with similar cost comparison features, and so is Skyscanner. Also, Expedia is one of the most popular travel booking websites in the world, and also offers a pretty good comparison of flight prices.
Multiple Destinations? Kiwi's Nomad Planning Tool lets you choose multiple locations, and then it finds the cheapest route between all of them. This is a great option if you are planning a multi-city journey through a region, or if you're generally flexible on your route and dates. Planning a grand European adventure? This is the tool you should check out if you're hopping around from place to place.
Keep in mind that different websites have partnerships with different airlines. Thus, you should compare ticket prices across all of these websites in order to get a more thorough and accurate picture of who has the best prices for your given trip.
You may have also heard rumors (or actual studies and reports) that claim the best time to buy a plane ticket is on a Wednesday at 3:24 p.m., exactly 7 weeks before your flight departs - as long as you book a window seat in row 24 on the starboard side during an even-numbered month on a westbound flight where the pilot's sister's name is Janet.
Yes, we've seen those reports, too. It's all Janet's fault, really.
The truth is that ticket prices do indeed fluctuate, and generally speaking you should book a few months ahead. But on an exact day? That's just not true. While we can often make generalizations, the actual routes themselves tend to dictate the best week for a purchase. For many routes, it might be around 7 weeks ahead, but not always. And often the prices go up and down in peaks and troughs so that there are actually multiple timeframes to purchase that can save you the most money.
Both Kayak and Skyscanner have some great tools that can tell us when the best time to book will usually be for a specific route. On Kayak, you don't have to enter specific dates, but instead you can just select a month and a big range of days. On Skyscanner, you can click the "show whole month" link in the upper right. Then, both websites will show you a chart of prices color-coded to show you the best deals for the next few months. Now we can get somewhere!
If you really want to save money on a flight, then you need to travel during the low season or the shoulder season. (This will help you save money on other stuff, too, such as hotels.) Want to visit Europe during the middle of summer? Well, that's the most expensive time. Instead, try the spring or autumn to get cheaper flights. Almost every destination in the world has its peak time for tourists, and if you can avoid that time of year, then you're already a step ahead with helping your budget.
Almost every airline these days charges extra fees for various things. Baggage fees tend to be the most expensive. At $25 per checked bag (the most common price, but sometimes more), if you have 2 bags and travel each way, that's a total of $100 extra for your trip. Ouch!
So, pack lighter. Take a larger carry-on. Buy a few extra items of clothing when you arrive. Or, just make sure you consider these fees into your total budget so that you're not surprised.
Food on the plane can also be expensive, if they even offer it. Instead, buy your food at the airport and carry it on the plane. Take an empty water bottle (you can't take water through security) and then fill it up at a water fountain before takeoff. You won't have to pay anything on the flight, and you'll stay hydrated. (Hydration is one of the best ways to avoid jet lag, after all.)
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