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Whether you’re travelling the world or planning a holiday, there’s a ton of cheap flight hacks out there to save you money. Since flying tends to be one of the biggest expenses when it comes to travel, it’s a smart move to try and save where you can. Even if it’s just $50…that’s an extra $50 you could spend on activities or food, or even an extra couple of nights of accommodations if you’re staying in hostels. It all adds up!
Living in little old New Zealand we’re quite far away from the rest of the world and it’s no secret that the flight prices (to anywhere) definitely reflected that! When I started travelling fulltime, it was so refreshing to see how much cheaper all the flights were cause everything was just SO MUCH closer.
Nevertheless, to me it didn’t matter whether I was booking a $800 flight or an $80 flight, I still wanted to score myself the best possible deal. There’s lots of advice out there on how to find cheap flights, it takes time and a bit of digging but don’t worry, this list I’ve complied for you will have you saving money like a pro. Everything on the list is a method I’ve used one time or another to find the best cheap flights.
The awesome news for my solo travelling gals is that you have the bonus of added flexibility. No compromising, no adjusting your plans, you can fly anywhere you want, anytime you want. This leads me to my first tip for finding cheap flights…be flexible!
- 1. Be flexible with your dates
- 2. Scan for different flights using a flight aggregator
- 3. Use an incognito window to browse flights
- 4. Be organised (but not too organised)
- 5. Sign up to get flight price drop alerts
- 6. Don't get caught out with overweight baggage!
- 7. Layovers are your friend (most of the time)
- 8. Know the right time to book
- 9. Sign up for a credit card that gives you travel rewards
- 10. Don't forget about the added fees
- 11. Skip the flight entertainment (and meals if you can!)
- 12. Consider flying from a different airport
- 13. Don't forget to check the airline’s site directly
- 14. Follow airlines you are most likely to fly with on social media
- 15. Find the cheapest place to fly
Best cheap flight hacks
1. Be flexible with your dates
It might sound simple but I kid you not, this is probably the MOST important way to save hundreds of dollars when booking flights anywhere in the world. The key when travelling long-term is to keep your plans loose enough that you aren’t locked into certain dates, especially when you need to fly to your next destination.
This isn’t necessarily just taking off-peak and peak season into consideration, no no no…it is even going down to the level where you pick different days of the week. For example, flying on a Friday is probably going to cost a whole lot more than flying on a Tuesday.
Often it is pretty easy on most flight booking sites to scan by date, Hopper has a great view of the month and uses colour coding to make it super easy to pick out the cheapest time to fly. Google Flights is good for this too but doesn’t always have the cheapest prices so it’s good to use it when you’re just trying to get a rough idea of when the cheapest time of year to fly is. The greater the distance, the greater the price and the more important this becomes!
2. Scan for different flights using a flight aggregator
There are quite a few of these sites out there these days! You don’t want to waste bucketloads of precious time searching every single one. However, it IS worth checking a couple as it’s unlikely to consistently find the cheapest flights on one site 100% of the time.
Some also have quite different features available, to break it down and make it easy for you, here’s a collation of my top 9 sites to find the best cheap flights on:
|Booking Site||Best for…|
|Skyscanner||Easy to use and includes budget airlines|
|Hopper||App-based, predicts future flight prices, can set alerts for when prices drop|
|Air Wander||Allows you to extend your layover into a stopover, perfect for tackling 2 destinations in one trip!|
|Momondo||Sometimes cheaper fares than Skyscanner and shows current Covid restrictions|
|Kiwi.com||Combines all airlines to create custom routes|
|Kayak||Can combine tickets from different airlines to save money|
|Omio||Great for finding cheap flights, gives you the option to book airport transfer as well|
|Cheapoair||Highlights which countries are open for travel with the current covid restrictions searches over 600 airlines|
|Travelocity||Offers price match guarantee, can see what the last minute deals are|
3. Use an incognito window to browse flights
Crazy I know, but it is probably one of the oldest tricks in the book to make sure you use an incognito window when you are searching for flights (or a private browser if you’re using a mac). Personally, I like to search flights on my laptop, but it is also possible to open incognito or private browsing windows on your phone. What these browsers will do is block the cookies and prevent the prices from going up when you search for the same information again.
Not sure how to open an incognito window?
In your chrome browser head to file in the top left hand corner, then you see an option in the drop-down menu for ‘New Incognito Window’.
In Safari it’s much the same, head to file in the top left once again but instead, you’ll see an option for a ‘New Private Window’.
Clear your cookies
If you’re not sure how to clear your cookies, it’s good to get in the know asap! Sometimes you might forget to browse incognito (I’ve made this mistake a few times) and you have been searching for flights, hotels, activities etc. Not to worry, the easiest fix is to clear those cookies. You can find out how to do this here.
