Yes, I get it! Spending a bomb on flight tickets sucks. It eats up your travel budget and forces you to cut down on other travel costs such as stay, internal commute and sightseeing options. Therefore, it is really important that you cut down on the airfare costs and find cheap tickets.
So, this article will throw some light on all the incredibly cool and money-saving hacks that you could use to get cheap flight tickets. What’s cool about these hacks is that you can use them for flights to any destination!
But, let me warn you beforehand, finding a cheap ticket is not easy and at times may even be time-consuming. You just have to be non-trusting and stubborn. You can’t just search on one platform or on one website. You have to keep looking for options everywhere, research and research some more until you actually find ‘the cheapest deal’ out there!
So get ready for a long, engaging and ‘rewarding’ read as I let you in on all my secrets to help you find cheap flight tickets!
Cookies aren’t good for you!
Yes, you may have heard about it a thousand times but another small reiteration of the fact won’t hurt! Before every session of ticket-hunting on the internet, clear your browser’s history and cookies.
When we were travel-rookies we had once made the mistake of not clearing cookies while looking for flights to Leh and after a few searches the ticket went up by around INR 5K and we just ended up shelling those out believing the ticket prices may have actually gone up!
To our shock, the day after we had booked our tickets, we casually checked the price again and the ticket price had gone back down and we realized our mistake and promised to never make it again!
Long story short – Clear the damn cookies!
Another one of the very obvious tips is to always search for flights in a private browser or in the incognito mode of your browser.
Some travel experts do state that since the entire world uses this trick, this trick no longer works. However, my hours of wander lusting have brought me to the conclusion that while you may not technically find ‘cheaper’ tickets in the incognito mode, your ticket prices will definitely not keep increasing despite repeatedly searching for the same routes.
Book your ticket already!
Research suggests that a flight ticket is usually the cheapest around 3-4 months before the date of journey. What this means is that you must start working out a travel plan, look for destinations and get set to book your tickets a good five months before your trip. This way, when you’re finally ready to book, the tickets would be at their cheapest.
Honestly, if you just want to follow one hack to get yourself cheap flight tickets, use this one. It always works. Always!
Play the last minute game!
Now, if you have already missed that window of booking 3-4 months in advance and would only be interested in going on a trip if you get a great airfare deal, I recommend you to wait till the very last day.
Airlines are known to reduce the ticket prices of their unsold seats about a day before the flight. However, this drop in airfare is usually not advertised anywhere. The best way to get such a deal is to call the customer care number of the airline about 12-24 hours before the flight.
Search and search everywhere!
The travel market has become so competitive that the number of aggregators that allow you to book a flight ticket are increasing every day. Some of the most popular ones particularly in India are Makemytrip, Yatra, Goibibo, etc.
Most of these platforms have lucrative deals available for grabs all the time. These deals could range from cashback to instant discounts on the flight ticket itself or on other allied bookings.
However, my preferred aggregator is Skyscanner. One of the coolest features of Skyscanner is that allows you to put the destination as ‘Everywhere’and then provides you with a list of destinations to which you could take a flight to along with a rough estimate of the cheapest price for a ticket to those destinations. It is a great place to begin your travel research.
Google Flights, on the other hand, has a feature that tells if you if the price displayed for a particular route is average, high or low based on the historic data of price for that route!
You may or may not actually book through these aggregators but instead of performing individual searches on every airline website, it’s best to have these aggregators work that out for you.
(All these platforms are third-party aggregators and agents and sometimes do expose you to the risk of being provided with incorrect information about the flight. While using these to book a ticket is usually not damaging, you should always be aware of the risk exposure.)
Official websites are your best friend!
Many of my fellow travel bloggers and travelers will disagree with this hack but I swear by I literally swear by it. This hack involves booking directly from the website of the airline you intend to fly.
This hack comes in particularly handy when the difference between the price quoted on aggregator platforms and the official website of the airline is minimal. The primary reason why this hack works is because many aggregator platforms levy a service charge over and above the ticket price which they do not obviously specify in their search results. (Yes, it’s specified in small font somewhere on the screen but most people booking online seem to miss it and end up paying higher than the price quoted on the airline website.)
