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How to Find the Cheapest Flights

How to Find the Cheapest Flights

Have you ever experienced this scenario? You’re talking to a friend or colleague about the flights you’ve just booked to some exotic destination for your next vacation, only for them to turn around and tell you that they’ve booked flights to the same destination for hundreds of dollars less! It can be infuriating; just think of all the things you could spend that money on when you arrive at your destination.

This doesn’t have to happen to you ever again! With the tips below you can ensure that you always get the cheapest flights in any circumstance.

1. The early bird saves money.

It’s not really a secret but, as with most things, the earlier you book, the more you can save. The magic number is 60. Prices rise on average about 60 days before the departure date. But don’t book too early. FareCompare research shows that airlines don’t release their cheap seats until about four months out.

2. Being flexible pays off.

If you’re not picky about the exact date that you fly, you could slash a huge amount off your fare. Mid-week flights are less popular than weekends, and Wednesday is historically the cheapest day to fly. Catching the red-eye will also save you a packet. Consider traveling to destinations in their off-peak seasons; his is will vary by location, but a quick Google search usually reveals the answer. Not only will everything be cheaper, but you will get to experience a different side to your destination that most people never see.

3. Size matters.

The nearest airport to you may not be the best one to fly from if you’re looking to save some extra spending money. Bigger and busier airports often have cheaper flights, as there is more competition between airlines and a higher frequency of flights. Compare the price of taking a cheap domestic flight to a bigger airport versus flying straight from your local airport. In my case I was able to fly to another domestic airport for $59, and the international leg was over $200 cheaper from there!

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Try using a website like Adioso to compare the price of flying into different airports near your destination. As you can see below, it was $400 cheaper for me to fly into LA instead of San Francisco–something that can make a huge difference to your hip pocket (plus maybe you could fly to LA and then take an awesome road trip to San Francisco in a rental car).

adioso

    4. Short trip? Save even more.

    Most of the budget airlines charge a low base rate, and then charge for add-ons like checked luggage. If you don’t need to take much with you, you could save quite a bit by only taking carry-on luggage (this is usually included in the cost of all tickets).

    5. Take advantage of historical price data.

    Using some great historical pricing tools like Kayak’s Price Forecast, you can work out whether the ticket price for your flight is more likely to rise or fall. This tool will show you whether to book immediately or if you’re better off waiting.

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    kayak-price-forecast

      6. Compare the comparisons.

      All comparison websites are not equal. Some have access to airlines and fares that others don’t, and booking fees can vary greatly between them. Just because two sites compare flights from the same airline doesn’t mean that the prices will be the same! From experience, there’s no one site that’s better than any other. The one that has the cheapest flight this time may not be next time, so it pays to compare at least two of them.

      Some comparison sites to consider:

      7. Go direct.

      Just as some comparison sites get access to fares that others don’t, there are many special fares that the airlines save for their own customers. I’ve saved hundreds of dollars by booking with the airline direct; signing up to their mailing lists is an easy way to be notified of specials as they come up. Be aware–the really cheap ones are usually limited and go quickly, so be prepared to book as soon as you see them!

      8. Remove pre-selected items.

      Websites often try to make a few extra dollars by pre-selecting certain items and hoping that you don’t notice. Seat selection, various insurances, “green” options are some of the usual culprits and can add $20 or more to your ticket if you don’t un-tick the boxes.

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      finding cheap flights
        photo credit: Doug Waldron

        9. Avoid booking fees.

        Booking fees are fairly standard on most websites (even the ones that say no booking fees will often build them into the price) but you can sometimes avoid paying any booking fees depending on the payment method you use. Payment by direct deposit/bank transfer, PayPal or Poli are often cheaper or free.

        10. Cheap flights can become expensive.

        When looking at budget carriers, make sure you add in all the items you need before comparing the price. Flights that are a little more expensive but include things like baggage or meals may actually end up cheaper by the time you add them on to a budget flight. Also make sure you’re aware of how inflexible some cheap flights can be. If your plans change, or something comes up and you can’t make it, the change fee can often be as expensive as the actual tickets. If you’ve got good travel insurance, this may not be an issue.

        11. Call in an expert.

        FlightFox is a great service that will connect you with travel experts to help find the cheapest flights for your needs. They’ll do the hard work and then tell you how to book the flights, or they can arrange to do it for you. At just $49 it can quickly pay for itself many times over, especially for international or complicated trips (multi-stops, etc).

