How to Fly Cheap When You are Broke

Did the holidays empty your wallet? Welcome to the club! But that doesn’t mean a mini-break or longer vacation trip is out of the question because this is a great time to fly. It’s low (cheap) season in the U.S. and Europe, and heading toward the cheaper end-of-summer travel period in Australia and much of South America.

You don’t have to limit yourself to domestic travel, either; we’re seeing flights between the U.S. and Europe for as little as $190 one-way.

Save even more with these five steps.

LISTEN: Rick has a few extra tips in this podcast.

5 Steps to Fly Cheap When You are Broke

  • STEP #1 – Set airfare alerts

If you know where you want to go, set airfare alerts. The cheapest deals to your destination will be sent to you directly in real time. Act quickly, though; you’re not the only one setting alerts.

  • STEP #2 – Do not delay shopping

Don’t delay shopping for airfare; you could pay a steep penalty. In the U.S. (as well as some other nations), waiting to purchase plane tickets until one or two weeks before departure can dramatically increase the price and you’ll notice some airlines sales require 21-day advance purchases. Tip: For domestic airfare, buy between 3 months and 30 days before departure.

  • STEP #3 – Always compare fares

Shop an airfare comparison search site so you can compare airline prices. You must do this because no single airline always has the best fare (and we’ve proved this). If you don’t compare, you could pay too much.

  • STEP #4 – Fly the cheapest days

In the U.S. the cheapest days to fly are generally Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. This can vary from country to country but generally weekdays have better deals. Again, use a comparison site to be sure.

  • STEP #5 – Consider inconvenient flights and airports

Everyone likes non-stop flights but you often pay extra for this convenience, so always compare prices of non-stops and connecting flights.

Trying to decide whether to fly from the nearest airport or the larger hub an hour away? Again, compare prices to both. Generally, larger airports have cheaper tickets.

More Tips for Cheap Trips

Pack light: Many airlines don’t charge fees for carry-ons (but check with them to be sure). No matter what bag you bring, watch its weight. Penalty fees for overweight bags can be shockingly high.

Stay cheap, travel cheap: Keep other costs down by staying with friends and relatives, or consider cheap hotel/motel alternatives like Airbnb and Couchsurfing. Walk or use public transportation, or perhaps Uber or Lyft. Note: FareCompare does not endorse any company or product; we mention these only for your convenience.

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Updated: January 13, 2016