With flight prices soaring these days, travelers appreciate a good deal. And while we can’t promise you rock bottom flight prices, there are ways you can optimize your flight search. Finding ways to save you money is one of our pet projects over here at CheapAir.com. After all, we need to be able to justify our name, right? Without further ado, here are a few of our favorite flight booking hacks.

1. Break Up a Long-haul Flight

Sometimes, if you’re shopping for an airline ticket from Des Moines to Bangkok it can be more economical to break this long flight into pieces. West coast gateways offer the best fares to Asia, so maybe you shop for a good flight from Des Moines to Los Angeles, and then another flight from L.A. to Bangkok. This won’t always give you a better price, but you should think creatively and shop both ways.

2. Do an Apples to Apples Comparison

It’s an a la carte world, baby. Don’t treat it like an all-you-can-eat buffet. What does this mean? We can’t stress enough that the airlines have mostly all moved to a la carte pricing. This means that when you buy a “Basic” ticket from an airline, all you’re paying for is a seat – any seat – on the plane.

So when you see what looks like a GREAT price – you should double-check to make sure you aren’t being charged fees for a carry-on, checked bag, or even a seat. These days, if you want an assigned seat on a “Basic” ticket, it’ll cost you.

3. Be as Flexible as Possible

We like to call this hack “an oldie but goodie.” Flexibility is one of those components that simply cannot be overlooked. When you want a cheap flight, you have to prove your flexibility. We touched on this a bit in Tip #1. When you are planning an itinerary, you should always look at a variety of ways to get there.

Having dates set in stone will inevitably give you less choice. Sometimes that can’t be avoided – like if you are attending a wedding or traveling during Thanksgiving week. But for many of us, just having a couple of days of wiggle room will open up fare possibilities that can save you money.

And finally, we know that the best airfare prices occur on mid-week flights. Specifically, Tuesday and Wednesday flights will often give travelers a better price than booking flights on the more popular (and therefore more expensive) weekend days.

4. Embrace the Layover

When you book a longer flight, the impulse is to minimize or eliminate layovers. Even though this is understandable, you can often find a better priced airline ticket if you’re willing to take a longer layover. And if you actually embrace a long layover and use it as an excuse to explore another destination, all the better! A really long layover may save you some big bucks – and allow you to take a day trip into another destination. We do like to suggest a layover destination with solid public transportation to and from the airport – so you can focus on the fun and not get mired in logistics.

5. Skip the Myths and Misinformation

You may have heard that it’s cheaper to buy on a Tuesday. Or that you should shop in “incognito” mode. We say “show us the data.” Even though there are a lot of so-called experts on the Internet, eager to give you their insider’s tips to a guaranteed cheaper fare – there is no magic bullet. The airlines don’t track your searches so they can raise the prices on you next time you come around – there’s just a lot of people searching for flights at any given time. Long story short? Stick to the facts.

6. Mix and match airfares

When we talk about “mix and match” airfares, we’re talking about piecing together an itinerary from more than one airline. This isn’t possible at all if you book direct with the airlines, but it is something we offer at CheapAir.com. When you can book one airline for the outbound flight, and another on the return – sometimes it can save you a ton!

One flight booking “hack” to avoid

Some experts have been touting “Hidden City” fares for a while. The basic idea is that you book a cheap one way connecting flight with the expressed plan to hop off in the layover city. We don’t recommend this flight booking hack. The airlines can actually fine you or (more often) ban you from flying with them. They can also revoke your frequent flier miles or privileges. It’s highly discouraged because it technically violates the contract you enter into when you book a flight.

Logistically, this whole plan can be a nightmare for travelers. You can only book a one-way because the airlines will automatically cancel the remaining portion of a ticket when someone no-shows. It also inconveniences everyone on the flight – as the airline might delay a flight thinking you’re just stuck in the airport somewhere. Finally, you can’t check any bags if you’re planning to hop off mid-itinerary. And if your flight is full, you still could be required to check your carry-on on the jetway. Oof! It’s a lot of extra planning and stress to fly in this loophole. We don’t recommend. If you use our other strategies, you can usually get a good deal without all of the cloak and dagger.

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5 Comments

  1. In No. 5, Skip the Myths and Misinformation, you smugly state “You may have heard that it’s cheaper to buy on a Tuesday….We say ‘show us the data.’…Stick to the facts”, but then you contradict yourself in No. 3, “Specifically, Tuesday and Wednesday flights will often give travelers a better price.” Oops! This makes me think you have no idea what you’re talking about if you can’t even keep your facts straight.

    Also, the Hidden City fare trick has worked great. Other experts seem to know what they are talking about better than you.

    • Hi Liem, thank you for your feedback. The day you travel, or tip 3, does matter. We have noticed much cheaper flights flying on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Tip 5 is about the day you purchase your flights. Many people believe the best time to book flights is on a Tuesday. Our data has not shown much of a difference between booking on Tuesdays versus any other day. Our tip is to buy with plenty of advance purchase when you see a good fare. If you see a good airfare on a Thursday and wait until Tuesday to buy it because you heard Tuesday is the cheapest booking day, it might not be there. Hope that clarifies it.

      The Hidden City tip might work but we cannot endorse it for the reasons we mention. If you try it let us know how it goes. Happy Travels

    • Hi Elio, we do not recommend trying to buy stand-by at the airport. Most airlines charge last-minute flyers a premium these days. We actually recommend booking with plenty of advance purchase. You can read about the best time to book flights here.

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