        12. Use your points.

        Perhaps an obvious one, but if you have frequent flyer points, you can use these towards your flight cost, or to upgrade to a better seat. Many airlines have partnerships with credit card providers where you can earn frequent flyer points for every dollar you spend. It’s a great way to earn points for things you would be buying anyway (groceries, gas, etc.) as long as you pay it off on time.

        13. Get your money back.

        Have you ever been bumped off a flight? Did you know that you may actually be eligible for some compensation from the airline? New website AirHelp can advise you of any potential compensation and help you apply for it. You may even be eligible for a refund if your ticket price drops after you purchase! Another website, Yapta, will track your flight details and let you know if it drops after you purchase.

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        There you have it! Want to save even MORE on your trip? Check out our tips on how to get the best hotel deals, and car rental hacks.

        Do you have any other tips? Share them with our readers in the comments below!

        Featured photo credit: Traffic/Don McCullough via flickr.com

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        Last Updated on August 20, 2019

        How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

        How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

        Finances can push anyone to the point of extreme anxiety and worry. Easier said than done, planning finances is not an egg meant for everyone’s basket. And that’s why most of us are often living pay check to pay check. But did anyone tell you that it is actually not a tough task to meet your financial goals?

        In this article, we will explore ways on how to set financial goals and then actually meet them with ease.

        5 Steps to Set Financial Goals

        Though setting financial goals might seem to be a daunting task but if one has the will and clarity of thought, it is rather easy. Try using these steps:

        1. Be Clear About the Objectives

        Any goal (let alone financial) without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream. And this couldn’t be more true for financial matters.

        It is often said that savings is nothing but deferred consumption. Therefore if you are saving today, then you should be crystal clear about what it is for. It could be anything like kid’s education, retirement, marriage, that dream vacation, fancy car etc.

        Once the objective is clear, put a monetary value to that objective and the time frame. The important point at this step of goal setting is to list all the objectives, however small they may be, that you foresee in the future and put a value to it.

        2. Keep Them Realistic

        It’s good to be an optimistic person but being a pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, going out of the line will definitely hurt your chances of achieving them.

        It’s important that you keep your goals realistic in nature for it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout the journey.

        3. Account for Inflation

        Ronald Reagan once said – “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman”. And this quote sums up the best what inflation could do your financial goals.

        Therefore account for inflation whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far away in the future.

        For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years hence, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is mere 3%. So always account for inflation.

        4. Short Term vs Long Term

        Just like every calorie is not the same, the approach towards achieving every financial goal will not be the same. It is important to bifurcate goals in short term and long term.

        As a rule of thumb, any financial goal, which is due in next 3 years should be termed as short term goal. Any longer duration goals are to be classified as long term goals. This bifurcation of goals into short term vs long term will help in choosing the right investment instrument to achieve them.

        More on this later when we talk about how to achieve financial goals.

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        5. To Each to His Own

        The journey of setting financial goals is an individualistic affair i.e. your goals are your own goals and are determined by your want to achieve them. A lot of times we get on the bandwagon of goal setting only to realize later on that it was not meant for us.

        It is important that your goals are actually your goals and not inspired by someone else. Take a hard look at this step at all the goals you’ve set for after this step, you will be on the way to achieve them.

        By now, you would be ready with your financial goals, now it’s time to go all out and achieve them.

        11 Ways to Achieve Your Financial Goals

        Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a 2 step process –

        • Ensuring healthy savings
        • Making smart investments

        You will need to save enough; and invest those savings wisely so that they grow over a period of time to help you achieve goals. So let’s get down to ensuring healthy savings.

        Ensuring Healthy Savings

        Self realization is the best form of realisation and unless you decide what your current financial position is, you aren’t heading anywhere.

        This is the focal point from where you start your journey of achieving financial goals.

        1. Track Expenses

        The first and the foremost thing to be done is to track your monthly expenses. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you would be surprised to see how small expenses add up to a sizeable amount.

        Also categorize those expenses into different bucket so that you know which bucket is eating the most of your pay check. This record keeping will pave the way for cutting down on un-wanted expenses and pump up your savings rate.

        2. Pay Yourself First

        Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classical mistake which almost everyone of us do. We pay ourselves last!

        Ideally, this should be planned upside down. We should be paying ourselves first and then to the world i.e. we should be taking out the planned saving amount first and then manage all the expenses from the rest.

        The best way to actually implement is to put the savings on automatic mode i.e. money flowing automatically into different financial instruments (for example – mutual funds, retirement corpus etc) every month.

        Taking the automatic route will make us lose control of our money and hence will compel us to manage in what’s left with us thereby increasing the savings rate.

        3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick with It

        Budgeting is the best to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be made.

