How To Get The Cheapest Flights
Updated: Oct 17
Tips & tricks for getting the absolute best flight deals! Find out how I flew to Australia for $172!
In the past 2 years, I've been able to do a lot of traveling on very little money. Working Holidays and minimalistic living are main contributors when it comes to sustaining my travels but one overlooked money-saver I've kept in my back pocket is the art of cheap flying. We usually assume we don't have much control over the matter when it comes to flight prices, but I've found that with the right tools and a bit of creativity, you can save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars!
I know a lot of people who turn to sites like SkyScanner and Kayak for flights, but I've always found Google Flights to be the most convenient for locking down the absolute best deal.
The main feature that got me hooked on this site was the interactive calendar.
Here's how it works: once you choose your arrival and departure destinations you'll be asked for a departure date. If you click on the calendar icon, an interactive calendar will pop up and you'll see the cheapest flying dates listed in green (if you are booking a round trip ticket, you'll have to select a departure date before the cheapest return dates show up in green...so keep trying different departure dates to see the cheapest round trip flights!).
I'm typically pretty flexible with my travels so this is a way for me to find out which days will save me the most. For example, if you look at the picture below, you can see that flight prices jump hundreds if not thousands of dollars with just one day or 2 difference.
You can also type in a generic country or continent for arrival and a map will pull up showing you the cheapest places to fly into. For example, you could simply choose to fly from Orlando to "Europe" and see which European country was cheapest to fly into:
This leads us to our next point:
For me, this is the fun part. It definitely takes some work, but this is where you will save the most money; the more flexible you are, the better of a deal you can get.
Sometimes, to get the best deal, you're going to have to come up with your own flight route rather than picking the predetermined ones given to you on booking sites. This is because airlines often run deals on flights in and out of specific cities (usually cities with major airports) and some airports are just generically cheaper to fly in/out of than others.
For example, its much cheaper to fly to LA or Hawaii first when going to Australia than it would be to book a straight through flight out of somewhere on the east coast of the US.
Likewise, if you were looking for a flight to Europe from the US, it could be beneficial to book a separate flight first to New York or Orlando (the cheapest Europe flights usually come out of these airports!) and then another from there to your destination (again, you have to play around with it! It all depends on the airlines and the time of year).
Essentially what you are doing is booking your own connecting flights rather than letting the booking sites choose a flight path for you! These automated flight paths are often put together by the airlines because they are the most convenient/shortest/etc but if you're willing to loosen up your plans a bit and sit through a couple layovers, you can save loads!
Keep in mind however ... with this method of flight booking, you may have to pay to check your bags again for the next flight if you book them separate. You will also have to pick your luggage up from baggage claim and recheck it (then go through security again) before catching your next flight. This works great if you have a long layover but not everyone wants to go through the trouble (again, the more flexible you are, the more you can save). Just keep all of that in mind!
Alternate Methods of Travel
Another way you can get creative is to consider alternate methods of travel. Maybe you find a cheap flight into a city that's a couple hours away from your intended destination, then you book a bus or a train to finish out the rest of the journey! It might be cheaper than grabbing another connecting flight or booking the original straight-through flight.
Round Trip vs One Way
Always compare these to see if there are any special deals!
When booking a ticket home from Australia for Christmas, I found that I could get a round trip ticket for the exact same price as a one-way... crazy!
If you're looking to travel for extended periods of time however, one-way tickets might be the way to go, given that can help make your travels a lot more accessible (especially if you plan to do a working holiday and make money while at your destination). You can simply pay 1/2 the price now and pay the other 1/2 when you have the money saved. These also give you the flexibility of choosing your return date when you're ready rather than locking yourself in.
When considering round trip vs one way, remember that round trip tickets make you book in and out of the same airport- but with one way tickets, you could get creative and fly out of a different place than you flew into!
So just play around- compare round trip tickets to one way tickets and see what you find!
How I Flew To Australia For $172
Alright so let's put this all together to find out how I got such a cheap flight from the US to Australia!
At the time, I was living in Maui, Hawaii and I was looking to start my Australian adventure up in the northern part of the country. So I first checked flights from Maui to Cairns (my intended destination). $3000. Yikes.
I then checked flights from Honolulu to Cairns: $900. Better.
Then I checked Honolulu to Sydney... $107!!!
Now I had to consider how I was going to get from Maui to Honolulu and then from Sydney to Cairns, plus decide if it would be worth it to book separate flights.
I ended up finding that inter-island flights were less than $50 and that a domestic flight from Sydney to Cairns would be less than $200. This totaled my flight out to $172 (before checking luggage) and less than $300 after luggage.
**Now I did have to spend the night in the Honolulu airport rest area, re-check my bags, and go through security a couple extra times. I also wasn't provided a meal, snacks, or entertainment on the Jetstar flight since it is a budget airline. But again, you just have to weigh the pros and cons and work with what you've got! I didn't have a ton of money to blow through but I really wanted to get to Australia so for me this was totally worth it!!
I hope this helped some! Let me know if you guys have any questions :)
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