11 Easy Ways to Save Money on Flights
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Looking for ways to save money on your next vacation? It helps to know the cheapest days to fly.
You already know that paying for airfare is one of your biggest travel expenses. By juggling your travel dates, you can save hundreds each time you book a flight.
But, choosing the best day to fly is only part of the process. There are plenty of ways to save money on flights. As seasoned travelers and deal seeking fiends, we’ve tried about every trick in the book. Here are some of our favorite ways to save when we fly.
11 Ways to Find Cheap Flights
Use Rewards Points
Using one of the best travel rewards credit cards and earning points and miles is the cheapest way to fly, bar none.
By redeeming points and miles to fly, you can save hundreds of dollars per ticket. And, when you use points and miles to travel on the cheapest days to fly, you save even more. Some cards might even provide you with additional perks – including free checked bags, lounge access, and more.
Don’t believe credit card rewards work? We recently used credit card rewards for 2 round-trip tickets to Italy, paying a total of just $109 in taxes. Pretty sweet, huh?
And, Italy isn’t the only place we’ve been. We’ve used rewards cards to travel to places like London, Paris, Jamaica, Cancun, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, St. Maarten, and more.
Want to get in on the action? Check out our beginner’s guide to using credit card rewards, or start with one of our favorites below:
Right now is a great time to pick up our favorite rewards card of all, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. It isn’t a straight travel card, per se, but Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer at a 1 to 1 ratio with over a dozen different travel partners. You’ll earn 5x points on travel purchased through Chase, 3x points on dining, and 2x points on other travel purchases.
But here’s the best part: Currently, you can earn 60,000 bonus points just for signing up. That’s worth $750 in travel when booked through the Chase portal. All you have to do is spend $4,000 in the first 3 months and you’ve earned the points. There is a annual_fees annual fee.
If you’re going to get just one travel rewards card, this should be it. It’s our favorite card for beginners and one you should definitely consider for your wallet.
Read the review | Learn how to apply
The card_name has one of the best travel offers going right now. With their welcome offer, you earn a 75,000 mile bonus after making $4,000 in purchases in the first 3 months. Those miles can be used as a statement credit to redeem $750 in travel costs (including flights).
You’ll also earn 2x miles per dollar spent on all purchases, not just certain categories.
There aren’t many cards better for saving money on travel right now. If you don’t already have it, this card deserves consideration for the top of your wallet.
Read the review | Learn how to apply
Pick the Cheapest Days to Fly
Seriously folks, if you’re flexible with your travel schedule, you can save tons of money. That’s why we always like to research the cheapest days to fly first. Sometimes, you can knock off a few hundred bucks each way! Save that money and add it to your vacation budget. Better yet, stash it away and take another trip in the near future.
Even when using points and miles, flying on the cheapest days still works out to your benefit. In general, points and miles are tied to the actual cost of the flight. So, the cheaper the flight in dollars, the fewer points you actually use. Hoard those points and use them to travel more often.
So, when are the cheapest days to fly? Well, the cheapest flights typically are found on the least popular travel days. It’s a classic case of supply and demand, y’all. Generally speaking, the cheapest days to fly are:
- Tuesday: When we travel, we almost always have a Tuesday flight included in our plans. Tuesday is neither on the weekend, nor can it be used to extend the weekend like Monday. But don’t feel sorry for poor, unloved Tuesday. It makes a perfect day for the budget traveler to fly!
- Wednesday: Along with its lame cousin Tuesday, Wednesday is another boring mid-week day. But, for the deal seeker, Wednesday is a great day to save on flights. Again, it’s tough to connect Wednesday to a long weekend, so most people would rather avoid it altogether. But, if you’re flexible with your travel schedule, you can travel Wednesday-Tuesday and save a bundle!
- Saturday: Who the heck wants to fly somewhere cool, then cut their weekend short and fly home on a Saturday?!? People who want to save big money on flights, that’s who! Most people aren’t flexible or creative enough to even think about flying on a Saturday. That’s why Saturday is almost always one of the cheapest days to fly.
Avoid Popular Days to Fly
It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: Avoid flying on popular days. Everybody and their mother wants to hop on a flight and enjoy a nice weekend somewhere swank. That’s why Friday is typically one of the most expensive days to fly. Of course, those people also have to get home, making Sunday and Monday pricier as well.
Additionally, flights are always more expensive around holidays. Any day that bookends a holiday is going to be popular and, thus, more expensive. Avoid flying immediately before or after a holiday; try finding flights a few days before or after to save money, instead.
If you want to find the cheapest flights, you need to plan ahead.
