Who wouldn’t want to know how to save money on flights? Throughout our travels, we have really learned how to save on airfare. We have particularly gotten good at saving money on international flights. Typically, we pay less than $500 per person round trip to any major city in Europe but that wasn’t always the case. Here are our top five airfare savings tricks.
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1. Be Flexible with Location and Time
Be flexible on your location and timeframe to save on airfare for flights. For our first Europe trip, we grossly overpaid for our flights because we could only go on certain dates and we had specific locations picked out. We do not regret that we bought these tickets for this timeframe (because it was an amazing once-in-a-lifetime trip) but if we had more flexibility, we would have saved a lot on our flights.
Make a List of 3-5 Potential Trip Locations
Now, instead of picking out certain dates and locations, we pick a handful of places we want to go and determine what location is most cost effective during the time we plan to travel. There are so many cool places to explore in this world that you always have options. For example, we planned to go to Hawaii in March of 2019 but flights were $900+ roundtrip per person so we decided to go to Spain and Portugal instead when we found flights for $450 roundtrip per person. We also try to be flexible with the days we travel. For example, leaving on a Tuesday instead of a Thursday might save you $100+ per person.
Use Google Flights to Compare Different Dates/Locations
We typically use Google Flights to search for airfare and then use the links provided on there to book flights. Google flights is the most user friendly and straightforward platform we have used, making it easy to compare airfare costs on different days of the week. We would not recommend other websites such as SkyScanner and Mumondo to search for flights as we find them quite frustrating to use. Although these websites may show airfares that are about $50+ less per person than Google Flights, there is usually a catch to these prices, such as extra fees that are not shown until checkout. Also search in private browsers at first to avoid any “perceived” price adjustments that occur after the internet knows you are searching.
2. Subscribe to Scott’s Cheap Flights
This is a service you can subscribe to for free that will send you alerts about flights that are on-sale and mistake low fares. The emails will list general flight patterns from different cities that are on sale and general dates. You then have to go on Google Flights and see what dates the sales actually apply to. We always get the emails and then do Google Flight searches for days we know we are off/could potentially use the airfare. Flights deals typically only last for 48 hours or less and you need to be ready to book ASAP with these alerts because the deals can go away at any time.
We have used this free service to book 3 trips to Europe for $400-$500 per person round trip from Chicago (typically flights $850 + per person round trip). We have found the free version alone to be very helpful but there is also a paid option for the premium version of Scott’s Cheap Flights that gives you access to exclusive flight deals not offered to free subscribers, particularly on domestic deals. The premium version is definitely worth the money if you are doing a lot of traveling in one year as you will typically save over $100/flight.
3. Don’t Check a Bag (if it’s not included)
Not checking a bag will not only save you money, it can cost upwards of $60 per bag (if it is not included in your fare), but it will also save you time at the airport and we all know the saying, “time is money”. We have had some terrible experiences with our luggage getting damaged and/or lost and try to avoid checking a bag as often as possible. It costs more and is more of a hassle. See post on How to Fit all your Luggage in a Carry-On. (Coming soon!)
4. Don’t Upgrade
Are those couple of extra inches or centimeters really worth hundreds of dollars in upgrade costs? Chances are, you are still going to feel cramped. We have never flown anything other than economy and we have survived. Some people tell us they “have to” upgrade but this is a preference, not a need. We could plan another overseas trip with just the money we have saved not upgrading our flights.
5. Check Numerous Airports
If you are close to numerous airports, it makes sense to check several airports. For example, we live in Milwaukee but typically fly out of Chicago O’Hare because it is less expensive due to it being a much bigger flight hub. However, we always check flight options/costs out of Chicago O’Hare, Chicago Midway and Milwaukee Mitchell International.
On our Trip to Morocco, it was actually less expensive and took the same amount of time to leave from Milwaukee Mitchell International when comparing it to Chicago O’Hare. Also, check different arrival airports. When we went to London, flights were $400+ less per person flying into the less frequented Gatwick than the more popular Heathrow airport. Both airports are located relatively equidistant from the city center so it made more sense to fly into Gatwick rather than Heathrow.
We hope this post helps you save on flights and start your next adventure. Another great way to save while flying is to not check a bag. Please see How to Fit all your Luggage in a Carry-On for more savings tricks.
Do you have any other tips on how to save on flights? We’d love to hear your feedback or questions. Please leave us a comment!
And remember, Always Have A Trip Planned!