We’ve all been there before—while flipping through a travel magazine or Instagram feed, we stop at a breathtaking photo of Maui’s sparkling sands surrounded by impossibly turquoise waters, or an image of a soft golden sunrise over the majestic Himalayas that immediately sends our fingers hurtling across the keyboard to look for flights. But then we stop at the results page because we remember that flights remain one of the most expensive portions of planning a getaway. There are several tips and tricks, however, that make escaping a little easier on the wallet.
Explore the 'Explore Map' Function on Google Flights
For wanderers who don’t have a specific destination in mind and just want to wander, Google Flights displays the lowest available fares to destinations across the world from your chosen point of origin in one quick snapshot. Located on the top left corner of the Google Flights homepage, input your departure city into the "explore destinations" function, select specific travel dates or rough time frame of one or two weeks, and then hover over the blue dots that mark the world’s major destinations for the lowest available airfare. This function also allows you to set specific search criteria like number of connections and airline alliance preferences. Now you can plan your getaway depending on how much you wish to spend on airfare.
Search Using Flight Aggregators
Flight aggregators are time-saving tools when it comes to searching for low airfares. Instead of heading over to American Airlines, Air Canada and Cathay Pacific to compare prices for a specific route, flight aggregators like Kayak and Skyscanner compare airfare across multiple websites and display all of that information in one place. Though Kayak and Skyscanner include both major and budget airlines for the cheapest options, no single flight aggregator picks up all of the web’s deals unfortunately, so be sure to compare searches on two engines in order to cover the web.
Fly at Obscure Times
Opt for flights with the most bizarre departure times possible, including 6 a.m. flights and red-eyes, when few people prefer to travel. Because off-peak hours are less in demand, flights departing at these times are generally cheaper. You’re also saving on a night’s worth of accommodations since you’re flying overnight. Similarly, opt to travel during off-season, generally between November and March in North America and Europe, when destinations across these continents are less crowded.
Check Surrounding Airports
Be sure to include nearby airports in your search for cheap airfare. For example, a flight from Vancouver to New York City will often cost more than flying domestic from Seattle to New York City. The distance between Vancouver and Seattle as a departure point can be covered by a three hour bus ride, saving a couple hundred dollars in flights even after paying for transportation across the border. Similarly, a number of budget airlines that operate out of Europe offer fares between major destinations like Paris to Florence for as little as 15€. However, budget airlines base themselves in smaller regional airports that are often an hour outside of a city center. Therefore, expanding your search from Charles de Gaulle (CDG) for Paris to surrounding airports like Orly and Beauvais can land you cheap intercontinental flights.
Sign Up for Fare Alerts
Because airfares fluctuate daily, constantly checking back on airline websites becomes a time-consuming task. Instead, opt to be notified of any changes in price via email. For example, if you have a specific route you wish to track the price of, Google Flights offers a convenient option. On the engine, input your point of origin and destination, and simply flip the switch for "track prices," and you will instantly be notified through email of any increase or decrease to your desired route. Alternatively, if you don’t have specific dates or a destination in mind and are open to hopping on the next cheapest flight out of your city, then sign up for low fare alerts on websites like Airfarewatchdog and Secret Flying, platforms that scour the Internet for airline flash sales and error fares.