Most people tend to plan their vacations about 3-6 months before they head out. Airlines know this, and they usually increase their rates during this time. According to CheapAir.com, the best time to book is 49 days in advance. At about seven weeks out, the airlines have a pretty good idea how full their flights are going to be. Thus, they may either increase flight costs or discount them depending on how many available seats each flight has left.
Personally, we’ve always had the best luck booking our flights about 9 months in advance. It seems like hardly anybody is buying that far out, which makes prices remarkably cheap. Of course, this is totally dependent on the airline and the individual flight…but for us, it seems to work. In my opinion, the further out you plan, the better off you’ll be.
Compare and Monitor Flight Prices
When you’re planning your next trip, don’t just look and book! Compare flight prices between airlines and continue to watch them for a while. Airfares can fluctuate wildly, and sometimes daily! Pick out a few target flights, and pounce when you think the deal is best.
This strategy is especially important if you plan to book your flight early. If you start looking for flights super early and notice that they are beginning to creep up, it may be time to book. You can also wait until a sale fare appears and book your flight then.
Some airlines will even allow you to cancel and rebook your flight if you find a better fare later on. We’ve done this dozens of times, and it has saved us a lot of money (and points). However, you need to be careful. Not every airline will refund your money or your points, so make sure you know the airline’s change and cancellation policy before you try it.
Fly Early (or Late) in the Day
Airfares don’t just vary by the day of the week; they may also vary by the time of day you wish to fly. Early morning and late evening flights are often far less expensive than those flying mid-day.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten up at 3 AM to head to the airport for a 6 AM flight. Yes, I’ve boarded many flights looking like I stepped off the set of The Walking Dead. But, taking the first flight of the day has saved us tons of money. As an added bonus, we also get to our destination much earlier, giving us a whole extra day to explore.
Most vacation destinations have peak and off-peak times of year. So, when the destination is busier, flights to and from that destination are also in higher demand. We’ve found that some off-peak flights cost 40-50% less than the same flights during peak times.
This is an important factor to keep in mind during the planning stages for your next trip. Not only will traveling off-peak help you save money on flights, but it can help you save money on hotels as well.
For European vacations, off-peak flights are usually found from November through March. Generally speaking, you’ll find cheaper flights to Caribbean destinations from May through November.
Don’t Be Afraid of a Layover
Look, I know layovers can be a bear. Who wants to sit around at an airport for hours, waiting for their awesome vacation to begin? But, since nobody else likes a layover either, it can also mean saving even more money on airfare.
So, what are you going to do to pass the time during a layover? Well, you can walk around and shop in the malls, read a good book, or surf the internet.
Better yet, head to an airport lounge. There you can relax in a comfortable chair, enjoy free snacks, and use the internet for free. Many of the best rewards cards offer free access to airport lounges. Follow the link to compare some of our favorites.
Use Frequent Flyer Programs
One of the best ways to get cheap flights is to earn miles through an airline’s frequent flyer program. Each time you fly, you’ll earn points or miles that can be redeemed for additional travel. Becoming a member could also earn you extra perks, like free checked bags, lounge access, and more.
Frequent flyer programs are best for those booking paid flights (as opposed to booking flights with rewards). With a premium travel card (like the Chase Sapphire Preferred) you can essentially double dip. By using your card to pay for the flight, you’ll earn 2x points for the purchase. If you belong to your airline’s loyalty program, you’ll also rack up points for a paid flight.
Even if your job pays for the flight, you can earn the frequent flyer miles under your own personal account. Now that is savvy traveling!
Watch Out for Taxes
Imagine this: You’ve searched for the cheapest days to fly. You’ve compared airlines. You’ve monitored the fares for months. You’ve found a great deal and you’re ready to book.
Then, when you head to check out, you’ve noticed the price jumps several hundred dollars because of taxes and fees. How freakin’ frustrating!!!
When searching for cheap airfare, particularly if you’re flying internationally, you need to watch out for taxes and fees. Depending on where you’re flying and who you’re flying with, taxes and fees could add several hundred dollars to the cost of your flight.
This has happened to us several times, and we now avoid targeting flights through certain airlines altogether. (I’m looking at you British Airways!) These days, we always do a test run of the checkout process before settling on our preferred targets. That way, we’re not blindsided by any taxes or fees.
To do this yourself, just head to the purchase page as if you’re actually going to buy the tickets. There, you can see what taxes will cost before adding that flight to your target list. Trust me, this saves a lot of headache (and heartache) when you’re actually ready to book.
Our family is notorious for overpacking. Seriously, we bring like 4 suitcases on a 2-day trip. It’s freakin’ ridiculous. However, if we’re going by plane, we’ve learned the value of packing light.
On another recent trip to Italy, our family used just one carry-on and one personal item per person. We saved money on checked bags, plus we didn’t have to wait for it at Rome’s baggage claim. (We read lots of horror stories.) So, learn to pack lightly. It will save you time and money.
