This is your basic HOW TO post about getting cheap flights. Even though this guide can be used by anyone, it is more useful for people looking for budget flights. Still, Google Flights can target any airlines, so if you have a preference, it's still a good resource. This is NOT a sponsored post. I've just been asked a lot about how we have been able to get around for so cheap. Well... this is how!
BEST PRICE TIPS:
If you want the absolute best price, you must be flexible. Dates, airlines, even destinations. Be willing to allow for some wiggle room. The more specific you are, the more you will expect to pay. Plan on leaving on a weekday, as the flights are often cheaper. Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday is usually the best. For the cheapest flights, prepare to use a discount airline. But be careful - the extra fees could remove all of those savings. Finally, the more willing you are to move airports, the better. But bus or cab rides might also cut into your budget, so be wary of that as well.
SUMMARY: Flexible dates, airlines, and airports will all help lower your price.
The absolute best prices can take a little time, so be ready to watch for deals. You can get some good prices at any time, but then you're just hoping to get lucky. For the absolute best prices, take your time. I suggest starting the process about TWO MONTHS before your flight, but you can get even better deals further out. The more time you put into it, the less you'll spend on flights.
SUMMARY: TWO MONTHS is the minimum to get the best prices.
HOW TO USE GOOGLE FLIGHTS TO GET THE BEST DEALS
There are many tools you can use to get good flights, but my favorite is Google Flights (https://www.google.com/flights). You can't actually book your flights with them, but the tool really gives you the information you need to get a great price. If you're looking for quick and cheap, though, you might just go with Expedia.com or PriceLine.com. They're pretty good, but this method will typically get you much cheaper flights.
Step 1: Choosing your airports
This doesn't have to be solidified right away, but it does help. What airport are you leaving from and which are you going to? For us, we had all sorts of choices. When we first decided to leave for Europe, we were in Iowa. We considered a cross-country trip to see friends and family first, or even have a mini-vacation before our new adventure. At first, all we knew was that we needed to be in Cyprus by a certain date. How we got there was up to us. So which airport should we choose to depart from? GOOGLE FLIGHTS can help with that!
The idea is pretty simple: If it's cheap to fly OUT of Cyprus on an airline, then it's probably cheap to use that airline to fly INTO Cyprus. So, pretend like you're leaving from your destination. We needed to fly into Paphos, so let's start there. I do a quick search and a few things catch my eye. First, to London is only $23! Maybe it's worth a stop there. Maybe we could do a few days in London first before heading to Paphos. Are any other locations under $100? Update the filter and... Germany, Poland, but mostly from the UK. Ok, good to know. Let's get back to direct flights around the midwest, though.
Step 2: Take Good Notes
The closest airport to us is Des Moines, but my random search of a month from today has it costing over $3000! I can do better than that. So, my plan is to make a list of possibilities and their prices. Des Moines - $3000. Well, since that's more than our entire budget for airfare, that is right out. Our goal is to get to our destination for a TOTAL of $1000. So, I'm going to see how low I can go with Des Moines (DSM) to Paphos (PFO). This is a hypothetical example, so I don't really have exact dates, but I do suggest starting about two months out, so let's see what we can get going for April Fool's Day (or around there).
I change the date on the calendar and see that on April 1 it's still over $3000. But Google helps me out by showing me different prices for different days. These are each the lowest price for that day for an airline specifically advertising a way to get me from DSM to PFO. Give or take a week, and now I have a new low price: $1893. Saving over $1000 per ticket by flying out a few days earlier? Seems like a good deal. Also important to note: That price isn't available for any flights leaving in the next three weeks. So I take a note of that, too. THREE WEEKS TO BOOK. I can expect that if I haven't booked by flight within three weeks of my arrival date, that I will start having to pay more.
I'm about fifteen minutes into the process at this point and I have some good notes:
- Cheap flights from London/UK and other countries ($25 - $100)
- $1893 Base price from Des Moines or $3300 for specific days
With just these two things, I can see if I can drop that price from DSM. Maybe we go from DSM to London, then London to PFO! With a quick look, I get: $755 from DSM to London and $50 from London to PFO! I'm down to $800! So I jot that down. I do remember, though, if I'm taking a bunch of luggage, each flight adds extra for luggage. So I can't go too crazy jumping from airport to airport.
Step 3: Narrow It Down
So now if I want to fly into London in order to drop the price, maybe there is a close airport going to London for cheaper. I try my reverse method and pretend like I'm going from London to the United States. I have family in Dallas we could visit for $400/ticket. We have friends in Denver for $240/ticket. But we also have friends in Chicago for $200/ticket. Checking dates near the end of March from Chicago to London shows prices as low as $140! Our local airport has one way flights to Chicago for $70/ticket and now we have our goal! Get to Chicago for $70, get to London for $140, and off to Paphos for $50.
TOTAL AIRFARE: $260 each.
FINAL STEPS: Pay Attention and Book
Now, of course we still have to book and make arrangements, but you understand the process. If you're really trying to save your pennies, you'll want to check on luggage prices with each airline, too. But for the most part, we have a plan! We take a note and watch for good prices in the weeks that come. This is why it's good to give it TWO MONTHS. So now if we see a Chicago to London flight for $100, we can jump on it! We know about what we expect to pay, so it's all about just watching the flights and go from there.
Google Flights will show you the airlines you're flying on, so you can adjust as need be. You can even watch their websites for specials or deals. Some do price adjustments after the weekend or offer sales for flights not selling as well. You just have to check in from time to time. One thing I do suggest, though... once you decide to purchase your ticket, just get them all. Otherwise, the flights to Paphos might fill up and you'll get to London cheaply, but have to pay $300 to get to Paphos instead of $50. You can also check the sites like PriceLine.com with your new info. If they can beat that price, jump on it!
Well, I hope that helps! If you have any questions or comments, feel free to post below! Maybe I can help you find a cheap flight!