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Flight Booking

25 Ways to Save Money on Flights

Scott Keyes
By 
Scott Keyes
Founder & Chief Flight Expert (CFE)
11 min read
Last updated 
October 24, 2019

At Scott’s Cheap Flights, we know a thing or two about saving money on flights. Our team of global flight experts spends hundreds of hours each week searching for amazing flight deals, which we send to our 1.6 million members around the world.

Our members save an average of $550 per ticket, and some incredible recent deals include several US cities to Barcelona in the $200s roundtrip, to Hawaii in the $300s roundtrip, and to Tokyo for $569 roundtrip (nonstop).

Here are 25 tips for how to save money on flights.

1. Flip the way you plan a trip.

Most people decide where they want to go, choose dates, and then look for the best prices on flights to that specific destination on those specific dates. We recommend selecting your location and dates based on the best available deals. If you have more flexibility in where you go and the exact dates you travel, you’ll have a better chance of finding a great fare.

Potential savings: High
Level of effort: Low

2. Use flexible date search to find the cheapest travel dates for your trip

searching flexible dates on google

Sometimes changing your travel dates by just a few days can drastically change a flight price. Flight search sites like Google Flights and Kayak allow you to see prices for up to two months at a time, making it easy to see if a small shift in timing could result in big savings.

Step 1. Input your departure and destination cities.
Step 2. Click on the date field and a box will open that shows two months of availability.
Step 3. Click to the next months to see more. The dates in green show the cheapest fares.

Potential savings: High
Level of effort: Low

3. Focus on getting across the ocean as cheaply as possible.

When you’re looking for a flight to a far-flung or less visited place, it can be much cheaper to buy one ticket to a major hub, and then a separate ticket from that hub to your final destination.

For example, if you want to go to Santorini, it’s likely cheaper to buy one roundtrip ticket from your home to Athens and a separate roundtrip ticket from Athens to Santorini than it would be to purchase a flight to Santorini all on one itinerary.

>> Find out how to use this travel hack here.

Potential savings: High
Level of effort: Moderate

4. Use Momondo to make sure you’re getting the best price.

Momondo searches dozens of OTAs, so once you’ve found your best price on another search site, try your search on Momondo. It may be unable to unearth a better fare than those shown on Google Flights and large OTAs like Priceline and Orbitz.

>> Get tips on using Momondo to find the cheapest fares.

Potential savings: Moderate
Level of effort: Low

5. Use Skiplagged to see hidden-city fares.

Hidden-city ticketing is when you buy a ticket to a point beyond where you actually want to go, and then end your trip on the layover city. This can save you a lot on last-minute trips or when the destination you want to visit is a main hub. There are some caveats to hidden city ticketing, but the savings can be considerable.

>> Read more about Skiplagged and what you should know about hidden-city ticketing.

Potential savings: Moderate
Level of effort: Moderate

6. Use map features to find the cheapest place to go for your travel window.

using Google Explore map

If you’re open to a variety of destinations, use the map feature on search sites like Kayak and Google Flights.

You can select specific dates or choose a weekend, one-week, or two-week trip in a certain time frame, and the map will show you the prices for an entire region so you can easily see if you can save hundreds by flying into London instead of Paris, for example.

Skyscanner’s “Anywhere” function also searches for the best prices to anywhere in the world for your specific dates.

>> Read our guides to Google Flights and Kayak here.

Potential savings: High
Level of effort: Low

7. Use the 24-hour rule to cancel if the price drops.

This US regulation allows passengers to cancel or change their flight free of charge within 24 hours of booking, if they booked directly with the airline at least seven days before travel for a flight going to or from the US.

This means if you book and the price goes down within than 24-hour window, you can cancel the old flight and book the new, cheaper one. Though the rule only applies to tickets purchased directly from the airline, many OTAs have their own version.

>> Read more about the 24-hour rule.

Potential savings: Moderate
Level of effort: Moderate

8. If flying a foreign carrier, see if it's cheaper to book with your location or currency set in the carrier’s home country.