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        Nowadays, several money management apps and wallets can help you do this automatically. It’s easy and who knows, you may just end up doing what people fail to do.

        At first, you may not be able to stick to your plans completely but don’t let that become a reason why you stop budgeting entirely.

        Make use of technology solutions you like. Explore options and alternatives that let you make use of the available wallet options and choose the one that suits you the most. In time, you will get accustomed to making use of these solutions.

        You will find that they make it simpler for you to follow your plan, which would have been difficult otherwise.

        4. Rise Again Even If You Fall

        Let’s be realistic. It’s not like the world will come to an end if you made one mistake. This isn’t called leniency but discipline.

        If you fail to meet your budget for a month, don’t give up the entire effort just like that. Instead, start again.

        Remember that flexible plans are the most realistic plans. So go forward and try to follow your financial goals as planned but if for some reason, the plan gets out of hand for you, do not give up on it just yet. This has a lot to do with your psychology rather than any material commitment.

        All you have to do is to stay on the road and vow to stay on it, no matter how much you fall down.

        5. Make Savings a Habit and Not a Goal

        In the book Nudge, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocate that in order to achieve any goal, it should be broken down into habits since habits are more intuitive for people to adapt to.

        Make Savings a habit rather than a goal. While it might seem to be counter intuitive to many but there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

        Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Usually weekends are expensive. Make it a habit and you would in turn be saving a great deal.

        If you are travelling buff, try to travel during off season. Your outlay will be much less.

        If you go out for shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

        So the key point is to imbibe the action that results in savings rather than on the savings itself, which is the outcome. Focusing on the outcome will bring out the feeling of sacrifice which will be harder to sustain over a period of time.

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        6. Talk About It

        Sticking to the saving schedule (to achieve financial goals) is not an easy journey. There will be many distractions from those who are not aligned with your mission. And it would be rather easy to lose the grip over your discipline.

        Therefore in order to stay the course, it is advisable that you keep yourself surrounded with people who are also on the same bandwagon. Daily discussions with them will keep you motivated to move forward.

        7. Maintain a Journal

        For some people, writing helps a great deal in making sure that they achieve what they plan.

        So if you are one of them, maintain a proper journal, where you write down your goals and also jot down the extent to which you managed to meet them. This will help you in reviewing how far you have come and which goals you have met.

        Use this journal to write down all essential points such as your short term, mid term and long term goals, your current sources of income, your regular expenses which you are aware of and any committed expenses which are of recurring nature.

        When you have a written commitment on paper, you are going to feel more energised to follow the plan and stick to it. Moreover, it is going to be a lot more easier for you to follow you and track your progress.

        At this point, you should be ready with your financial goals and would be doing brilliantly with savings; now it’s time to talk about the big daddy – Investments.

        Making Smart Investments

        Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However savings when invested wisely can do wonders and we are at that stage where we will talk about making smart investments.

        8. Consult a Financial Advisor

        Investments doesn’t come naturally to most of us therefore rather than dabbling with it ourselves, it is wise to consult a financial advisor.

        Talk to him/her about your financial goals and savings and then seek advice for the best investment instruments to achieve your goals.

        9. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

        Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about them.

        Just like “no one is born a criminal”, no investment instrument is bad or good. It is the application of that instrument that makes all the difference.

        Do you remember we talked about bifurcating financial goals in short term and long term?

        It is here where that classification will help.

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        So as a general rule, for all your short term financial goals, choose an investment instrument that has debt nature for example fixed deposits, debt mutual funds etc. The reason for going for debt instruments is that chances of capital loss is less as compared to equity instruments.

        10. Compounding Is the Eighth Wonder

        Einstein once remarked about compounding,

        Compound Interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… He who doesn’t… Pays it.

        So make friends with this wonder kid. And sooner you become friends with it, quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

        Start investing early so that time is on your side to help you bear the fruits of compounding.

        11. Measure, Measure, Measure

        All of us do good when it comes to earning more per month but fail miserably when it comes to measuring the investments; taking stock of how our investments are doing.

        If there is one single step where everything (so far) can go wrong, it is at this step – Measuring the Progress.

        If we don’t measure the progress timely, then we would be shooting in the dark. We wouldn’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not; whether financial advisor is doing a decent job; whether we are moving closer to our target or not.

        Do measure everything. If you can’t measure it all yourself, ask your financial advisor to do it for you. But do it!

        The Bottom Line

        This completes the list of tips for you to set financial goals and actually achieve them with not so great difficulty.

        As you can see, all it requires is discipline. But guess that’s the most difficult part!

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        Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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