Traveling is always a fun and exciting experience, but the biggest hassle is often finding the best flight deals. Well we have good news for everyone! Luckily we’re in the golden age of cheap flights, and travel is now more affordable than ever. So let’s get right down to our tips for booking flights. Those crazy deals that you hear about don’t just appear out of thin air. $150 to from the U.S. to Europe, ten dollar jumper flights from Rome to Paris, or $500 round trip New York to Singapore? Sometimes those cheap flight and hotel deals sound too good to be true, right? Well not anymore! Get ready for a giant dose of wanderlust as we take you through the best budget airlines, and How to Book a Cheap Flight 101.
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How to Book A Cheap Flight
First off, if you know how to book a cheap flight then aren’t you getting the best deal possible? Surprisingly, not always!
In this article we’ll show you that when you factor in extra fees, booking with a third party, and not taking advantage of the best budget airline perks, your cheap flight can quickly turn into a horrible deal.
We’re not just trying to teach you how to book a cheap flight, but also how to get the best overall value for your money. So if you take these simple tips for booking flights into consideration, you’ll be sure to get the best deal possible.
Travel Tip: Obtaining your Global Entry pass can be a great way to save time at airports as well. Here’s an amazing Global Entry review with everything you need to know about the interview process.
Choose Your Destination Based on the Flight
We can’t stress this enough! You need to be flexible with your travel dates. It’s far too common for someone to take time from work, set their vacation, and then try to find a flight. If you want to save some money you need to do this in reverse.
When finding the best flight deals, you’ll notice the further in advance you look the better. By being flexible (even if it’s only by a few days) you can save hundreds of dollars. If possible, try and plan your vacation around the cheapest flight and hotel deals to avoid a big bill.
Be Flexible With Your Travel Route
So this is a tough one for most people. Yet, just like your travel dates the same goes for your destination. The more freedom you have when booking a ticket, the more likely you are to get a super cheap flight!
Have you always wanted to go to Barcelona in the spring, but the flights are too expensive? Try looking at different airports, or even other countries. Yes, you read that right… We said other countries!
This especially applies to Europe where jumper flights can be insanely cheap. We purchased one for $12 once from Norway to Poland. Here it’s totally possible to have your first flight to Paris, and then take a quick plane to Barcelona no problem.
Not only will you save a ton of money with these tips for booking a flight, but you may even have some layover hours to explore a new city en route! This might be too complicated or annoying for some travelers, but it can definitely be worth it for those on a budget.
Real Life Example
We wanted to fly home to the United States for Christmas from Europe. After looking at flights from all the major airports in Germany the cost was going to be $550 USD one way. Not bad, but we could do better! Once we expanded our search we found an amazing deal from Sweden to Boston for $230. Not only did we save a ton of money, but we got to see a completely new city. Winning!!
Bonus Tip: Kayak has an “explore” tool as does Google Flights. Both are awesome ways to check out cheaper flight destinations, and aid in your hunt combing through the best budget airlines.
Book One Way Tickets
I’m sure you’ve been told your whole life that it’s cheaper to book a round trip flight compared to one way tickets. Well we’re sorry, but that’s just not true!
Don’t get us wrong, if you’re flying to one city for a week vacation and want the convenience then book away. However, if you’re considering traveling around at all look into one way tickets.
Almost all the best budget airlines are now offering the same price for individual fares compared to round trip tickets. So why not make the most of your travels and have some freedom to change plans if need be?
Honestly, if you factor in the cost of returning to your original city you’ll be saving a ton by booking a flight home from your final destination.
Real Life Example
A friend of ours was booking a backpacking trip though Southeast Asia. When searching for the cheapest flight and hotel deals he found a decently priced ticket round trip from New York to Bangkok.
After getting a few quick tips for booking flights he then expanded his search and ended up buying his ticket into Singapore. He was then still able to get a cheap flight in between so he’d still be returning to New York from Bangkok. This saved a whopping $300 USD while also enabling him to easily expand his travel route!
Real Life Example #2
You don’t have to be on an extended trip for this to benefit you. Take our recent trip to Italy for instance. We flew into Rome and out of Milan, so we even saw Florence and Venice while still finding the best flight deals. Also, note that all of this traveling was done without backtracking. Why restrict yourself to one city?
Always Check Skyscanner
Now that you’re already 10 times more flexible with your plans, it’s time to actually find your ticket! Their are several different sites that will get the job done, but the only one we truly use and recommend is Skyscanner. Trust us when we say this might be the single best invention of the travel world. So if you love to travel and haven’t heard about it, your life is about to change!
Their really isn’t a flight we book before checking on Skyscanner, and it can even give you some cheap new ideas for destinations to go to. Search for something as broad as the “United States to Everywhere” and it literally shows you flights to anywhere in the world sorted by price. Just put in your departure city, and let Skyscanner do the rest.
As you can see you’re not even restricted to a single date as you can search by a week, month, or year. With a little time and smarts you can easily target the cheapest possible dates for your next vacation. Some of the best budget airlines we use are Ryan Air, Vueling, Easy Jet, Eurowings, and Norwegian Air.
