A Guide to Booking Flights on a Budget

Bert Maxwell's picture

When traveling on a budget, a good start is to start with finding a flight to your destination. Flights are always the most considerable single expense in a travel budget. Knowing where to look for and booking inexpensive flights at any time and from any location will save quite a lot of money...allowing you to travel for longer!

A Guide to Booking Flights on a Budget

10 Tips for Saving Money on Flights

Here are our 10 best hacks for finding and booking flights on a budget.

1. Be flexible
Suppose you want to go to a particular place that everybody wants to go to on a specific date, such as Christmas in Switzerland or New Year's in Dubai. On those days, you can never find the best flight offers. However, if you are flexible with the dates and destinations and are only concerned with your budget, you can find some excellent flight offers.

2. Plan ahead & book early
Make your travel plans at least 10 weeks ahead of time, and keep a close eye on flight fares on various websites. Book your ticket at least six weeks before your trip, as prices tend to rise after that. 

3. Don't fly around holidays
Everyone wants to go home during the holidays. The result? Fares are high! Fly during peak travel times, and you'll won't find a budget flight. Could you travel the week after a holiday, or during shoulder season? You'll save a great deal of money.

4.  Search in incognito mode
Have you ever noticed how the price of a flight ticket increases every time you search? It is because your browser's cookies are storing your information. Always use Incognito mode before beginning your flight quest, so that your data is not saved and the price does not go up based on your search. Clear your cookies after each flight search.

5. Try budget airlines
Budget airlines sell seats for a fraction of the price of full-service airlines. If you don't mind few amenities, this could be the way to go for you. Wikipedia has an extensive, informative list of low-cost airlines (down to specific countries), but their definition of "low-cost" is debatable. Even if you are traveling to a particular country, it is a good idea to extensively research the flight options.

6. Book a connecting flight
Connecting flights usually are less expensive than nonstop flights, but this is not always the case. Many other factors can be benefited through your connecting flight.
Traveling with kids? You know your children, so only you can decide if they'd benefit from a break or whether they'd be better off on a single ride. If this is the case, you should be aware that an increasing number of airports provide more and more kid-friendly play areas and enjoyable activities.

7. Decide fast 
You discovered a fantastic deal. Congratulations! How long do you think it will last? No one knows. There is no public end-date on any given fare unless it is an advertised sale. Act quickly if you want to snag this price. It will go fast!

8. Budget flights at the last minute?
It is not always true that booking a flight at the last minute will save you money. Many airlines open up a large portion of their award seats one to three days before departure, but these seats go fast, especially if you find them on sites that everyone uses, like Travelzoo or Sherman's. You will get a fantastic flight offer at that time, but if you need to be somewhere specific at a certain time, this won't work for you. Plan on this option and it doesn't happen? You will pay much more than you expected.

9. Try local airlines directly
Even if local airlines are mentioned in search results on flight comparison sites, it is always worthwhile to visit their website. They often feature exceptional online deals not contained in online searches.

10. Change the city or currency
When you book a flight, the system assumes that you are issuing the ticket in a specific country. Here's a tip: instead of purchasing a Malaysia airline ticket from a U.S. website, buy a Malaysia airline ticket from Malaysia. The ticket will be sold in Malaysia, using Malaysian ringgit. If tickets are purchased in a different country and a different currency, you might get a better flight offer due to the exchange rate. Check with your bank before proceeding; some banks charge a fee for foreign transactions (called FX).

To access flight comparison sites, use a VPN and change your position to a country with a different currency, as the flight ticket prices could be lower. 

Two of the best tips for finding great rates on flights are to be flexible and to book early. Although you might be able to find last-minute offers, your choices may be minimal. You can easily find better fares with each trip by comparing rates and options with the airline, third party booking sites, and incorporating your credit card rewards.