Whether traveling to visit extended family you haven’t seen in a while, or for that dream vacation that is well deserved after all of your hard work, there’s an excitement that comes from getting on the plane, headed to your destination.
You know what’s not exciting? The price of flight tickets. Flying can eat up as much as 50% of your vacation budget, especially when traveling internationally. That can be hundreds – or even thousands – of dollars if you’re bringing along your family. Ouch!
Before you toss your suitcase out the door and cry in desperation, know that there are ways to save money on flights! There are people (and algorithms) whose purpose is to find you great deals, and my job is to help shine a light on the glory of their work.
Let’s take a look at 21 Ways to Save Money on Flights so you can get up in the air with a great deal beneath your wings!
1. Book your Vacation around the Flight
When it comes time to pick a destination and the time of year for travel, usually those decisions are made before the flight details ever come into play. While it makes logical sense to plan a vacation in that order, it doesn’t always make financial sense.
When you prioritize your vacation around the flight and then focus on the destination or timeline, you have a chance to save significantly on the cost of the experience, up to hundreds of dollars! This is a great way to channel your adventurous side, as well.
Save money on flights by booking your flight first!
2. Explore Flying out of Different Cities
When I flew to Asia to meet my husband’s parents, I can honestly say ticket prices almost kept me from going. I was flying out of a smaller International airport in my state and quickly found the cost was substantially higher than I expected.
Curiosity got the best of me and I realized that if I changed my departing city to a larger hub like Washington D.C. or New York City, the price dropped substantially, and my connecting flight was $60. I started to do the same for my arrival cities and had the same result.
Make sure to explore different departure and arrival locations near your final destination and consider other methods to get there, such as train or smaller connecting flights. This is a great way to save a ton of money on flights.
3. Keep a Flexible Date Search
Sometimes, unbeknownst to you, the date you want to leave for your vacation may cost you hundreds more than a few days earlier or later. That’s no fun, especially if you can be flexible with your departure or arrival date and not have it affect your trip.
Using tools like Google Flights can help you see two months at a time with each day displaying the cost of the flight. This is a great way to see if a one-day or two-week change can save you hundreds of dollars!
Stay flexible to save money on your flights!
4. Look for Last-Minute Deals
Wouldn’t it be great to just get up and go on a whim to another city for a weekend getaway? Well, sometimes that option may just save you money. Many airline sites offer last-minute deals, which are heavily discounted tickets that are coming up fast.
This is a way that airlines put bodies in seats to ensure the flight is as full as possible but means you can save significantly if you’re open-minded about departure times and where you’re going. Save money on flights by looking for last-minute getaways!
5. Purchase your Ticket in the Optimal Window of Time
Don’t you wish someone could just tell you the best time to buy your airline tickets? Well, it turns out that after a lot of research, a few patterns have emerged that seem to be tried and true.
If you’re booking an international flight, it turns out the best price for those tickets is 3 to 6 months out. Domestic flights are not quite as pegged down, but whether you’re flying domestic or international, the closer you arrive to your date, the more expensive the flight will be.
Don’t wait too late to book your flight if you want to save money. Book ahead of time, but as close to the optimal window as possible.
6. Check to See if Bags are Included
I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seems of late that baggage fees are becoming more expensive. And, there seems to be an inconsistency with whether baggage fees are included or not. There are times my fees were waived for a departure but added for the return flight.
One way around this is to see if bags are included in the cost of your flight, or if additional fees are being tacked on for bags. Make sure you fully understand the weight of the bag and the cost if it exceeds that weight.
Save money on flights by ensuring bags are included!
7. Pack Everything in a Carry On
My first business trip ever was two weeks abroad in China and Australia. The first assumption would be that I carried a suitcase big enough to pack a person, but I did the opposite. Due to my anxiety about lost luggage, I packed everything in a small carry-on.
How in the world did I carry two weeks’ worth of clothes in what’s a weekend bag? I studied the most efficient way to pack, and I carried essentially one week’s worth of clothes with a plan to wash everything halfway through the trip. It worked like a charm.
