Sometimes you have to travel by plane, and sometimes you’d rather travel by plane. Sure you can go to your favorite airline’s website and book the first flight you see, but you have other options. The key to finding the cheapest plane ticket isn’t as hard as you may think, and you should put in the effort to find it. Sure, you might want to argue that the hunt for cheap airfare is too difficult or tiresome, but that doesn’t have to be the case. I truly believe that the hunt is well worth it if you want to save money. If saving money isn’t your forte, this won’t be the article for you.

If you can’t tell, I am very pro-travel. So much so, that this is the third part of a series I am calling Travel Smart. Below are some tips on how to get the cheapest airfare:

 

Also from the Travel Smart Series:

Search for tickets one at a time

Even if you are traveling in a group, you should always search for airline tickets singly. Often airlines will have seats that are cheaper than others, and if you are searching for multiple spots, those more competitive seats will not show up in the search. The sites are also automated to show the most expensive seats when you search by group.  If you see a seat at a cheaper rate and an open one next to it, then you will know what seats are yours, and you should book them individually. There is a chance that not all of the seats you need will be on sale if you want to sit together, but saving money on some is well worth it.

Search for one-way fares

Just like searching for one airfare at a time, consider searching for one-way tickets. Airlines often have sales for one-way flights. You can book two one-way flights for your trip instead of booking round trip. At the same time, it may not be cheaper to book the fares this way, so make sure you do your research. If you do end up booking one-way tickets, make sure you triple check the dates and times of your flights. You’d hate to miss your plane or book the wrong date.

Go incognito

When searching for flights you should go incognito on the search engines. The cookies for your search are saved and the more you search for a particular route, the more the price will increase. Why? This happens because airlines want to scare you into purchasing tickets.  If you see the prices increasing each time you search, you will book a lot faster than if there was no change. If you search with an incognito or private window your cookies are reset, and it will not show your previous searches, ensuring you get the best rate at the time of your search.

Use the best airline search engines

All search engines have a slightly inflated price because they take a cut from the carrier, but some search engines are higher than others. This means you should be careful picking the search engine you use. Here are the ones I recommend:

Book and fly the right day

According to a study on Farecompare, there is a best time and day of the week to book your trip. But how do you when? According to their study, the best time to book your flight is at 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday. If you want to know how they came to this conclusion, the co-founder explained how they determined this time and date in the study.

The study also explains the best days to fly. Farecompare suggests that you should fly on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday. The cheapest flights are usually the first flights of the day, at lunch time, or after dinner. Consider these suggestions when you are searching for flights.

Be flexible

If you don’t have to fly on specific days for your vacation, you should be flexible. Keeping flexibility on days and times for your flights will ensure you can get the best rate. Waiting until about six weeks out can also get you the best rate. At the same time, if you have to travel on certain days and times then you should book early. If you wait too long to book specific times and days, you may miss your opportunity to fly.

Carriers have deals

Sometimes people think the only way to get a deal is to search “deal” sites. This is not always true. I have found some of my best deals on the airline’s website at times.  For example, I took a recent trip and hunted and hunted for deals, but I ended up finding the best rate through Southwest Airlines. Don’t get stuck thinking you can only get discounts through a third party that isn’t always the case.

Search social media

Go to your social media sites and follow your favorite carriers and search sites. When you go to search for flights, check those sources for discounts. You might be surprised what you will find. I also subscribe to Travelzoo for travel updates and vacation deals. They send me emails for trips and flights regularly, and I love it.

Layovers required

Sometimes the way to get the best deal is to include a layover. I personally enjoy a short layover when I am traveling. I don’t love flying, so having a stop at an airport is perfect for me. It will allow you to stretch your legs, get some food, have a drink, and chill out a bit before the next leg of the trip. I don’t think that I’d want a 6-hour layover, but a couple of hours is perfect for me.

Consider alternate airports

In the major cities, there may be more than one airport. Usually one of these airports is a major one, and the other may be smaller, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it. Smaller airports may have better rates, less wait time, and less stress. I personally prefer to use smaller airports when possible.

 

Your turn

When I am booking my flights, I follow these tips, but I always want to learn more. What tips do you have for finding cheap airfare?

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