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Flying on a Budget? Top 5 Resources for Cheap Flights

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People often think that travel is expensive automatically. And while it can be, it doesn't have to be.

I'm not rich. The main reason why I might've been able to take 3-4 international trips a year (from Washington, D.C. for context) is because I'd monitor flight deals and leverage the tips and tricks I learned to book affordable travel.

Why Finding Cheap Flights Matters?

Part of Breakfast Included's mission is to increase travel equity, and while there are many topics that need to be covered to accomplish this goal, we'll start with how to find affordable flights.

Finding cheap flights allows you the opportunity to:

  • Explore at least one new destination. Consider the ability to explore multiple destinations if you consider stopover programs.
  • Have more money for tours and experiences.
  • Afford tickets for the rest of the family.

Things to Consider When Booking Cheap Flights

Here are some key points to keep in mind when looking for flight deals and glitches:

  1. When booking from the US, you have 24 hours to cancel. Knowing this takes the fear out of booking quickly to secure the deal. I've booked many flight deal that I ended up canceling, either because I found a better deal or wanted to change the dates.
  2. Make sure your dates are flexible. You may find a good deal with some limitations, such as Thursday only departures, or a minimum of seven days between your arrival and return dates.
  3. Error fares are risky. Be prepared for them to fall through. Sometimes the airlines will honor them. Sometimes they will not. With that said, wait until you're certain to book the rest of your trip, like accommodations, tours, etc.
  4. Determine how comfortable you are with basic economy, open jaw flights, and long layovers. Read the details of the flight deal carefully. If none of these methods of travel appeal to you, then it's not the deal for you.
Remember: “Just because it’s a great fare doesn’t mean it’s a great deal” (theflightdeal.com)

Top 5 Resources for Booking Cheap Flights

These are my top 5 resources that I've used over the past 10 years for booking cheap flights.

Kayak.com

Established since 2004, Kayak.com is a metasearch engine that aggregates data from hundreds of travel websites to help find you the best deals.

Utilize Kayak.com's features such as:

  1. Price Alerts - set up price alerts for specific routes and dates so you can get notified when prices fluctuate and can snag a deal if the price drops.
  2. Price Comparison - compare prices side-by-side across multiple sources
  3. Best Time to Travel tool - enter your travel details into this tool to determine when to travel for the best price.

Once you find a good deal you're ready to book, you'll be redirected to the proper site to book your ticket(s).

Visit Kayak.comVisit Website

Google Flights (formally ITA Matrix)

Before Google Flights, there was the ITA Matrix tool. This was an advanced flight search tool that allowed you to enter a wide range of variables to find the most ideal flights.

This included:

  1. Searching for open-jaw flights
  2. Inserting stopovers
  3. Using routing codes
  4. And more

Now, you can still do most of this with Google Flights. Head on over to Google Flights, which has a much cleaner user interface than its predecessor, and utilize money-saving features such as:

  1. Flexible search options - search for flights 2 months in advanced and view prices to/from multiple nearby airports.
  2. Price insights - determine if the prices you're being shown are high, low, or average.
  3. Price alerts - setup price alerts to monitor price changes and book when you're ready.

When you find the flight that's just right for you, Google will redirect you to the proper site for booking. Google Flights prioritizes booking directly with the airline to avoid hidden fees.

Visit Google FlightsVisit Website

Hopper

The hopper.com logo overlaid on top of a picture of a llama

Photo by Paul Lequay on Unsplash

Hopper is a mobile booking app available for both iOS and Android. You can take advantage of the following features to find flights within your budget.

  1. Price predictions - Hopper analyzes historical data and trends to forecast if flight prices are likely to rise or fall in the coming days. Use this to find the best ideal for your timeframe.
  2. Price alerts - setup a watchlist so that you can receive alerts with the price changes. Hopper will let you know if it's best to book sooner or later, based on it's price prediction data.

Hopper does allow you to book flights directly with them, however I haven't used this feature yet. Read the fine print to see if this is worth it, otherwise, I'd recommend booking directly with the airline or another reputable booking company.

Download HopperVisit Website

The Flight Deal

The Flight Deal is a free service that posts flight deals for routes primarily to, from, and within the US.

We asked ourselves, “When is a fare a great deal?”
By breaking down a fare and assigning a price per mile traveled, we’ve established our baseline for price comparison.

We will only publish fares that meet a simple criterion: 6 cents per mile or less. This means a nonstop roundtrip from New York to Barcelona should never be more than $425. (theflightdeal.com)

Examples:

United: Newark – San Salvador, El Salvador. $175 (Basic Economy) / $265 (Regular Economy). Roundtrip, including all Taxes

Copa: New York – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. $549 (Basic Economy / $688 (Regular Economy). Roundtrip, including all Taxes

Follow their detailed instructions for how to book a deal.

To view deals as soon as they're posted, sign up for their newsletter and/or turn on post notifications on social media.

Visit The Flight DealVisit Website

Secret Flying

Secret Flying is a free service that posts flight deals found all over the world.

For a video explanation, check out this Youtube video from their account:

Examples:

Toronto, Canada to Sicily, Italy for $73 CAD roundtrip.

London to New York for £96 roundtrip.

Follow their detailed instructions for how to book a deal.

To view deals as soon as they're posted, sign up for an account on their website. I personally never created an account and was able to rely on their newsletters and social media using post notifications.

For error fares, which can go really fast, they've created a WhatsApp channel.

Visit their page "How to get deal alerts" for details on how to sign up on their website and their WhatsApp channel.

Visit Secret FlyingVisit Website

Conclusion: Affordable Travel Is Achievable

Finding cheap flights opens a world of possibilities for travel enthusiasts. By combining the resources listed here with your own flexibility and a dash of deal-hunting spirit, you can stretch your travel budget further, explore new destinations, and create unforgettable experiences.

I've spent 10 years hunting down cheap flights to support my travel bug. Sometimes I'm successful, and sometimes I'm not.

Remember, affordable travel is achievable, and with the right tools and approach, you can take flight and see the world without breaking the bank.

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