Additionally, booking directly through the airline website means that you enter into a direct contract with the airline and are thus entitled to greater protection and privilege should the flight get delayed or cancelled. (Thus, pleasing the lawyer within me!)
Be loyal to everyone!
This hack is based on my earlier hack and only works if you book directly through the airline website. Essentially, what you need to do here is to first sign up for the loyalty program of the airline you intend on flying and then book the flight. You will be given an option of entering your loyalty program membership number at the time of booking.
Some airlines provide slightly discounted fares to the members of their loyalty programs thus allowing you to save some money straightaway.
Additionally, signing up for a loyalty program allows you to earn air miles that you could redeem in the future for free or discounted flights. Additionally, airlines prefer its loyalty program members when they are considering passengers for complimentary upgrades, free stays and gifts. Loyalty program members also enjoy an edge over others when it comes to compensation on account of flight delays, cancellations, extended layovers, loss of baggage etc.
Some loyalty programs also give its members free insurance on flights tickets! A win-win every which way.
Don’t forget to enter that membership number while booking your next flight ticket!
High seasons – may be not!
Now, let’s move to the money-saving hacks that many travelers do not consider at all! That of simply reworking the travel calendar a bit and not travelling during high-seasons.
Airfares are at their highest during high-season and if you are looking for cheap flight tickets, travelling to a place during its touristic high-season will be financially damaging.
Of course, I do not recommend you to stretch it to an extent where you end up visiting Jaipur in May or Chicago in January.
I am not suggesting that you brave harsh weather to save yourself a few bucks. Instead I am suggesting that you only avoid high-seasons and look for tickets in the shoulder seasons – i.e. the months right before and after the high seasons
Weekends are not for you!
If we were to apply the above hack on a micro-level, the key take-away would be to avoid days that have high flight demand. Most people head out on a vacation on Friday nights or Saturday mornings and return on Sunday night or Monday morning.
Therefore, if you are looking to save your hard-earned cash, avoid flying in or out of a city (especially a touristic one) on a weekend or on Monday mornings.
We use this hack particularly for domestic journeys and that in itself saves us a few thousand rupees.
A sure-shot way of spending more money unnecessarily on travel tickets is by being rigid about your travel dates. Whenever you search for flight tickets (whether on the airline’s official website or on an aggregator platform) check the box asking you if you are flexible with your dates.
This way you will be able to find out the ticket prices for an entire week or even an entire month depending on the platform you are searching on. Now, all that you need to do is to book yourself a ticket on the date when the prices are at their lowest and plan the rest of your trip accordingly!
I particularly love Skyscanner and Google Flights for this feature.
Trust the miracles called error fares!
Gee! Aren’t you wondering what error fares are?
Error fares are ridiculously cheap flight tickets that are ridiculously cheap because of a mistake on the part of the airline. E.g – A flight from Mumbai to Paris is shown to cost INR 14,000 instead of an average INR 40,000.
These error fares are hard to find and are usually immediately corrected once the airline notices its mistake. However, if you’re lucky to find yourself an error fare, you will end up saving massively!
Secret Flying is one of the best websites for finding out error fares. Besides that, there are a number of Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts that provide alerts on error fares.
Don’t forget all the budget airlines!
Many aggregators do not cover budget airlines or local airlines when displaying results to and from certain destinations.
E.g. When we were considering travelling from Munich to Dubrovnik, Skyscanner did not show up the prices for a budget airlines called ‘Transavia’. It only showed us the flight tickets for leading airlines such as Lufthansa, Croatian Airlines etc. While the average flight ticket for these leading airlines for this route was INR 12-15k, a flight on Transavia airlines for the same route only cost me INR 3.5k! An absolute steal, right?
Therefore, it is best to research on the local, budget airlines that operate on your desired route. Budget airlines are particularly money-saving for short-distances.
