How to find cheap flights?

How to find cheap flights?

We all love flying around the world and travel. Some travel once or twice a year as a form of detox from the daily life, responsibilities and work. For us travelling is a hobby or even a way of living. However, flying is known to be a costly way of travelling. We’re living in Ireland. It’s an isolated place from the rest of the world. Every time we want to go somewhere we are more or less forced to hop on a plane and fly. 

We’re flying quite frequently and planes are no less common to us now than buses and trains were when we were living on the continent. It sucks a little bit as our options to travel are a bit limited and most of the tickets are – indeed – quite expensive. But not all of them.

If you’re like us – in love with traveling – you’re probably looking to get to your destination as cheap as possible so you could invest more at your destination instead. We’ve been learning the techniques to achieve this goal for the past several years and we’ve got a few tricks and tips to share.

1. Let the destination choose you

When I talk with my friends about spending holidays aboard they usually have a few ideas where they would like to go. That is alright. We all have our bucket lists and places we want to visit. However, it’s unlikely the place we want to go to will be the place that is cheap to go to. Airlines tend to promote specific destinations at a time and prices to these destinations are well discounted. Sometimes countries are willing to pay a share of the tickets price to attract tourists. In 2018 Israel started to subsidize tickets. As a result flights from Europe to Tel Aviv or Eilat were easily found at prices lower than 20 euro one way. Ryanair and other airlines has opened plenty of new connections between Israel and European countries.

Long-haul flights are rarely (if ever) seen at prices as low as 20 euro. These kinds of prices wouldn’t make any profit to the carriers. Nevertheless, it doesn’t cost thousands to visit a far and exotic place. I’ve been visiting countries like Brazil, Nepal or Canada and none of the tickets costed more than 400 euro round trip. It was possible only because I wasn’t looking for a flight to somewhere, but I was looking for a flight which isn’t more expensive than a set amount of money.

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2. Let the dates choose you

I know flexibility is not something everyone can afford to have. If you are a teacher it’s unlikely you’d be able to take a few days off whenever you want. Well, that sucks and if you value cheap flights more than your job then why not to change the job. 🙂 Just kidding… or maybe not, I would. One of the golden rules of flying cheap is being flexible and able to fly at the time when the tickets are cheaper. The prices are usually lower in the middle of the week and higher at weekends and during bank holidays. This rule applies especially to the low-cost airlines in Europe. A flight to the same destination can cost 100 euro on Sunday and 10 euro on Wednesday. 

A lot of guides to finding cheap tickets claim it’s possible to get cheapest tickets at a specific day of the week and when booking a specific amount of time before the flight. Personally, I can’t confirm these rules. I’ve been booking low fares a month in advance and half a year in advance. It’s definitely best not to wait until the last moment. I.e. Ryanair fares are hiking up to crazy levels if you book flights a few days in advance. Low cost airlines are aiming business clients who will pay any amount to fly when they need to.

3. Use flight searchers

Flight searchers are the best way to find cheap flights. The main players are kayak, momondo and skyscanner. All of them does a pretty good job finding and comparing deals directly from the airlines and from various agencies. Another interesting option is kiwi.com. Kiwi not only looks for best deals but it also tries to combine them together and allow to book tickets for many different airlines at once. Azair.com is the best tool I know to find the best deals with low cost airlines.

All of the searchers I’ve mentioned above provide more options than just a simple search. They have implemented many features for flight hunters that allow to find where the fares are the lowest. For example kayak offers an option called explore. It’s a map with best prices to different destination around the world presented. Most of the searchers allow to search for flights to ‘Anywhere’. This function works the best with azair, but it won’t find you tickets for traditional airlines.

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4. Search in different languages

If you want to find the best fare possible you have to be smart. Let’s say you’ve went through all of the searchers and found your dream tickets from London to Galapagos for 500 EUR round trip. It’s a great deal, but it still may be possible to optimize it. Searchers like kayak or momondo have their websites available in multiple languages. In each language there may be a different set of agencies providing the tickets and the fares they offer may be even lower than when you are looking in your native language.

