We’ll admit it; we’re addicted to the rush of finding cheap flight deals. There’s something about scouring the internet and happening upon amazing deals for cheap flights that stretch our imagination, and give a jolt of excitement when finding desirable destinations that would previously be unthinkable or unreasonable to dream of traveling to.
Cheap flights to Las Vegas? We’ve found ‘em. Last minute deals for a flight to Paris for the weekend? No problem. Most people believe that the cost of traveling to the far reaches of the globe is wildly expensive, and thus, impractical. While that can certainly be the case, it’s no longer completely true. The fact of the matter is that affordable flights around the world have never been more accessible and available to find and book.
As airlines continue to compete against each other for your business, price drops and new travel routes can quickly reveal themselves to the opportunistic traveler who is ready to pounce.
Unless you are an unwavering brand loyalist, there are now plenty of flight tracking websites that allow you to search for the best deals. And while booking directly from an airlines website can often be the cheapest option and offer some great perks (hello rewards points!), if saving money is the goal, it pays to keep an open mind to all of the various airline providers, and to initially broaden your search to get a feel for what’s out there. Once you’ve done some research and figured out which flights/airlines offer the cheapest fare, feel free to head on over to their website and book directly through them.
Prices for flights to the same destination can differ wildly depending on a bunch of various factors. Luckily, there are now more websites than ever to help stay within your budget and plan. These sites can help you compare prices across different airlines, find unheard of deals, explore and learn about exotic destinations, coordinate layover details and so much more in the quest to secure the best flight deal. Below, we’ll highlight a few essential places to browse in addition to some our absolute favorite flight sites, and pass along a few tips and tricks along the way to help fully maximize your search results.
Tip: Be flexible! Whether it’s in terms of the airline, hour of the day, time of the year, or even your final destination, the more flexibility that you allow yourself, the higher the chance that you have to find a steal of a deal. Flying around certain holidays or seasons can lock in expensive rates due to increased demand. Looking to fly to Hawaii in January to escape the winter chill? You’re not alone. Want to fly into Ibiza on a Thursday to enjoy a long weekend? It probably won’t be cheap.
Increased demand naturally leads to increased prices, so try to search during months or seasons that may be less desired by the masses, but also because keeping your schedule flexible can open up blocks of time that may be cheaper compared to others. If possible, we recommend to not put in for a vacation request with a specific date in mind until after you’ve book your flights. Monitor days or weeks to recognize current flight trends. Stay open to various possibilities or destinations. While your heart may be set on Barbados, don’t immediately reject the prospect of lounging on a beach in the Bahamas instead.
Different destinations in the same vicinity may experience widely different flight prices, but you can still enjoy similar experiences if you allow yourself to stay flexible in your planning. Stay open minded and you might just find that the best prices fall right into place.
Tip: Search in Incognito Mode! When searching for the cheapest flight prices, always remember to clear your search history and conduct your search in a hidden browser. You might notice that the more you search for the same trip, flights seem to get more and more expensive you’re probably right.
Repeatedly searching for travel destinations and routes can leave an online imprint, and booking sites may start to recognize that and attempt to leverage that against you. They can increase the fare of a flight the more that you searching in an attempt to scare you into biting the bullet and ultimately booking before you think it’s too late. But don’t panic. Just because they can try to exploit your interest doesn’t mean you have to take the bait. Ensure that you’re seeing the most current prices by discretely researching your trips on a hidden search.
Site #1 – “The Old Reliable” Google Flights
We love Google Flights. It offers a fantastic and simple template to help with either the beginning phase of trip planning, to eventually customizing and putting the finishing touches on most aspects of your ideal flight and destination plans for the final booking. While Google Flights has a relatively simple interface, it allows you filter searches in a myriad of ways. Searching by different price points, airlines, destinations/regions, seating arraignments and more can help drill down the trip into what makes the most sense for you. It’s a fantastic tool to use to compare prices for different flight dates to help give you a better sense of blocks of time that may be the most cost effective to plan around.
One of our favorite aspects of the site is that it provides a great tool, called “discover destination”, that helps alert you to a broader range of destinations where flight prices can meet your particular budget or time frame.
This tool is great for someone who might have a time period and price range in mind that they feel comfortable with, while also remaining open minded to various destinations possibilities. Want to fly from New York to Europe but can’t decide where? GoogleFlights makes it easy to help narrow down your options.
The map view also can lay out visually where certain cities and airports are, to help make your itinerary planning that much more accurate. It can be quite effective!
One of the ways that we love to use GoogleFlights is by using the site as an effective gauge for our travel plans. Even if you are not immediately ready to book your trip, the user friendly interface can allow you to recognize trending themes around your destinations; I.E. the most/least busy times to travel and which chunk of time and cities are cheapest to fly into and when so that you can keep narrowing down your search further. GoogleFlights can help better inform you to the possibilities and various options at your disposal so that you are well informed for the time that you eventually decide to pull the trigger.
Another bonus of GoogleFlights is that the engine puts you directly in booking contact with the carriers themselves, instead of forcing you to use a 3rd party site to confirm plans. In our experience, it always makes things a little easier when you can deal directly with the airlines to resolve any issues and requests rather than an intercessor site. This can also help you to avoid any hidden costs or fees charged by 3rd parties that can arise later in the process.
