For first-time air travelers, the whole process from planning to booking and the flight itself can be overwhelming. Arm yourself with our simple hacks for a stress-free first flight and save money!

1. Remember the flight booking “Golden Rule”

Did you know there’s a flight booking Golden Rule? It’s true. Basically, whatever you do, please don’t wait until the last minute to book a flight unless you must. You will almost certainly overpay. Our domestic When to Buy study can help you understand the various pros and cons of booking at certain times during the lifetime of an airfare. But within 3 weeks of your travel date, you will see that fares climb – sometimes exponentially.

2. Break Up a Long-haul Flight

Long-haul flights are those international flights that run 6-12 hours in length. Sometimes, if you’re shopping for a longer flight, it can be more economical to break this long itinerary into pieces. If you need a flight from Albuquerque to Bangkok, shop for that round trip ticket and compare to breaking it up. West coast gateways offer the best fares to Asia, so maybe you shop for a good flight from Albuquerque 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.

3. Be as Flexible as Possible

Flexibility in planning cannot be overstated. 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 easily save you money.

Another suggestion to save some cash is to be flexible on flight times. If you’re willing to fly extremely early or extremely late (on what’s known as a red-eye or overnight flight), you can save some cash as well.

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. 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 When you can book one airline for the outbound flight, and another on the return – sometimes it can save you a ton!

We hope this post was helpful for first time air travelers – so you feel a bit more relaxed about flight shopping.

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