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How to Find Cheap Flights : The Ultimate Guide

  • avatar
    Jonathan Chum

How to Find Cheap Flights General Questions

Should I clear my cookies before searching?

There is a myth that clearing cookies can help you to find cheap fares because the cookie that was initially placed would help to identify who you are, and what you've been previously search for, and the OTA or airline could determine and optimize the price to maximize the sale based on your behavior.

In the 20 years of experience, I've yet to come any online business who purposely increase a price of a good or service online to a specific person.

This myth is likely caused by stale cache data on the browser, stale cache at the server level, or price change through a feed.

These systems have massive amounts of data and to be able to deliver the answer to a flight search, there are many layers of caching used by these tech companies that could affect price.

In the end, if the price changed, it's not because your cleared your cookies, you are simply paying the price that it was always advertised as and now you are seeing it before reaching the checkout.

Should I try to get a standby fare?

The days of a showing up at the airport, and snagging a great flight deal by flying stand by is long gone.

In the post 9/11 world, you must have purchased a ticket in order to go through security and "stand by" the gate.

If you have pre-purchased a ticket and the flight you are on is overbooked, occasionally, the airline will ask for volunteer passengers who can be flexible to catch the next flight in exchange for some cash voucher and/or airline miles.

If you have the flexibility, then it could be worth it to apply those credits on a future trip.

What is basic economy and how would I save money on air fare?

If you want the lowest ticket price, fly basic economy. You give up basic amenities that comes with an economy fare. No, they won't place you in another cabin that is tighter or cramped.

Instead, you may not be able to choose a seat, group/family seat is not offered, full size carry-ons won't be permitted (one personal item is allowed like a purse or laptop bag that can fit under the seat in front of you), flight changes or refunds is not allowed, and you'd be last to board.

So, who would want to book a basic economy fare with these sort of restrictions?

If you are looking for a weekend get away for a few days, this would be an opportunity to great a killer deal.

The outfit you have on could be worn for another day or two, or pack an extra top.

How do I find cheap one-way tickets?

The easiest way is to use a tool such as Google Flights. It's fast and searches "most" major airlines around the world.

Since Google isn't an online travel agent, there's no incentive for them to markup the fare and get a cut. The price you see is the price you'd pay when booking directly with airline.

The downside is that with any "big data" system, a lot of caching is involved to expedite getting results for a flight search that the data can be stale.

In our studies, we see less than 5% of fares are stale when comparing it to the price on the airline's website.

For more advanced cheap flight seekers, tools such as https://matrix.itasoftware.com/ is a great choice which has no caching, adds in a few more airlines, but is slow to get results.

The calendar/monthly view makes it easy to find the cheapest fare at a glance.

How do I find cheap last minute flights?

Many major airlines lists last minute flights and publish them on either Tuesday or Wednesday of each week. These fares generally do not appear on any other online travel agency website or meta search.

Here's the list of where to find last minute flights for each airline:

American Airlines: https://www.aa.com/netsaaver/viewNetSAAverSpecialsDetails.do

Delta: https://www.delta.com/content/www/en_US/shop/deals-and-offers/north-america/last-minute-flights.html

What is the best way to book and visit multiple cities?

Open jaw is a travel term for a "round-the-world" (RTW) ticket. An open jaw ticket is when an airline return ticket where origin or destination are not the same in both direction.

What scenario would you do this? If you were planning to visit London and Paris, you could simply purchase a round trip to London.

The trade off is that to you'd have to take a half day to commute back to London.

Because of the proximity of the two countries and its airports, LHR vs CDG, you could then decide to fly out of Paris back home.

Google Flights and Momondo both offers easy ways to do multi city searches.

I want to fly to a specific place and destination, how can I track fares for that?

Many tools such as Google Flights, Kayak, Hopper (mobile only) offers fare tracking. I tend to lean on Google Flights and Hopper because they offer trends of when the best time to book a fare.

However, simply the cheapest airfare for that month or year doesn't necessary mean you should book it.

Be flexible with several destinations in mind to make sure the fare you are getting is solid.

I want to fly on domestic routes within the United States, what tools can I use to find cheap flights?

Here at Cheep, we are biased because we built Cheep to solve this problem… finding the cheapest domestic flights so you don't have to.

Cheep unlike other newsletter or fare deal publishers is 99% automated. That is, instead of hiring a bunch of humans to search dates, routes, and then load it into Wordpress, and then send out the email, that cheap flight is likely gone.

Currently, we support over 100,000 routes from over 100 major airport hubs in the U.S.

And we only publish the fares if it meets our minimum requirements of .6 cents per mile as one of our weighted categories.

Our goal is to help those who don't have many vacation days to burn or with families that saving 100or100 or 200 is worth it than to take a long 7 or 14 day holiday across the ocean.

Another great tool for finding cheap flights on domestic route is Skiplagged. Skiplagged works a little differently because it searches for flights via hidden cities.

And those hidden cities is your final destination where you get off.

Airlines do this to optimize their routes whether it is to load more commercial cargo, pick up or drop off passengers.

Since the trip is out of the way with layover, the inconvenience of the hidden city can save you money on a solid cheap flight deal.

If you are looking for the absolute cheapest domestic airline, Southwest is a crowd favorite.

The planes are modern, same type as the big mega airlines, but they have looked at areas to cost cut like cramming in more seats or optimizing the line up process at the gate.

So if you can handle the boarding process for 30 mins, this could be a great way to snag a cheap flight deal.

What are good round trip fares from the United States or Canada?

It's difficult to say what is or isn't a good fare without calculating in the cost per mile and time in the air. It can be daunting to do that manually. So here's some general guidelines

  • Africa: $800 or below roundtrip
  • Asia: $500 or below roundtrip
  • Australia: $800 or below roundtrip
  • Caribbean: $300 or below roundtrip
  • Central America: $300 or below roundtrip
  • Europe: $500 or below roundtrip
  • Hawaii: $400 or below roundtrip
  • South America: $600 or below roundtrip

In the coming months we will be expanding Cheep to international flights, and scaling up to 1,000,000 searches a month.