Occasionally, a ticket can cost significantly less if booked in the currency of the country where the airline is based or if you change your location to that country. It doesn’t always work (in fact, sometimes it cost more) but it’s worth taking a few moments to check.

>> See how you can save money on Norwegian Air flights by booking in NOK.

Potential savings: Moderate
Level of effort: Moderate

9. Act fast to snag mistake fares.

A mistake fare is when an airline accidentally discounts a ticket to a price lower than they intended, and it can mean huge savings—up to 90% off—for travelers. But, these fares can disappear as quickly as they appear, so you have to spot them and snag them fast.

Not sure you can get the time off work or line up childcare? Here’s where the 24-hour rule can also help; book it before the price is gone and you have 24 hours to decide.

>> Learn more about mistake fares.

Potential savings: High
Level of effort: Moderate

10. Try Priceline’s Express Deals.

Priceline Express Deals

If scoring a super low fare is more important than knowing key details (like your exact schedule) before you book, check out Priceline’s Express Deals.

You’ll know some basic info, like the departure and destination cities, departure times, and maximum layovers and connection times, but a lot of the specifics, like the airline and exact flight times, won’t be revealed until you’ve paid.

>> Get the scoop on Priceline's Express Deals here.

Potential savings: Moderate
Level of effort: Moderate

11. Buy in the right window of time.

We typically see the best deals for international flights 3-6 months out, but if you’re traveling during peak times (summer or the holidays, for example) or your plans are inflexible, it’s wise to start looking even earlier.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should book as soon as you hit the 6-month window; wait until you find a great deal. And ignore any advice that says there’s a “cheapest time to buy,” like 3am on Tuesday. That may have been true in the past but now fares are updated constantly and great deals can pop up anytime.

>> Read more about the best time to book a flight.

Potential savings: High
Level of effort: Low

12. Watch out for sneaky fees.

In this age of unbundling, there are often fees for things that used to be included (depending on the airline and class). For example, if you’re flying an airline or in a class that charges for bags, check if it's each way or each leg; if it’s each leg and you plan to check a bag, it may be cheaper in the long run to upgrade to a fare class that included bags or switch to a direct flight.

Potential savings: Moderate
Level of effort: Moderate

13. Set fare alerts to track a specific flight.

tracking prices on Google Flights

If you’re interested in getting the best price on a specific flight (with a specific destination and set dates) set fare alerts so you’re notified when the price changes. You can set them on most major search sites and OTAs like Google Flights, Kayak, and Priceline.

>> Read our guide to setting fare alerts.

Potential savings: High
Level of effort: Low

14. Bring your own food.

Many budget airlines don’t offer meal service so be sure to bring your own sustenance. In most cases, even if there is food offered, anything you bring from home or buy in the airport will not only be cheaper than what’s served on board, it’ll taste better, too.

>> Get more tips for surviving a long flight.

Potential savings: Low
Level of effort: Moderate

15. If you’re interested in flying in a premium class but can’t afford to buy an upgraded seat, look to see if you can bid on an upgrade.

If there are any available seats, the airline might allow you to bid on an upgrade, which can be considerably cheaper than buying it outright. You can also look at options during online check-in or ask about upgrades at the counter. Sometimes unsold premium seats can be had for a significant discount.

Potential savings: High
Level of effort: Low

16. Look at budget airlines, but don’t discount legacy carriers.

Budget airlines have come a long way and many carriers branded as budget carriers (Norwegian Air or JetBlue, for example) actually offer an extremely pleasant journey.

However, budget carriers aren’t guaranteed to be cheaper than their full-service counterparts. Also, many budget carriers change a lot of fees, so if you have both options for your flight, compare the true cost and be sure to weigh the pros and cons of each.

>> Read more about budget airlines and the difference between budget and legacy carriers.

