Updated January 2017
Did the holidays empty out 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. Get yourself started by checking out Cheap Dates to Fly in 2017 but the following six tips can cut your travel costs no matter when you fly.
6 Ways 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 – Look at fares on the Getaway Map
Go to the Getaway Map right now. Type in your home city, then where you’d like to go and when. It can be as simple as “U.S.” or “Europe” – in the “Spring” or “April” or whenever – and then you just click “Map it” and, voila! A whole bunch of great fares pop up and it’s an easy way to see at a glance where you can afford to go. Here are a few round-trip fares* found Jan. 4 on the Getaway Map for travel in February:
- Los Angeles – Paris, $459
- London – Bangkok, $376
- Mexico City – Orlando, $180
- New York – London, $379
- Sydney – Los Angeles, $639
*All prices shown are in U.S. dollars but the Getaway Map has all currencies. Tip: Fares can and do change quickly because the airlines are always tinkering with prices; if you see a deal you like, act fast.
- STEP #3 – 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 #4 – 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). Don’t compare, and you could pay too much (sometimes, much too much).
- STEP #5 – 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 weekdays generally have better deals than weekends but again, use a comparison search site to be sure.
- STEP #6 – 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 for carry-ons but check with the airline to be certain. But even if you do have to pay a fee for a carry-on, we think it’s worth it because the bag that travels by your side (or in an overhead bin) is a bag the airline cannot lose. But no matter what bag you use, watch its weight; penalty fees for overweight luggage can be shockingly high, as much as $200 or more.
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.