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How to Find Cheap Flights (+ $150 flight voucher giveaway!)

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Last Updated on November 28, 2019 by Dani

I’ve gotten a lot of questions recently about how I always manage to find cheap flights, so I thought I’d share some of my tips and tricks I use when researching flights with you here. Disclaimer: I don’t always find amazing deals, but before I book a flight, I spend a good amount of time researching all my options, checking my daily fare alerts and even when I decide to finally hit the ‘Book this flight‘ button, I cross-check several websites once again. Read on for all the steps I take to find cheap flights.

Here are some of the deals I found (and booked) recently:

  • Copenhagen – Los Angeles (one-way): $261
  • Bangkok – Chiang Mai (one-way): $17.50
  • Düsseldorf – Hong Kong (return): $530
  • Berlin – London (one-way): $45 (one week in advance)

So which rules do I follow when I book a flight and which steps do I take before I buy a plane ticket?

1. Time Your Trip Right & When To Book Your Ticket

I know that I am more flexible than most people, but if you time your trip right, you can save so much money. If you really have to travel to Europe in the summer, it will be hard to find an affordable flight. If you are able to go in May or September instead when the weather is still warm (perfect!), that’s when airfare is much cheaper than during high season in the summer months.

If you can travel in the winter, even better, because that’s when you get the best deals, even to popular winter escape destinations like Asia.

Also: Know when NOT to go! Peak travel days include Fridays, Sundays and Mondays – so there are usually less deals to be found if you’re planning to fly on these days. Weekends are usually more expensive to fly on than weekdays, so if you can, try to fly during the week. It does make a difference on which day you fly, so if you have flexibility there, you will save money.

momondo fare calendar
Use a fare calendar to see on which day the ticket to your destination is the cheapest. Momondo for example has a fare calendar.

When to book your ticket

I’ve read dozens of articles discussing the best time to book your ticket. Six months in advance? Six weeks in advance? Some say eight weeks in advance. In my experience, neither one of them is true. I often leave my flight alerts on (see #2) after booking a ticket and prices usually don’t go up until the very last minute. Last year, I waited until the ‘six week mark’ to book a ticket, afraid that prices would go up afterwards. Instead, I received a flight alert with a great deal – a cheaper ticket than I had bought – two weeks after I booked my ticket, and I was mad at myself for not waiting longer.

2. How to find cheap flights: Sign up for flight alerts

A thing that’s key to finding cheap flights: Signing up for flight alerts. I usually use Skyscanner for that, but other sites like Kayak and Momondo offer flight alert emails as well. That way I get an email every day with the current airfare to my destination on the date I’ve chosen. As soon as the price goes down to a fare I am willing to pay or I see a great deal, I book my ticket.kayak price alerts

3. How to find cheap flights: Think outside the box

Think outside the box. And by this I mean the search box in the flight search engine of your choice. I usually first consult Skyscanner and Bookingbuddy.com to find a cheap flight. Skyscanner sometimes includes airlines that aren’t included in the search engine of Bookingbuddy.com which compares the major booking websites for me: Expedia, Orbitz, Onetravel, Travelocity (among others). The advantage of Bookingbuddy is that it opens all these websites for me in new tabs, making it easy for me to compare which site offers the best rate.

What I like about Skyscanner is that I can just type in a departure/destination country instead of a city, for example leaving from Germany. Germany is a relatively small country, but has five major international airports. I never know which airport happens to be the cheapest for my flight, but they are all about the same distance from my family’s house. I can just type in ‘From: Germany, To: Hong Kong’ and I might find out that Düsseldorf would be the cheapest option (like in my case recently).

And with a bunch of low cost bus carriers in Germany, it only cost me €10 to get to Düsseldorf. In New York, I am able to fly out of all three major airports (JFK, La Guardia and Newark) because I realized that it takes me about the same amount of time to get to either one – in fact, sometimes it can be faster to reach Newark (New Jersey) than LaGuardia, and ticket prices are sometimes considerably lower from New Jersey.

But what if there aren’t any cheap flights on all these websites? That’s when it pays off to know about budget airlines that aren’t listed in the major flight search websites. NorwegianAir for example rarely comes up in search engines for transatlantic flights, but they are the cheapest carrier between Europe and California. I tried them for the first time last fall on a flight to New York and absolutely loved my experience (I raved about it here), so I was glad that I checked the Norwegian website when I didn’t find a single decently priced flight on any flight search website.norwegian airlines top dealsNot all budget airlines are listed in the major search engines (Southwest is one in the U.S. that is not listed but often has cheaper tickets than American or United), so it is well worth researching which budget airlines cover your destination. I usually use Wikitravel to look up budget airlines for countries like Mexico or India, islands like Boracay or Koh Tao, or specific cities like Austin. In addition to Wikitravel, I check the route maps of budget airlines in Europe or Asia to see where I could connect… which leads to:

4. How to find cheap flights: Know the major hubs

The more mainstream the route you take, the cheaper it is. Routes like New York – London with several flights a day have much cheaper tickets than routes like New York – Athens, which is less frequent. Thanks to the extensive budget airline network in Europe, however, you can easily save hundreds of dollars by flying into a major hub and continue with a low-cost carrier from there.