Potential savings: Moderate
Level of effort: Low

17. Go basic economy and only pay for what you need.

If you don’t need advance seat selection or checked luggage, a basic economy ticket can save you some cash.

These rock-bottom fares have some restrictions (typically they cannot be changed or canceled and aren’t eligible for upgrades) and don’t include some benefits of main economy, like advance seat selection but the seat is located in the same cabin as regular economy, and you’ll only pay for the things you need.

>> Read our complete guide to basic economy.

Potential savings: High
Level of effort: Low

18. Always compare the cost of upgrading vs the cost of extras.

comparing costs

A caveat to basic economy: With a basic economy ticket, advance seat selection costs extra (if it’s allowed at all) and you’ll pay for a checked bag.

If you need these extras, compare the cost of the basic economy ticket plus all the extra fees to the cost of upgrading to main economy. Often it’s more economical to upgrade vs adding the fees a la carte, but be aware you’ll need to upgrade at the time of booking.

Potential savings: Moderate
Level of effort: Low

19. If you want to visit multiple cities, look at flying open-jaw.

Prices for open-jaw flights are often comparable to regular out-and-back roundtrips and allow you to fly into one city and out of another (for example, into Paris and out of Amsterdam).

Even if the open-jaw costs a bit more, it can save you time and money as you won’t have to backtrack to your original destination to fly home.

>> Read more about open-jaw flights and how to book them.  

Potential savings: Moderate
Level of effort: Low

20. Plan a long layover to see another city.

See two cities on one ticket by booking an itinerary with a long layover (8 hours or even a day or two). Some airlines, like Icelandair and TAP Portugal, allow you to stay over in certain cities for several days with no increase in the ticket price. Even when it’s not offered as part of an official policy, you can often add a layover for similar cost.

>> Learn how to book a long layover here.

Potential savings: Moderate
Level of effort: Low

21. Look for free stopover tours and hotels.

Sometimes, when a long layover is imposed by the airline due to their flight schedule, the airline will offer a free STPC (stopover paid by carrier), which might include a free hotel room or tour. Some airports also offer free layover tours for transiting passengers.

Potential savings: Moderate
Level of effort: Low

22. Join the airline's loyalty program.

If you consistently fly one (or a few) airlines join their loyalty program to earn points every time you fly. You can then redeem these points for flights and upgrades. If you earn enough miles to achieve a high status with the airline you may even get free upgrades.

Potential savings: High
Level of effort: Low

23. Open an airline co-branded credit card.

Another way to earn points with a specific airline is to open a co-branded credit card. You’ll earn points on purchases (not just flights) and you may get perks like free checked bags.

Potential savings: High
Level of effort: Moderate

24. Pack light to avoid checked bag fees.

Checked bag fees are becoming more common—especially on budget carriers or when booking a basic economy fare—so if your bags aren’t flying free, pack light and small so you can travel carry-on only. Depending on the airline and route, you could save hundreds of dollars.

>> Read our tips on packing carry-on only.

Potential savings: Moderate
Level of effort: Moderate

25. Join Scott’s Cheap Flights.

Save up to 90% on international flights with cheap flight alerts delivered right to your inbox. Our team of flight experts is constantly searching for amazing airfare deals and we send the best of the best to our Premium members.

Our members save an average of $550 per ticket—more than 10 times the cost of an annual membership.

Potential savings: High
Level of effort: Low

>> Read more about how Scott’s Cheap Flights works or join now and don’t miss another great deal.

Last Updated 
June 20, 2019
25 Ways to Save Money on Flights
Scott Keyes
Founder & Chief Flight Expert (CFE)

Scott has traveled to 46 countries (and 46 states!), living in California, to Oaxaca, to Oregon. He’s left-handed, drinks five cups of tea daily, and holds a vendetta against the “Happy Birthday” song. On a dare, he once ate 13 hot dogs (and a bowl of Dippin’ Dots) at the ballpark. He grew up in Ohio and founded Scott’s Cheap Flights in a Denver coffee shop. Favorite airport: PDX.

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