Sometimes it’s also worth to search in different currencies. For example, the prices at Turkish Pegasus Airlines almost always differ depending on what currency you’re booking with. In most cases these differences are subtle, however, if you’re already looking for a ticket that costs 20 EUR then a difference of 4 EUR is 20%. Just be careful. Before you book tickets in an exotic currency check what are the exchange rates with your bank.

5. Connections and layovers

Direct flights are the most convenient way of flying, but it’s usually the most expensive way as well. If you’re on a business trip and all your expenses are covered then it’s what you’re looking for, but if you’re on a budget you may need to consider extending your journey a little bit. As silly as it may sound direct flights can be a lot more expensive than these connected. Even thought the actual cost of taking you from A to B will be higher for the airlines (although that really depends on a particular situation, the major airlines mastered the system and they will make profit even on selling tickets at ridiculous prices. After all getting some money is better than nothing).

There are a few tricks you may try in order to get to your destination at the lowest cost:

  1. Check all the airports within a few hours from the place you live. It’s highly possible a flight to Barcelona will be way cheaper from the airport in Memmingen than the one in Munich. There are plenty of examples as such. Low cost airlines tend to fly from airports that are farther to cities and cheaper to operate on. In many cases it’s a win-win situation for both you and the airline.
  2. Spend a night at an airport. Flights scheduled late in the evening and early in the morning are usually the cheapest. This creates an opportunity to find a great connected flights that will include spending a night at the airport. Take a sleeping mate, sleeping bag and an inflammable pillow and your night will be as comfortable as when camping.
  3. Spend a day or two at the connecting city. Imagine a situation when you’re living in Madrid and you’ve found great tickets to Vancouver from Prague. The flight is early on Monday. Flights from Madrid to Prague are quite expensive on Sunday, but these on Saturday are doable. It may be a great idea to plan to spend an excellent day in Prague before continuing your journey to Canada.

These are just a few tips and by no means they are all. Be creative!

6. Helpful websites

There is a bunch of websites around which will do the search for you. fly4free.com is a good example. There are enough people looking for best fares that others can earn money on finding them. These kind of websites will notify you about all these juicy error-fares and discounts exactly when they appear.

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7. Airport location and transfers

So you’ve found a great deal. Let’s say a flight from Gdańsk to Oslo for 5 euro. Don’t get to excited yet. Before you book the ticket verify a few important matters. In our example Oslo has three different airports. Your 5 euro flight will most likely leave you at one of these airports located a 100 kilometers south from the city. Norway is an expensive country to be in. The transfer from the airport to the city may cost you even 3-4 times more than the ticket itself. It’s still the best deal to fly to one of these low-cost airports located far from the actual destinations, but it’s not a rule and it’s worth checking out all the details before you book your flight.

Obviously if you don’t mind you can hitch the way to the city. It’s not so hard to do in Norway.

8. Check-in baggage and hidden costs

This point focuses mostly on the low-cost carriers. Their goal is to make the fare as low as possible. However the bare fare will most likely just take you from place A to place B. You’d say that’s exactly what you need. But hey… will you go for a week holidays trekking in the Alps with a small backpack that would barely fit your sleeping bag and nothing more? Well, at the moment when I’m writing this article there are flights from Dublin to Innsbruck for 5 euro one way with Ryanair. You’d say it’s like winning on a lottery and it is, but you have to keep in mind that if you’d like to take a normal size trekking backpack with you then it will cost you another 6-25 euro (or more if it doesn’t fit the dimensions). If you will travel with your friend and you’d like to sit together then you have to pay for that too. A flight on which you will have your big bag checked in, sit next to your friend and you’ll order a cup of coffee and a sandwich will cost you about 40-50 euro instead of the initial 5. If you’re new to low-cost airlines then please read their check-in policies as well before you fly.

Pack your stuff and fly

Finding a great deal is usually more a job than fun. Unless it’s something you like to do. I usually enjoy searching through available flights and finding the best deals. When I do find one, I don’t hesitate and book it straight away (Christmas period is usually giving me a headache though).

Nevertheless, it’s not hard to fly cheap. If you’re flexible and you’re willing to spend some time exploring, options you can get to places you haven’t dream about yet.