Tricks to Finding the Cheapest Airfare

Don't let airfare prices scare you from
doing something awesome
Everyone is always looking for a way to save a few bucks on their plane tickets. It is, after all, probably the biggest expense when it comes to traveling. This topic has been touched on by many so called experts, but they all say more or less the same stuff, which may or may not really help you save a penny. I've taken it a step further and have had some pretty good luck finding cheap flights, having flown to Europe round trip on two separate occasions for under $550.

When I buy a flight anywhere I have a few simple rules that I follow to ensure that I'm getting myself the best deal possible. In the following sections I'll share what has worked for me.

Shop Around
I typically start my international flight searches on Kayak, but that is never the only site I visit. I'll check various places including Google (which is pretty awesome now for flight searches) as well as a handful of other sites, and then if I find a deal that looks appealing I'll search for that same flight on he airline's actual page as well - which often offers different prices. In short, you can't be certain of getting the best price on a flight until you have shopped around on at least 4-6 different sites.

Look for any extra fees in your booking
This relates to shopping around - I had found a great deal on a flight and was about to purchase it when I noticed it included a booking fee for each leg of my flight in the price. I don't typically pay booking fees so I decided to check for another option. I wanted to find the same flight price elsewhere but without that dang booking fee, and sure enough I did. A couple extra minutes of work saved me over 20 bucks.

Be flexible with dates
Do your best to have flexible travel dates. If the site you are searching on has a flexible dates option make sure to use it. You can often save hundreds of dollars by leaving just a day or two earlier, or perhaps coming home on a different day. People always say that flying on weekends is the most expensive (and as a general rule of thumb it is) but I've found flights with weekend departures that are cheaper than leaving on a Wednesday. It all depends on whether or not there is demand for that specific flight at that moment in time.

When is the best time to book?
Generally, 2+ weeks to a few months in advance is best. The best deals I have found are in the three-four months in advance window. Sometimes five months will yield some spectacular prices. I wouldn't recommend booking anything 6 months out or greater if you are deal hunting. You can find deals on short notice, as well but it is quite a bit more unlikely.

Traveling Budget Airlines
Europe has fantastic budget airlines like Ryan Air and Easy Jet, the USA has Spirit Air and a few others. I say they are fantastic, because you can find some ridiculously low fares. I paid 5 Euros to fly from Madrid to the Canary Islands. Less than 20 USD from Spain to London. It seems too good to be true sometimes - but it's not! Don't be scared off just because the flights are so cheap. However, be prepared to pay for checked bags - which can get pretty pricey on some carriers. Some budget companies let you carry on bags for free, others not so much. I once saw a girl wear almost 30 shirts just so her bag would fit Ryan Air's size requirements - it was comical, but for a $20 cross country flight in Spain I'd do the exact same thing. Those "hidden" fees will get you if you aren't prepared. If you travel light, budget airlines are amazing options.

Be willing to fly a non-direct route
I went to Brazil over the summer for the FIFA World Cup and flights were ridiculously expensive. I spent hours trying to find a good price for me and my friends and ended up getting pretty creative. I wanted to fly out of Minneapolis to Rio but it was just too expensive. I noticed most flights going to Rio had changes or layovers in Miami. Probably because Miami is a big hub for the Brazilian airline TAM. This led me to look at buying a flight directly from Miami to Brazil. I saved each of us over $400  by doing this.

Basically here's how it worked - I bought a round trip ticket from Minneapolis to Ft Lauderdale (a smaller airport near Miami) and then bought my Brazil flights separately with Miami as the departure city. This ideology will work in other places as well, the whole point is to be creative and think a little outside the box.
      At the World Cup Stadium in Manaus, Brazil
with thousands of fans!
Some helpful websites
If you are under 26 or a student, Student Universe will find you some special deals unavailable elsewhere. Their Fare Play feature is a cool way of checking for flights to various destinations from one airport over a given range of time.

Skip Lagged is another cool one that has been getting headlines recently. The creator of this site takes advantage of the system and lets users find flights that have layovers in the city they want to end up in. Occasionally these deals are huge and worth looking into if you have some ambition and flexibility.

Don't let the price of flying deter you from having an amazing, life changing adventure. There's always a way to make it a bit cheaper. I hope this article has helped a little bit.

If you're looking for any tips on a specific destination or general questions, please leave a comment!

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