Whichbudget is usually a good starting point to see which budget airlines fly from a hub to your final destination. In Asia, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur are major hubs and well connected via smaller airlines – I found my $17.50 ticket from Bangkok to Chiang Mai with LionAir thanks to WhichBudget, for example.

5. How to find cheap flights: Be willing to connect

This one goes along with knowing the major hubs – but you don’t necessarily need to change airlines to find a cheap flight: simply having a layover is often cheaper than a direct flight. Many people are willing to pay for convenience, which is why direct flights are the most expensive (except for routes with frequent direct flights such as Frankfurt – New York). If you are willing to connect somewhere along the way, you will save money on your ticket.

And connecting doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. I had 12-hour layovers in cities like Mexico City and Istanbul in the past and loved exploring the city for a day, or visiting some of my favorite places there (if it is a city that I know). Hipmunk has a cool layout that shows you the length of a layover in a graph, making it easy to choose a flight that has either a super short layover or one that is long enough to explore the city.

hipmunk flight overview
Hipmunk has a very cool layout which shows you exactly how long the layover of each possible route to your final destination is.

6. How to find cheap flights: Don’t be set on a specific destination

If you are flexible with your dates, why not be flexible with your destination? I had originally looked into flights to Vietnam for my winter getaway, all of which were pretty pricey, no matter what date I typed in. Hence I looked for flights to Bangkok instead, which were $200 cheaper than flights to Saigon. By going to Hong Kong in the end, I saved another $100. Like I said in #4: Generally, you’ll be able to find cheap flights from your ‘hub’ to your final destination.

If you just want to go on a trip and are open to any destination, you can save even more – just type in ‘Everywhere‘ in the destination box on Skyscanner and it will show you all available flights from your departure airport on your chosen date, sorted by price. The more flexible you are, the bigger your savings.skyscanner everywhere search

7. How to find cheap flights: Sign up for deal alerts

There are a number of websites out there that specialize in finding the best deals for flights, hotels and rewards program offers and it is well worth signing up for one of their newsletters, to receive emails with the best new flight deals, or to follow them on Facebook. It’s hard to keep track of all the good deals online and I am glad that there are websites that accumulate this information for me.

Some of the websites I like are:

Secretflying.com (I recommend signing up to the newsletter)
MillionMileSecrets.com

Some of the Facebook Pages I follow are:

Facebook.com/SecretFlying
Facebook.com/MillionMileSecrets

norwegian air window 787 boeing dreamliner

8. How to find cheap flights: Start travel hacking

I wrote an extensive article on how to start travel hacking at the end of last year and highly recommend signing up for a rewards credit card to take advantage of rewards points which you can use to fly for free (or upgrade to business class for free) or for free hotel stays.

The FrugalTravelGuy wrote an excellent beginners guide on how to hit a minimum spending requirement which usually gives you 40,000 – 50,000 miles just for signing up!

$150 Norwegian Flight Voucher Giveaway!

***The giveaway is now closed***

Since I just booked another flight with Norwegian, I wanted to share my love for them again and asked Norwegian if they would like to give away a flight voucher to one lucky reader of Globetrottergirls.com. And I am happy to announce that they agreed to give away a Norwegian flight voucher for $150! Considering that you can fly to Europe from the U.S. for less than $200 with Norwegian, you could fly to Europe for as little as $50 with this voucher!

Norwegian LA to Copenhagen 2015
Flights to Copenhagen from L.A. for $190 – a steal!

All you have to do to enter the giveaway is leave a comment and tell me which Norwegian route you’d use the voucher for. Norwegian also has a comprehensive flight network in Europe with flights starting at €29.90, which means this voucher could also buy you up to four flights within Europe! Have a look at all of Norwegian’s flight routes here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This giveaway ends on 24 March 2015, 12pm EST. The winner of the giveaway will be notified by email.

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97 Comments

  1. It still surprises me how many of my friends and family have no idea how to go about finding flights that might be affordable. It seems that most people just have the idea that they have to fly from A to B on X date and don’t think much before booking the first flight they find. Admittedly, perhaps I take the extreme opposite approach, where I’ll research various possibilities to death, to the extent that it ends up becoming a case of too much choice, but I’m usually happy with the end results…usually! Having the flexibility to not have to fly on peak days like we do is such a great advantage, I have to admit, but the advice of being flexible with the airport is good for everyone, I think. For example, this weekend, Zab and I are flying from Bremen to Lisbon, because even with the train there from Berlin, it was still cheaper than any flight we found directly from Berlin! Sure, the journey will take us about 3 hours longer, but we’ll briefly get to see another Germany city we’ve never been to, which is nice bonus if you ask me!

  2. I would use the voucher to take my family to Bergen Norway. We would fly via Los Angeles, through London and then on to Bergen. We want to go in December to experience winter in Norway!