Finding the Cheapest Airfare
Finding the cheapest days to fly takes a little bit of skill and a whole lot of patience. By using the tips above and staying flexible with your travel plans, you can save hundreds of dollars per ticket.
If you’d like tips on how to travel for free, check out our “Free Travel Advice” page. Just let us know where you’d like to go, and we’ll help you build a travel rewards plan personalized to meet your needs.
Thanks for reading and happy traveling!
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Great tips! We’ve sort of stopped traveling by air since we now have a toddler, but one of these days we are going to get brave and take her on a flight so we can go to cool places again! Or better yet, leave her with the grandparents and go somewhere on our own :-). Thanks for the great tips!
YASSS! Leave her with grandma and grandpa 🙂 It will be good for you, good for her, and good for them! Everybody wins.
Good tips Greg! We use points all the time, of course, but we still like to stretch those to get the most bang for our points. We plan ahead and are usually pretty flexible so that helps us find the most economical redemption.
Really, those are the two biggest keys: Planning ahead and being flexible. I know a lot of people don’t have the option to be flexible. But, if you can, it will save you huge money!
For me, I try to get alerts of low prices coming up and plan really far in advance — especially since I don’t use credit cards, it’s really the best and only way to get deals!
Planning ahead is huge! For the most part, you can’t find good deals unless you plan ahead.
I can’t remember the last time we didn’t fly out on a Tuesday or Wednesday. What makes things a little tricky for us is the flying off-peak. Not complaining at all (because who complains about having a summer and winter break?!), but as two teachers, we can’t really pick and choose our vacation days. Great list of tips!
Yeah, off-peak isn’t available for everybody…which is why it is more expensive to fly during peak times. Our school system switched to a modified year-round schedule, so we actually have a Fall Break which works great for traveling with the kids!
I’ve been eyeing that Chase Sapphire card for a while, Greg! This year is probably not going to involve a lot of traveling (other than weddings & FinCon!) But we’re thinking about a bigger European trip for 2017. Thanks, as always, for the great resources!
No problem. The Chase Sapphire is our favorite card. The bonus is still 50K right now, so if you want it, I’d jump on it!
Ugh I’m so jealous of all the CC offers you guys get!
Also somewhat related, there are pretty decent flight (price) monitoring apps that I’ve used in the past too, seem pretty on point!
If only we could send the same offers to you Canucks, the world would be a better place 😉
I never knew Saturday was a good day to travel. Usually I shoot for Tuesday or Wednesday. I’m finally getting organized enough to start booking travel about 7 weeks out, like people advise.
Meanwhile, each year we send my husband up to Washington using rewards points. The first year we did this, we hadn’t used our mileage points in ages, so we were able to pay for his flight and a week car rental all with points. This year, we’re clipping along on the Sapphire card, thanks to your guys’ advice, actually!
I’m hoping to be organized enough this year for my own travel that I remember to sign up for price alerts for my destination.
The Chase Sapphire is probably our favorite rewards card ever. It’s super versatile. Glad we could help you out with it 😉
As far as flying Saturday goes, it is usually one of the cheapest days to fly…but not always. Tuesday and Wednesday are almost always no-brainers. Saturday can be hit and miss.
These are all great tips! Flying can be expensive if you don\’t try, but there are several ways to save.
No matter what you’re buying, there are always ways to save if you look around 🙂
Great tips, flying on unpopular days is a great way to save money. Use cash back or reward points is another great way to save money.
It seems much more difficult to fly during off-peak times if you have a 9-5, which is one reason I’m jealous of all the freelancers/self-employed/business owners who have the freedom to travel at off-period times. If I ever end up having that flexibility I will take full advantage of it.
Yeah, but once you have kids, all of that ends!
Planning in advance is our favorite way to save. We often have to take trips during peak times, so if you don’t get in early, sometimes you can’t get in at all or at least not at a reasonable price. I’m so thankful for learning to be responsible with credit so we can take advantage of points and miles.
Great advise . Do you have any tips where I can pick up good flight deals from south Africa to the middle east and Asia in general as I am south African
Great tips! I love (and prefer) to fly mid-week always!
Two Christmases ago we REALLY wanted to go home to see our family. We did our whole Christmas morning thing and told the kids we were going to CT. Our flights were in the middle of the afternoon ON Christmas Day. We saved over $300/ticket compared to any other during the break. Plus my kids don’t go back to school until the Wednesday after New Years so we flew home that Tuesday and again saved a fortune.
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Those are some great tips. I recently got the Southwest Card and received the 50,000 point bonus. I want to sign up for the Delta card, but I’m going to wait until I eliminate more of this debt first.