Finding affordable airfare can make the difference between getting to have that dream vacation or needing to stay home.
In this guide, I’ll be sharing my Top Tricks for Booking CHEAP Flights, including clearing cookies when browsing flights, using VPNs and private browsing to uncover hidden deals, booking one-way tickets for maximum flexibility, signing up for mistake fare alerts, and more insider techniques.
With the right skills, you can hack airline systems legally and tap into pricing loopholes to save hundreds on airfare costs. Read on to start flying ridiculously cheap using these hacker-style flight booking tips.
Booking Cheap Flights: A Guide to Saving Money on Airfare
Clearing Cookies and Using Incognito Mode
When searching for cheap flights, the first thing to do is clear your cookies and delete the cookies from your web browser.
To avoid this, go delete your cookies or open a brand new incognito browser window. This hides your browsing history from the sites you visit.
Using a VPN to Unlock Cheaper Fares
Another tip is to download and use a VPN (virtual private network). A VPN masks your IP address, allowing you to pretend to be in other locations.
VPNs are often used by scammers pretending to be in the US when they’re really overseas. But VPNs also have a legal use – booking cheaper flights!
Flights are priced differently based on what country you’re searching from. Connecting to another country via a VPN makes flight search engines think you’re accessing the web from that country. And flights you view from other countries may have cheaper pricing than your home country.
An Example Saving $30 By Searching Flights From the UK
For example, say you want to fly Phoenix to London one-way on May 10th.
- Searching flights in the US, the cheapest Phoenix to London flights are $655.
- Using a VPN to search from London, UK, the same Phoenix to London flight on May 10th costs £486, which equals $623 US dollars.
Just by using a VPN to pretend we’re in the UK, we save $30 on the flight!
When using a VPN to search flights, try different countries like the destination country, lower income countries, etc. Sometimes airlines have special cheaper pricing for less wealthy nations to drive sales.
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Popular Flight Search Sites
Some popular flight search websites include:
- Google Flights – Great layout and tools. Allows searching multiple origin airports.
- Skyscanner – Fast and simple. Finds cheap flights quickly.
- Momondo – Excellent for searching multiple destinations.
- Kayak – Best for finding cheap one-way flight combinations.
Out of these, I like Google Flights the most. But feel free to experiment with each to see which works best for you.
Search One-Way Flights
When searching Google Flights, go to “One-way” under the main search box.
Booking one-way flights has 2 advantages:
- It’s often cheaper than round-trips. Round-trips require using the same airline, whereas one-way flights open up more options.
- One-way tickets give flexibility to change plans and destinations mid-trip. This is great for spontaneous travelers without concrete itineraries.
If needing help finding two separate one-way flights, use Kayak’s “Hacker Fare” tool. It combines two one-way flights on different airlines to save money.
Input Multiple Origin Airports
Next, under “Leaving from”, input multiple origin airports you’re willing to depart from.
For example, airports within driving distance from your home city. Adding more origin airports gives Google Flights more options, often yielding cheaper flights.
You can input airport codes, like JAC for Jackson, Wyoming. Or start typing city names and select the airport from the dropdown. Add as many origin airports as you want!
Use Map View to Search Worldwide
Under “Going to”, don’t input a destination yet. We’re going to leave it open and use Google Flights Map View to search everywhere.
Click on the map icon on the right, above the search button. This opens an interactive worldwide map to visually search flights from your origin airports.
Now you can browse visually for deals anywhere on the planet! Turn on a month under “Date range” to see updated pricing. Try clicking countries and scrolling different regions to uncover surprisingly cheap international flights.
Let the map inspire your next adventure! This method helps discover affordable destinations you may have never thought to search directly.
Finding Mistake Fares
To score the cheapest flights possible, keep an eye out for “mistake fares.”
Mistake fares happen when airlines accidentally list ridiculously cheap ticket prices due to typos or system errors. Think $45 flights across the Atlantic!
The issue is airlines fix these mistakes super quickly, usually within 1-2 hours max. So very few travelers ever catch them.
Use Sites Like Scott’s Cheap Flights to Get Notified of Mistake Fares
Luckily, deal alert services exist to track mistake fares 24/7 and email subscribers immediately when they find them.
My #1 recommendation is Scott’s Cheap Flights.
Scott’s Cheap Flights hunts international flight deals globally and emails members about the cheapest mistake fares before anyone else. This site is by far the fastest way to catch these ultra rare deals.
Other sites providing similar mistake fare alerts:
There’s also great flight deal accounts on social media. Like Flight Deals Canada tweeting out cheap fares from Canada or Secret Flying posting deals on Instagram. following region-specific accounts like these helps you catch deals quick!
Including a Stopover
On long international journeys, try including a “stopover” in your itinerary.
A stopover is an extended layover lasting 1+ days, allowing you to briefly experience another destination for little extra cost en route to your final destination.
Some examples of awesome free stopover programs:
- IcelandAir offers free Iceland stopovers when flying between Europe and North America. You can explore Iceland’s stunning landscapes days without paying extra airfare.
- Copa Airlines provides free Panama City stopovers for only taxes (~$6) when passing through Panama between US/Canada and Central or South America.
- Fiji Airways allows free Fiji stopovers on flights between US/Canada/Australia/New Zealand. Relax on world-famous Fiji beaches mid-journey without spending extra!
Research “open-jaw tickets” too. These are round-trips where your destination and origin cities differ, creating a journey with 2 end destinations. Open-jaws with a lengthy stopover in the middle essentially gives you 2 vacations for the cost of 1 round-trip ticket!
Using Budget Airlines
Here’s a tip: Use foreign budget airlines to fly inexpensively between destinations in regions abroad.