Book Directly with the Airline
Even though Skyscanner is great, make sure to check on any and every search engine for a good deal! Once you find it we would suggest actually going straight to the airlines website to book your ticket.
Best case scenario the ticket will be the same price. Yet, even if it’s $5-20 more it’s still worth buying it directly from the company. We’re always looking to save a dollar here and there, but we wouldn’t be doing you any favors if we didn’t mention this part.
Most of the reasoning behind this is in case something goes wrong with your flight, which it often can. Think about if you need to change your flight, miss a layover, or have a long delay and want to switch. Basically if anything goes wrong, the first thing the airline is going to do is look at how you booked your flight.
It’s possible they will still try to help you, but you’re more likely to be stuck on the phone with the 3rd party for the next couple hours! We’ve definitely found this out the hard way more than once when learning how to find the best flight deals.
Real Life Example
After a strange, unscheduled layover on the remote island of Medeira, Portugal, some friends of ours got off their flight thinking they were at their final destination. Unfortunately, they not so quickly realized their tickets mistake, and missed their connecting flight to Lisbon. You would think one of the best budget airlines would take responsibility for the layover that was nowhere on their itinerary or ticket… But no.
They ended up getting bounced between the company and booking agent, with neither wanting to take responsibility. This unfortunate mistake cost them (and other angry travelers) over $400 EACH to book a new flight. Something that the airline annoyingly assured them would have never had happened if they had booked directly with them.
Take the Extra Fees into Account
This is an important one, and key to finding both the cheapest flight and hotel deals. Even the best budget airlines (while appearing amazingly cheap) are always trying to get some extra money out of you. Sometimes when things seem too good to be true, they are!
Watch out for fees on checked baggage, carry on items, carry ons being over a certain weight or size, not printing your ticket, and not confirming a flight in advance. Some of these things will be clearly marked and others might not be, so please read all the fine print. Not doing so can quickly turn your amazing deal into a shamefully expensive flight.
Real Life Example
We met a traveler who didn’t know they had to print out their airline ticket. When they got to the airport they were slapped with a $75 fee, turning their once cheap flight into a horrible deal. Ouch! This just goes to show some of the best tips for booking flights are paying attention to small details.
Be Willing to Work with the Airline
So you’re feeling great now. You booked a cheap flight, are packed and ready to go, and you’re waiting at the gate. When suddenly an announcement comes over the loudspeaker:
“Ladies and Gentlemen, we’re sorry to inform you today’s flight has been overbooked. Anyone willing to change their flight please come forward.”
Initially you’re probably think crap, I’m screwed! While most people will do everything they can to remain on their original schedule, the real deal seekers know this is the time to strike.
When airlines overbook they offer incredible perks to incentivize people to stay behind and catch the next flight. Now that the airline messed up it’s time to cash in and make your already cheap flight better! Here’s a small list of things you can ask for to be compensated for your troubles.
- Hotel room if your flight has been moved to the next day.
- Upgrade. The best budget airline better not think your okay with flying coach anymore… Go for first class!
- A faster or more direct flight route.
- Compensation for flight, or a credit towards future flights.
Real Life Example
While checking in for our flight out of Quito, Ecuador, en route to Peru, we were told that the airline had been overbooked. This was a situation where they needed several people to catch a later flight. What we gave up was a quick layover in Bogota, Columbia. However, what we got in return was upgrades to first class on our next three flights! Not only that, but our flight was moved up so we skipped our original 8 hour layover.
In addition, they also changed our flight to Cusco Airport so we didn’t have to fly into a different one. This way we actually avoided a 12 hour bus ride to Machu Picchu! We were even offered a hotel stay, but we chose the early flight so we could get to Peru quicker. Remember, they obviously don’t enjoy giving free things out. Be confident and insistent in what you ask for!
Finally, this is the most important of our tips for booking a flight. Don’t hesitate when you find the cheapest flight and hotel deals. You might have found something amazing one day, but when you go to eventually book it’s gone.
On the other hand, you could buy your ticket and see the next day the price dropped. This is the gamble of deal hunting. Sure it will sting, but in our experience we usually come out on top when we don’t wait.
Now that you’ve graduated from How to Book a Cheap Flight 101 you’re ready to start your search. Just remember, finding the cheapest flight and hotel deals are like putting together a puzzle. No matter how frustrated you get it will be worth it in the end. Good luck and happy hunting!
Have any questions on the best budget airlines, or want to share your own tips for booking a flight? Leave us a comment below!
Brigitte & Jake
Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar!
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Flights: We always find our cheap flight deals using Skyscanner. That’s how we flew from Norway to Poland for under $20 USD, and Thailand to Vietnam for less than $50!
Rental Car: We use Discover Cars for renting vehicles. A quick travel tip is to ask for a discounted weekly rate rather than booking 2-3 days.
Tours: Check out Get Your Guide for thousands of activities around the world. From food tours to skip the line entry passes!
Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without being covered. We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.