My Top 5 Ultra Top Secret Tips to Flying Cheap
I have the secret formula. Yeah, you heard me right plankton.
I don't want to ruin this for you but in the show Spongebob Squarepants, it's finally revealed that the secret ingredient is NOTHING. Imagine after all those years of fighting Mr. Krabs, sneaking Krabby patties, and plotting with your wife Karen to finally get to the apex and realize the answer was sitting in front of you the entire time.
The secret ingredient to finding cheap flights is… not necessarily nothing (sorry to break it to you). But, it is right in front of you now!
Tip #1: Purchase flights on Tuesdays and Wednesdays
From personal experience, I've noticed the best days to book flights are on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. I find that the price for most of the flights I track on Google Flights and Hopper tend to dip mid-week. This could be for a multitude of reasoning. For one, airlines usually release "sales" or "deals" on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Additionally, most people will tend to buy flights when they get paid- Fridays.
Tip #2: Fly out on Wednesdays and Saturdays, Fly back on Tuesdays and Wednesdays
I'm so sorry to break it to you, but it's very hard to get a cheap flight on Sundays. Sunday is the hot girl of the week! Everyone wants to leave for their week-long vacation to the Caribbean on Sunday and everyone wants to return home on Sunday as well. It is far less expensive to leave mid-week or on a Saturday. On your return, you will find Sunday and Monday mornings will be more expensive than say a Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning.
I know I KNOW- these days are virtually impractical for most of us 9-5 folk. Don't fret. If you do want to fly out Sunday, early morning (I'm talking WITCHING hours) is going to be the cheapest option for you.
Tip #3: Expand your airport radius!
My home airport is Washington National (DCA) and I conveniently live 8 minutes away. DCA is a national airport meaning they rarely fly internationally. The two closest international airports are Baltimore Washington (BWI) and Dulles (IAD). I hate both of them, but you will probably never catch me at Dulles.
I do NOT limit my airport radius to the DC area. When I'm looking for flights, I also look for airports that I can conveniently get to via a bus or train. From DC it takes 3 hours to get to Philadelphia and 4.5 hours to get to NYC, Newark, and Pittsburgh. If I plan early enough, I can get a roundtrip bus ticket to New York City for 20 USD.
It might be a pain in the butt, but you can save loads of money by expanding your radius! In August, I'm flying to Barcelona on Air Canada for 370 USD roundtrip! I'm flying out of Philadelphia because it's significantly cheaper than flying out of DC. I'm just going to attach a screenshot of how much flights are to Barcelona right now, flying out of DC…
Additionally, do you research! London has FIVE airports (London City, London Gatwick, London Heathrow, London Luton and London Stansted). New York City area has THREE airports (JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark). If you're flying to Miami, you might find it far cheaper, but less convenient, to fly into Ft. Lauderdale (FLL) than to Miami (MIA).
Tip #4: Multi-city flight options!
You've heard of a one-way flight. You've heard of a round-trip flight. But have you heard of a multi-city flight? Multi-city flights are a great way to save money AND get the most bang for your buck.
In 2017, I took a mini world tour before I started my internship in Windhoek, Namibia. Tickets from DC to Windhoek were, on average, 1400-1600 USD roundtrip. I had just graduated from college and knew that I wanted to spend some time venturing to other places. Instead of flying directly, I took cheap flights through Europe to finally get to Windhoek.
Here was my route:
DC->Iceland (Wow Air)
Iceland-> Ireland (Wow Air)
Ireland-> Germany (Euro Wings)
Germany-> Windhoek (Eurowings)
All in all, I saved money and was able to pick up some countries along the way! If you're flying across the world, you'll probably have a layover at some point. I essentially gave myself long layovers and used them to visit new places!
Tip #5: Book in advance and track!
I usually implement a "flight first" method when traveling meaning I fly when I find a cheap flight. Every so often, I'll need to fly domestically to visit friends and family across the US. I like to book my flights 6-12 weeks (1.5-3 months) before departure. I know this isn't always realistic, but the closer you are to the departure date the more expensive the flight is going to be!
I use Google Flights to look at flight trends. Most flight prices will have an oscillating period of rising and falling before they become pretty set and expensive. If I see a flight I'm interested in, I use the Google Flights "Track this flight" feature. Now every time that specific flight changes in price, google will email me!
Additional quick tips:
- Subscribe to scottscheapflights.com
- Clear your browser history and cookies when you book flights!
- Fly with a carry-on bag. Do you need a checked bag? Packing light is a great way to save money!
- Fly low-cost airlines. Spirit and Frontier make you pay for everything down to the water, but you can get to your destination for dirt cheap!
I wish you all happy flight shopping! Let me know in the comments if these tips helped you to secure a flight for the low low!