Not only did I avoid exorbitant fees, but I reduced the chance of losing my luggage. It saved me significantly, both in time and worries. To save money on your flight, pack light!
8. Use Fare Trackers
When planning for a flight, I don’t know about you, but I don’t have time to stare at flight calendars all day to see when prices change. However, if I search for flights with enough notice, I will use a fare tracker to send me alerts when the price drops.
Fare trackers are great tools that companies will use to alert you, and it’s an incentive to get you to use their services or airline. Take advantage of emailed notices about flight changes and make sure to jump when you see it fall!
9. Bring Your Beverages (and Food)
Flights themselves aren’t the only things that have increased in price. I’m sure the last time you tried to purchase an in-flight meal, snack, or beverage, you had to question whether or not you need it.
If you want to save on flights (and other costs associated with flights) skip the in-flight food and beverage and pack your own. The airport food may still be expensive, but some items you can bring from home and you can always fill up a water bottle before boarding.
10. Consider Budget Carriers
There are the mega giants of flying, and then there are the budget carriers. Unfortunately, many people associate cheaper airline tickets with unsafe service, but that’s not the case. Many cost-efficient airlines offer both great service and great safety.
It’s always a great idea to shop around, but consider smaller airlines and budget carriers like Southwest for your next trip to see if you can save money on your flight!
11. Fly Basic Economy
When booking an airline ticket, it’s important to look at the class of the seat you’re booking and understand the different levels in the airlines you’re considering. As you toggle between Basic Economy to Economy or Premier Economy, you can see a noticeable price change!
Don’t be fooled by the flashier terms of what may be promised with the “next level” up. Sometimes the only extra amenities that come with the Economy aren’t worth the price increase. It can be three inches of seat space for hundreds of dollars more.
Make sure you understand each airline’s rankings and what the difference is in price, but more than likely Basic Economy will suit your needs at a more comfortable price. Save money on flights by booking the Basic Economy!
12. Sign up for Airline Loyalty Rewards
Airlines are scrambling to make their flights more attractive than the next guy, and there are some serious benefits to taking advantage of the flight wars. With that being said, look at the airline loyalty rewards for a variety of airlines and see how you can benefit.
Rewards and frequent flier miles can be used to discount your next flight, or include upgrades that would otherwise cost you more money. If you’re flying anyway, you might as well gather points and let them reward you along the way!
13. Search for Flights while using Incognito Mode
Have you ever searched for a flight, then a day or two later when searching again notice that the prices have increased? It scares you, right? Nothing stirs a sense of urgency like a significant price jump. It’s not just you, it happens to everyone.
Part of how airlines make money is to get you to book as soon as possible. Because your browser window allows for tracking of cookies, they know it’s you searching again, even after a decent amount of time has passed. Darn them!
When you use incognito mode on your search browser, you may be able to get around the price increase since it gives the appearance you’re a different user in a different location. Make sure to clear your cookies and cache before searching again to keep it consistent.
Save money on flights by using incognito mode on your browser!
14. Jump on Error and Mistake Fares
I want to beat my head against the wall when I hear of one of those flight deals someone got that seems near impossible. You know, like $500 to fly across the world in business class. More than likely, they got lucky with an Error or Mistake Fare.
An error fare is just what it sounds like – the airlines occasionally make mistakes in posting a heavily discounted price due to an error on their end that ranges from humans to algorithms. However, if you’re paying attention, this can be a great win for you!
It does seem to go both ways where you can cancel within 24 hours, and likewise, the airline can cancel within 72 hours, but sometimes it’s light enough where the airline will eat the loss. Take advantage of error fares to save money on flights!
15. Use Credit Card Rewards Points
There are magical people out there that have the credit card flight rewards points down to a science. They have found ways to use your credit cards to fund your flights for darn near free, if not heavily discounted.
