9 Tips for Getting the Cheapest Flights

Save hundreds on your next flight with a few simple strategies. (Photo: iStock)

By Laurel Robbins / Monkeys and Mountains Adventure Travel Blog

You can save hundreds of dollars on a single flight these these nine tips!

1. Sign-up for a fare alert.

Once you know where you want to go, sign up for a price alert. You will get emails telling you the prices of a particular flight, so that you can decide when is the best time to book your flight. There are numerous different fare alert services that you can use; Airfarewatchdog and Skyscanner are both good ones.

2. Book airfare eight weeks in advance for domestic travel and 24 weeks in advance for international travel — or go last-minute.

The right time to book your flight is a highly debated topic, and for every result you find in Google, you’ll find a different answer. However, according to the Airlines Reporting Corporation, travelers save an average of 19 percent when booking flights eight weeks before a domestic U.S. flight and an incredible 27 percent when booking an international flight 24 weeks before departure. Alternatively, you may also be able to score a great deal with a last-minute booking. Last-minute bookings are great when it might be nice to get away for a weekend, but it’s not essential that you go. You don’t want the stress of hoping for a last-minute deal which may never come, so if it’s essential travel, stick on the safe side and book in advance.

3. Travel at off-peak hours and on the cheapest days.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to figure this out for yourself thanks to the ‘search by month’ features on Skyscanner and Google Flights. They allow you to see airfares each day for the entire month. Not only can it save you hundreds of dollars, it will also save you a ton of time. It works best if you can be a little bit flexible with your dates.

4. Research baggage restrictions before you head to the airport.

According to the U.S Bureau of Transportation Statistics, airlines collected more than $3.5 billion in baggage fees in 2014! Your money could be much better spent on something that would enhance your travels. To avoid paying for excess luggage, check your airline’s restrictions before you leave the house. Weigh your luggage if in doubt. Also be aware that when some airlines say they have a one-item carry-on rule, they literally mean one item. That means if you have a purse and a laptop, that’s two items. Both have to fit in the same bag, otherwise you’ll pay — no exceptions. Typically the discount carriers are stricter on this, but the major airlines are also charging passengers.

Related: 10 Bizarre Ways Travelers Have Avoided Baggage Fees

5. Fly from an alternate airport.

This typically works only if you are flying to or from a larger city, but can save you a ton of money. For example, if you’re flying to London, it’s very likely that you’ll find the best deals by flying into Gatwick or Stansted rather than Heathrow, the main airport. You do need to weigh the pros and cons though, as the alternate airport may be so far away, it may not be worth the savings, or the train ticket from the airport may end up eating into your savings.

6. Be flexible with your destination.

If you’re trying to escape this winter’s storms, you may be flexible as to where you go, just as long as there’s a beach and it’s warm. This is where tools like Skyscanner’s Everywhere search tool come in handy. You’ll get a list of flight prices by location and can then search from there. It’s a fantastic feature for showing you destinations that may not have been on your radar!

7. Be loyal to one airline alliance.

When you are loyal to one airline alliance, it makes it easier to collect reward points. The major ones are Star Alliance (with 28 member airlines), SkyTeam (with 20 members), and OneWorld (16 members). It’s worth taking a look each network to see which carriers you fly with most often, then trying to use the carriers in that alliance whenever possible.

Some discount carriers and other airlines also have their own reward programs but you have to fly with that particular airline only. Still, if you fly one particular route frequently, it may make sense to join their reward program.

Related: 10 Dirty Little Secrets of Frequent Flier Programs

8. The 24-hour flight booking rule

This rule only applies to flights booked from the U.S., but it’s a handy regulation that few people know about. By order of the Department of Transportation, passengers are able to hold a reservation without payment, or cancel a booking without penalty, for 24 hours after the reservation is made, if they make the reservation one week or more prior to a flight’s departure date.

That means that if a fare drops, you can cancel and rebook the fare at the cheaper price, so it’s worth checking prices again with 24 hours of booking. After that, there will be a fee to change your ticket in most cases. Double check your airline’s specific interpretation of that rule, as the timing can be longer in some cases, and the way airlines handle ticket changes (rather than refunds) can vary.

Related: Confused By Airline Rules, Cancellation Policies? Know Your Passenger Rights

9. Research how to get from the airport to your destination before you arrive.

There’s nothing worse than arriving at the airport to find the information desk is closed, and overpaying for transportation since you have no other choice but a taxi. Do your research ahead of time, and be sure to avoid these other travel mistakes.

Now that you’ve booked your flight in minutes and saved hundreds, you can put your newfound time and extra money into planning your adventures upon arrival!

WATCH: Top 5 Ways We Waste Money On Air Travel

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