As we spoke about last week, there are a few ways you can go about finding cheap flight deals while traveling. Once you have identified which type of airline customer you are and the best type of ticket for your travel, you can then begin the search to find the best ticket prices. Read about Why Not Every Plane Ticket is Created Equal if you need a refresher on ticket options!
The bottom line when traveling is that everyone cares about different things when going to book a flight. What matters to some might not matter to others. While some people will only choose a specific airline, others will choose anything as long as it fits their budget. Whatever the case might be for you, this week our goal is to show you how we go about finding cheap flight deals when we travel.
Keep in mind there are numerous websites, blogs, and even apps you can use while trying to book a plane ticket. All of these programs are trying to achieve the same thing, but some work better than others depending on the specific details you are considering.
“Just because you have found A deal does not mean you have found THE deal.”
Factors to Consider
The main thing to remember is to find what works for YOU. Some people have very strict dates in mind when scheduling their vacation. Other people may be completely open to any date. Some people may have a specific destination they are looking to travel to, while others are open to going anywhere depending on the deal.
Of the websites we use to scout out deals, some sites allow you to be very specific with details when looking for flights while others require you to be very flexible. Again, our goal is to make sure you have the resources available to you in order to achieve the greatest success when looking for cheap flight deals.
Another thing to remember is that there are new things that seem to come available every few days to make searching for travel easier. There are tools in the works even as we are writing this post! What we are writing about here is what works best for us now, at this moment. That doesn’t mean that these will always be the best options, but they work great for the time being. We plan to continuously update this post as we find new resources that can make finding cheap flight deals as easy as possible for you.
Just to clarify, the deals we find on these sites are for Economy tickets. With a few exceptions, deals for Business and First class are rare. If you’re looking for Business or First class tickets, you probably aren’t using sites like these anyway though… 😉
Alright, alright, enough blabbering already! Here are the websites…
Escape Houston has always been on of our favorite tools because it was one of the very first resources we used when we started looking for cheap flight deals. Yes, we realize it started out in Houston, but if you go to the website you’ll find that he has greatly expanded it since the original website.
He now includes links listing cheap flight deals from Austin/San Antonio, Dallas, Chicago, New York City, and Los Angeles. As time goes on, he is continuing to build a bigger portfolio as to the number of cities he will post about with cheap flights.
How it works:
Every time a flight goes on sale to a particular city, he creates a unique post about it. Each of his posts include:
- Which airline is offering the deal
- The destination for that deal
- The specific dates you are able to travel for that deal
- The minimum length that trip needs to be taken to get that deal
- The website he was able to book that travel through
You do not book anything through his site, he just provides articles that tell you how to do everything. He normally shows a third party website that he booked the deal through, but we always log on to the airline’s website to check their prices first. Sometimes we can get the same deal directly through the airline, and sometimes we can’t. We always check with the airline no matter what! In our experience, we have learned that it is best to try to book directly through the airline whenever possible. (We explain why towards the end of this article.)
You can sign up for Escape Houston email alerts to be notified every time a new flight deal goes live. However, there is also a Twitter account if that’s an easier way for you to connect. He recently added an Instagram account also showing it. We used to go to the website every single day to watch for deals… Now that he is using social media platforms, it is extremely easy to see a cheap flight deal whenever it becomes available and stay in the loop.
Keep in mind that most of the great deals only last between 24-48 hours so you’ll have to act quick when booking. The quicker you book after the deal becomes available, the more options you will have!
Scott’s Cheap Flights
Scott’s Cheap Flights is a tool that most people are probably already aware of. If you sign up on the website, you will automatically get alerted when deals become available.
How it works:
- Choose your home airport
- Receive a personal email from their flight experts notifying you when a flight deal appears
- Receive a specific link to book and approximately how long that deal will last
Watching for cheap flight deals this way is a little more detailed and really convenient for people who are somewhat new to searching for them. If you don’t feel comfortable booking everything yourself, this method would be great for you!
Scott’s Cheap Flights is almost an online travel agent as they will do the majority of the work for you. In the info they provide, they also talk a lot about airlines making a mistake on flight prices and why it would be a great time to book.
We love reading all of the member and non-member testimonials. It should really give you confidence when going through this site as they have over 3,500 reviews and they are essentially all 5 stars!
Before relying solely on this website, decide how adventurous you want to be first. We have found this to be fantastic for people who don’t have a specific destination in mind but are open to anything. The majority of times you can find competitive international travel prices as well as prices that compare to or beat domestic prices.
Skiplagged is technically an old tool but it is now starting to become mainstream. We have used it once and it was a success, however it can become a little tricky. We could write a novel regarding all of the ins and outs of Skiplagged but this article very clearly sums it up.
BONUS: The website linked below is also a great reference website for us with regards to deals on travel in general. Not only does it include deals for economy tickets, but business and first class tickets as well!
Hopper is one of our favorite apps because it’s very easy and simple to use. It constantly gives updates and trends as time goes on and suggests what you should do- book it now, or keep waiting.
