Like clockwork, you’ve seen the tip appear. The best way to save money on flights is to be flexible with dates. While that’s great for some, it’s freaking annoying for most of the world. With school holidays, limited vacation time and everything else “life”, flexibility is often not an option. Here’s how to find the best flight deals, assuming you have no flexibility!
There’s a difference between not having travel date flexibility and picking the right time of year to actually travel. If your only constraints are school days or major holidays, destinations are actually more fun if you plan your trip for fall, winter and early spring than summer. Here’s when to book travel for winter holidays. In peak summer, most of the world is impossibly expensive, yet in winter – most of it is roughly half the price, and hotels are too.
Set Alerts Early
Sorry, but you’re out of excuses on this one. Free flight price trackers are available from Google Flights, Hopper and Kayak and. instantly improve your odds of finding a great flight deal in time to book it. The earlier you set the price alerts, the sooner you’ll start getting an idea what a normal price is – and more importantly, when something really low comes along.
Most websites for booking flights will in fact offer the same exact price, but not always. That’s especially true if you also compare flight and hotel packages, versus just booking flights. In fact, sometimes both end up cheaper than just flights. Weird, but true. Here are the best websites for booking flights, and one wildcard in case you get into a last minute jam.
Dates may not be flexible, but that doesn’t mean location isn’t. Don’t forget that this can work with your departure or your destination. Use tools like Google Flights to search from five nearby cities at once, or to five easy, nearby cities. If you’re going to Europe, flights to Paris may be 2x cheaper than London – or vice versa – so it’s always worth looking at alternative cities, especially since you can use as few as 4,500 points per person, or a $30 ticket to make the final hop. In this example, you can even take the train for a lovely side trip!
Cash + Points
Some points programs such as Chase Travel and Capital One allow you to pay for some or all of an airline purchase. This can be a wonderful way to cash in points to help offset costs, no matter how expensive the ticket. The Chase Sapphire Reserve points program gives you 1.5 cents per point toward any ticket booked via Chase Ultimate Rewards, so if a ticket is $1000, just 30,000 points would give you $450 off. That’s seriously valuable.
“Oh let me just discuss dates later”. Yeah, you’ve already failed. It’s important to remember that any ticket which touches the USA coming, going or transiting is entitled to a full refund if you cancel within 24 hours, provided it’s more than 7 days from travel. With this in mind, you’ve just got to jump on a great flight deals when they come along. And know this: the only way to know a great deal is to know what a normal price is. Once again. price trackers are the easiest way to understand. Oh, and by the way – all the best sales like Cyber Monday are coming up, so start saving.
Avoid Last Minute
With very few exceptions, waiting until the last minute is going to cost you money. Try to avoid booking tickets within 21 days of travel, especially for peak season. Waiting to book last minute tickets can turn a 3 digit ticket and turn it into 4, which is no fun. In general, the best time to book international plane tickets is between 125-30 days, and for domestic from 60-21 days. Of course, if there’s an amazing sale, all advice goes out the window.
Follow Deal Blogs
It’s true, the best flight deals last 24 hours or less. If you really want to get serious, follow some blogs that cover flight deals, including our deals section. These are the “sales” airlines don’t announce and will be sure to knock your socks off every once in a while. TheFlightDeal.com, Premium-flights.com and Jack’s Flight Club can be good resources as well.