There are many airfare search tools, mileage calculators, route maps, and other travel tools to help find all the possible connections and destinations to the region(s) you want to go on your next trip. This guide will walk you through a series of steps so you can be sure you’ve covered all of your bases to find the cheapest flight out there.
Discover Which Airlines Fly to Your Destination.
2. Head over to Wikipedia to find out the where you can fly from your destination airport. The route information is almost always available on in an up-to-date article about each airport.
3. If you are flexible with which destination airport you will use (example: you might not have a preference between JFK and the La Guardia airports in NYC), airports with more airlines serving them will generally be much cheaper to fly to/from than airports served by only one or two airlines. The more airlines are forced to compete with each other on a given route, the more they will end up slashing fares.
Starting the Cheap Flight Search
4. Sometimes you may discover budget airlines that fly into your destination that don’t fly from your home airport and you probably aren’t seeing their fares listed on sites like Orbitz.com. But if the fares are so cheap why are they not on Orbitz or even ITA Matrix? Here are some examples of why.
- SouthWest airlines, one of the largest airlines, does not publish their fares outside of their own website.
- Spirit Airlines does publish some fares on Orbitz, but never their “bargain-bin” super cheap fares.
- In Europe, the biggest budget airlines EasyJet and Ryanair don’t publish their fares on sites like Orbitz either. This saves the airline money, which lets them slash fares.
To account for this you must visit the website of each budget airline serving your destination’s airports. Figure out where the budget airlines’ “hubs” are located in an effort to see if you can find any great deals on airfares from their hub cities on to your final destination. The trick will be to get a ticket on a ‘regular’ airline (i.e. a non-budget airlines) from your home country to a transportation hub near your destination – then get the budget ticket for the final leg to reach your destination.
Step It Up with Some Advanced Travel Hacks
5. You can’t normally buy a single plane ticket that has both traditional airline and budget airline segments. But you may be able to do it yourself and combine a traditional airlines’ ticket with a budget airline ticket to save money. For example, fly from your home airport to a nearby large hub airport (like JFK airport, Madrid’s Barajas airport, Kuala Lumpur International Airport, etc. – depending on where you are and want to go, of course). Then take a budget airline the rest of the way to your final destination.
- Heading to the beach in Thailand? Book a ticket to Bangkok and then buy an AirAsia ticket for the rest of the way to Phuket, Ko Samui or Krabi.
- Want to explore Central America? Buy a regular ticket to Fort Lauderdale (FLL) and then book a Spirit Airlines flight to Costa Rica from that same airport (read more on scoring the best deal on Spirit Airlines).
6. When combining tickets from multiple airlines, check and double check to make sure that your itinerary leaves you enough time to get from your first flight, on to the next (a 4 hour minimum connection time is recommended). Also, make sure you have the right dates when booking your flights. This is especially important on international flights where you change time zones and arrival dates – things can get messy fast!
7. If you end up booking flights that require a local airport change to make your connection (like London Heathrow to London Stansted) – leave at least 1.5 hour of buffer time for the transfer beyond the expected travel time. Researching all the transportation options, availability, reliability schedules, and prices ahead of time will make for a smooth transition between airports.
8. Looking for a last minute cheap flight on Shanghai-based budget carrier Spring Airlines during some Chinese holiday you’ve never heard of? Good luck. If you can avoid it, don’t leave the booking of the budget airline fare (or any other airfare) until the last minute. Many low cost airlines boost their prices a week or two before the departure date.
See It In Action
Let’s say you wanted to find the cheapest way to get from Chicago to Morocco and back. Here’s how you can save at least $310.
Option 1: Buy a regular round/trip ticket from Chicago (ORD) to Marrakesh. Cost = $1,000 or more if you’re lucky.
Option 2: Buy a regular round trip ticket from ORD to Madrid Barajas airport. This airport is a busy major transportation hub and a hub for ultra budget airline Ryanair. Round trip ticket on US Airways from ORD to MAD = $600. Round trip Ryanair ticket from Madrid to Tangier or Marrakesh is approximately $90 or less when booked in advance.
Combining regular airline tickets with budget airlines to reach Marrakesh can save you over $300!