How To Find The Cheapest Flights

how to find the cheapest flights

Of all my travel expenses, spending money on flights is my least favourite.

I don’t mind splurging on cute boutique hotels, incredible restaurants or fun experiences. But there’s something about paying for flights that makes me feel wasteful.

That’s why I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out how to find the cheapest flights possible. And today I’m finally sharing all my best tips with you ?

how to find the cheapest flights
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Pssst. Join my contest to win $1,000 from Skyscanner which you can use on any flight and/or hotel booking. You have until 28 September 2016 to enter, so get on it!

Step-by-step guide 

1. Install the Skyscanner app. If you’re anything like me and your phone’s memory is always 99% full, I understand if you dislike the idea of downloading yet another app… But trust me – this is one of the very few apps I refuse to delete no matter what.

Once you’ve registered (you just put in your email or Facebook) click on “Flights” on the app’s homepage.

2. Research your flights. Set your current location to the place you want to travel from. Just remember – the more flexible you are, the more likely you are to find the cheapest flights.

Not flexible: Put in your dates and destination as usual.
Flexible on destination: Type “Everywhere” into the destination field.
Flexible on destination and time: Set any date and search flights to “Everywhere”. Once your flight options come up, click “Date of Travel” and then click “Select whole month” next to the month of your choosing.

3. Find more options. Once your search results become available, click on “Filter”. Scroll down to the bottom, click “Multi-part bookings” and select “Non-protected transfers”. Booking with more than one provider can be risky, but it’s worth considering if the layover time is long enough.

4. Set up price alerts. If you’re not ready to book yet and want to track how the price changes, click the little bell in the bottom left corner of your screen. This will create a price alert and notify you when fares for your route change.

Simple, huh? ?

Alternatively, you can let the app do all the planning for you. The “Explore Top Deals” button on the homepage is one of my favourite functions – it suggests fun (and cheap!) trips you probably wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.

I also love the “Recent searches and Price Alerts” tab on the app’s homepage. As the name suggests, it stores your searches in one place which is super useful if you’re forgetful or don’t want to input the same data over and over.

Oh, and you can book your car hire and hotels through the app as well. Such a time saver!

My NYE Travel Plans

I know summer has barely ended, but I’m already thinking of New Years Eve and where I should spend it this year. I haven’t made any plans yet, so let’s look at some options together!

I’ve set Vienna as my departure point, as that’s most likely where I’ll be spending Christmas this year (have you read about my upcoming move?). I’m looking for ideas, so I searched to “Everywhere”.

I selected December 29 as my outward journey and January 5 as my return, but I can be pretty flexible. I don’t have a set budget, but would like to keep my flight costs under £400 for a return ticket.

skyscanner screenshot

The first few results (1) are very affordable – a return flight to Paris for £92? Nuremberg for £59? Not bad.

But I’m looking for something a little further afield, possibly a place I’ve never visited before. One good option would be New York. Alas there’s a flight for £388 (2) – which actually turns out to be £397 once I refresh the screen (3), so make sure you’re always looking at the most recent data.

That’s still cheaper than a flight to Gran Canaria – have you read my spa guide? – and fits my budget. But I think I still have a chance of finding a better deal, so I’ve set up a price alert (4) which will notify me of price drops and increases.

I’m not booking anything just yet, but if this is a sign of things to come I’m not complaining. If you have any fun tips on where I should ring in 2017 please share them in a comment below!

General tips

1. Start searching early. According to Skyscanner, 7 weeks is the best time to book short-haul flights from the UK. That figure is not universal – it can be up to 18 weeks for long-haul destinations like Bangkok or New York. Click here for a list of best booking times for the fifty most popular destinations from the UK.

For domestic flights in the US, 54 days out is the best time to buy. It’s not an exact science of course – read this post for more info.

2. Book on a Tuesday afternoon. Many airlines release their last minute weekend deals on Tuesdays, especially if they have lots of empty seats. The worst day to book seems to be Friday, because that’s when airlines launch price hikes.

3. Choose your travel day wisely. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays are the least popular travel days for domestic flights, studies show. For flights to Europe, you’ll be better off flying on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays.

4. Travel off-peak. Travel in the middle of the week, outside of school holidays and during low season. The last one takes a bit of research, but in general it means avoiding beach destinations in the summer and skiing resorts in the winter. That’s not always possible, but the more flexible you can be the better.

5. Set up price alerts. I’ve already mentioned this once, but it bears repeating. Price alerts will notify you when fares for your route change. It’s a simple service, but one that could save you a lot of money.

how to find the cheapest flights

6. Follow your favourite airlines. Sign up to their newsletter, and follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Airlines often release flash sales and last minute discounts to their subscribers.

7. Be loyal. On a similar note, it can be a good idea to choose one airline and stick with. Don’t forget to sign up for their free loyalty card (most airlines have one) and collect miles. You can then use these toward discounted flights or business class upgrades! I’ll be honest – I don’t actually do this myself. I just find the cheapest direct flight and go with that. But if there’s one route you fly a lot it’s worth considering.

8. Bring hand luggage only. Bigger airlines still allow you to check one bag for free. But if you’re planning a longer trip where you might be using low-cost carriers – like EasyJet or RyanAir in Europe – consider packing in a carry-on.

I know it’s easier said than done, but if you manage to travel with hand luggage only you might save yourself a big stash of money.While we’re on the topic of luggage, make sure you fit the size and weight requirements – the fees for oversized bags can sometimes be higher than the flight itself!

9. Pay by debit card. There are usually no add-on charges if you pay by debit card, but I’ve seen fees as high as £5 for using a credit card. It may not seem like much, but it adds up quickly.

10. Feel free to cancel. Many airlines offer a free refund if you cancel more than 24 hour before departure. This can come in handy if you notice you flight drop in price. Be very careful using this trick though – cancellation fees can be killer.

Do you have any other tips on how to find the cheapest flights? Please share them in the comments below – and feel free to ask any questions! 

>> PS: Don’t forget to join my contest to win $1000 from Skyscanner. <<

  • That sounds like a really good app, if booking online I’d say always clear cookies or book flights in private browsing because a lot of airlines put the price up every time you look at their website <3

    The Quirky Queer

    • Yes – clearing cookies is very important, in between searches! Thanks for the reminder Izzy! 🙂 xx

  • Being a teacher makes flying outside of peak season so, so, so insanely hard. I found it best to plan early and keep your summer dates flexible. I love the skyscanner app, and I also try to book tickets in private browsers! I have cookies give me higher prices. So not cool, haha.

    Excellent and informative post! I always notice lower prices on Tuesday too. 😉

    • Yeah, flexibility is definitely a big barrier – but like you say, if you plan early you can still get wonderful prices 🙂 So glad you enjoyed the post! Have you entered the competition yet? xx

  • Kelly

    Such great tips, thank you!

    xx Kelly
    Sparkles and Shoes

  • Renuka Singh

    Helpful tips! Yeah, I have the skyscanner app. It does help, as it shows all the flight options available.

  • I love Skyscanner! I’m always flexible when traveling so being able to search every destination for the cheapest month is amazing.

    Katrina La Vie

  • Skyscanner is definitely my go-to for booking flights – I find it always shows the lowest prices and I love that you can search an entire month for the cheapest days or an entire country for the cheapest airport. Genius!
    Laura | eternal-expat.com

  • Perfect post for me to come across right now, as I’m planning a girl’s getaway to San Antonio and Austin next spring, and a little getaway for the hubby and I this Christmas…possibly to Charleston and Savannah. Any thoughts on those places??