It’s the ultimate question for travelers: How do you find amazing flight deals? Airlines constantly add new routes, fresh airlines debut, and new deal sites pop up every week. It’s good to shop around, but don’t forget a few tried-and-true methods to ensure your ride to adventure is smooth, quick, and cost-effective. Here are some ideas for my U.S. East Coasters.
Scan the Sky
Have patience or be ready to fly out on a whim. You can either beat the crowds or find that sweet spot right before takeoff where flights may be a bit easier on the wallet than usual. If you plan ahead, have email alerts set up for your inbox so you know exactly when to book.
Two sites I use regularly are Skyscanner and Scott’s Cheap Flights. The first one lets you track almost every flight out there to compare and contrast routes, layovers, and cost with just a couple clicks. The other is a blog and a newsletter that gives you quick news on deals that only insiders usually know.
Consider Other Airports
Several East Coast airports are within a few hours of each other or only a short train ride away. If you’re looking for red-eye flights to Europe or more distant destinations, it’s worth looking into other hubs nearby. I once flew to Taiwan via New York City, as it was a much better airline and only a bus ride away from Boston. Another friend of mine often looks at airports in Connecticut or New York City, even though he lives in Philadelphia. Shop around online and check several airports for the best options.
Try Overnight Hotel Stays
There are many comfortable accommodations near the Newark Airport, for example, that you can reserve at the last minute. It may actually be better to stay overnight near an airport that’s farther away from you, which can lead to a fresh start and more flight options. Newark might even be easier to fly from than JFK. You can also head to NYC for the night and make a mini-trip of it if you’re located in Boston, especially if you have more time than you have budget for flights.
Save on Flight Upgrades
Forget paying full rates for business class, first class, and premier economy. No matter which airline you usually fly, make sure you sign up for reward points and consolidate them under airline alliances if you can. While you might not save up enough points for a free flight, you can often use them for an upgrade instead. Try an upgrade on a long-haul flight, where having the chance to sleep and be pampered can save you a day of jetlag.
On the other hand, even paying for an upgrade can lead to saving on hidden fees. Some airlines offer premium economy, which can benefit you in the long run. These fares come with meals, free checked luggage, and other perks that won’t cost you extra. It might be worth the upfront cost to avoid all the additional charges.
How do you find the best flights out there? What’s your method? Do you like to fly last-minute or hope to plan way in advance?