How to Save Money on Airfare: 10 Suggestions


1. Don’t rush anything. Finding a cheap flight requires some work. Don’t let that dissuade you, though, because saving more than $100 on airfare means more cash for lodging, meals, attractions, and more. Checking pricing for a spring trip should begin in the late fall or early winter. Sometimes offers are available at the last minute, but the best prices are typically found at least 21 days before departure.

It is my habit to check for daily travel offers online first thing in the morning (about 9:00 am) and again in the evening (after 6:00 pm). In addition, I often clear my browser’s cache and cookies before booking a trip, as specific booking sites and airlines keep track of your search history and may end up charging you more.

Skyscanner is the best website I’ve ever used. This website’s usefulness lies in allowing you to get the cheapest current rates for international flights departing from the airport of your choice. For instance, while I reside in Toronto, I will search for flights departing from Toronto (YYZ) to Anywhere. This is a fantastic function because it tells me exactly when, where, and the date the cheapest flights to any destination are available. Tickets for my April trip to Seoul, South Korea, were purchased on this site. I secured round-trip tickets to Seoul for 850 Canadian dollars (about $770 US dollars) thanks to a discount offered by Delta. Other airlines were demanding $1,000 to $1,500 or more.

Skyscanner also has a “Price Alerts” option where you can enter your desired destination and travel dates and receive an email notification if the price changes for specific dates. My sibling recently used this function to book a May flight to Edmonton, Alberta. One-way tickets often cost between $300 and $400, yet she only had to pay CAD 269.

Expedia is another travel website I frequently use. They will display the best travel offers to the most popular domestic and international vacation spots daily. They will also feature “Flight + Hotel” package deals. This gives me a good idea of how much a four-night trip to Las Vegas typically costs. For example, if a flight and hotel for four nights on the Las Vegas Strip from Toronto cost between $500 and $600 per person, I would want to look for offers with the same price or less.

However, Expedia’s advertised price may not always be accessible. For example, I may see round-trip tickets to Miami for CAD 250 (departing from Toronto) on their airline bargains for last-minute getaways, but when I click on the deal, the price may have increased to CAD 350 instead. While this isn’t usually the case, you should know that it occurs occasionally.

In addition to Kayak, Redtag, Sunwing, Bing Flight Predictor, and Airfarewatchdog, here are some of my favorite travel websites.

2. See if the airline has a dedicated website. Despite the usefulness of aggregator travel sites, the most incredible deals are not always promoted and can be obtained on the airline’s official website. I suggest registering for email specials provided by your chosen airline. For instance, as a Canadian, I have opted in to get offers from Air Canada. Doing so alerts me when new discounts become available on Air Canada’s website.

When my sister turned 21 in February, I wanted to surprise her with a weekend vacation to New York City. I would also play around with the dates by entering the travel into Air Canada and checking external websites. Even though it wasn’t promoted, I found CAD 199 round-trip tickets on a direct flight from YYZ to LGA. I was overjoyed to discover this offer from Air Canada. It’s also worth checking the airline’s website, as discounts may be offered there.

3. Verify if there are any departures or arrivals at nearby airports. While it’s sometimes inconvenient, many large urban centers feature multiple airports or have another airport nearby. Pearson Airport serves both domestic and international flights. Billy Bishop Airport serves domestic and some U.S. You can alternatively drive across the border into Canada and depart from Buffalo International Airport. In most cases, Buffalo’s airport is less expensive than Toronto’s Pearson or Billy Bishop. However, most flights are not direct, and airport parking is expensive because most people leave their cars there. Buffalo is a 90-minute drive from Toronto (gas costs to be considered), and depending on the length of your trip, parking costs may bring that discounted flight up to or around the same price as if it had departed from YYZ or YTZ, so I only fly out of Buffalo as a last resort. It’s not always worth flying out of Buffalo, but if you can get a good deal, it could be well worth it. [At my former employer, I oversaw corporate travel, and I can attest that if a party of two or more wanted to travel to the United States, flying out of Buffalo saved the organization $300 to $600 per flight ticket.]

