There is so much information on the web about where to find cheap domestic flights and tips to book a cheap international flight. I’m going to start with sharing my tips for international travel in this post.
I have been traveling for almost 10 years now and have tried a lot of hacks and booking sites along the way. I’m going to try and limit down the huge amount of information there is out there on the internet in this post on my top tips to book a cheap international flight for your next big adventure.
My Best Tips to Book a Cheap International Flight
First and foremost, I swear by Kiwi.
You can read my post on why I love Kiwi so much here. Basically, it takes all the hassle and confusion of travel and flight hacking and does it for you. Go ahead and check your potential flight here and compare it to others!
Travel is always cheaper off-season. I paid $900 for my recent trip to USA round trip from India. When my parents came at Christmas two years ago, it was nearly $2,000 per person. This is what happens when you travel at holidays or peak travel times. Google the best times to travel to the destination you want to go to. See those results? If you’re on a budget, don’t go then.
Be flexible with dates and times.
When I recently went to Vegas it was for a weekend bachelorette party. The price to come to Vegas earlier in the week compared to that Friday, was more than 50% discount. I decided to take advantage and spend that money in Vegas rather than on my flight.
How can you be flexible?
- Traveling off season
- Check “flexible dates” when you search. They usually add +3 or -3 days onto your search.
- Use the calendar. When you search, most booking sites offer a calendar you can click on and see the prices each day of the month. You might find one day is a lot cheaper. Who knows why, but if you’re not picky on dates, then go that day.
For this, I use Kiwi and you can try their “zone” feature to draw a circle on a map around an area you might want to go.
You can click the month you want to travel and it will give you options for those dates telling you the price every day.
Consider taking a long layover
Sometimes the cheapest flight that pops up has a 27-hour layover somewhere. No one wants that because they are tired. Maybe you can take advantage of it. I did this flying through NYC home from India and crashed at my friend Ann’s house for a 17-hour layover. It was a blast and saved me $500!
Change up your route
Get creative! This is the tip that takes the most effort. Some people can’t be bothered which is understandable, but it can save a lot of money if you do it right.
If you are flying from NYC to Mumbai, check out where the layovers are. Let’s say one is Paris. Do individual searches of NYC to Paris, and Paris to Mumbai. See if the price is better.
This works best in SE Asia. When I fly almost anywhere, I look up flights to Kuala Lumpur and then book another separate from there. You can do the same through the Middle East.
You can also try out flying a large airline carrier for the big part of your route (say, NYC to London) then book another flight for the second leg of your route (London onward to Paris) within the continent you are going. You can use a country-specific budget airline to make this leg cheaper than if you booked straight through from NYC to Paris.
For my flights from Marrakesh, Morocco to India, I didn’t search for that exact route. I booked a flight from Marrakesh to London on Ryanair, the budget carrier. I then flew London to Goa where they have charter flights. That’s why I love Kiwi because they search big airlines and all the budget ones. (PS this is NOT sponsored by Kiwi, lol, I just actually really love them and use them for nearly all of my bookings).
When you do this, you need to be aware of visas. If you are flying into a country and you want to explore a day before going onward, make sure you don’t need a visa to do so. Airlines do ask this before they let you board and will decline to boarding if you don’t have documentation.
** I use iVisa to do all my online tourist visas. It’s super easy, and you can check costs here in minutes.
Don’t rely ONLY on booking sites
Because of the tip above, you can see how just typing in point A and point B on a booking site won’t necessarily give you the best deal.
You do have to use your mind a bit and think out routes and possible ways to save.
In addition, there are lots of booking sites that exclude some airlines.
There are also booking sites that exclude budget airlines or airlines that are smaller and country specific to your destination. You can’t assume that a booking site searches every airline. They don’t. Southwest, for example, doesn’t show up on any booking sites.
JOT THIS DOWN: Kiwi will search all the budget airlines, which makes doing this so much easier. Basically, when you search on Kiwi, they are doing this step for you in their search engine, which is really new. Beacuse they come up with cheap routes by combining the cheapest flights (that aren’t sister carriers), you’ll have to recheck your bag throughout the journey. They offer a gaurantee that they’ll book you a flight for free if you miss a flight because of this.
You do have still do SOME research ahead of time to see what airlines offer cheap flights where you are headed. It’s simple just google “cheap domestic airlines in ____” and see what pops up. If you don’t see those airlines in the results at all, then search directly on that booking site or airlines site for prices. Book your big flight into the capital city, then do a smaller flight to your destination within the country.
