How to Buy the Cheapest Flights

In Part 2 of my guide series, I’m expanding on my budget masterpost again. This time, I’ll be expanding further on how to buy the cheapest flights. Buying flight tickets, along with accommodation (my budget guide here!) is the most expensive component of travel. We often dream of flying to our dream destinations, but flights, especially transcontinental flights, can cost as much as your rent. While flights are getting cheaper by the year, flights are still costly. Despite this, there are many ways to fly cheaper than many people think.

Go Incognito

Deleting my history and my cookies, then going on private browsing or Incognito Mode is always the first thing I do when booking a trip. Websites store your search data and when you come back, they know you’re more likely to book as a repeat visitor, and they’ll charge you more. One moment, a flight will be $400, and I refresh the website and it doubles! Always clear your history and cookies so you start fresh and you’ll find the prices in their true, uninflated glory. This also applies to accommodation costs.

Befriend Budget Airlines

Budget airlines will become your best friend. Whether it’s flying Edinburgh-Portugal for $30 round-trip via Ryanair or flying 5 hours from Hong Kong-Japan for less than $200 via Jetstar, they’ll save you tons of money, but at the cost of comfort. Sure you may be invaded with ads for the lottery on Ryanair and have to pay $4 for a bottle of water, but the money you save in comparison to bigger airlines is incredible. Here’s a screenshot of a big list from Thrifty Nomads of all the budget airlines you’ll ever need.

Time Rules All

  • Flying on weekends is always the most expensive; the cheapest days to fly are usually Tuesdays and Wednesdays. For example, I can fly from Edinburgh to Brussels for $17 round-trip (yes, really) on Wednesdays, but a weekend flight will cost me $60. Try to be flexible with your dates.
  • Sometimes, airlines will cut their price in a last-minute attempt to fill their planes. Then again, other airlines will jump the prices to gouge last-minute travellers; it can go either way.
  • Don’t book your tickets too far in advance; the earliest you should buy your tickets, according to algorithm studies, is 54 days early. I usually book my flights 2 weeks in advance, with the exception of when I bought my tickets to Asia a month in advance, mainly out of excitement
  • Flights from 10pm to 4am are usually the cheapest
  • Summer and the holiday season (mid-December to early January) are the most expensive times to fly, so try and avoid those times if possible
  • The best times to buy tickets are the early morning and 3PM Eastern Standard Time (8PM GMT)


Explore the Internet

Always look at several websites before booking your flight. Along with Kayak, Cheapoair, and JetRadar, here are the sites I’ve had the best experiences with.

  • Google Flights: Not the best prices, but it’s a fantastic starting point. It’s easy to use just by searching “X to Y” on Google, and flights show up. It’s a great website to gather reasonable prices for flights and a base to jump to other flight-booking sites.
  • Momondo: My favourite website, Momondo has saved me more money than I can imagine. For example, my February round-trip from Edinburgh to Hong Kong via Qatar Airways was normally $830. However, I found the exact same flight on Momondo for $450! I put the $380 I saved toward a round-trip flight and 4 days of accommodation in my childhood dream destination, Tokyo. The best part? I still had $80 left over.
  • Kiwi: Like Momondo, it searches far and wide for budget flights all around the web. No specific distinction from other websites, but you can find incredible deals on here.
  • Skyscanner: More well, known, it’s like the two above, but it also has the feature where you can put in a budget for flights and just search “everywhere.” Sometimes the flights are cheaper due to long layovers, which you can use to your advantage to go out into a new city for a day!
  • AirWander: Speaking of long layovers, this is another budget flight search engine, but this website allows you to extend your layover to make two trips into one! Extended layovers have allowed me to go to Belgium, Qatar, and spend an extra two days in Amsterdam.

Buy Separate Tickets

  • I personally have never done this, but I’ve read about people who’ve bought separate tickets to get to their destination for much cheaper. For example, Scott was able to fly from Washington, DC to Brussels for $250, then fly to Oslo and Dublin for $330 in total, instead of the $750 he would’ve spent flying to Ireland or to Oslo instead. This doesn’t always work, but if you have an extra day to spare, it doesn’t hurt to look!
  • Sometimes buying two one-way tickets can be cheaper. Although not always effective, always check the price for both types of fare. This can also add flexibility if you want to fly in and out of different airports

Overall, it’s not as easy to save money on airfare as it is accommodation, but you don’t have to spend your life savings on your next flight! I’ve used these tips and tricks and I’ve found $450 round-trip flights to Asia, flights from NY to the UK for less than $200, and more. Again, flights are inherently expensive, but this is the cheapest travel has ever been. There are a lot of preconceived notions concerning flights and travel prices, and I hope this helps bust any myths associated with these notions.

Despite my knowledge, I’m always looking for new recs on how to buy the cheapest flights. Are there any tips and tricks you want to share? If so, let me know in the comments!



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