How to Fly for Cheap or Nearly Free
Want to know how to fly for cheap or nearly free? Even though we do a good amount of driving with our crew, we get asked a lot about finding cheap flights and being able to afford 6 tickets, and sometimes 7 if we are traveling with extra family! Although there’s no magic bullet to getting cheap flights, I wanted to share my best tricks with you!
1. Be Flexible:
My #1 tip to getting the best deals on flights is just to be flexible. Flexible with your travel dates and flexible with your destination. I realize this isn’t for everyone. We world school our children and work from home, so obviously we use this factor to our advantage. Another added bonus about this is that we get to see popular places when other tourists aren’t usually there.
2. Explore Your Options:
If you’re flexible or at least have a time frame or continent that you are interested, you can explore the best deals during these times and locations. There are several ways to do this, but I’ll list my favorites:
Kayak Explore: Here you can enter a month or a season that you want to travel, the city that you want to leave from and a price max. You’ll get a map full of the cheapest round trip flights around the world during that time from your city.
Click on the price and you will see the dates and you can search the flights from there. This can get pretty addicting to play around with! You might find some new destinations on the map that you never knew you wanted to go to!
Secret Flying: I seriously don’t know how these guys find awesome deals, but they are probably the best I’ve ever seen in all my years of traveling! They catch a lot of mistakes that make airfare crazy cheap! Super easy to use. You can also follow them on Twitter and get alerts when they have new deals. They are the only notifications I have turned on on my phone! This is where being flexible really comes in handy!
3. Shop Around for Cheap Flights:
If you don’t have the luxury of being flexible and have exact dates and an exact location, then be sure to shop around for your best deal. There are plenty of flight search engines out there. My favorites are
4. Get Creative to find Cheap Flights:
Even if you can’t be flexible with your dates and locations, you CAN be flexible with how you get there! Booking a direct flight might not always be your best bet. Sometimes your destination can be a layover for a cheaper flight to somewhere else! I’ve found this especially true with London and Paris which seem to be popular layover airports from the US. Skiplagged is a great way to find these flights. Say you want to fly to London, but there is a flight to Budapest that is cheaper and has a layover in London. You simply buy the flight to Budapest, but get off in London and don’t get back on. The one catch here is that you MUST travel with a carryon. Otherwise your bags end up in Budapest while you’re having afternoon tea in your airplane clothes! It will also look at combining flights from several different airlines. Skiplagged was actually sued by United Airlines for using this little trick (which they happily advertise on their site)!
5. Take the Round Trip Flight:
Our family takes a lot of one way flights since we don’t have a permanent home base. We only plan our travel about 1-3 months in advance and don’t usually return to areas we’ve already been. But more often than not, when searching for flights, we’ve found the round trip flights to be less than or equal to the cost of one way flights. Crazy right? So if you’re going one way, take the time to search for a round trip just in case!
Here are search results for the same day and destination, but One Way…Holy Smokes! $2,800! I’ll take the Round Trip please!
6. Clear your Cache:
It’s a little creepy, but airlines and flight search engines are watching what you are searching for. Clear your search history often! If you don’t know how to do this, here’s a helpful site that will walk you through it.
7. Buy and Fly on the Right Days:
According to this study here are the best times to buy your flights:
Domestic (US): 54 Days
Mexico: 89 Days
Caribbean: 101 Days
Latin America: 80 Days
Europe: 151 Days
Middle East: 80 days
Africa: 166 days
Asia: 129 days
South Pacific: 70 days
Depending on what study you read, the best days to fly are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Due to work, we almost always fly on Saturdays. People generally want to be at their destinations over a Saturday so it’s usually not too crazy at the airports either!
8. Split Up Your Flight Searches:
I’m not sure why this is, but sometimes when I search for tickets, the price comes up MORE per person when searching for 6 tickets, vs. searching for 3. So we will buy our tickets under 2 separate reservations. 3 and 3. Obviously this will only work if you have 2 adults flying!
9. Take the Train:
There are a lot of airports that connect easily to trains. It may be cheaper to fly to a different airport and take a train to your final destination.For example, if you want to go to Nice, flying into Paris and taking the train will probably be cheaper! You also get to see two places for the price of (or less than) one!
10. Random Airports:
Not all airports are created equal. Though Airports like London Heathrow (LHF) and Milan Malpensa (MXP) have more flight options, better deals can often be found to nearby airports such as London Gatwick (LGW), London Stansted (STN), London Luton (LLA), and Milan Linate (LIN).
If you have airline miles or any kind of points credit card that you can use for air miles, rack these up and use them! We have a Chase Sapphire Card that we use to book our housing on then pay off at the end of each month. We earn double points on those bookings (because they are travel) so those points add up pretty quickly. The great thing about the Chase Sapphire Card is that you can choose which airline or hotel Travel Partner membership program to use your points with. Depending on which Travel Partner you use, you can get a round trip ticket to Europe for about 60,000 points . It sounds like a lot, but it adds up more quickly than you think. Plus there is usually a bonus when you sign up for the card. The current offer is 50,000 points if you sign up here. We were able to get all of our flights from London to DC using Chase Sapphire points and transferring them to our United MileagePlus account.
12: Cheapest Isn’t Always Cheapest:
Be sure to read the small print. Even if a flight seems cheaper, there are often additional or hidden fees. For instance some airlines charge for any checked bag, others may allow you one checked bag for free. Often the cost of checked bags will vary with destinations. Some airlines charge for carry-on (yes, you read that correctly) and others, wait for it, will charge you for seat selections. If you are traveling by yourself or with other adults and aren’t concerned with sitting next to each other, this won’t be an issue. But, if you are traveling with kids and need to be sure you’re sitting next to each other or have an aisle seat, watch out for those fees as well. Here’s a comparison of airline baggage fees and a list of airlines that charge for seat selections.
For more information, especially about flying in Asia, check out this post by Mum Pack Travel!
Or see this article about getting the best deal on your holiday from Flying with Baby.
That’s all I’ve got! Do you have any great tips I should add? I’m always learning new tricks to save us money! Flying isn’t always cheap and with a big family it can be really daunting to keep things affordable, but if you take the time and effort, you can make it happen!