How to Find Cheap Flights?
Personally I believe that the best way save money on flights is not to fly! Whenever possible I try to travel by land, stopping in several locations, seeing much more and spending much less, but of course this is not always possible, and when it's not I at least want to get where I'm going as cheaply as possible. In this guide I hope to share some of my tips and secrets of how to find the cheapest flights possible.
Having Flexible Dates
This is maybe the single most important thing, if you need to travel on exact dates it will be very hard to find a cheap flight unless you are lucky. Flight prices change from day to day and the more flexible you are the more likely you will be able to find a cheaper option. Sometimes you will see a flight available on one day for €100, and the very next day the same flight with the same airline can cost €300+!
Having Flexible Locations
This will depend on person, but for me one of the ways I save the most money is by being flexible with location. Especially if you are a hitchhiker this can save you A LOT! A few years ago I was in Beijing and wanting to fly to Istanbul. If I limited myself to only flying from Beijing to Istanbul the cheapest flight was around €700! However I found a flight from Hong Kong to Istanbul for €350, HALF THE PRICE! It took me 3 days to hitchhike to HK from there as I met a nice guy who wanted to host me and show me around his town, but for those 3 days (which I enjoyed) I saved, or I could say EARNED €350! Always remember; “a penny saved is a penny gained”
This is not only true for hitchhikers though, in fact I could have taken a bus from Beijing to HK and still saved around €300.
Most people say you you should book your flights around 4-6 weeks before departure. It is sometimes true, and I also notice that this is roughly the time when airlines give the most special offers, but I don’t believe this is as important as many people say. Still, the most important thing is flexibility and the earlier you book the more flexible you can be.
Budget airlines are great! They reduce the unnecessary comforts and get us from A to B very cheaply, which is all most of us need. Be careful though, they are usually full of hidden administration fees, they love to throw fines at you if your luggage is overweight and they charge crazy prices on board for things like food and drinking water. Ryan air even charges you to use the toilet on some flights! If you took one of these flights to save money, don’t EVER buy their extras, and be careful to untick any boxes for extras when you are booking for flight, sometimes they tick them for you. For example €1.50 for a text message notification of your flight... Like, c'mon you gotta kidding me right?!
Make sure you bring some food with you, you're not allowed to bring drinks into the airport but you ARE allowed to bring an empty water bottle which you can fill up at a drinking fountain inside. If you do run out of water onboard just ask them for a GLASS of water because you are feeling sick but don’t have any money, this worked for me on my last flight.
There are a lot of budget airlines around the world but here are a few of my favourite:
- Europe - Ryanair, Easyjet, Wizzair
- Germany - Sunexpress
- Turkey - Pegasus
- Middle East - Emirates, Etihad
- Asia - Airasia
Please comment below if you know any more I can add to this list.
Don’t underestimate airmiles as I have in the past. I never bothered to put my name and email address down for them because I don’t fly very often, but I did some research into it lately and realized over the years I could have probably had at least 1 or 2 free flights if I had signed up.
Another thing to look into is cashback. Especially if you book through a big company like eBookers you can often get up to 5% cash back into your pocket through sites like topcashback.co.uk
Flight Search Engines
Once you've taken all the above tips into consideration it's time to start searching. There are many flight search engines around, for me I find Skyscanner the best. I will write another more detailed guide on how to use it soon. Skyscanner searches all the other companies like eBookers, lastminute.com, etc. and finds you the cheapest of all of them. They make their money from advertising NOT from booking fees so that I know of they are not biased and always give the cheapest they can find, also you can search multiple destinations on multiple dates all at once.
Other than Skyscanner you can also try:
Ok, right now I am planning a 4 month trip to South America to escape the coming winter in Europe, obviously it would be a bit hard to hitchhike from Europe to South America so time to find some cheap flights.
I went onto Skyscanner.net and put in From: Turkey - To: Everywhere and set the dates for the whole year (yes, I’m pretty flexible, you can also put whole month). Clicked search and it gave me a list of countries in order of the cheapest to fly to. So now I go down this list until I find one close to where I want to go, in this case somewhere in Central/South America as I'm not picky (again, flexibility is key!). The first one I noticed was Cuba for €420, but unfortunately though Cuba is an Island and I’d prefer to be on the mainland. The next on the list is Brazil but it was €540 and far too expensive in my opinion. So, I guess Turkey is not a good place to fly to South America from.
Let’s check other countries. I checked a few of the countries around Turkey like Greece and the Balkans and didn’t find any cheap flights at all! But I noticed that Brazil kept coming up on the list as a cheap place to fly to. So let’s try the reverse. This time I searched From: Brazil - To: Everywhere. Look down the list and… Aha! Italy: €287! That’s a bit more reasonable. So I click it, it gives another list of cities in Italy, and then cities in Brazil; of course I choose the cheapest result for both of them. And there it is, €287 on the 20th of August. Only thing is this flight is a bit earlier than I would ideally like to travel, otherwise I’d probably book it. So I kept searching and decided to search Mexico, just because it’s a large and popular destination and you often get more long distance flights going there. I couldn’t believe it but it actually came up with a €125 flight from Mexico to Spain! I searched the reverse journey and it was €144, but ok still amazingly cheap.
So that is how I found a €144 flight from Europe to Central America, it probably took me around an hour of searching different options, and… It is quite a long hitchhike from Turkey to Spain, but one I am happy to do to save €400. Alternatively you could fly from Turkey to Spain for around €50-80 so still saving a lot, and why not spend a few days in Spain while I'm passing through?
Please comment and let me know if you have any other tips or advice to fellow travellers on finding cheap flights, also for me... I know I'm not perfect 😉