How it works:
- Fill out your dates and destination(s)
- See the prices
- Get alerted immediately every time a deal goes on sale
- Get alerted when the deal ends
Every week you get another alert explaining what they think you should do based on the current market value for that flight and destination. Sometimes it is hard to know whether you’ve found the best deal or not so we love having this kind of insight!
Skyscanner is another brilliant tool that the majority of people probably know about, but it’s so handy we had to share. Whether your end goal is finding the cheapest possible destination within the US or in a different country, it can show you everything.
How it works:
- Search for a specific location or search for “everywhere”
- Search for a specific date or for a wide range of dates
- Watch a list populate with the cheapest deals to your specific destination or the entire world
- Select your flight and book!
With Skyscanner you can search for tickets to literally anywhere in the world from a specific airport. Even better, you can compare prices for tickets over the course of a long period of time. In fact, they have an option to search for the cheapest month to fly to that destination! The list will show you every single place for that time frame and how cheap you can get a ticket.
We have found that you can find amazing domestic deals when flying between major cities with specific airline hubs. For example, flying United from Houston to Denver, Denver to Chicago, Chicago to Houston, etc. is usually very reasonably priced since each of those cities are United hubs. Of course, you can also find some amazing deals when traveling abroad.
The best thing about this website is that you don’t have to choose a specific destination or date, it will show you everything. The options are endless! Skyscanner also shows deals for hotels and car rentals, but those are other posts for another time. 🙂
When it comes time to book, Skyscanner will most likely direct you to a third-party website to book your airfare through. However, just as we said earlier, always check with the airline directly to see if you can get the same deal there first.
Google Flights is also a good comparison tool. You can search specific dates, cities or even a specific airport within a city for bigger cities that have multiple airports. Google flights gives you a calendar view showing you every single day for as far out as an airline books flights. It is a very useful tool! We never book anything directly through Google Flights, but we constantly consult it to verify other deals we’ve found via other websites.
Things to Remember
1. Always compare deals.
Our biggest piece of advice is to never allow yourself to be satisfied with the first deal you come across. Just because you have found A deal does not mean you have found THE deal. It’s amazing how big the price difference can be between each of these travel tools sometimes.
In our experience, it seems like each website is working off of different systems. When you find something that you think is a good deal, it’s still smart to compare it with the other websites first. You might find that the deal you’ve found is similar, better, or worse than what’s available on the other websites. Once you’re satisfied with the deal you’ve found, book immediately! Most deals don’t last a long time.
2. Whenever possible, book directly through the airline.
Another very important thing to remember when booking a flight is to always check directly with the airline before booking. While it is easiest to go about finding the best deals through the websites previously mentioned, sometimes the same deal will be available with the airline themselves when it comes time to actually booking.
If you can book directly through the airline based on competitive pricing, you should.
Booking directly through the airline gives you more options should anything about your trip change. Many people debate over whether they should or shouldn’t buy travel insurance. That’s not what this post is intended for, but what we can tell you a little bit from our experiences.
When you book through a third party site, you are almost guaranteed to be locked in without a chance of getting a refund. If you decide to forgo travel insurance when you book directly through the airline, you are also basically at their mercy the majority of the time. However, there is a chance that they will work with you depending on a potential issue that could arise.
We have booked budget tickets before and realized we couldn’t make it or we had a change of plans at the last moment and we had to eat the money. When we ran into an issue with another flight while booking directly through the airline, they were able to work with us.
Sometimes if you book your flight far enough in advance, you face the possibility of having a flight canceled or the airport being changed. If you had already booked accommodations based on a specific flight time or airport, then those travel planes could be interrupted. We have had this happen to us and we were able to contact the airline and essentially negotiate how we would handle this. This can definitely work to your advantage financially, but only when dealing directly with the airline.
3. Clear your browser history.
When searching for a specific flight and specific dates, your browser can remember what you have previously searched for. Based on that knowledge, it can actually show you elevated prices. We think this should be illegal, however it’s allowed. Whenever you are searching for cheap flight deals, you should either clear your history or search through an incognito tab so that you know you are seeing the best prices.
4. Flexibility is key.
As with anything, it pays to be flexible. While it is not impossible to find cheap flight deals when you are looking for specific dates to a specific locations, it is much harder to be successful. If you are open to different locations and a range of dates, you will greatly increase your odds of finding an amazing deal.
On several of our trips, we have flown in to and out of random cities we had no original plans to visit. However, we found amazing deals to those cities and they were near the major cities we had been very anxious to visit. We booked plane tickets to the city we found an amazing deal to, stayed there a day, and caught a train to the destination we really had in mind the next day. We simply used the cheap flight deal to get us over there, and figured out our way to work it in our favor!
Booking a deal this way is easy if you are open to different ticket options like we discussed here. The main takeaway is that being flexible could potentially get you to the destination of your dreams way sooner than if you wait for a deal to that specific city to come around!
We hope that these tools will be useful to you! We love hearing your success stories in finding cheap flight deals. Leave us a comment or drop us an email telling us about your positive experience(s) with finding a deal through one of the websites we mentioned above. We can’t wait to hear from you!
Happy travels. 🙂