Tips for Booking the Cheapest Flight

Booking a flight is easy these days, but it can become a hard task if you cannot find what you are looking for or if you have too many choices.  The following tips may help you in the process of finding the cheapest plane ticket to your destination.

Think I forgot one?  Share your own tips in the comments section, or take our poll below.

Search for the cheapest fare on the internet, and not through a travel agency as the latter will always need to be paid with a commission.

  • Use the airfare search engine Kayak, our personal favorite. The latter checks the price of your requested flight at tons of sites at once, including Orbitz and Cheaptickets, and allows flexibility in your travel dates. However, Kayak does not display all prices, so do not forget to check other online ticket-sellers as well: Kiwi, WayAway, Momondo, Hotwire, Skyscanner, Expedia, and Travelocity.
  • Matrix is the ITA software that powers Kayak, Orbitz, Cheaptickets and lots of airlines and travel agent’s tools.  But you can skip all their ads and come-ons and search Matrix itself for the no-nonsense scoop of flying cheap.
  • Google Flights is a new tool that has the potential to help you tremendously in finding the cheapest ticket.  It’s a very simple tool:  you just enter your travel dates and destination (city or country), hit ‘explore destinations’ and Google Flights shows you a map where you can travel for the lowest price.
  • Search for cheap fares on the airline’s official website. This is an often-overlooked tip, but well worth doing as international airlines and domestic airlines in the Philippines can host private sales that are only accessible through their website.
  • Subscribe to the newsletters of your preferred airlines, so that you will be informed amongst the first about their promotional offers (with sometimes discounts of 25%).
  • Travel outside the school holidays.
  • Fly out early: the first flight of the morning is usually the cheapest.
  • Including a Saturday night in your trip may substantially lower the price.
  • Be flexible: adding a couple of days to your trip before or after peak travel days may lower the fare.
  • Leave on a Tuesday or Wednesday as this is often much cheaper than leaving on the weekend.
  • Book your ticket on a Tuesday afternoon.  A study by Farecompare found this was the best time to buy airline tickets as airliners most frequently release discounted tickets on Tuesdays.
  • Book your ticket in advance, about 6 weeks for intracontinental and 3 months for intercontinental travel.  You will likely pay a big premium for booking too late (within 14 days of your departure day), or for booking too early (more than 5 months in advance, except when you can make use of promotional offers).
  • Travel last-minute if you are very flexible in your travel plans.  Airlines, especially charters, are known to cut prices when they can’t fill their planes for upcoming flights.
  • Fly different airlines.  Most airlines now sell one-way flights at reasonable prices, meaning one airline might be cheaper for the outbound flight while the other works better for the return.  You could even fly to one airport and depart from another.
  • Consider booking an indirect flight to your destination.  Direct or non-stop flights to your destination may be expensive, as some people will pay a premium for the convenience and there is little competition.  Transferring is a time-consuming hassle, but it can save you a bundle, as there are many options and airlines are competing to undercut each other.
  • Check alternate airports.  If there is more than one airport near your origin or destination city, check them all (e.g. San Francisco and Oakland; Miami and Fort Lauderdale; New York and Newark; Washington DC and Baltimore).  Sometimes, alternate airports can be located a bit further away from your destination, but still be well-connected by public transport (e.g. Brussels versus Amsterdam, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt and Paris).
  • Flying low-cost carriers can save lots of money but be very careful, as they may charge lots of hidden extras (making them not so low-cost after all), and they often fly to alternate, less convenient airports.
  • Fly for FREE by joining the loyalty program of an airline.