4. Be organised (but not too organised)
Being organised enough to book your flights in advance can equal hugeee savings when it comes to booking your next destination. When you’re travelling the world fulltime you might not know how you’re going to get from A to B on any given day BUT if you can roughly plan out where you want to be and when, especially for long haul flights that’s going to save you $$$. You don’t want to be left booking those flights last minute as that’s when airlines hike the prices up.
While I was travelling, I decided pretty early on how long I was willing to stay in each country (which often involved maxing out the visitor visas). I certainly didn’t do this for every flight, cause hey, who is that organised when you’re travelling around longer than 6 months. So it’s important to find a balance between being too organised or totally UNorganised.
Basically what you want to do is book all your big flights that will hit your budget the hardest well in advance, 2 to 3 months is the ideal sweet spot but possibly a month or two more if you’ll be flying during peak season. Then any short-haul or domestic flights you can leave to book closer to the time, as usually these will be heaps cheaper than your long haul flights, so in the scheme of things what you’ll save won’t make a huge amount of difference.
What you’ll often find is if you’re too organised and have all your transport booked, you can’t be very flexible with your plans and last-minute cancellations or changes can hurt your bank account. It’s also a lot of fun to wing it a little, especially if you’re travelling solo. Chances are, you’re going to make friends along the way and you might decide to link up your plans.
5. Sign up to get flight price drop alerts
Did you know that airlines usually launch their sales on a Monday or a Tuesday? So if you’re looking to grab yourself a sweet deal, these are the best days to book. Before big holidays is another key time that airlines tend to advertise deals so it’s worthwhile keeping an eye on these too.
To make the process a whole lot easier for yourself, it’s well worth signing up to somewhere like Fare Compare, Kayak or Hopper so that you can save the flights you’re interested in, and then get alerts when the price drops.
I especially love Hopper as it’s an app-based programme, perfect for when you’re on the go. Those travelling long term might not always have their laptop with them so having easy access to a mobile-friendly booking site is a huge bonus. As soon as you get a Hopper notification telling you it’s a great time to buy the flight you’ve been watching, you can have this purchased within minutes.
6. Don’t get caught out with overweight baggage!
Travelling with a portable luggage scale could help make your life soo much easier. It’ll help you know in advance how much your bag weighs so you can book the correct weight when booking your flight, to save being charged at the airport. These extra luggage charges tend to hit your wallet hard. The only way to escape this is to know in advance how much your bag weighs so you can buy the right allowance.
Although you could always chance it and see if you get away with the extra weight by putting a ton of stuff in your carry-on (or wearing all your bulky clothes to the airport), this can be a tad risky depending on the airline. Some are definitely more strict than others so just be prepared for that!
7. Layovers are your friend (most of the time)
Flying direct is pricey! Also when you are travelling the world long-term, time tends to be on your side as opposed to someone on holiday using their annual leave who wants to get to their chosen destination as fast as possible.
So any flight with layovers is probably going to save you a lot of cash. Even though a 8-hour layover may seem a bit of the crazy side, it’s amazing how much time you can kill at the bigger international airports.
You could get some work done, plan out where you’re going to stay at your next destination or even just explore the cafes and shops. As they say, time flies when you’re having fun! Ha.
8. Know the right time to book
Some flight aggregator sites are great at predicting how far out you should book. This is super handy when you’ve got no clue whether you are booking waaay too early and the search engine predicts that flight prices will drop a bit in the comings months. Or you’ve left it a bit late and the prices you’re being shown are probably the lowest they will get so it’s good to buy them now.
The best sites I’ve found for this include Hopper and Kayak. It takes the guess work out for you and you’ll know straight away whether you need to get that credit card out asap. Speaking of credit cards…
9. Sign up for a credit card that gives you travel rewards
If you’re a New Zealander like me, we don’t get access to all the cool travel benefit credit cards that bigger countries tend to have. However, the one credit card I use whenever I travel is a goodie! It’s the Flight Centre Mastercard. Why is it amazing? It charges you no international transaction fees AND you earn points for every dollar you spend that you can save up to spend on a flight or accommodation or basically anything you can book through a Flight Centre branch.
Personally, I find this option waaay more convenient than travelling around with wads of cash I’m scared to lose, and if I’m going to use a card anyway, it may as well be one I’m getting some benefits from!
For all my other international peeps, you can get out this page here which has an extensive list of different credit cards you can apply for and the benefits.
10. Don’t forget about the added fees
I’m sure everyone is familiar with the annoyance of finding an awesome deal on a flight, only to find with all the added baggage costs and fees it isn’t actually that great of a deal? This tends to ring particularly true with budget airlines.
