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23 Hacks to Find Cheap Fares Every Time (Expert Guide)

Cheap Flights
Your airplane ticket is usually one the most expensive purchases of your trip. But here’s a secret; it doesn’t have to be. Start your journey with savings. Leave more room in your budget for what matters most: experiences. Finding airfare deals is like hunting for treasure; it’s easier if you know how and where to look. There are promotional offers, error fares, limited time offers and more every day. Take advantage of them! This is your first official JustFly lesson on booking cheap fares. Keep these 23 hacks in mind when searching for airfare. Your bank account will be thankful for it. Get started with our guide below!

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1. Save Money, Book Early

As a rule of thumb, cheap fares are harder to come by the closer you get to your departure date. Last minute ticket purchases will almost never be the cheapest. The opposite is also true. Buying a ticket several months or even a year in advance won’t earn you savings either.

It’s about balance. Do your best to book your flight 1.5 to 2 months ahead of your trip. If you’re traveling for the holidays or another busy period, make that 2.5 to 3 months in advance.

2. Avoid Peak Seasons

Travel when everyone else can’t or won’t. If possible, don’t travel during major holiday seasons or when students are on vacation. In fact, you can save by booking right after the holidays. During winter, consider traveling somewhere cool. If not, go somewhere warmer than where you live but not as hot as where typical vacationers go.

Travel against the grain for big sporting events too (read: World Cup, Super Bowl etc), festivals, and all major events. If it’s happening on a large enough scale, airlines already know about it, and prices will rise with demand.

If you’re in the USA, here’s when you shouldn’t travel:
Holiday Day
1.       New Year’s Day January 1st
2.       Inauguration Day January 20*
3.       Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 3rd Monday in January
4.       George Washington’s Birthday 3rd Monday in February
5.       Memorial Day Last Monday in May
6.       Independence Day July 4th
7.       Labor Day 1st Monday in September
8.       Columbus Day 2nd Monday in October
9.       Veterans Day November 11th
10.   Thanksgiving Day 4th Thursday in November
11.   Christmas Day December 25th
If you’re in Canada, don’t book travel for the following times of the year:
Holiday Day Where
New Year’s Day January 1st Nationwide
Islander Day 3rd Monday in February PE
Family Day 3rd Monday in February (2nd in BC) BC, AB, SK, ON, NB
Louis Riel Day 3rd Monday in February MB
St. Patrick’s Day March 17th NL
Good Friday Friday before Easter Sunday Nationwide (except QC)
Easter Monday Monday after Easter Sunday QC
St-George’s Day April 23rd NL
Victoria Day/National Patriotes Day Monday before May 25th Nationwide (except NB, NS, PE, NL)
National Aboriginal Day June 21st NT
Fête Nationale/St. Jean Baptiste Day June 24th QC
Discovery Day June 24th NL
Canada Day/Memorial Day in NL July 1st Nationwide
Nunavut Day July 9th NT
Civic Holiday 1st Monday in August AB, BC, SK, ON, NB, NU
Labour Day 1st Monday of September Nationwide
Thanksgiving 2nd Monday in October Nationwide (except NB, NS, PE, NL)
Remembrance Day November 11th Nationwide (except ON, QC, NS, NL)
Christmas Day December 25th Nationwide
Boxing Day December 26th ON

For more savings, book red-eye flights in the middle of the week. Prices for mid to late morning, afternoon, evening and weekend flights are often much higher (depending on the destination). If you do, you may have the luxury of flying on less crowded air crafts as well. Who doesn’t like extra leg and elbow room?

Woman typing email at conference desk

3. Subscribe to Email Lists

Capitalize on deals by staying informed. Unless you spend your days jumping from site to site looking for flights, this is the best way to find bargains. If airlines have left over tickets, they slash prices to make them more appealing to potential travelers. They email these deals right to your inbox. That’s a small price to pay for all the cheap fares you’ll find. Sign up to our mailing list to get the latest discounts. We’ll do the heavy lifting for you.

4. Don’t Search for Tickets in Groups

Most seats in an aircraft have different dollar values, even if they’re right next to each other. Avoid buying group tickets whenever possible. Airlines simply take the most expensive seat in a group booking and multiply it by the number of tickets you’re looking for.

Open a few windows, tabs or even browsers on your computer or mobile device and go through the booking process one ticket at a time. Best case scenario, you can choose to sit together during checkout. Worst case scenario ask whoever is sitting beside you or your friends to change seats when you’ve boarded the airplane. In both cases, you’ll know you didn’t pay more than you needed to for your flight.

Three airplanes parked during sunset

5. Find Different Routes

The fastest way from point A to point B is a straight line, but it’s usually not the best way to score cheap fares. Break your trip into smaller segments with different airlines whenever you can. Extra research can lead to big savings. It may take longer to get there, but if done well, you may only lose a few hours.

6. Pay in Different Ways

You can quickly add up rewards points by making credit card purchases. But some companies charge fees for booking with a credit card. Always pay attention to which fees you’re being charged and why. Check for alternate payment methods before booking your flight.

Here’s a list of 60+ Ways You Can Pay for Travel with PayPal.

Man looking at flight schedule

7. Consider a Different Airport

Flights are usually routed through major airports. Check your origin and destination for alternate airports. If you’re flexible with your travel dates, times, and airports, you’ll save more. In addition, multi-city flights are generally better than flying direct when hunting for cheap fares. To be safe, always check each airport’s distance from your accommodation and how much it will cost to get there.