Unlike some other sites, GoogleFlights remains pretty standard in their offerings. Don’t plan on booking from here if you’re looking for a one stop shop for all vacation planning; you won’t be able to book hotels or transportation directly through www.google.com/flights. Additionally, while they are able to show you a wide variety of airlines, not every carrier participates on the site’s search, so keep that in mind while trying to assess the feasibility of a potential trip and the price points presented.
Site #2 – “The Favorite” Skyscanner
We’ve used a ton of flight booking sites over the years, but for our money, sky scanner seems to consistently rank amongst the best for affordable prices, flexible searching options, and all in one ease of use. Like google flights, Skyscanner allows you to monitor flight options that fit your budget by utilizing their “everywhere feature”, which allows you to customize loose dates and regions that you might be interested in traveling around, and from there you can aggregate them to show the most cost effective options.
Skyscanner consistently shows us the cheapest flights amongst our preferred sites.
Additionally, skyscanner makes it incredibly easy to juggle multi-stop trips, and provides a bevy of options when it comes to international travel planning. And skyscanner also has an intuitive and easy to use map view as well, which, if you’re visual people like we are, helps tremendously when it comes to narrowing down destinations.
Unlike Googleflights, Skyscanner also offers bookings that cover other aspects of your trip, not just the initial flights. If you’re additionally interested in securing your hotels and transportation as well, Skyscanner makes it easy to book all of that at once, so you can spend more time dreaming about your upcoming trip and less time worrying about juggling all of the separate details.
Site #3 – “The Helpful App” Hopper
We know, we know. Hopper isn’t really a website. It’s an app; in fact, when you go to their website, the only true option that you have is to download the app to your phone to begin using. Nevertheless, we’ve recently become obsessed with playing around with Hopper, spending countless hours plugging in regions and destinations and monitoring various prices while dreaming up new destinations to explore. The app is free to download, and offers a wide array of customization and resources to help you decide when and where to travel.
Like the sites that we previously mentioned, Hopper can show you date and price trends, and can even send push notifications and alerts when prices to your favored destinations might be dropping or rising, along with recommendations on when to book or advice on if you can expect to wait for better prices.
We also enjoy that you can watch multiple different destinations at once, to get a good gauge on what destinations and areas might be most cost effective at any given time. You can put in lengths of time you might be interested in traveling, say for 4/5 days, and let hopper find what dates work best in your price range.
We love that we can check our phone and see a notification telling us that they expect prices to Paris to get more reasonable in the coming weeks, or that they expect the price to rise, thus imploring us when to book in order to lock in the most favorable rate. Interested in going to the Caribbean but not sure where? Let Hopper notify you on specific destinations that might fit your budget.
Once you’ve identified a trip and feel ready to pull the trigger, Hopper can connect you directly with the airlines website, allowing a seamless and cost effective way to book your flight from the provider. It’s a simple and fun way to get the ideation phase of any trip started, and ultimately to help you book your trip on your preferred terms.
Site #4 – “The Best Kept Secret” Momondo
Momondo makes our list because we’ve been pleasantly surprised to find amazing deals in the past on the website that have been missed by skyscanner and a few of our other favorite search sites. While this isn’t always the case, it has made Momondo an essential site for us to use when conducting flight research and ideation planning. Like the others, Momondo is a search engine that can also help plan other aspects of your travel itinerary, like lodging and transportation. Additionally, they are the most aseptically pleasing of the sites listed, and while that may not seem to mean much, it certainly creates a pleasant user experience compared to the no frills design of Googleflights and Skyscanner.
While they don’t offer the intricate level of customization that the aforementioned sites do, Momondo creates an effective way to find and book flights that are consistently cheap.
They allow you to filter the search in a couple of different ways, differentiating between the “quickest”, “cheapest”, and “best” flight and airline options. This helps to identify and prioritize the most important factors when conducting research for potential trips.
The site also has an excellent visual tool baked in called “flight trends”, that helps show visual data concerning the route, airline and time that you are traveling. While not guaranteed to be available for every route, we’ve found that it is available for most. Additionally, the data presented to you is interactive, so you can hone in on different point of interests that might effect your plans.
While the sites listed above constitute our reliable favorites, there remains a bevy of other places to go to help nail down impressively cheap deals. Oftentimes different sites can promote varying degrees of options, so if the time permits, it is always a great idea to cross reference as many different websites as possible to help compare prices and routes. Below, we’ll add a few other sites that have been effective for us in the past that we feel could be worth taking an additional look.
kiwi.com – A reliably cheap search engine that scours different airlines to present you with flight options to fit any budget.
Another feature that we love: The ability to look up and book other modes of travel, such as bus and train tickets! This can be especially helpful in Europe, where train transportation is a cheap, easy and highly utilized way to get from country to country.
travelocity.com (and expedia.com) – While we don’t prefer to use these sites when trying to find the cheapest deals, the all in one ease of planning a detailed vacation from the flights, to the transportation, to the lodging options certainly provides value. While both sites operate independently, they are shared by the same owner, so don’t expect to find vastly different value between them.
cheapoair.com – A solid option to book flights and gather information, but don’t let the name fool you. It does not consistently rank amongst the cheapest booking options, mainly due to a $35 per seat booking fee.
travelzoo.com – Another site that does well for travelers who don’t have specific timelines and destinations in mind, but want to explore a bevy of options that might make sense.
Don’t see a site on here that you love to use? Drop us a line and we’ll update our list!