How to Get the Cheapest Flights Every Time

I was recently trying to buy a cheap plane ticket to China and realized that without knowing it, I had actually crafted myself a really good system for getting cheap airfare. This week’s video discusses my routine and gives you tips and websites for getting the best deals.

[Note: Depending on how you are reading this, you may need to click through to the post to see the video!]

My airfare search routine involves the following major steps:

  1. Don’t fly if you don’t have to – Generally speaking, buses, trains and cars are cheaper than flights. If you are flexible and adventurous, consider search craigslist for people looking for other to transport stuff from to the destination of your choice.
  2. Use Airline Miles – I use United Airlines for most of my milage flights for their destination selection and their frequent upgrades. For someone living in the States, I have found United is best for international flights and that Alaska Airlines is best for domestic travel. Check out this site from Chris Guillebeau or Flyer Talk for up-to-date info on travel credit cards.
  3. Batch flights – Many times it is cheaper to find a flight that has the layover of your choice rather than the final destination. If this is the case, and you don’t have a return flight, feel free to purposefully miss the second flight.
  4. Use the two best Flight aggregators – I always start with Hipmunk.com and then move to Kayak.com to make sure I am not missing budget airlines. I prefer hipmunk because it takes into account the human side of flying (red-eyes, layover times, airline quality) rather than just departure and arrival time. After I find a flight I like, I double check on Kayak.com to see if I can beat it with a budget airline.
  5. Do a last second check on the airline website – After I find a flight on an aggregator website, I then check on the official airline website to see if they can beat the fare. Most of the time they can’t but occasionally I have found better deals.
  6. Be flexible and set alerts – If you have time on your side, set travel alerts on Kayak, Hipmunk and Farecompare. After you do this, they will alert you of ticket information if another traveler with the same travel destination and timeframe finds a better deal using one of their services.

That’s all I have for now. Let me know if you like the new format. As you can tell, I am in the process of experimenting with video stuff.

Are there any other travel or life list related questions you would like me to answer? Let me know if the comments below!

Update: A bunch of you shared some other great tips on Twitter and Facebook. I will keep an going to list below!

  • Google Flights as quick and easy aggregator. (Thanks Adam Carson!)
  • Adioso for broad and narrow flight alert. (Thanks Adam Carson!)
  • eBay for tickets others can’t use. (Genius!) Just make sure you can change the name. (Thanks Himanshu Sharma!)
  • Try disabling cookies so that airline websites can’t track your shopping comparisons. (Use Private browsing in Safari/Firefox or Incognito in Chrome). Thanks Tim!

11 comments… add one

  • barb dover Jun 19, 2013

    Great advice-thanks for sharing!

  • Tim Jun 19, 2013

    Great tips man! Another one that few people know about:

    When browsing for flights use incognito mode in Chrome (or private browsing in Firefox). Many sites keep track of cookies on your browsing habits, and if they see that you have visited a flight price site recently, they will hike up the price accordingly to create a sense of urgency.

    TL;DR; Always browse for flights in private browsing, it’ll save you money :)

  • Jonathan Jun 19, 2013

    Question: So Batching your flight essentially means you’re booking a flight to England that makes a stop in Iceland and you get off the plane when they land in Iceland. Right? Ok, so a couple of questions. 1) I’m assuming you didn’t check any luggage otherwise it’s going to continue to head to England without you. 2) Doesn’t customs have a list of who is supposed to get off the plane and whose not supposed to leave? If not wouldn’t that mean that someone trying to get into America could simply book a flight to Canada from their original point of origin and slip through customs? 3) Aren’t they holding the plane for you and aren’t you raising some concerns with homeland security? Wait, I must not be understanding batching cause it sounds really really super dangerous. You’re essentially entering a country illegally. On another note…if you wanted to go super cheap when I was growing up I knew a couple of international people who traveled with cargo on the carrier airlines. Essentially, you find a package that requires hand delivery and you get to fly with that cargo. Of course it’s similar to flying in a military cargo hold but it gets you there cheaply.

    • Danny Dover Jun 19, 2013

      Good questions all around. I’ll take them one at a time!

      >1) I’m assuming you didn’t check any luggage otherwise it’s going to continue to head to England without you.

      Correct! The two times I have done this, I was carry-on only. This is generally how I fly.

      >2) Doesn’t customs have a list of who is supposed to get off the plane and whose not supposed to leave? If not wouldn’t that mean that someone trying to get into America could simply book a flight to Canada from their original point of origin and slip through customs?

      I could have been more clear on this point. This technique assumes you de-board the plane. With regard to Customs, you need to have the correct visas in place but that would be the case even if it was just a layover. You still need to enter the country the normal way. I am not recommending entering illegally, just getting their cheaper.

      > 3) Aren’t they holding the plane for you and aren’t you raising some concerns with homeland security?

      In my experience, airlines never hold an entire plane for you. ;-p They just let it take off and you lose your ability to get a refund on the ticket. There shouldn’t be a concern with security as you enter the country in the same way you would as if you had just bought the more expensive flight.

      >On another note…if you wanted to go super cheap when I was growing up I knew a couple of international people who traveled with cargo on the carrier airlines. Essentially, you find a package that requires hand delivery and you get to fly with that cargo. Of course it’s similar to flying in a military cargo hold but it gets you there cheaply.

      Never heard of that but sounds doable… I just imagine you need the right clearance and connections.

      Good feedback bud!

  • Erik Bendiksen Jun 19, 2013

    I can speak to the hand delivery portion you mentioned. It may have been the case back in the day to fly this way, however with new security concerns you must be TSA approved to fly with cargo. Lucky for me, I am, but for the average person this probably isn’t doable. As always, great tips Danny!

    • Danny Dover Jun 19, 2013

      Thanks for the insight bud! For others reading this, Erik knows a lot about this type of thing. I definitely trust him.

  • malena Jun 29, 2013

    I really like skyscanner! and it has an adriod/iphone app as well! :)

  • malena Jun 29, 2013

    also this website is fantastic for spontaneous adventures.
    http://www.drungli.com/
    just pick where you are and a date and it will show you where you can fly for cheap!

  • David deSouza Jul 24, 2013

    I use around-the-world tickets to get the best value cost/mile.

    These tickets tend to fly into Hub airports and from here you can buy separate tickets to other destinations if required.

    I flew from London to Bangkok, Bangkok to Singapore, Singpapore to Melbourne, Melbourne to LA, LA back to London, all for around 1000 pounds.

    I have noticed that around-the-world-tickets are much cheaper from London compared to the states, maybe due to our gap year culture. So if you are coming from the states it is often cheaper to buy a one way ticket to London before buying your around-the-world ticket.

  • Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I truly appreciate your efforts and
    I will be waiting for your further post thank you once again.

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