  3. I would use the voucher to go from Dublin to visit my Finnish friend in Oulu! I have never been to Europe, but am hoping to go in October and starting out in Ireland. Thanks for the post- I didn’t know about this airline and will keep it mind, especially if I get a voucher 😉

    Thanks and safe travels!

  4. Great tips and they come just at the right time (although, thinking about it, I am actually looking for cheap flights all the time :-))! We might fly from Copenhagen to LA later this years, so that would be my route of choice.

  5. Love these tips. I’ve never heard of WhichBudget. I’ll have to check out that website. I’ll be in Madrid later this year so I’d use the voucher to fly from there to Dubrovnik.

  6. I flew with Norwegian on my recent trip to Gothenberg, when I managed to find return flights from Gatwick for just over £50. I’ve also booked my return flight from Spain with them next month, so I would not hesitate to fly with them in the future. I’d choose UK to Helsinki and then return to the UK from Tallinn. These two cities have been on my bucket list for some time 🙂

  7. I’d like to fly from London to Sicily. Thanks for the great trips, Skyscanner is an amazing site, I have been using it for a while now.

  8. I would fly from Minneapolis (on a connecting flight) to NYC, and then from there on to Istanbul. I would stay as long as possible, but maybe venture out to some northern European countries that I haven’t been to yet… Thanks!

  9. I just flew a STO-OAK route and I couldn’t have been happier with the airline. On our arrival into the SF Bay Area, they set the mood lighting to full gay and the ceiling was alit with rainbows. I would love to go back the other way now that I know it’s a truly exceptional deal with comfortable amenities.

  10. Hi Dani!

    I’d use the credit for a flight from St. Petersburg to Edinburgh. St Petersburg is the end of the line for our Trans-Siberian railway trip, and we want to visit my sister-in-law in Scotland after that 🙂

  11. Thanks for sharing these awesome tips. I really appreciate the travel communities willingness to share. I’d love to fly from NYC to Stockholm and see my best travel dude

  12. Great tips Dani! I have finally started travel hacking although it is a lot harder to do in Australia. I am flying to Vancouver in June and managed to get a budget airline return to Hawaii from Sydney on sale then will use miles from Hawaii to Seattle which, because it is in the US, the taxes are only $10! I will then take a Greyhound for approx. $12 each way from Seattle to Vancouver. So in total I will be travelling from Sydney to Vancouver return for less than AUD$700! Pretty happy with that 🙂

  13. I can’t choose!!! Realistically, I’d fly to Helsinki since I’ll be back for sure in 2016 for a friend’s wedding but I would also gladly fly to Malmo or Stockholm (to get to another friend in Sweden)… or anywhere else really. 🙂

    As far as finding flights goes, I’ve had great success with searching for flights using this software: http://matrix.itasoftware.com/ You can’t book using them, but it allows for all sorts of intricate searches. I found a great open jaw flight that wasn’t listed on the airline’s own search engines but I just called them and gave them the flight numbers and I got the low price. It’s worth using just to get a good look at what is cheapest and it allows you to search multiple airports at once, stopovers, etc.

  14. I have already flown Norwegian from London Gatwick-Oslo-Larnaca. I would now like to fly London Gatwick-Bergen as Bergen sounds fascinating with so much to see and do there

  15. We come from Iceland so we would fly with Norwegian airline from here 🙂

    Last year we had over 1.000.000 visitors to Iceland and the population is 318.000 – so I guess we would like to have a chance fly to off somewhere and look at new thing instead off being looked at 😉

    Would love to use the voucher for a spring trip to London or Amsterdam where our friends live and study.

    *This post has been bookmarked*

  16. Great tips, although is there any tips about credit card rewards for Europeans? I just feel it’s so much easier for people in the US.
    Anyway, I’d love to fly from Málaga to Reykjavik (or Stockholm)!

  17. I would go from New York to Sarajevo ($271 one way) and then I’ll travel around to finally fly back from Vienna! AAHHH!! And I’d go in October, so I get to catch a little bit of the autumn colors in Europe!

    P.s. Love the tips above! I do 90% of the same things! The other 10% – I just learned today, so I will apply that next time I’m booking flights! Thank you!

  18. Great piece, Dani, which I’m saving for future use(s).

    As for the Norwegian Air flight, I’d select a flight from London to Malta.

    My dad came from Malta and he used to take the family there when I was a child so I’ve been longing to return. Most of my dad’s immediate family (including him) are gone but I have a cousin still living there and roots which go back for more than a century.

  19. Hi Dani! I would use the voucher to fly from Bangkok to Paris towards the end of this year as I plan to temporarily relocate to Brittany to explore and write about the region and learn French (a life long dream).

  20. Hi! I would use the JFK-ORY route. I have a good friend from high school who lives in Paris and I would love to see her! She owns a Pilates studio there and I may have to do some to work off all that good food! 🙂

  21. Great tips. Love to fly to St. Petersburg.

    Would look forward to any tips for single senior women travelling that would avoid single supplements.

  22. I would use it to go to Copenhagen because it looks like an absolutely amazing place. I am currently studying in Rome, so it would be nice to get to travel to different places while i’m here.

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