Searching for the least expensive and best itineraries for flights is a skill in itself. Flight search tips come and go and every year there are new and better ones than the last year. Here is the list of 12 flight search tips we think are quick, easy and most successful.
1. Look for Error Fares
Airlines often publish mistake fares which are typically caused by input errors, incorrect currency conversions or because of forgotten taxes or fees. When you find error fares, you can save hundreds of dollars and yes, they do honor the price that they published before it was corrected. The key is knowing the best ways to find these mistakes.
Error fares are unpredictable and can happen for any route, time, or season even during a busy holiday season. One way to find error fares is to sign up to an aggregate mistake fare search site like Secret Flying. This kind of website finds error fares every day on both domestic and international routes.
Another strategy is to find them yourself by searching a site like Google Flights or Skyscanner. Within Skyscanner, input your flight date by “Entire Month” so you can easily spot low prices.
2. Find a good flight deal? Book it now!
When we find a great deal on flights, we tend to take some time to think about it, to talk with travel companions or check out the other costs associated with the trip. However, when we do that, we risk losing the rate.
Don’t wait – just go ahead and book the flight deal immediately. It’s low risk because according to the law, you have 24 hours to change your mind and cancel the flight. When I double checked this with a travel agent, she agreed it’s true though it’s safest to make the cancellation on the same date you reserved – so before midnight on the day you made the reservation.
As well, while you’re within the 24-hour timeframe, continue to look for lower priced flights. Then just cancel your first reservation if you find something better.
3. The Package Hack
Often when booking package travel, for instance, a flight with a one-night hotel, you will receive a better flight price. The difference in price may well be worth the hotel night or you can also try canceling the hotel night after you’ve booked the package. If after canceling the hotel, the lower flight price does not hold, then if you are within the 24 hour reservation period (Tip 2 above), you can also cancel the flight.
4. Best Times to Reserve and to Fly
And, don’t get in a hurry to book your flight too early. Generally, best rates on domestic flights are available three to six weeks prior to departure. However, if traveling during busy periods (summer vacation, Christmas vacation), it’s best to reserve 2 to 3 months ahead. Sundays are the most expensive days to fly and Tuesday and Wednesday are the least expensive. And, it’s never cheaper to reserve at the last minute.
5. Fly on Holidays – but not really
We know that flying during the busy pre-holiday travel days is more expensive, but there are still tricks you can try to fly on your preferred days. One is to schedule your flight on a holiday like Christmas Day so you will receive a less expensive rate. If you are willing to risk flying on Christmas or Thanksgiving but may not have to, here’s the hack:
- Book on the lower priced Christmas Day or holiday.
- Many times after booking (and this happens often to me), you receive an updated schedule indicating that the flight time has changed. It may be as little as a 5-minute change. If so, that’s great, because the airline notice also states that you can contact them if this new flight time is an issue for you.
- THAT’s your chance to ask for the Dec 22 or 23 flight that you wanted at first but didn’t want to pay the high price for. This way, your lower Dec 25 price is honored, but you’ve altered your flights to take the Dec 22 departure.
6. Use Incognito Mode Before Searching
Do travel sites bump up the price every time you search the same criteria on the same search site? The jury’s still out, though I’ve experienced the price increase and think it’s worthwhile to search in Incognito mode. Using Incognito, your browser cache history is not saved so every time you revisit that same site, the site thinks it’s your first time there.
Chrome offers Incognito and it’s easy and quick to find. When in the Chrome browser, click on the three vertical dots at the top right of your screen, then select “New Incognito Window”. Whether you’re on a desktop or on a mobile phone, you can get to Incognito using the same method.
7. Mask your Location
Somewhat similar to using Incognito mode, is to change the location that you’re searching from. It’s not unusual for North Americans to be presented with higher prices so if you use a VPN for browsing, try altering your location. If you appear to be located in Mexico, Brazil or Portugal, you may find a lower price. This also goes for merchandise as well as flights.
8. Personalized Pricing
This is another hot topic. Customer profiling or individualized pricing is determined by the products and services and prices you select when online shopping. If you usually opt for high-end items, are the prices you see higher? And do travelers searching on iOS devices see higher online prices than others?
That’s why it’s best to either clear your cache and cookies periodically or search using Incognito mode before online shopping.
9. Return Fares aren’t always Cheapest
Use the ITA Google matrix search engine to find the best flight combinations. For instance, booking a return flight for one destination can end up being more expensive than booking two one-way flights. I just did a quick search using both return and one-way flights from JFK to LAX and received a $55 lower fare if two one-way flights were reserved. Savings can be huge so take the time to check one-way fares when buying a round trip or multi-city ticket. Read more in this Kayak article.
Also worth noting: It used to be that booking a return flight on two or more airlines was cost prohibitive. That’s no longer the case. When you’re searching for ways to save money, check the price for a one way on one airline and another way on another airline.
10. Check Regional Airports that offer Discount Airlines
Don’t forget to check regional airports or discount airlines that fly into regional hubs. These airports charge lower fees, so it can be worth the cab ride to transfer over to the larger airport to catch your next flight. Also read, How to Find Flights to Small Airports and Are Regional Fringe Airports the Way to Go?
11. Sign up for Price Alerts
Many aggregators and Online Travel Agents (OTAs) have equipped their search sites to offer price alerts. Be sure to sign up for these alerts so you’ll know if there’s been a price drop. Flight Network goes a step further offering Price Drop Protection. If the price drops after you’ve reserved, they offer a credit for that amount. Also read, Six Travel Alerts Worth Setting.
12. Search More Sites Faster to find Better Deals
The more travel search sites you browse, the more likely you’ll find better prices. But downloading multiple travel search apps on your mobile is time-consuming and gobbles up the space you want for photos or other apps. Opptee Travel Search enables you to choose your favorite travel searches with just one download. You get dozens of the best travel search sites in one place with access to any travel option.
Opptee’s time-saving features allow you to enter travel details once and Opptee automatically populates those details across multiple travel searches making comparison shopping fast and easy.
Opptee also offers Price Alerts. This is useful if you are on a travel site that does not offer a price alert feature. In this case, you can still receive the alert using Opptee. Just click on the bell icon on the Opptee screen.
And one final reminder – because you find the best price on a particular site once don’t assume that same site or app will return the best price next time. It’s wise to always check other options.
*Note: None of the companies or products listed here have contacted us, paid or requested we mention them. All references are entirely the result of Opptee travel searches.*