This holds not only for the airport from which you depart but also for the airport into which you fly. If you’re traveling into New York City, for instance, your main terminal options are LaGuardia (LGA), John F. Kennedy (JFK), and Newark Liberty International (EWR). It’s possible to save money by flying into one airport rather than another. However, remember to factor in time for transportation from the airport to your hotel. Using only public transport, you may reach Manhattan from LGA for as low as $2.50 via bus and subway. Getting to Manhattan from EWR requires taking New Jersey Transit and switching to the Manhattan Transit System, which adds a bit to the overall cost. Taxi fares into Manhattan range depending on the airport you’re arriving from. Consider this a warning, and do your homework before setting off on your trip.

4. Subscribe to the email lists of several airlines and travel-related websites by following them on Twitter. Airlines can use social media’s advertising potential by promoting discounted fares and other deals on select channels. An airline’s Twitter or Facebook page may be the only place to find a unique flight discount code. WestJet’s Blue Tag Thursdays are a limited-time promotion only available on Thursday afternoons (unless another promotion is active). Look for announcements about this on their social media pages (Twitter and Facebook) or visit their website. Signing up for the mailing lists of third-party websites or airlines can sometimes net you exclusive deals that aren’t advertised publicly.

5. It’s pretty acceptable to make separate hotel and airplane reservations. Booking your hotel and flights together on travel sites like Expedia can save you money, but this is not always true. Don’t delay booking your flight if you find a great offer. If you wait, you might be able to find a cheaper accommodation. If you find a fantastic airfare offer, I urge you to book it immediately rather than wait until the day’s end. Let’s imagine you see a tremendous fare for a flight to San Francisco in the morning, but you don’t buy the tickets until you get home from work.

I’ll give you an example: in October 2012, when I was looking for cheap flights to visit my hometown of San Francisco, I found that round-trip tickets were roughly $600. Delta offered a promotion a few weeks later, and one could get a flight from Toronto to San Francisco for about CAD 437. After seeing ticket prices of $600 or more for the past few weeks, this was a fantastic bargain. Therefore I didn’t hesitate to buy my tickets right away. When I saw if the sale was still going on later that afternoon, the price jumped back to $600. If you see a low cost, don’t hesitate to book it because it could go up again quickly.

When planning a trip spanning multiple cities, it may be more cost-effective to book individual flights rather than sticking with a single carrier. I wanted to fly from Toronto to Las Vegas in June 2013, then from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, and finally from Los Angeles to Toronto. Getting the best price took roughly a month and a half of constant price-checking. The flights from Toronto to Las Vegas and Los Angeles to Toronto were on sale with Air Canada. Since Air Canada did not provide service between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, and one-way fares were over $100, I waited before reserving a domestic ticket within the United States. A week later, I was browsing Southwest’s website and discovered that they offered a “Getaway” deal on a passport from Las Vegas to Los Angeles for only USD 49. I quickly made my reservation after seeing this deal. My total airfare for multiple stops was $515. The total cost of my trip was CAD 466 (YYZ to LAS and LAX to YYZ) plus USD 49 (Southwest flight from LAS to LAX).

6. Be aware of when you may get the best deals on plane tickets. The cheapest days of the week to travel are Tuesday and Wednesday. (Generally, looking mid-week for flights produces the most excellent rates also). Thursdays and Saturdays, in my experience, are also good days to locate deals. Of course, this isn’t always the case, so you must play around with different departure and return dates to find the best deal. This is where Skyscanner comes in handy. The most expensive days of the week are Monday, Friday, and occasionally Sunday. Since most business travels fall between Monday and Friday, airlines often charge more for Monday departures and Friday returns. However, business travelers have begun booking Sunday departures rather than Monday ones to save money. Your ability to be flexible with your travel dates will determine which day of the week you may depart for the lowest price.

The season also plays a role. Late fall, winter, and early spring are often the cheapest times to travel to Europe by air. My parents flew round-trip from Toronto to Paris on Air Transat in April 2013 and spent CAD 671. While this isn’t the cheapest round-trip airfare I’ve seen, it was the best value I could find. It’s not necessarily a bad idea to go on a trip in the spring or fall. Off-season travel is typically cheaper and less crowded, yet lousy weather may make you rethink your plans.

