Air travel, once a luxury, has now become a necessity for many of us. Whether we’re jetting off for business, visiting loved ones, or satisfying our wanderlust, flying provides a quick and convenient way to reach our destination. But often, the cost of airfare can be a deterrent, making us rethink our travel plans. However, there are ways to circumvent this. Through a combination of planning, flexibility, and some smart strategies, you can find cheap airfare that doesn’t break the bank. This comprehensive guide will help you navigate the world of low-cost air travel, providing you with the best hacks and tips to secure the most affordable flights.
Be Flexible With Dates
If you want to score cheap flights, flexibility is critical. The price of flights can fluctuate greatly depending on the time of year, day of the week, and even time of day. Avoid travelling during peak seasons or holidays when flights are in high demand. Off-peak periods, often referred to as shoulder seasons, can yield cheaper fares and fewer crowds.
Also, consider flying on traditionally cheaper days. Generally, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays are less expensive days to fly, while Fridays and Sundays are pricier. Early morning or late-night “red-eye” flights can also be an excellent way to save money.
Be Flexible With Airports
Use this to your advantage if you’re fortunate enough to live near multiple airports. Different airports may offer vastly different fares, even for the same destination. For instance, a flight to Barcelona might be significantly cheaper from London Gatwick than London Heathrow. Moreover, consider airports at your destination as well. Many popular locations have more than one airport within a reasonable distance, and landing at a less popular one could save you some money.
Harness the Power of Search Engines
Use Flight Search Engines
Flight search engines are a traveller’s best friend. They sift through countless airlines and travel sites to present you with a list of the best deals. Among the most popular are Google Flights, Skyscanner, and Momondo. These platforms allow you to compare prices from various airlines, including low-cost carriers, ensuring you get the most bang for your buck.
Explore Nearby Airports
Most search engines offer the option to include nearby airports in your search. This feature can reveal cheaper fares just a short drive or train ride away from your preferred departure or arrival airport. So, when entering your search parameters, click the box that says “Include nearby airports” or a similar option.
Make the Most of Google Flights
Google Flights is an incredibly powerful tool for finding cheap airfare. With its user-friendly interface and numerous features, it can help you nab a great deal on your next flight.
Use the Calendar View
One of Google Flights’ standout features is its calendar view, which allows you to see the cheapest days to fly at a glance. As you scroll through the calendar, you can immediately identify the most affordable dates for your trip. This can be a game-changer if your travel dates are flexible.
Try Google Flights Explore
The Google Flights Explore tool can be a fantastic resource if you’re open to various destinations. Simply enter your home airport and let the map guide you. It will show you the cheapest places to fly from your location, making it perfect for spontaneous trips or for those who just want to go somewhere – anywhere – without breaking the bank.
Consider One-Way and Multi-City Flights
Book One-Way Flights
Contrary to popular belief, booking round-trip flights with the same airline isn’t always the most cost-effective option. Sometimes, you can save money by booking two one-way flights with different airlines. This strategy allows you to choose the cheapest flight for each leg of your journey, potentially resulting in substantial savings.
Look into Multi-City Flights
If you plan to visit multiple cities or countries during your trip, consider booking a multi-city flight instead of multiple round-trip flights. This not only saves you time but can also be more economical. Plus, it gives you the freedom to plan your itinerary without being tied to the same departure and arrival city.
Book Individual Tickets for Group Travel
When travelling in a group, booking all tickets together is common practice. However, this isn’t always the most cost-effective method. Often, airlines have a limited number of seats available at a certain price point. You might miss out on these cheaper seats if you’re looking for a group. Instead, try searching for one ticket at a time, even if you’re travelling in a group. This can potentially save you money on at least one or more of your tickets.
Opt for Budget Airlines
Budget airlines have revolutionised the travel industry by offering significantly lower fares. Airlines like Ryanair, EasyJet, and others have made air travel more accessible, allowing more people to explore the world without draining their bank accounts. While these airlines offer fewer amenities and stricter luggage policies, the trade-off can be worth it for the substantial savings.
Use Airfare Price Tracking Tools
Airfare prices can fluctuate dramatically, making it challenging to know when to book. Fortunately, many flight search engines and travel websites offer airfare price tracking tools. These tools monitor flight prices for your chosen route and alert you when prices drop. This can be particularly useful for last-minute flights, as prices can vary considerably in the days leading up to departure.
Consider Last-Minute Deals
While planning ahead is generally the best way to get cheap airfare, airlines sometimes offer last-minute deals on unsold seats. Websites like Last Minute Travel and Lastminute.com specialise in such deals. While these bargains are not guaranteed, it’s worth checking these sites if you need to travel unexpectedly or if you’re open to spontaneous travel.
Leverage Airline Bereavement Fares
In unfortunate circumstances, such as a family emergency or the death of a loved one, some airlines offer “bereavement fares” or “compassion fares”. These are discounted, flexible tickets that can be booked at the last minute. British Airways, for example, may offer discounted fares for those needing to travel urgently due to the death or serious illness of a close family member.
Protect Your Trip with Travel Insurance
While not a method to secure cheap airfare, travel insurance can provide financial protection should your travel plans change unexpectedly. Depending on the policy, travel insurance may cover cancellation fees, medical expenses, lost luggage, and other unforeseen costs. Some credit cards also offer travel insurance benefits, so it’s worth checking whether you’re already covered before purchasing a separate policy.
Securing cheap airfare doesn’t have to be a daunting task. By being flexible, making smart use of flight search engines, considering alternative booking strategies, and protecting your investment with travel insurance, you can make your travel dreams a reality without breaking the bank. So, start planning your next adventure today and explore the world on a budget!