Travel has become a favorite hobby of mine over the years. From exploring new destinations and food, and being inspired by new cultures, architecture and history. I’ve grown passionate for traveling and making it a priority can be expensive. But it doesn’t have to be and today I’m going to show you how I find and book cheap flights.
A question everyone wants to know, how to book cheap flights. Should you buy on Wednesdays? Should you check Expedia? Everyone seems to have their own list of tips and tricks, and that’s perfectly fine. However, I’ve found some ways to get SERIOUS, and I mean SERIOUS discounts on tickets. A lot of people will also tell me, I can’t afford to travel Internationally. Guess what? You can. You just have to follow a few of my go to tips to score what may be a cheaper flight from ATL to SFO, than crossing the Atlantic to visit a whole new continent. It’s true! My flight to Paris from ATL was cheaper than my latest visit to San Francisco. I use Google Flights and a few go to tips. Here’s how I do it.
HOW TO FIND CHEAP FLIGHTS
Be flexible with…
First and foremost, you can’t expect to get an amazing deal if you can only travel on this specific date, and come home at this specific time. If you want to score deals you have to be flexible. Although this may be difficult for some, there’s some ways around it too. Browse months in advance, consider moving your trip a day earlier or later, and don’t be afraid of a red eye. But for the most part, you have to be willing to make decisions on a whim to score the best deal. It’s more fun that way anyway.
I’ve recently learned that Atlanta is totally ripping us off with flight prices. It’s no surprise that the largest and busiest airport is expensive to fly in and out of for the airlines. The airport fees for airlines must be insane because a flight out of ATL versus let’s say BOS is significantly cheaper for an international flight. No joke. So be sure to check nearby airports. This is really only ideal for International or some major cities like SF and NYC who have multiple airports in the area. Since layovers are already expected on International flights, you may be able to find a direct flight out of Miami and book cheap flights from ATL to MIA. More on how to research this below.
I’m pretty loyal to Delta because I finally have status (it’s just Silver, nothing to be that proud of) but if you’ve yet to really rack up points with an airline, feel free to check other airlines as well.
Use Google Flights
I basically check Google Flights more than Facebook at this point in my life. I’m kind of obsessed with finding cheap flights and seeing where I can fly to next as I slowly check off my bucket list. There are a few things I love about Google Flights specifically and here’s how I use it.
If you know you have to travel somewhere during a certain time, use their price tracker. This is a great tool if you have ample time in advance when you know you’re traveling. Easily select your dates, specific flights and select “Track Price”. It’ll notify you when flight prices vary, either up or down. This is really only helpful if you have a ton of time before your trip as flight prices will usually fluctuate. I use this for trips I know I have to book like weddings, business trips and such. I sometimes also just select a few random weeks for my dream destinations to keep an eye on prices.
I love to browse via their calendar view. This all comes back to being flexible on time. You type in your destination and then instead of selecting specific dates, let the calendar drop down. You can even browse months in the future and play around with dates.
I saved over $100 on my flight to SFO by leaving a few days earlier. Sure I spent more money while I was there, but it ended up being a really beneficial work trip. By adding those few days on I got to book a few business meetings and I got to visit a friend who recently moved there. Not a huge savings in the grand scheme of things, but by being flexible, and seeing the calendar view, I made that decision and was personally happy with it. Sometimes you may see that leaving a day earlier, or staying an extra day may save you money which may be worth it in the end.
Searching by multiple departing (and returning) airports. Like I mentioned above about being flexible, this is how I like to check various departing airport flight routes. You can list out several airport codes in the search when browsing. Being in Atlanta, I can usually grab a super cheap flight out of ATL to other east coast hubs like BOS, JFK or MIA. These three usually have really great deals to Europe and if the price is slashed enough, a $150 roundtrip flight to those cities still makes the flight WAY cheaper than flying direct (or even with layovers) out of ATL.
TIP: When searching for return flights, also put in those various airports because you may find one that has a layover in your home city. Here’s why. As soon as you arrive in the states, no matter if it’s your layover or final destination, you have to grab your checked bag and go through customs. I made this mistake on my last trip to Paris and added a whole other flight to my day for no good reason. Such a waste of time and money. Lesson learned!
Here’s how my Paris (CDG) trip should’ve gone with me leaving from ATL and wanting to return to ATL. I found a cheap flight from MIA to CDG, with a return flight of CDG with a layover in ATL (where I live), and final destination of MIA. Since flights to MIA from ATL are super cheap (less than $100 for a one way) I booked a one way ticket to MIA with ample time to grab my checked bag and allow for any delays. Once I landed back in ATL on my layover, just grab your bag and go home. So you totally skip the last leg of the trip, your ATL to MIA flight. This total trip cost $540. A normal direct flight (or one with layovers) out of ATL to CDG is upwards of $800-$1,000 sometimes.
Searching multiple airports is also ideal for when you’re traveling internationally, specifically Europe. So many of the major cities are within a cheap and fast train ride. So if you want to visit Paris, see if London has a good flight option as well! It’s an hour train ride and you get to visit a whole other city. Or if you’re heading to Italy, you can basically drive from Milan to Positano in 8 hours.
If you’re feeling really spontaneous, you can set up your search with your preferred dates and departing airport (and any other must’s like airline or number of stops if you want) and click the explore map option. From here you can see a whole map of options with pricing. This is a great way to find cheap flights for unexpected destinations. Sometimes you may just find a city you never realized you just had to visit.
Sign Up For Scotts Cheap Flights
This site is TOTALLY free and sends you daily deals that they find. They basically scour Google Flights for insane deals and notify its subscribers. Not all the deals last long enough to buy, and they don’t always leave from your departing city (but hey, now you know that doesn’t really matter!). I’ve seen some crazy deals like $300 to fly to Denmark, London and Paris to name a few. You have to be flexible, but again, if you know that you can take a vacation in a few months, you may be able to score that ticket and deal with your boss later.
You can also get premium which sends you more deals and any deals before their free subscribers. To get a free month of premium to try it out, sign up here!
Use An Airline Credit Card
Using a card that helps to get you points is such an easy way to grab a cheap flight. I only recommend using this method if you travel a lot. I finally made the decision this year to get the American Express Platinum card (you can apply here for any American Express and get a sign up bonus). It had so many benefits, like $200 in Uber credits and also my preferred airline. There was also a slew of other perks like access to lounges all over the world and various other discounts. For someone like me who travels quite a bit, it was worth the steep annual fee. I end up saving money because of it too between the credits and not spending as much at the airport on coffee and food. I recommend really doing your research on these and weighing out the pros and cons. If you plan to just take one to two trips a year it may be better to use a card that gives you cashback instead. Either way, exploring airline cards that flies overseas may be a great option to score a free flight!
Photos by JNelly and Sydney Bruton Photography