These barebones carriers don’t show up in Kayak/Google Flights and need to be searched directly. They offer crazy regional deals thanks to stripped down planes and minimal amenities.
What are budget airlines?
Budget airlines, also known as low-cost carriers (LCCs), are airlines that offer cheaper airfares by cutting operating costs. This is achieved by “unbundling” services and charging additional fees, as well as flying shorter routes with faster turnarounds.
Some common things seen on budget airlines:
- Fees for checked bags, seat selections, onboard food/drinks
- Using secondary, smaller airports to reduce airport fees
- High-density narrow body planes to maximize seats
- Point-to-point short/medium haul routes
This barebones approach allows budget carriers to offer base fares cheaper than full-service airlines. The tradeoff is passengers need to pay extra for perks included in traditional airline ticket pricing.
Popular budget airlines around the world
Here are some of the most well-known budget carriers in major geographical regions:
- Ryanair – Ireland
- EasyJet – UK
- Wizz Air – Hungary
- FlyDubai – United Arab Emirates
- AirAsia – Malaysia
- Cebu Pacific – Philippines
- Jetstar – Australia
- GOL – Brazil
- Volaris – Mexico
- Spirit Airlines – USA
Using budget airlines to explore regions for less
The great thing about budget airlines is they make visiting multiple countries in a region very affordable.
For example, while backpacking Europe, I used Ryanair to fly all over the continent on the cheap. I flew from Dublin to Edinburgh for $15 USD, then to Paris for $20 USD. In total I visited 9 European cities spending under $250 USD on flights!
Budget fares I’ve personally booked:
- Dublin -> Bucharest = $16
- London -> Barcelona = $27
- Paris -> Rome = $46
Being flexible on departure airports is key – often smaller regional airports have the cheapest budget airline deals. But so worth it to crisscross regions overland on a budget!
Using Skiplagged for Hidden City Flights
Warning: this last trick is mildly controversial, but 100% legal and can save huge on airfare costs!
The site Skiplagged exposes a loophole involving “hidden city ticketing.”
This is when you book a flight with a layover, but get off at the layover city instead of the final ticketed destination. Then that layover city becomes your actual destination.
“Why would this save money?” you may ask. “Wouldn’t it be cheaper to just book a direct flight?”
Sometimes it is cheaper to book directly. But other times using layovers to your advantage via hidden city ticketing yields surprisingly lower fares.
Here’s a real example:
- Boston -> Houston is $240
- Boston -> Orlando (with Houston layover) is $180
Despite the Boston -> Orlando ticket having an extra segment, it’s $60 cheaper thanks to airline metric tricks.
Airlines hate skiplagged, even trying to sue them. But they lost in court. So everything here still works!
Why It Works
Hidden city flights save money because airlines price routes differently based on expected customer purpose.
Higher demand business routes see high prices. Lower demand leisure getaways strangely may cost less even if farther.
In reality airlines probably just overcharge certain city pairs because they know corporate non-discount business flyers will pay the premium.
But using layover flights lets budget travelers bypass the higher published fares for desirable city combinations.
So don’t tell the airlines…but this clever trick works!
Summary of Top Tips for Finding Cheap Flights
Here’s a quick summary of the best tips covered in this guide on finding cheap flights:
- Clear cookies/use incognito browsing
- Try VPNs when searching flights
- Book one-way tickets for flexibility & prices
- Input multiple origin airports
- Use map view to search destinations visually
- Find mistake fares with sites like Scott’s Cheap Flights
- Add free stopovers with airlines like IcelandAir
- Use foreign budget airlines for regional hops
- Get hidden city fares with Skiplagged
Hope this helps you save money on air travel! Bon voyage and happy flight hacking! Please comment if you have any other questions.
Frequently Asked Questions
How to search for the cheapest flight?
Use flight search engines like Google Flights, Skyscanner, or Kayak. Set filters for price/duration and flexible dates. Try searching one-way flights.
Where can I actually find the cheapest flights?
The best way is to get email alerts for mistake fares and deals from sites like Scott’s Cheap Flights. Act fast, as the cheapest mistake fares are rarely available for more than a few hours.
How can I find the cheapest day to fly?
Use the flight search engine’s price graph calendar view to visually spot the cheapest travel dates. Flexible travel dates help find lower fares.
Is SkyScanner the best for flights?
Skyscanner is very good and fast if you know your exact destination and dates. For maximum flexibility and tools, Google Flights is preferable.
What is cheaper than Google flights?
Scott’s Cheap Flights finds more exclusive cheap flight deals than Google Flights. Sign up for free email alerts.
Which website is best for flight booking?
For research, flexibility in search parameters, and visually finding deals, Google Flights. For the fastest booking after finding a flight, go direct to the airline’s website.
Is Google Flights always the cheapest?
Not always. Doing multiple searches on various flight search sites and alternate dates yields the lowest fares.
How to get free flight tickets?
There is no reliable way to get free flights. Your best bet is getting notified by mistake fare services when exceptionally cheap deals pop up occasionally. But award travel via credit card points is the next closest option.
Which app is better than Skyscanner?
Google Flights has better features and flexibility in search options compared to the Skyscanner app. Kayak is also a top flight search app.
Which country is giving free flight tickets?
No country offers free flights. Cheapest options are budget airlines in Europe/Southeast Asia or mistake fare alerts.
What age is fly for free?
No airlines allow flying for free based on age alone, except infants under 2 years not occupying a seat. Senior tickets for 65+ get discounts, not free.
What is free flight method?
No reliable “free” flight method exists, although viral YouTube videos promote questionable techniques. Signing up for mistake fare alerts is your best bet at finding nearly free tickets.