So before you jump at that to-good-to-be-true low price, be sure to take a look at what extras need to be added to the cost (like baggage, booking fees, even meals if it’s a long flight) and then take that amount as your final flight price.
This is where the budget airlines tend to be a bit sneaky. The price looks great initially but then once you’ve added on all the necessary fees, it winds up being a similar price to an airfare for a nicer airline where all that extra stuff is already included in the price.
11. Skip the flight entertainment (and meals if you can!)
This one might be a bit of a given but it’s amazing how costly these little extras can be. Instead make sure you have a good book on hand, or maybe some Sudoku if that’s your thing. Depending on the length of your flight it might not be possible to go without meals but for those shorter flights, going without will save you money.
And that’s not to say you need to go hungry, just buy yourself some snacks to take on board once you’ve gone through security. Food prices in airports might be a bit ridiculous but they are less ridiculous than the prices you are charged for a meal on board. I love to try and find something a bit more substantial if possible, like a sandwich, scone or pizza bread.
12. Consider flying from a different airport
This is a cheap flight hack that people often forget about, even I have forgotten about this one numerous times! However unfortunately it’s one that isn’t always possible depending on the country you’re in and how many airports there are but flying from a different airport or even a different city can sometimes wind up miles cheaper.
For example, if you take a city like London, there are so many airports to choose from that are relatively close together and you could easily jump on the tube to travel to an airport that perhaps is a little less central so you grab a cheap flight deal. Although slightly less convenient having to take a longer tube with all your luggage, the savings are worth it right?!
Another example would be if you were travelling to the Gold Coast in Australia. You’re probably going to find a cheaper flight to the Brisbane airport than the Gold Coast airport. Brisbane works out to be an hour and 20-minute drive from the Gold Coast which sounds far but this is what I’ve often done when visiting Australia.
After landing in Brisbane, we would hire a rental car from somewhere near the airport then drive to our accommodation in the Gold Coast (the added bonus is usually cheaper rental car prices too!). Obviously not the cheapest to hire a car if you’re travelling solo, but I wanted to include this as another example to give you some ideas of the different ways you can utilise different airports to find cheap flights.
P.s I would highly recommend visiting the Gold Coast if you get the chance! It’s just gorgeous and for me, it’s a bit of a second home. To read about my trips to the Gold Coast, in particular Surfers Paradise, click here.
13. Don’t forget to check the airline’s site directly
Again this cheap flight hack is easily forgotten but also very important! Once you’ve narrowed down your search and have decided what airline you’re going to fly with, have a quick look on their website.
It’s possible that sometimes they may offer an even better deal by booking direct. The reason for this is that booking sites usually charge a % fee of the sale to the airline for bringing them the booking, similar to how travel agencies work. To counteract this, some airlines offer a small discount so a quick check can be well worth your while.
14. Follow airlines you are most likely to fly with on social media
Why? Because then you are always in the know for when they are holding a sale! When travelling the world fulltime you tend to be pretty flexible on your next destination, so if a sale suddenly pops up while you’re thinking about where to book next, you’re in luck!
By following airlines on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, this saves you checking their website whenever you remember and potentially missing out on some awesome sale periods. The airlines can vary quite a bit depending on what part of the world you’re in and where you want to fly budget, or in comfort (in most cases probably budget cause save those $$$ where you can!).
Here’s a list of some popular budget airlines in 2022:
- Air Asia
- Jeju Air
- Hong Kong Express
- Peach Air
- Spice Jet
- Spring Airlines
- Nok Air
- T’Way Airlines
- Cebu Pacific
- Lion Air
- VietJet Air
- Allegient Air
- Spirit Airlines
- Sun Country Airlines
- Air Canada Rouge
- Air Transat
- Flair Airlines
- Norwegian Air
- Wizz Air
If you want to take it the extra mile, you could also sign up to be on the mailing list for your favourite airlines. Depending on how full your inbox gets though, this may be more of a pain than it is helpful.
Usually when the airlines have a big sale, they will be posting it on their social channels as well as sending out an email so my preference is to follow them there.
15. Find the cheapest place to fly
This cheap flight hack is probably the most fun out of the lot, hence saving the best for last! It’s also a great option if you’re travelling the world long term. Have you ever wanted to take a dart, throw it at a huge map and see where it lands? Well, this is kind of like the digital version for that.
Let the prices make your decision of where to go next an easy one. To simplify your search use a site like Kiwi.com.
Just enter the destination you’re flying from, select the destination you’re flying to anywhere and then sort by cheapest price. Easy peasy!
Well that’s it for my list of cheap flight hacks! I hope you learnt something and can start putting some of these into practice next time go are looking to book a flight somewhere.
If one of these hacks in particular blew your mind, drop a comment below. Or if you have any other hacks you’ve come across that you think should be on this list, let me know!