Planning Saving

How to Find Cheap Flights: A Quick Guide to Airfare Search Engines & Booking Websites

February 14, 2017

One of the most commonly asked questions I get is how to find cheap flights. I’ll be honest, finding cheap flights isn’t always easy. When I’m planning a trip I spend the most time on searching for the best fares. While it’s certainly time consuming, I’ve saved hundreds of dollars by searching daily through several websites with a fine tooth comb until I’m certain I’ve found the absolute best fare.

Today I’m going to be sharing my tips and tricks for finding the best fares, as well as ranking some of my favorite search engines and booking websites.

Tips for Finding the Cheapest Flights

  1. Always search in an incognito browser.
    When you’re on the internet your browser is automatically storing cookies from all the websites you visit. So if you’re searching for a flight one day and go back to check in the next day, chances are the price will have gone up because the website recognizes that you’ve been searching for these flights before. An easy way to get around this is to search for flights in an incognito window. If using Safari this is called “Private Window” and on Chrome it’s called “Incognito Window”. These hidden windows don’t store cookies or browsing history so you’ll be searching fresh every time to visit a booking website.
  2. Connecting flights
    Layovers suck I know, but nine times out of ten connecting flights are a lot cheaper than direct flights. My last flight to Hawaii, I flew one hour from Toronto to Chicago and then nine hours from Chicago to Honolulu, because it was $250 cheaper.
  3. The cheapest days to fly: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays
    While I don’t buy into the hype that actually making your booking on a certain day saves you money, there is definitely truth behind which days are cheapest to actually fly on. It’s been proven that Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays are the cheapest days to fly on, while Friday’s and Sunday’s are the most expensive. This is mostly due to the high demand from business people looking to fly over the weekends to miss minimal work time.
  4. Fly hungry, fly tired
    There’s also some truth to when the cheapest times to fly are. Typically, people don’t like to fly during meal times, overnight, or at the crack of dawn, so these flights are usually the cheapest! I personally don’t mind red-eye flights all that much, so that works in my favor, and I’ve done the 3am wake up call for a 6am flight before; trust me the few hours of sleep lost is worth the hundreds of dollars you’ll be saving.
  5. Fly during low season
    It’s no secret that travelling in the summer months of July and August, and over Christmas are the most expensive times to fly. This is because most people can get time of work during these periods, so it’s considered tourist high season in most places around the world. If you can, try to avoid high season travel. Even going a few months early like in May, will help you save a ton!

My Favorite Airfare Search Engines & Booking Websites

The most important tip when looking for cheap flights is to compare fares. This means searching across multiple websites, daily and comparing who has better fares. I told you this was time consuming work, but hopefully this guide will help you save time by showing you exactly where to start.

I’m going to be discussing and ranking my favorite airfare search engines and third party booking websites in this section. Before I begin, it’s important to note the difference between a search engine and booking website. Websites like Kayak and Skyscanner are not booking websites; they are search engines that search across multiple booking websites to compare the results, however you don’t actually book your flight through a search engine. When a search engine brings up your fare results and you decide on one, you’ll then be redirected to that booking website. This is important to note, because not all third party booking websites are created equal. Some are great, while some are incredibly unreliable, while others are alright, but have extremely high fees for rescheduling.

There are a ton of search engines and booking websites out there; if I went through them all we’d be here all day! So I’ve narrowed it down to my favorite three search engines and my favorite two booking websites.

 

Airfare Search Engines

Skyscanner

Searches for flexible dates (doesn’t make you enter specific dates): YES

Allows you to search multi-city trips: YES

Allows you to search nearby airports: YES

Skyscanner is probably my favorite airfare search engine, because it gives you a lot of search flexibility and alternative options. Skyscanner has a ton of flexible options including searching multiple cities in one country or just searching “everywhere” for the cheapest fares! This is super handy if you’re unsure which city you want to visit and it’ll depend on the price of the airfare, or if you’re willing to fly into the cheapest airport and then drive to your final destination. I used this feature recently when searching for flights to Florida. My final destination is West Palm Beach, but Skyscanner let me search across all the nearby airports and I ended up saving $75 by flying into Fort Lauderdale instead. You can also scan dates across an entire month if you have some flexibility with your trip timing as well.

Kayak

Searches for flexible dates (doesn’t make you enter specific dates): YES

Allows you to search multi-city trips: YES

Allows you to search nearby airports: YES

Kayak used to be my favorite above Skyscanner because it had the option to search multi-city flights, but now that Skyscanner has that same feature, they’re both equally as great. Kayak searches more websites than Skyscanner so it gives you more options. Another nice thing I really like about Kayak is the ability to print, email, or save the flights you want to keep an eye on. This makes staying organized during a stressful flight booking process so much easier! Kayak is also incredibly flexible in terms of dates, as the calendar shows you the best fares for everyday of the month and the flexible-search feature even lets you search within 1-3 days of your preferred dates or different upcoming weekends.

Google Flights

Searches for flexible dates (doesn’t make you enter specific dates): NO

Allows you to search multi-city trips: YES

Allows you to search nearby airports: YES

I’ve only recently started searching for flights using Google Flights, but have been pleasantly surprised with the results, so I figured I’d include it as well! I’ve found Google Flights often does have the cheapest flights, but because they don’t search across as many websites you’re not always getting the best/most practical flights. For example, the cheapest flight you find might be on Google Flights but consists of a 16-hour overnight layover, while for a little bit more you could find a similar flight on Skyscanner without the horrible layover. Ultimately it depends on how tight your budget is and how many airports you’re willing to sleep in, but definitely don’t overlook Google Flights! The interface is also really user friendly and includes a bunch of photos of popular destinations with their prices for travelers who haven’t yet decided on a destination.

 

Airfare Booking Websites

When I don’t book directly through an airline’s website, these are the two third-party booking sites I like to use.

Expedia

Expedia is a tried and true favourite booking website for millions of travelers and for a good reason! The site often has the best fares and I’ve found it to be one of the most reliable and user friendly third party booking options for booking flights. You have up to 24 hours to cancel your flight free of charge and they do offer additional insurance for purchase at the time of your booking, in case you need to cancel or modify your flight later on. I’ve also found Expedia’s customer service to surpass some of the airlines themselves and find them incredible helpful and accommodating in terms of making changes to reservations. Expedia also has a points program called Expedia+ in which you earn points every time you book through Expedia and qualify for exclusive member only deals and offers.

StudentUniverse

This website is an absolute must for all travelling students; my only regret is not finding it sooner! StudentUniverse has some of the lowest fares, exclusively for students. The website is also incredibly user friendly and features a ton of blog posts from other students on their experiences travelling to certain places, which is great for people looking for more information on certain destinations as well! I used StudentUniverse to book our flights to Hawaii and they had the lowest fare out of all the other websites I checked. Keep in mind that StudentUniverse is not one of the booking websites that search engines like Skyscanner, Kayak, or Google Flights will search through automatically, so you’ll need to check this one out on your own.

 

I hope you guys enjoyed this quick guide for finding and booking cheap flights! If you have any other advice please feel free to leave it down in the comments below!

You Might Also Like

No Comments

Leave a Reply

Top