How to find cheap flights

Tips, secrets, and our favorite sites for finding the cheapest plane tickets

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Be ready to compromise

Unless you have exact dates you need to fly, changing the times could offer some savings. For example, flying on a Tuesday or Sunday could cost less than Monday or Friday. That goes for certain times of the day as well. Having to get up early for a 5 a.m. flight isn’t pleasant, but it could make a significant dent in pricing. There aren’t any hard rules on what days or times will yield the lowest prices, but playing with dates through a price comparison engine, like Google Flights, can provide an overview of prices.

Many major cities are served by multiple airports, and sometimes you could find cheaper flights that fly into a secondary facility. For example, in a random search, a JetBlue flight from New York to Burbank, California, was $40 to $70 less expensive than flying to Los Angeles International or Long Beach Airport. The tradeoff is that there is only one daily flight – not ideal for business travel, but some savings for those who aren’t concerned about when they fly. (On the flip side, competition at LAX is fierce, so you could find low prices among the carriers that fly into that airport.) Many search engines will let you search all the airports in an area, not just a specific airport. Also, consider flying one-way with one airline, and the return trip on another; Nomadfly is a good site that shows you how to do this.

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Would you be willing to make a connection in order to save some cash? We wouldn’t if it’s a $25 or even $50 savings, but anything more than $100 is worth considering. But connections can be risky — you have a chance of missing it. Or you could simply have to wait hours before you board the next flight. It isn’t always cheaper, so do that price comparison. But it’s an option to look into, especially during busy travel seasons when direct flights are pricey.

Get creative

As mentioned, you don’t have to fly one airline for a round-trip journey. For example, you could fly from Los Angeles to San Francisco on Virgin America, and make the return trip on Southwest. It takes more work to book, but travel sites like Kayak and Google Flights will usually present these options in search results. Avoid connecting between two different airlines in one journey, as it may require you to switch terminals.

International flights tend to be expensive, so consider connecting through another city on a separate itinerary. Here’s what we mean: If you’re flying from the U.S. to London, you could possibly locate a deal by flying to another nearby European city instead, and then booking a cheap flight to London on a discount carrier. This involves a bit of work on your part, and it could require you to go through border control twice. We’ve done this ourselves, and to be honest, the hassle is not for everyone, but it could save you money.

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