Vacations can get expensive with hotel, food and admissions. Check out these secrets to find cheap flights and take the frugal vacation of your dreams
Frugal Grandma decided to take a little vacation, so I began hunting for the best deals on airlines. First I looked through the various cheap flights being offered. They just weren't cheap enough. I knew what I wanted to spend and they weren't even close. So I searched a little for “find cheap flights” and a whole new world of frugal travel opened up.
Airlines want you to travel but they don’t want you to travel for free. The secret to find cheap flights is all about knowing when to book your flight and how to do it!
When to find cheap flights
Timing is everything for finding cheap flights. Plan on starting your search no later than two or three months before you want to travel. That way you can find cheap flights by being flexible on when you end up going. The travel website Kayak crunched last year's numbers and found that Thanksgiving airfares jumped 17% after October. Christmas fares skyrocketed by 51% and even New Year’s Eve flights jumped by 25% leading up to the date. Yikes!! Finding cheap flights means not getting caught late and paying too much.
The best days to find cheap flights are usually Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday, while the busiest days are Sunday and Friday. Try to look online Tuesday after 3pm eastern time for some really good deals. This is when most airlines will post their sales but the sales are usually gone by Thursday morning.
Finding my own vacation super-deal, I checked the “flexible dates” box available on the airline screens. You can save big just by flying a different day or even a different time. Airlines will give a discount if you are willing to take a “red-eye” flight, meaning you fly at night and sleep on the plane. You can also find cheap flights if you’re willing to stay overnight at a stop rather than going straight through in the same day. Be sure you weigh the extra cost of travel and hotel though as well as how much your time is worth.
How to find cheap flights
How far away is the largest airport near your home? When airports handle more volume they are able to give better discounts to the people flying. Driving an hour to that big city airport might just save you hundreds. Being military, senior and sometimes even students will qualify you for a better price as well.
Leading up to the month or two before I want to travel, I always sign up for as many airline travel sites as I can. They will send you alerts for deals coming available called “Flash Sales”. These are sales that are available only for one day but at an incredible savings.
If you plan on flying a lot, consider getting a credit card with an air miles reward. These cards will give you a certain amount of “miles” for every dollar you spend and airfare charged on the card might get bonus miles. Only spend as much on the card as you normally would for regular purchases and make sure you pay the balance off each month. Paying high interest fees every month means not really saving on flights because you spent all the savings on interest. I know a couple that travels every two years and their flights are completely covered by their credit card miles.
Using discount airlines will save you money if you are willing to forego customer service. Allegiant, Spirit and Southwestern have domestic flights that are usually less than the larger airlines but they are pretty limited as to where they travel. Any luggage is extra and it can be extremely expensive if you want a snack or meal while you travel. Plan on using these carries to find cheap flights when it is only a short trip and you won’t need to take much luggage. Take a snack with you and avoid all the extra costs from piling up.
If you end up buying your ticket and then find a cheaper flight, call the airline and ask for the difference to be credited to your card. A lot of the airlines offer this to keep customers happy. It doesn’t happen all the time but can mean another $50 or so in vacation savings.
Finding cheap flights is a great start to a happy vacation. Hope these secrets to find cheap flights will help you find that perfect vacation getaway! Frugal Grandma
About the Author
Joseph Hogue is a financial expert and investment analyst. After serving in the Marine Corps, he started his career investing in real estate before becoming an investment analyst for some of the largest private investors. He's appeared on Bloomberg and on CNBC as an investment expert and has published ten books in personal finance. Now he helps investors reach their financial goals and invest in the stock market with some of the same advice he used when working for the rich.