These credit card rewards points can also come from everyday purchases, as well, add up significantly. When evaluating credit cards, look at upfront offers and signing bonuses that can be used for flights. Don’t let those points go to waste! Save money on flights by using credit card rewards!
16. Consider Multi-City instead of Round Trip
There are definitely times when a round-trip ticket makes more sense than a multi-city ticket. If you’re just flying to and from one place and can get a direct flight, then a round trip usually serves you well. However, if you have multiple layovers, don’t rule out multi-city trips.
There are times I’ve found that by breaking up a round-trip ticket into multi-city tickets, the price has dropped by hundreds of dollars. For me, it worked better with international flights, but it’s also worth considering for longer domestic flights. Save money with multi-city flights!
17. Fly with Local Airlines
When flying internationally it’s easy to want to book a round trip ticket through one airline. That may be the easiest option, but it can cost you thousands of dollars more if you’re not careful.
Think about it this way, there are more hubs in the U.S. for American carriers like Delta, American Airlines, and United, and it makes sense to use those carriers for domestic flights, and some international flights. However, when flying internationally, check local airlines, as well.
You may find, for example, that switching to IcelandAir when flying to Iceland may save you more, or changing to Qantas saves significantly when flying from the U.S. to Australia. Check the prices with both local airlines in your destination and with domestic carriers.
Save money on flights by considering local carriers!
18. Check out Deal Sites before Booking
Loyalty points are great and can save you a lot of money on flights, but so can checking out deal sites before booking. Sites like Hotwire can save you a lot of money when it comes to finding discounted flights.
Not only do these sites offer cheaper flights at times, but they also offer bundled packages for other amenities that may be necessary for your stays, such as a hotel or a car rental. See what deals you can find on sites like Hotwire to save money on your flight!
19. Book the Red-eye
Airlines make the most money when flights are booked, and for late-night flights, they will drop the price significantly. If you’re a night owl or don’t mind sleeping on planes, this may just be the deal for you.
Red-eye flights are common across time zones and usually happen in the U.S. traveling from the West Coast, and are popular amongst business travelers, but no reason why you can’t take advantage of red-eye for personal travel, as well.
Check out the redeye option on your next flight to see how much you can save when flying!
20. Book your Flight Midweek
This next point is up for debate, but there have been many travelers that say they have found the best deals when booking domestic flights around Tuesday or Wednesday. This is worth checking out when using fare finders or Google Flights to see if it works for you.
The most consistent point here is to keep an open mind when you book to allow a combination of factors that can contribute to a lower price.
21. Travel in the Shoulder Season
There are times when traveling in peak season is a blast, and why do you plan on flying in the first place. Who doesn’t love the beach when it’s warm out? But, flying during peak season gets you peak prices.
And, peak prices are determined by just how badly your fellow fliers want to go somewhere. The airlines are going to keep creeping the prices upwards as long as people pull out that credit card! This is where it pays to consider the shoulder season.
Shoulder seasons are the weeks at the bookends of peak travel time that may not be as popular, but can still offer a lot of the fun activities and weather that you have when there are hoards of people. You can still have a great experience at a cheaper price.
Do a bit of research on your destination to see when the peak and shoulder seasons rest and compare flights to see if you can land a deal in the shoulder season!
FAQs on How to Save Money on Flights
How can I save money on flights?
To save on flights, you want to be as flexible as possible with travel dates and destinations to score the lowest price.
What are ways I can save on International flights?
When flying internationally, consider multi-city trips instead of roundtrips, and look for local airlines relative to that country to see if you can find better deals.
How can I save money on flights last minute?
Keeping your eyes peeled on Hotwire for last-minute deals and get ready to jet! Being flexible on the destination makes last-minute flights work better to your advantage.
Can I save money by flying Southwest?
There are ways to save by flying Southwest! Plus, they’re known for a great seat policy, free bags, and free wifi.
Flying doesn’t have to empty your bank account, nor scare you from traveling. There are plenty of great ways to save money on flights like being smart about how you book and using rewards points.
For other great tips on how to save money, check out Koopy.com!