Since John and I are digital nomads and we have almost total flexibility in terms of when we choose to travel, we’ve had the opportunity to learn how to find the cheapest flights anywhere by following a few simple rules. A lot of it boils down to timing and flexibility. But even if you don’t have total flexibility, you can still use some of these rules to find cheap flights to almost anywhere in the world.
- Do Your Flight Searches Undercover –
Sites like Orbitz and Expedia put cookies on your browser so each time you search for a particular flight, the price goes up. The idea is to make you feel pressure to book now before the prices go up even higher. You can override this problem by searching incognito using Command, Shift, “N” in Chrome or Safari (or Control, Shift, “N” if you’re on a PC) or you can do like John and I do and search for airline ticket prices on my computer, but always do the bookings on his.
- Use the right search engines to look for flights – Expedia inflates their prices so avoid them if you’re looking for discounted airfare. Use Orbitz, Kayak, or Travelocity to find cheap flights. Then check directly with the actual airline or airlines that offer the cheap flights to see if they offer tickets more cheaply if you book directly through them. All search engines like Orbitz and Kayak get a cut from the airlines when you book your flight through them so it sometimes pay to check in with the airline and book the flight yourself, directly rather than going through an intermediary.
- If your dates are extremely flexible, search at Kayak. If you have some flexibility about where you’ll be traveling, use the Kayak map to find the cheapest flights based on dates and destinations. If your dates are a little bit flexible (within a margin of 2 to 3 days), use Orbitz to search and take a look at the entire month of flights, if you’re flying round trip. Sometimes it pays to fly out on a particular day of the week (often a Tuesday, but not always).
- Search for “regional budget airlines” to get a list of low-cost carriers organized by their home country. Low-cost airlines are also known as “no-frills” or “budget airlines” and they offer lower fares, but also few passenger services. Airlines like SpiritAir, for example, offer cheap flights, but you have to pay for every little piece of baggage you carry on board. If you plan to travel with anything more than the clothes on your back, you may end up paying just as much to fly with a budget carrier like Spirit, so keep that in mind.
- Finally, if you’ll be traveling to a destination that includes layovers, consider booking the journey yourself, one leg at a time and spending a night or two in layover destinations. For example, IcelandAir offers special discounts for travelers who opt to spend some time in their country on the way to London from Denver.