Last updated: September 17, 2018
Most of us have at some time been on the hunt for the cheapest flights. After a while, you realize that it can take a lot of science to find the very best, especially if you don’t know where to look or when. As a matter of fact, there are plenty of factors that come into play when an airline sets their prices.
People often ask me how they could find cheap flights. Therefore, I decided to make an ultimate guide that teaches you the art of finding cheap flights all over the world.
What are the price factors?
To understand the pricing a little better, it might be good to know a thing or two about what’s affecting the price and what it is that makes an airline lower or raise their price.
- The price of oil
- Competition / Variety
- Taxes and fees
- At what price the airline believe they can fill the plane
These things in combination will affect the price, and the airlines will either raise or lower their price to maximize their profit. Now when you know what’s controlling the price, you could use it to your advantage.
To make things clearer, let me give you an example: If the price of oil drops, maybe a competitive airline lowers the cost of their journeys to Berlin from Stockholm. Then the second airline also likely to reduce their prices because of competition.
Another example: If the airline offers a flight to Barcelona and only 10% of the seats was booked 15 days before departure. Then the price will probably drop as the flight company obviously want to fill their planes. If it is instead contrary and 90% of the seats was booked 15 days before departure. Then the price would probably increase.
Here are my best tips and tricks on how you to find cheap flights worldwide
Be flexible with your dates
Because prices fluctuate a lot, it would be best if you can be flexible with your dates. The more flexible you are, the better the chance to find a bargain. It can distinguish hundreds of euros in price from one day to another. Just a small thing as what time of the day you fly can make a huge difference.
According to statistics, it’s almost always cheaper to fly on a weekday instead of the weekend. One should also not forget to check bank holidays, celebrations, and if it’s high season or low season. It’s usually more expensive to fly during festivals and holidays.
Flights to a nearby airport
Larger airports often mean higher costs for airlines, which in turn results in higher prices for airline tickets. Therefore, it may be an idea to check around if there’s a smaller airport nearby. This practice is especially good to use in Europe where there are plenty of smaller airports where low-cost carriers fly.
Ryanair is a real case in point. Ryanair usually doesn’t fly to main airports; they are instead landing at smaller airports such as Gatwick or Stansted in London instead of Heathrow. The difference for travelers is often not so big, except that the price can differ a lot.
In Stockholm for example, Ryanair doesn’t fly to Arlanda, you land at Skavsta airport. In this case, it means approximately a 30 minutes longer journey from the airport. However, this serves you quite quickly though as the flight will be cheaper.
There are plenty of low-cost carriers, especially in Europe. So do not forget to peek at nearby airports when you search for cheap flights.
Testing alternative routes
Alternative routes are another good tip. For example, it may be cheaper to make a quick stop than to fly directly or even stay overnight and fly the following day. It can also be cheaper to book two single tickets instead of booking return tickets at the same time.
Remember that all search engines are not the same
If you have been comparing flights before, you have probably seen that it can differ several hundreds of euros between different websites. The reason for that is that they all use a unique search engine, which means they sometimes get up various offers. Many trips are obviously almost identical, but you should always compare different search engines if you want to find the cheapest flight.
My personal favorite website is undoubtedly Skyscanner, and it is always there I begin my search for cheap flights.
See if there are discounts or promotions available
Before booking the trip, one should also look at whether there are any discounts or deals available. Sometimes, there are discounts for students, new customers, or different types of member discounts. If you travel frequently, it may also be good to sign up to receive newsletters from various airlines and travel companies. Then you will always get to receive good deals first.
Figure out how much you’re willing to pay
Example: A flight ticket round trip that goes to the US costs 700 euros. Your first thought is perhaps that the price is a little high, and if you a few hours later see the same trip for 400 euros, you may think that this was indeed cheap, but maybe the price will drop even more?
You don’t need to be wrong, but we must also be realistic. Are you reluctant to pay 500 euros for the journey above and are satisfied with 300 euros, then why not book it time and be sure to get a good price? Just as prices may drop, they can also increase.
Therefore, it is important not to wait too long. For example, your dream price of the trip was at the time 260 euros, but because you waited a few extra days, the price instead went up to 500 euros. Instead of getting a 40 euros cheaper flight, you lost 200 just because you were greedy.
Always ask yourself – How much is acceptable to pay and what is a good price for me?
Book early, but not too early
This tip involves a bit of gambling with the airlines, and to find the cheapest flight tickets it’s important to book in advance, but not too early. So what does this really mean? Statistically speaking, the word is that it tends to show good prices about 90 days before departure. Before that 90 day mark, the airlines want to get as much money as possible. When it’s about 60 days from departure, it’s common that prices are dropping because they want to sell more plane tickets. Statistics have shown that it’s the very cheapest 53 days before the trip on a Tuesday evening.
If you are flexible and can travel on different dates, you should keep track of the prices from the time of 90 days until it is about 50 days left. Within this period, you will usually find the cheapest airfares.
But it is also quite common to find cheap flights until it’s 30 days left. After this, the power advantage will be in favor to the airline. The only hope of finding a cheap flight within this time frame is if it would be a low demand. Otherwise, the odds are against you, and you will most likely have to pay a higher price.
Try always to book the trip when there are about 60 days left.
Checklist before you book airline tickets
- Compare different sites
- See if the airline has better price on its website
- See if there are any current discounts or offers
- Delete cache and browser history