Lonely Planet Writer

Simple hacks on how to book the cheapest flights every time you travel

So the tree is down, the turkey’s eaten and your thoughts are turning to holidays, but if Christmas has left you in need of a good deal, we have some great tips for you. Happily, there are ways and means of flying to your destination as cheaply as possible, and we have selected some tips compiled by experts in the travel industry to help you.

In the new year, our thoughts turn to travelling. Image: NicoElNino/Shutterstock

According to Scott Keyes, founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights, which alerts people when cheap international airfares pop up, you should aim to cross international oceans as cheaply as possible. This might mean travelling to an alternative departure point than your home airport, or from your arrival point to your ultimate destination. “I used to live in Washington DC, but the best ticket I ever purchased was from NYC to Milan for $130 round-trip,” he says. “It was well worth the $20 bus ride up, and I even got to spend the weekend with friends in NYC. The next best fare I’ve gotten was from DC to Brussels for $250 round-trip. I knew once I was in Europe, budget flights to other European countries are incredibly common. I went twice and for one trip I bought flights from Brussels to Norway ($60 round-trip) and for the other trip, I bought flights from Brussels to Dublin ($80 round-trip).

Woman on the phone walking with a rolling suitcase in the city.
Scientists have figured out why wheeled suitcases tend to roll over as you pull them. Image by Westend61/Getty Images

Scott’s second tip is around flexibility because if you’ve picked out your destination and dates and don’t have flexibility, 95% of what you can do to bring down the cost of airfare is already out the window, he explains. He says that the way we typically approach getting a flight usually results in high prices, and instead of picking where you want to go, choosing dates and seeing what prices are available, we should flip that approach. “See what prices are available via Google FlightsPriceline and Momondo, etc. to various places are around the world, decide which of the cheap destinations appeal to you, and select the dates you like that have the cheap fares available,” he says.

Being flexible about the day, time or even the month you fly could save you serious money on the cost of your flight. Image: John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

Being flexible about the day, time or even the month you fly could save you serious money on the cost of your flight, agrees Louis Bridger, general manager at International Currency Exchange. “Flying midweek is your best bet at saving money, with research finding that Tuesday is the cheapest day of the week to fly, with savings of up to 11%,” he says. “Likewise, flying in the evening can save you some serious cash, if you’re willing to get to your destination later in the day. Utilise comparison tools such as Skyscanner to see where the biggest savings on your particular route are to be made.”

Picking the cheapest time to fly is an important factor, and Scott Keyes says that this is generally January through mid-May and September through early December. The most expensive time to fly is mid-June through mid-August and at Christmas and New Year. “It will also vary a bit by the specific destination, especially around popular festivals,” he advises. “Fares to Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day or to China for Chinese New Year ain’t cheap.”

The St Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin, Ireland. Image: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Getty Images

According to Louis Bridger, when you’re costing the price of flights, hotels and trips, make sure that you set your browser to private. “Travel sites have a sneaky way of tracking what you are looking at online and will increase the prices on site accordingly,” he says. “So if you visit the site more than once and notice the costs increasing, this is why. You can easily turn on a private web page by going to your settings and opening an ‘incognito’ window – you never know, it might save you a few pennies.”

Charles Bridge, Prague. Czech Republic. Image: Roman Borodaev/Shutterstock

In terms of how far in advance to book, Scott Keyes typically recommends booking when you see a great fare one to three months in advance for domestic flights, and two to eight months in advance for international flights. “Prices tend to jump in the last month or two before departure, so you don’t want to cut it too close,” he says. “On the other hand, if you book too early and settle for a not-great fare, you’re missing out on potential future sales.”

Sunrise over the Dead Sea. Image: vvvita/Shutterstock

Louis Bridger says that while marketing emails can be annoying, when it comes to travel, making friends with airlines and holiday companies can pay dividends. “Brands will often host flash sales, run competitions or generally have great prices and offers that they only offer to loyal customers, so make sure you are signed up to all the mailing lists and are following them on social media,” he says. “If you can’t stand the spam, redirect emails into one folder in your inbox and check back regularly, or create Twitter lists of your favourite brands to keep all potential offers in one place. You never know – you could spot a great sale or discount that you’d miss otherwise.”

For more tips from Scott Keyes, check out his blog here. For more information about International Currency Exchange and to see if any discounts are available on currency, see here.

If you just can’t wait any longer, you can book your flights on Lonely Planet right now.