Berlin to Brussels for $5
Prague to Rome for $20
Prague to Sarajevo for $37
Prague to Los Angeles for $257
New York to Bangkok for $276
These are just a few of the tickets I have managed to land over the past 2 years. I believe everyone has a superpower and I believe mine to be finding cheap plane tickets. Traveling on a budget starts with getting there. Of course there are fairly well known trade secrets (like flights being cheaper on Wed/Thurs/Sat or the fact that most websites do not update their conversion rates as quickly as your bank so paying in a foreign currency can save you big), but the real secret to flying on the cheap is as easy as ABC. A-Always. B-Be. C-Checking. Always Be Checking. Always Be Checking. If you want cheap flights you have to keep your eyes open and be ready to pull the trigger at the drop of a hat. Here are the best websites to keep your eyes on:
Best Aggregate Websites for Getting Cheap Flights:
SkyScanner cut its teeth dealing strictly with European budget airlines and while it remains the absolute top of this field, it has expanded exponentially to deal with airlines all over the world. SkyScanner does not sell flights directly, instead it is more or less an aggregate of aggregates. It offers the widest range of search results of any site and permits you to search entire states/countries/regions and entire months (instead of +/- 3 days) for the best deals.
SkyScanner is my go-to site for absolute steals like the ones listed above. In fact, searching “PRAGUE to EVERYWHERE during CHEAPEST MONTH” has worked itself into my morning routine.
Google has recently entered the game after buying out and converting the ‘information only’ ITA Matrix Airfare Search website into Google Flights. Just like most of their ventures, Google has bought up the absolute top technology in the field and gone ahead and created the most streamlined and user-friendly search engine for flights. Similar to SkyScanner, on Google Flights the results you will be given are as wide or as narrow as the search criteria you input. Google has taken the opposite approach of SkyScanner, starting with large airlines and international travel and working their way down to the budget airlines.
AirfareWatchdog (one of the many branches of TripAdvisor) takes an interesting approach; they employ a team to search out and identify the cheapest possible flights which they then pass on directly to the consumer. To use their service, you set up “Low Fare Alerts” on their website and they notify you via email when sales or significant price drops occur that involve your chosen airports or regular routes. While their everyday rates and search functionality are not quite on par with the likes of SkyScanner and Google, this alert service they run can save you big. As of right now their services are heavily weighted towards American routes and travelers, but they do function globally.
And then there’s Skiplagged. Skiplagged made such an immediate impact on the airline industry that in late 2014, United Airlines (unsuccessfully) attempted to sue the 22 year old founder for exposing trade secrets and costing them millions. The concept behind Skiplagged is known as “hidden-city” and it’s creator lays it out as such: “Basically, hidden-city is where your destination is a stopover; you’d simply leave the airport when you arrive at your destination. It turns out booking this way can save you hundreds of dollars on over 25% of common routes, especially in the USA.” For example, if you are in Chicago and you want to fly to New York, what Skiplagged does is search for cheaper flights from Chicago to other destinations that would have New York as a layover. Then, when you arrive in New York rather than getting on the next flight you would just leave the airport.
The founder does mention that there are a few caveats to using their method: “1. You have to book a round-trip as two one-ways (which Skiplagged handles automatically), 2. You can’t have any checked baggage, only carry-ons, and 3. technically you may be breaking an agreement with the airlines known as contract of carriage, where it might say you can’t miss flights on purpose.” Even with those in mind when the situation warrants it Skiplagged can be a solid choice.
Best Airline for Crossing the Atlantic on the Cheap:
Norwegian Airlines made the headlines in October when their CEO announced that 69$ flights from the United States to Europe were “right around the corner.” Even though the proposed date of these sub-100$ flights is sometime in 2017, at this point in time the absolute best deals on flights across the Atlantic are being still dished out by Norwegian Airlines. While it is certainly a ‘get what you pay for’ budget airline, there are reasons Norwegian is a perennial award winner including its 787 Dreamliners with good airline food and more than adequate entertainment options.
As was stated above, many times the euro-dollar conversion rate for these travel websites lags behind the banks so it can be cheaper to purchase in euros, this is one of those websites.
Mike Risser (instagram: @mikerisser)