(However, be mindful of the terms and conditions of budget airlines. Most budget airlines have strict caps on the allowed weight and size of the luggage. Any additional luggage is only allowed on flight for additional cost. Moreover, meals on these airlines are not complimentary and therefore will end up adding up to your flight costs.)
Say thank you to multiple destination bookings!
If you are flying in to one destination and flying out of another destination, most people usually buy two different one-way tickets.
In fact, most people are aware that a return flight costs much cheaper than a one-way flight, but are not aware of the fact that multi-destination flights too end up saving money. All that you need to do is instead of searching for one-way flights, search using the ‘multiple destination flights’ option.
Here’s an example of a search I undertook on Skyscanner –
One-way search for the following routes gave me the below results:
Date: 24/07/2020 – Mumbai to Paris – Rs. 21,988
Date: 07/08/2020 – Amsterdam to Mumbai – Rs. 23,127
The two flights aggregate to Rs. 45,115
Now look at the results from the multiple destination search.
Date: 24/07/2020 – Mumbai to Paris and Date: 07/08/2020 – Amsterdam to Mumbai –
Rs. 41, 352
Cheaper and on a better airline too!
Mix it up and take a break!
I must admit that this hack of saving money on flights is my least favourite one. Why? Because, it requires some serious planning aka plenty of hours of hardwork, research and flight-hunting!
Basically, to get this right – instead of looking for flights from Mumbai to Chicago, you should look out for plenty of combinations such as –
- Mumbai to Dubai, Dubai to Chicago
- Mumbai to Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi to Chicago
- Mumbai to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to Chicago
- Mumbai to New York, New York to Chicago
Why go through all this trouble? Because breaking your journey into different legs yourself and flying different airlines may at times work out cheaper, especially if you fly a budget airline (that’s usually not listed on aggregators) for one of the legs of your journey.
However, when planning on such trips make sure you leave more than enough time between the two legs of your journey to recheck-in your baggage. Additionally, if you book flights on two different airlines and if your first flight gets delayed making you miss your second flight, neither airline will take responsibility for your hardship.
Go local all the way!
Before I dive into the details here, let me dish out a disclaimer – this hack doesn’t always work and is the least simple of all the hacks I am mentioning here. (You may also have to mask your IP address for it!)
So assuming you want to fly from Munich to Bangkok via Thai Airways. Instead of using its global website (ending in .com), try accessing the the Thai website (ending in .th).
The search results will mostly be displayed in Thai. Have Google translate those to English for you and conduct your flight search on this website.
The prices shown for the same flight would be in Baht (Thai local currency) and when converted would most likely be cheaper than those shown on its global website.
However, make sure that the you are not booking a ‘local only’ ticket on which only a resident of Thailand can travel.
Stay on top of all news!
Let us now move to some indirect ways of saving money on flights that do not involve actively searching for flight tickets but merely involves staying updated with the latest offers and sales of various airlines.
The simplest way to do this is by signing-up for airline newsletters. If you become a loyalty member of any airline, you will automatically get these updates (unless you manually opt out). If not, make sure you sign up for these updates for all your current favourite and dream airlines.
Don’t miss out on your credit card!
Most banks have a credit card that is designed specifically for its travel-loving customers. When you book using this credit card, you get rewards like complimentary airport lounge access, extra air miles, cashbacks on flight tickets, etc. Basically, rewards when redeemed or encashed, help you save lots of money on your travel.
(My favourite one is the American Express Platinum Travel Card)
Phew! That was one long list!
Now some pointers for you before you get all excited and start your looking for a cheap flight –
- Cheap flights may have hidden costs in the form of baggage charges, meals, seats with additional legrooms, etc. Make sure you check out the terms and conditions of the flight before you book it to avoid having to shell out money later.
In fact, it was for this reason that we chose to fly Malaysia Airlines instead of the cheaper Malindo Airlines on our trip to Bali.
- Some cheap flights may have stopovers in countries that require transit visa or a tourist visa. Check up on that too before you book your flight.
Okay, now it’s your time to let me know which hack you plan on using first and how much money you end up saving using it in the comments below!