So where to start? Kiwi searches US airlines and non-US ones, as well as budget airlines so I always do a search with them. They combine the lowest flight connections from different airlines and if you miss a connection they actually book you a new flight for free. If it’s the next day, they put you up in a hotel!
Budget airlines aren’t always the answer
You need to weigh your options. Do you have a checked bag? What do they charge for checked luggage? Airlines like RyanAir, Frontier, Easy Jet, and more quite a bit for checked luggage. Some airlines even charge for your carry-on. These are things you need to balance out and compare.
Sometimes they are the cheapest though. Air Asia is what I fly often in and out of India. A flight is a flight, I’m not picky about the airline I fly.
Use a VPN
If you’re in the US booking a flight to India, the price will often show up higher than if you are in say, Russia, looking at flights from the US to India. I don’t know why! I have seen it over and over and always check a VPN and put myself in another country to see what price pops up. A VPN is easy enough to get, although I’m not sure of the legalities. I use Buffered at the moment. You can read a little more about this here.
I’m sadly not into this as I don’t use a credit card in India and can’t easily acquire points. I interviewed a guy who is famous for this (read here) and he gives a lot of tips that will be helpful to you. You can actually fly for FREE doing this.
You can also sign up to airline reward programs. I am signed up to a number and never remember to put my flights in for points. This is a way to save though, so do better than me!
Book at the right time
They say 45 days before you want to travel is the best time to book. Who are they? Researchers. I don’t remember where I read it, but I have seen it over and over. I have always booked about 1.5 to two months in advance for flights. I do check earlier than that though in case I see an anomaly.
Sign up for alerts
You can sign up for email newsletters from airlines you often fly. I try to keep my inbox minimal and don’t use this technique, but I probably should. I’ve heard of others getting great deals this way.
To keep it simple. I signed up to Next Vacay who looks for these deals and is signed up to all the lists. They email me when there’s a good deal from my local airport. Easy Peasy.
You can also look at flight tracking blogs like the Points Guy, Secret Flying, and Airfare Watchdog. You can subscribe or follow on Facebook. I do follow some of my favorite airlines on Facebook in case some good deals pop up.
Let the Internet tell you where to go
Using Kiwi’s everywhere function (just type “everywhere” into your destination), you can search the cheapest place to go on the dates you want to travel. It’s pretty cool. You might be surprised where you can fly cheaply from your hometown airport.
Also, make sure you aren’t selecting a specific airport when you search. Check “city name all airports”. You can later compare if that airport’s savings is worth the extra taxi money.
When you see it, book it
Do you see a result that seems low to you? Is it what you’re willing to pay? Just book it. Get it over with and don’t think about it again. I book flights fast. These are the exact steps I take:
- Search point A to point B on Kiwi using flexible dates.
- See what airlines are cheap in the country I’m flying to. Check prices from their website (aka Southwest in the USA).
- Once I’ve found a rate I like on a website, I book it. Done!
Pin it for later!
Again, this isn’t sponsored by Kiwi.com; I legit use them constantly. While I do get an affiliate commission from sales made via my Kiwi link, I would get that from any booking site I teamed up with. I choose Kiwi even though they pay out less to me than for example Skyscanner!
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Kiwi this is a new one! Appreciate you being up front on the affiliate part.
Thanks I hope you try them out. They have their huge pros but the only con is just double checking if you need visas for the countries you have having a layover – and thinking about the time it will take to go through immigration. But, if you miss a flight to do rebook you for free. This happened to me in Goa > Chennai > Singapore > Bali … Air India out of Chennai was canceled so they rebooked me Singapore Air which was a nicer and more expensive airline! no hassle on the phone & they didn’t know I was a blogger – great customer service.
“Budget airlines aren’t always the answer” – OMG yes!! I recently went to Japan on Qantas (a full service airline), after discovering that it was significantly cheaper than Jetstar (a budget airline).
And that trick with the VPN is great – I had always suspected that was the case!!
Hope the VPN trick works for you!! :D
Your article helped me to save $400 while I was booking my wife’s flight ticket from Mumbai to Auckland. I took long layover in Beijing and I got really cheap flight deal from Mumbai. I have to say your tips about international flight booking are so real and it is very useful for regular traveller like me. Thanks for your information.