3 Tips for Finding Airfare on a Budget
Travel restrictions have lifted, and many people are eager to plan their next holiday getaway. However, data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics shows that airfare has increased by 42.9 percent between 2021 and 2022— making an impromptu vacation harder than ever to pursue.
But with some extra time and planning, affordable airfare is still on the table! Learn exactly how to find it with our three tips for finding airfare on a budget.
No. 1: Google Flights
Google Flights is a powerful search engine that gathers flight inventory directly from practically every airline in existence. The interface of Google Flights is clean and easy to navigate, making it a great tool for users with little to no flight searching experience.
To start, the home page is straightforward to use. Simply enter your origin and departure destination, as well as your travel dates. Next, use the dropdown filters to add your trip type, number of passengers, and your desired seat class. Hit search and the magic begins!
First, Google Flights will automatically display the best departure flights based on a combination of criteria. To filter these results further, click “sort by” for more options like price, time, duration, and more. After you finish selecting your departure flight, you will repeat this same process for your return (unless your trip is one-way).
If you’re still unsatisfied with these price points, don’t worry. The most important cash-saving features on Google Flights include:
If you haven’t committed to purchasing a ticket yet, click the “track prices” button. This feature will notify you via email and/or push notification when flight prices have changed. The frequency of these alerts can also be modified to suit your personal needs.
Searching for flights outside of your original timeline often yields major savings! If your schedule allows for it, we highly recommend considering an alternative timeline and using the “any dates” filter. This is hands down one of the best methods for finding affordable airfare.
Get a sense for the cheapest dates to travel in calendar view using the “date grid” filter. Cheaper than average airfare will be highlighted in green, and higher than average in red.
Similar to the date grid, the price graph tool allows you to view fare trends by month or week. If you’re able to be flexible about your travel dates, this graph can help you get a sense for the best time to plan your trip at a quick glance.
Select a flight and scroll to the bottom page to see if airfare for your route is high, low, or standard. If the fare is good (green), we highly recommend taking quick action. If the fare is average (yellow), consider setting up alerts and browsing around a little more. However, if the fare is bad (red), we suggest holding off and reassessing your criteria like travel dates and number of stops.
No. 2: Skyscanner
Skyscanner is a metasearch engine that scans the internet for the most affordable flights. It’s also a great tool for cross-referencing the price of any tickets you’ve been eying on Google Flights to ensure you’re getting the best deal!
Getting started on Skyscanner is easy. Enter your departure and return locations, travel dates, number of travelers, and seat type. Alternatively, if you’re planning a spontaneous trip or need a flight to multiple locations, consider using the search everywhere and multi-city search tools.
Explore everywhere displays deals on airfare around the world, which is ideal if you haven’t chosen a destination yet. Meanwhile, multi-city search lets you to search for (and book flights to) multiple destinations in one convenient session!
Once your search results load you will see 3 main page sections:
The dashboard at the top of the page will show you prices for the best, cheapest, and fastest flight. This is a great tool for getting a quick idea of airfare. However, we don’t suggest relying on the dashboard alone since you’ll likely miss even better deals. Additionally, be sure to hit the “get price alerts” button at the top left corner of the page to be notified when airfare changes!
Underneath the dashboard you’ll see a running list of airfares to your destination. Similar to Google Flights, Skyscanner will first pull the best flights based on its own criteria. But you can always use the “sort by” drop down button to filter by price, duration, or departure time.
Last (but certainly not least), are the filters on the right side of the page. To start, you can refine your results by the number of stops. Either direct, 1 stop, or 2 or more stops. This filter can help you get a better idea of the correlation between the number of stops and price points, potentially saving you money and time! The example below suggests that it’s actually $113 cheaper to fly direct!
Next, you can filter by departure and return times. Simply move the sliding scale in either direction (left for earlier and right for later) and your results will be refreshed. Departure times often correlate with airfare prices, so be sure to give this filter a try.
You can also search for airfare by trip duration. If you’re willing to spend a longer time travelling for a potentially better deal, consider experimenting with a longer duration. If not, you can also use this tool to find a quicker flight.
The last cash saving filter we’ll be discussing is the airlines filter. Not only will this filter give you an idea of the most cost-effective airlines to book your flight with, but it also provides a preview of the average airfare based on the criteria you provided. Feel free to search for any combination of airlines that you wish!
No. 3: Frequent Flyer Miles & Airline Rewards Programs
If you’re a frequent flier or expect to become one, we highly encourage creating a free rewards account with your airline to rack up those miles. Most rewards programs will offer points back (or miles) for booking a flight, which can later be converted to airfare, checked bags, and more! If possible, try to book your flights with the same few airlines to maximize the number of points you can earn.
Even if you’re not a frequent flier, you can still benefit from these programs. For example, Deltas loyalty program allows you to connect your Starbucks and Lyft account, and for every dollar spent with these partners you’ll earn a small number of miles back in return. Although a couple of points might seem insignificant at first, they will add up fast if you’re a regular customer.
Overall, there are many approaches you can take to finding affordable airfare so that you can go on your dream vacation. They just require a little bit of time and planning!
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