I think the hardest, and usually the most expensive, part of a trip is the flights. It’s not abnormal for flights to Europe to cost well over $1000 dollars for an economy seat, or for flights to Asia to cost upwards of $2000. That’s a big chunk of cash to drop on transportation, and I think it’s a major barrier for people.
Here’s the good news: it doesn’t have to be that expensive! People always ask us how we are able to afford to travel so much, and here it is: we scope out deals on flights! If you can get there, you can budget and travel inexpensively, as long as you get there!
We have gotten round trip tickets from LA to Amsterdam for $402, from Phoenix to Munich for $463, from San Francisco to Iceland for $425, and from Phoenix to Thailand for $850.
I wanted to take some time to share some of our tips and tricks so you too can see some amazing places!
When you are first planning your trip, the first thing to keep in mind is alternate travel dates. The price for destinations can vary depending on the day of the week and time of year. It can also vary based on whether it is a big commuter town. One example is Washington, DC or New York City. These cities have a large number of people who fly in on Monday for work and leave on Friday to go home to their families. The cheapest flights there might be on Friday when employees are leaving for the weekend. On the other hand, if a city mainly relies on tourism, then you might be better off arriving on a Thursday to beat the rush.
Being flexible on your destination is also something that you could consider as an option. Say you only have one or two specific weeks off each year, if you are open to exploring the idea of different places, you may find a great deal, rather than being tied down by a specific place on a specific date.
Time of Year
Prices will be the highest during holidays and vacation times, especially summer. The best time to travel is shoulder season, the period between the high and low seasons. Depending on where you visit, there is typically a shoulder season for both spring and fall. In our experience, fall ends up being the best time to find great deals in the US and Europe. Prices can be half what you would expect to pay during high season!
Another thing to consider is flying into a regional airport. Here in Phoenix, our major airport is Phoenix International, but the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport in the East Valley is another option. If you wanted to fly into Los Angeles, the largest airport is LAX, but there are 4 other regional airports throughout Los Angeles. One of these might also be closer to where your staying, saving you transportation costs and time.
Finding Deals on Google Flights
One of the first places I look when I am considering a vacation is Google Flights. This website is a great resource for a few different scenarios. For example, lets say you have a four day weekend and you are looking for somewhere cheap to travel. Google Flights gives you an easy way to find some great destinations.
This is what you’ll see when you first pull up the site:
As you can see, this website gives you a lot of different options. You can start by inputting your dates and hitting explore destinations. This will bring up a page will all of the possible places you can fly during those dates with their respective prices.
You can also sort your results by price if you have a certain budget or by airline if you prefer. One thing to note is that Google Flights will not show results for Southwest Airlines. You have to go to their website and search from there to find prices.
Another way to use google flights is to find the cheapest dates for somewhere you want to go. This can be accomplished by searching for a destination and clicking on the date range to change your dates.
As you can see, it is cheaper to leave on the 17th and return on the 20th. One last thing to note about Google Flights is the ability to track prices. Once you select your dates, you can choose to track the price instead of purchasing right away.
You will get an email whenever the price changes. This is particularly useful if your flight is 6 months away and there is a good chance the price will drop.
Which Airline should I choose?
It’s logical to choose whichever airline has the cheapest flight, but sometimes there’s more to it than that. Some super cheap flights will have several long layovers. Some budget airlines also have a lot of fees for various things like checking bags, carry on bags, etc. Before you book with an airline take a minute to check their policies for things like that. You may book a flight that’s $75 cheaper than comparable flights thinking you’re saving, but end up with a bunch of fees costing $75 or more. At that rate, you could have just flown on a higher class airline for the same price.
Another way I find great deals is by signing up for a daily email from The Flight Deal. Guys, this website is so cool! They post deals throughout the day for many different cities. They have specific pages for flight deals leaving from certain cities. You can visit the page for your city periodically or sign up for their email list and receive a daily email that shows all of the most recent travel deals. Here’s a link for their Phoenix page.
One downside to a lot of these type of flight deals is that they don’t last long. When we booked the flights to Munich, the day we booked them they were $463 round trip, and the next day they were $1400!
So what happens if you find a great deal you don’t want to miss out on? If you are booking airfare in the US, you have 24 hours to cancel your flight for a full refund (as long as it’s not marked as non-refundable and you book it at least a week before the flight). Hopefully that will give you enough time to get things in order.
We love talking about travel tips and deals with people we meet. Although we do not use these resources personally, several people have said good things about them:
Hopper is a wait and watch app. It let’s you put in your travel dates and then tells you if you should buy tickets or wait.
Scott’s Cheap Flights is an awesome website where you subscribe to the email list and get flight deals emailed to you.
I hope you found this useful and feel inspired to go somewhere wonderful! I would love to know if you have any other tips for finding cheap flights.
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