8. Follow the Deals

Check destination pages on multiple websites and buy the cheapest ticket, no matter the destination. Sites like JustFly display destination pages listing the cost to fly to several locations. It’s simple, fast, and cheap. What could be better?

Boarding pass and passport close up

9. Check One-Way & Round-Trip Fares

You may think one-way tickets are cheaper 100% of the time, but that isn’t always the case. This tip works better with long term travel. Depending on your travel plans, flight origin and destination, it may be cheaper to book a round-trip ticket, then skip the return portion.

10. Look for Longer Layovers

If you’re in no rush to arrive at your destination or not fussy about layovers, you can get cheap fares by extending your stopover time. If you’re flying into a particularly nice airport, this is a great way to relax and ease into your trip.

Credit card changing hands

11. Get an Airline Credit Card

If you’re a frequent traveler, you’re probably already putting several flight tickets on your credit card. Why not stretch your dollars further? Get free or discounted tickets for friends and family. Earn points for signing up. Get free checked bags and much more.

Here’s a list of the Best Airline Credit Cards of 2018.

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12. Enroll in A Frequent Flyer Program

Discounted and free flights. Priority status. Free upgrades. The benefits to joining a frequent flyer program are clear. These programs are typically free to join and can take your flying experience to a whole new level.

Here’s a great piece to teach you How to Get Started With Frequent Flyer Programs.

Cash and coins

13. Hunt for Age-Based Discounts

Whether you’re young, in school or just about ready to retire, there are discounts available for you. Kids often get hefty reductions on price. Students often have access to the widest variety of rebates, and retirees get perks depending on the company they’re booking with. That said, be prepared to provide proof of age.

Here’s a list of Airlines that Offer Senior Discount Rates.

14. Dodge Unnecessary Airline Fees

Most people think airlines make their money on flights, but many airlines generate their profit from fees for everything from seat selection and checked baggage to online booking and printing your boarding pass. Do your research to keep these fees as low as possible.

If you’re flying into or out of the United States, read this List of Airline Fees to see where you can save.

Red and white airplane in dark sky

15. Go on A Mileage Run

What’s a mileage run? In short, it’s when travelers take a trip specifically to earn frequent flyer miles. After reaching a certain number of miles, they’re given elite traveler status for a given amount of time. And with great status comes great travel perks. In recent years, airlines have made it more difficult to accumulate travel miles, but it can still be done, and it’s still very lucrative. After all, free flights are the best cheap fares you could ask for.

16. Clear Your Browsing History

“This site uses cookies.” You’ve seen this message or a variation of it before (more than you’d like). Some websites save your browsing data (cookies) to use it against you. How? By raising the price of tickets you’ve already searched for. Prevent this by using incognito mode (private browsing), separate browsers, clearing your cookies, cache or browsing history etc.

Note: No official studies have been done to confirm this, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

American airline airplane

17. Book Directly with the Airline

Before booking your ticket, always go directly to the airline’s website. Check for the same flight. You’ll sometimes save on the cost of your ticket by skipping the middle man and going directly to the source.

18. Search for Specific Budget Airlines

If you have your heart set on a destination, try to find budget airlines that specifically go to that country. IE: Before going bankrupt, WOW Airlines regularly flew to Denmark and Iceland. Give this a try. You can save more than you think.

VPN on mobile phone in German

19. Use A VPN (Virtual Private Network)

VPNs allow you to change the location you’re currently browsing from to another country or city. This lets you take advantage of local prices (especially on domestic flights). This is because airlines sometimes charge different rates depending on where you complete your purchase.

20. Use a Travel Agent

Travel agents are sometimes your best bet for a cheap flight. Visit a travel agency after having done your homework and taken notes. You’ll have a good idea of what the flight should cost. Travel agents often have agreements with airlines that allow them to give you deals. They also sometimes offer BRGs (best rate guarantees). If they can find something cheaper, take it. If not, no harm done.

Ten and twenty Euro bill

21. Consider Another Currency

Most airlines and online travel agencies have their websites set up to have you pay in the currency of the country you’re booking from. But currencies around the world fluctuate daily. Deactivate your location settings, use private browsing, a different browser or a VPN. Convert the foreign currency price to your local currency to compare apples to apples. Then pay the lower price.

Note: Advise your financial institution before trying this booking to avoid having the transaction blocked. Also, save as much as you can by using credit cards with no international transaction fees.

22. Look Out for Error Fares

Error fares are an airline’s worst nightmare. They normally happen due to human error or technical bugs. Here’s the good news: airlines must honor your ticket purchase price. Here’s the bad news: airlines normally correct these errors very fast. Sign up for alerts. Turn on your email notifications. Save big.

Note: Airfare Watchdog is one of the best sites for catching error fares.

Facebook app on mobile phone and lettering

23. Follow on Social Media

You spend a lot of time on social media. Why not save on flights while you’re at it? Airlines have started using social media to give exclusive discounts to their followers via promotions, online-only fares and other deals. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Don’t forget to turn on post notifications.

Booking cheap fares is about resourcefulness and adaptability. With the number of airlines, search engines, and daily deals available, there’s no reason for you to pay more than you need to fly. Use these 23 hacks from now on and you’ll always come out on top.