Your flight is generally one of the biggest expenses of taking a trip. That means finding the best deal is just as important as choosing the best destination, the best travel agent, the best luggage or the best hotel to bed down in. If the flight is out of your price range, you are likely staying home, so today you are going to learn the art of finding cheap flights. These steps will get you on the airplane and you’ll know you didn’t pay more than the other passengers, and in many cases, you will have paid less.

Why Flights are Expensive

There are a variety of reasons why airline tickets are so pricey. With shrinking profits and bankruptcy being an issue in the airline industry, most carriers are finding it hard to offer reduced flight prices and the limited competition keeps them from needing to do so. Also, many airlines have made cuts to flights and capacity, which means that most airplanes are full for every flight offered. Having full planes doesn’t give airlines any reason to drop rates. Even though oil prices have dropped, ticket prices haven’t and that’s because airlines stand to make some substantial money right now.

This doesn’t mean you can’t find a cheap flight though. Most airlines offer deals every day, which include reduced fares, mistaken price quotes that they must honour and discounts that let them compete with other airlines. Cheap fares are available, but you must know where to look. Keep reading for the best tips on how to find them for yourself.

How to Buy Tickets at the Cheapest Price

  • The cheapest rates are mostly available on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Flying on the weekend is the most expensive. You can save 20% to 40% on the cost of airline tickets by flying in the middle of the week.
  • You will find it impossible to keep track of flights to all destinations on all days. Signing up on vacation websites and flight apps will bring alerts and updates to you when there is a deal to take advantage of.
  • Flying between Europe and North America tend to follow a set pricing pattern. They start to go up in May and reach their top prices in June and July. At the end of August, the prices begin to drop again and reach their lowest point in the middle week of October before going up again for the Christmas and New Year period.
  • Flights between Asia and Europe and those between Asia and North America are harder to predict, but tend to peak in December, January, July and August. They are generally cheaper during the rest of the year. There can also be huge differences in what city you fly into, so be sure to check all possible routes to your destination.
  • Booking early is vital if you are travelling on set dates, such as heading to a family wedding or attending a specific event. This isn’t always true for other instances, despite what you’ve heard. Flight prices fluctuate with supply and demand, so you could find great deals close to your departure date. That price might not be better further from your departure so keep that in mind when booking.
  • You’ve got to be flexible if you want to get cheap flights. That includes being flexible on where you decide to go, when you go, how you go (whether you have stopovers and which seats you fly in). The more flexible you are, the better your chances of getting cheap tickets. Use flexible dates when you plan and you’re much more likely to find discounted prices or special deals.
  • If you’re flying on a major airline or are planning a flight across an ocean or continent, search websites like Kayak.com or Expedia.com. This way you can take the top four prices from the cheapest airlines and then search them for the dates you have in mind. Sometimes you’ll find much better prices this way.
  • If you are travelling with your kids, be sure you can take advantage of youth flights. They aren’t as common as they once were, but you can often save up to 40% by choosing this option for your children.
  • Try websites like Skyscanner or Which Budget for low cost carriers, most of which don’t advertise on websites like Expedia, Kayak, Travelocity or other such large advertising sites. You can find the best prices and route on these sites and then go to the airline’s site to book your tickets.
  • Buy an open-jaw ticket. This means you arrive in a different city than you’ll depart from. It saves time and money to avoid having to go back to the original city to return home. Most of the deals are tied to the same city, but you can often find reduced prices or get your tickets down to the cost of a standard ticket. This applies if you’re going to be going more than one place on your trip, rather than staying in one place. For example, you leave New York for London, but fly back to New York from Paris.

Data and Conclusions from Fare Compare

  • The best time to shop for domestic U.S. flights in at 3pm on Tuesday. That’s because sales are usually started on Mondays, are matched by other airlines on Tuesdays and are gone by Thursday. That gives you a 3-day window to get cheap flights.
  • U.S. domestic flights generally start discounting about 3 ½ months before departure and 4 to 5 months before departure for international flights. If you buy before that, chances are you’ll have to pay the full price.
  • The biggest price increase on flights usually occurs 14 days before a flight or 7 to 10 days for low cost carriers. Once that deadline passes, most airlines assume you’re desperate for the flight and will pay whatever you have to.