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!