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The Trick to Finding Cheap Flights, According to Someone Who Does It for a Living

Finding cheap flights amid rising inflation costs seems impossible, but flight expert Scott Keyes knows otherwise – so much so that his email subscription service, Scott’s Cheap Flights, promises flight deals that can save travelers up to 90% on airfare.

So what’s his trick? Spoiler: It’s not searching for flight deals incognito (which is largely a myth, by the way).

How to find cheap flights

“Take the normal way you search for flights and flip it on its head,” Keyes says.

Many travelers search for flights like this:

  1. Choose a destination.
  2. Choose dates to visit said destination.
  3. Search for cheap flights to that destination.

Notice, however, where the cheap flights fall in this sequence. “Setting price as the last priority, we end up with expensive flights,” Keyes explains. Instead, he recommends browsing airfares like this:

  1. Search for flights from your home airport(s).
  2. Of the cheap airfares you see, decide which destinations interest you most.
  3. Find dates that work for your schedule.

FAQ

Are there last-minute flight deals?

While a good deal on airfare can pop up at any time, “last-minute fares tend to be expensive,” Keyes says. Contrarily, you don’t want to book too early. “You can typically book flights up to 12 months in advance, but those aren’t the best fares.”

When is the best time to book a flight?

Keyes recommends booking flights in what he calls “Goldilocks windows.” These are the most ideal time frames for finding cheap flights:

  • Domestic travel
    Peak: Three to six months in advance
    Off-peak: One to three months in advance
  • International travel
    Peak: Four to 10 months in advance
    Off-peak: Two to eight months in advance

Keyes also recommends noting the timing of sales on other items such as clothing. For instance, when winter coats are on sale in late spring and early summer, so are winter flights (which means it’s actually best to book holiday flights in June or July).

What’s the cheapest day to book flights?

Booking on one day versus another isn’t going to make a difference. “That used to be true; it’s not true anymore,” Keyes says.

When airfare was first sold online, there were ideal days to find cheap flights. “Airlines would load their airfares at a predetermined time and if you were one of the first to see them, you could get the best deal,” Keyes explains. “Nowadays, fares change by the day, sometimes by the hour and are determined by complex algorithms.”

What’s the cheapest day to fly?

Generally, the cheapest days to fly are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Keyes notes that business travelers tend to fly on Sundays, Mondays and Fridays, driving demand – and thus higher airfare – on those days.

Where can I find cheap flights?

Where to find cheap flights is a matter of personal preference, Keyes says. “There’s no place where fares are consistently cheapest.” If you’re looking for a good place to start, however, he recommends Google Flights, which allows travelers to search up to seven departure airports and seven arrival airports at once. Other flight search engines include Skyscanner and momondo.

Ultimately, he recommends booking flights with the airline directly. Not only does this method make it easy to manage your reservation details including checked and carry-on luggage, but doing so entitles you to a 24-hour window in which you can cancel your flight for a full refund per federal law.

Are airline credit cards worth it?

Yes, airline credit cards can help you save money on flights by accruing points and miles on everyday purchases. The best travel credit cards come with added perks such as free checked luggage, airport lounge access, complimentary in-flight Wi-Fi and more. You can also earn miles through select airline rewards programs.

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Bernard Greenhall
Bernard Greenhall

Bernard is a sports and physical education expert with years of experience. He's passionate about promoting health and wellness through physical activity, and he's worked with athletes and non-athletes alike to help them achieve their fitness goals. Bernard holds a degree in Physical Education and is dedicated to staying up-to-date with the latest trends and research in his field.

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