Since most people prefer to visit Las Vegas in the Spring before the weather becomes too hot in the Summer, I’ve noticed that flights there are more expensive now (early Spring) (about $400-CAD 500). [I am comparing this to flight offers I saw this past winter for roughly CAD 350.] Before booking a trip, it’s wise to research any major events scheduled at your desired destination on the dates you plan to visit. Fares may be more expensive than usual around holidays and conferences. Find out what other people have paid for flights to your desired destination, and watch how those prices compare.

7. Don’t waste money on excess luggage. Nowadays, it costs at least $25 one way to check a bag with most airlines. You’ll have to pay a fee if your bags weigh more than the airline allows. You can avoid this by packing lightly and checking the airline’s website for the latest information on weight restrictions and fees for excess baggage. Also, if your vacation is short, you and your companion(s) may want to consider splitting the cost of a checked bag. Since it costs $25 to check a bag in both directions, this can save you $50 on your trip.

Don’t bother with a checked bag if you’re going away for a weekend; pack light instead. Typically, you can bring a limited quantity of liquids onto the plane. Traveling with only a carry-on bag is possible if your journey lasts no more than a weekend. I packed this for my vacation to New York City last month. I could purchase a little pouch of transparent plastic storage containers for one dollar. I brought my toiletries like shampoo, conditioner, face cream, night cream, day cream, foundation, etc. I was also given sticker labels to help me identify each item. While I acknowledge that this is not an option for everyone, I would much prefer to spend $1 on a travel pouch from Dollarama than $50 on checked luggage for a two-night excursion. It also spares me the trouble of waiting in line at Baggage Claim to get my checked bag.

8. Compare different options for travel medical coverage. Even if I suggest that you purchase some form of travel or (supplementary) health insurance before you leave, it’s not always in your best financial interest to go with the insurance plan presented by your airline. You will be covered while away from home if you have health or travel insurance via your employer. If you are confused, please get in touch with Human Resources. If you want to save money, I recommend looking into insurance options through your bank. If you plan on taking many trips during the year, doing so will save you money. Suppose you are over 40 or have a history of health issues. In that case, I recommend purchasing additional health coverage (even if you are already covered through work) [rather than paying for insurance each time you book a flight]. It’s impossible to know what will happen when we’re on the road, but if something terrible happens, you’d be glad you have the extra medical coverage. Because of the individual nature of this matter, I cannot advise you on the appropriate course of action; instead, you should consult HR, your bank, and your loved ones to determine what is right for you.

9. If you can help it, don’t pay extra to choose your seat. Depending on the airline, selecting a center in advance may cost extra money or be included in the ticket price. If it’s included, that’s excellent, but I probably won’t do it if it costs an additional $20. Early check-in (at least 24 hours before a flight’s departure) typically allows passengers to select their seats at no additional cost. The seats you seek might still be available, but there’s no guarantee. It’s a complete crapshoot. Don’t pay the extra fee of choosing your heart in advance if you don’t care where you sit or are ready to take the chance.

10. Use travel reward schemes to your advantage. Please take advantage of the intense competition between modern airlines and credit card companies by enrolling in their frequent flyer or points programs. By consulting with your bank, determine which travel rewards credit card is ideal for your needs. Quite a few let you earn miles with regular purchases and then use those miles to pay for airfare. Some credit cards have restrictions, such as requiring you to book flights through the card’s issuing bank or imposing strict blackout periods. However, there are now so many types of travel reward credit cards available that you should have no trouble finding one that does not have these restrictions. You can book a flight anytime and from any location using your points. A small yearly membership charge may be associated with these cards, but the benefits more than makeup for it.

It’s the same with airline mileage schemes. You can earn more frequent flyer points by flying more frequently with a single carrier. This is convenient for business travelers since they can earn frequent flyer miles for future personal journeys, even if their employers are footing the bill for the trip. Companies may even let workers arrange their flights and repay them if necessary. To top it all off, workers can also earn points on their travel reward credit cards.

I pray these suggestions to aid you in organizing your future trip. While I have had success with the following tips, I can’t guarantee the same for you. Remember that being patient and adaptable with travel dates is essential to finding cheap airline tickets.

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