Many people like to plan out their traveling adventures, feeling like spending lots of money equals a great trip, but there are many who thrive on knowing how to get cheap last minute flights.
If the idea of finding cheap flights sounds exciting, that’s because it is—especially when spontaneity is your second middle name. And don’t even think about using old-school methods to get cheap flights. It used to be that the way you got cheap flights was to go to the airport and ask for standby tickets. Not anymore. So many people travel by air anymore that many flights sell out, and you can only really get a standby ticket if you miss your actual flight, hold a full-cost ticket but want an earlier flight, or if you have friends working for the airline you frequently travel with.
Besides, these are the days of the internet and mobile devices. Getting alerts of any kind about the cheapest flight to anywhere not only will save you a ton of dough, but snagging cheap flight deals via your mobile phone is a bit like sniping bids on a certain famous auction site.
Here are some tried and true tips for the person who either loves—quite literally—flying by the seat of their pants, or the person who wants to learn how to have more fun while still saving some money.
- Be Flexible. This is a common refrain amongst seasoned kings and queens of spontaneous globetrotting. Learn to be flexible with times and dates when searching the cheapest flights to book and you might end up discovering a place you never imagined you’d go, but end up loving it there anyway.
- Snag A Package Deal. There are loads of websites out there with last minute flights and apps that help you find them, but many of those sites also allow you to book package deals that will take care of your plane, your hotel reservation, and rental car all in one go—as opposed to booking each individual aspect of your vacation, which can actually be more expensive than a full price ticket.
- Social Media Is Your Friend. If you travel by plane very often, following your favorite airlines on Facebook and other social media spots may give you that much needed edge when you’re looking to book a cheap vacation.
- Subscribe to Your Airline’s Newsletter. Getting cheap flight deals in your inbox might be the next best thing to Christmas and New Year’s, especially when the chartered flights have seats they need to fill quickly.
- Consider the Travel Consolidator. If you’re not sure what this is, a travel consolidator is a company who buys a bundle of tickets to sell to the travel agents, and sometimes to the public directly. Oft-times a travel consolidator will sell tickets for cheaper than the airline itself will. Just don’t confuse a consolidator with a discount airline, such as Europe’s Ryanair, because discount airlines like these can easily fill up seats on their own. If you’re looking to use a consolidator to get a cheap flight, then going for more big-ticket airlines to big-ticket international destinations will be your best bet.
- Fly Student Or Youth Rate. Granted, the youth rate applies to 18-22-year-olds, but you don’t necessarily have to be a student to get the student rate. This is a perfect way to introduce flying on the cheap to the younger people in your family.
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- Booking Ahead Can Be Your Friend. While it’s wise to book ahead for your vacations regardless, booking ahead in the off-peak seasons will net you cheap flights to your destinations far more than waiting to book a flight right at the beginning of peak season. For instance, say you want to go to a concert in New York in the spring and you have to save a certain amount back for airfare. Don’t wait till two months before you leave, since spring and summer tend to be peak times. Instead, book the flight when you buy your concert ticket, especially if it’s seven months before the show happens. You’re going to get a cheaper flight that way.
- Extra Fees Are Not Your Friend. Some airlines charge fees if you make changes last minute, so taking the cue from items 7 and 1 in this list, pay attention to airlines who will often announce deals five months in advance of the actual departure date. Not only will you be fulfilling the yearning to travel to the UK, Hong Kong or Australia, but you’ll be doing it on the cheap and you’ll be practicing flexibility. So definitely do not put off booking your dream journey—without the last-minute-change fees.
In this era of travel websites, phone alerts and social media, there is no reason why you can’t have the vacation of a lifetime while saving your wallet some otherwise