Top 3 Secrets for Saving Money on Flights

Tuscany, Italy – One of our favorite places in the world.

Sometimes people raise their eyebrows when they hear we’re going on another trip, or wonder how we can afford to travel often. I’m a travel bargain hunter, and while we want to splurge now and then we are always looking for ways to cut our travel expenses. Saving on airfare is the first thing we look at, so here are our top 3 secrets for saving money on flights.

1. Travel Flexibility

The way I’ve saved the most money on flights is simply by being flexible:

  • Flexible travel dates I know that’s not always possible, but flying outside of peak periods can save you 50% or more. That could be June instead of July for Europe, and January instead of Christmas week for a beach getaway.
  • Flexible location If your vacation dates are fixed but you can be flexible with your destination you have a better shot at finding a deal. Maybe your beach vacation could be in Hawaii or the Caribbean or Mexico?
  • Acting fast When you hear about extreme deals (like those we hear about through sites like below) making a quick decision is vital as these are snapped up quickly or only offered for a short time.
The Summer Palace, Beijing

2. Flight Research

Beyond the big websites such as Expedia and Travelocity, there are more tools than ever to research flights. Whatever site you use, check at least one other to compare and make sure you are paying a fair price. if you have narrowed it down to a specific flight, check it on the airline’s own website as well.

  • Google Flights can help you find the cheapest flights with exact dates, flexible dates, or with a calendar option. You can the cheapest dates to fly within a given period, and potentially save hundreds by adjusting you dates by a day or two.  Once you select your flight, use the booking info provided to contact the airline direct, or travel agent, or another booking service to purchase tickets. I use these when first starting to plan a vacation just to see what options are out there.  The Explore destinations map is also fun to use if you are flexible with your destination.
  • Follow someone who monitors flight deals from your area – If you find someone that is monitoring flights deals from your location, you can really find some amazing deals. For me in Canada that’s Chris Myden at You just go to ‘Y’ deals for your city, and signup to be notified by email whenever there’s a really hot deal. For these type of deals you need to act fast or they will be gone. We got flights Calgary to Tokyo return for less than $500 return including taxes and fees. I don’t have info on sites like this outside of Canada but they’re probably out there for you too.
  • Kayak is a great tool well known for comparing multiple sites. Your can search +-3 days for the best flight deals, which can save a lot if you are flexible. I like its price trend feature, with a recommendation to BUY or WAIT for a better price. There is also has a fun explore feature, where you enter your origin and month, and it shows you a map with the price of airfares to get you to destinations all over the world. Warning: exploring this feature could lead to a spontanious vacation when you see that flight to Hawaii is only $479!
  • Hopper can help you save money by predicting when to fly and when to buy your ticket. The Hopper Flight Explorer  lets you discover flight deals with flexible dates and destinations. For example, try New York City to Europe or San Francisco to Anywhere. You can also set up deal notifications to be alerted to great deals as they happen.
  • Follow you favorites If you frequently travel on a specific airline, follow them on Facebook or Twitter to be the first to hear about deals.
  • Check the discount airlines Sometimes we take a long haul flight on a major airline to a hub like London or Paris, then use a discount regional airline to get to our final destination. They can also be good for short hops within a region. You can get these great deals on airlines such as Ryanair and Easyjet in Europe, but be sure to compare both flight costs and added fees. These fees can be significant or even ridiculous. Carefully check their carry-on baggage dimensions to be sure yours qualifies. You can save a lot of money on these airlines, but don’t expect the level of service as the major airlines. Also note that these airlines often fly to smaller airports that are some distance from the major city you may be trying to reach. Great deals are possible, but do your research.
Tangier, Morocco

3. Reward Points Travel

There are websites that specialize on this topic and it can get pretty complicated. But basically, the fastest way to earn reward flights is through credit card bonuses. By getting several cards with high signup bonuses, you can earn enough points to be on your first reward flight in a few months. To do this you need an excellent credit rating, and you need to be diligent about tracking your cards and paying them in full each month. Obviously if you are carrying a balance, the interest will defeat the purpose of saving money on flights. I use a spreadsheet to keep track of it all. You can build up your points further by putting all your expenses on your cards as well as earning points by actually flying. By remembering to show your member card and taking advantage of bonus offers with purchase you can multiply your points. For example, Safeway (in the airmiles program) regularly gives large bonuses for both dollars spent and specific purchases. When it comes to using your points it helps to research how to get the most bang for your points. Here are a some resources I’ve used for more info on travel hacking and using points for travel:

I’m always looking for more tips like these. How do you save money on airfare?

28 replies
  1. Michelle
    Michelle says:

    Thanks for the tips! It seems the days of great deals on plane tickets are long gone. I try to take advantage of airline credit cards as much as possible. I get new ones when they come out and use them as much as possible. Safe travels 🙂

  2. Carole Terwilliger Meyers
    Carole Terwilliger Meyers says:

    Reward points are getting harder to cash in and costing more miles. I purposely don’t have an airline card because Ithink I’m better off with a regular bank card that gives me points for cash that I can use on anything, including the flight I need.

    • Shelley
      Shelley says:

      You’re right, it’s getting harder to spend miles and harder to get miles, and sometimes the fees are so high it can hardly be called a reward flight. I kinda like American Express points because they can be transferred easily into other programs for more flexibility. I’ve gotten the best value spending points on one way flights, or when flights on a route are more expensive than usual but available with points. If there’s a great deal on a flight then I just pay for it.

  3. Natasha
    Natasha says:

    Oh these are great . I know of most of them but you have added a few! I’ve also read that booking your flight from certain countries can be more expensive. So now I use an Asian country as my location. Saved me $100 on flights on one booking!

  4. Nancy Thompson
    Nancy Thompson says:

    Excellent saving tips. My hubs and I are just gearing up to travel extensively for the next few years (as soon as I retire next year) and we will definitely be doing it as cheaply as we can. I have bookmarked your post and will spend more time following the many links you provided. Thank you so much for all of the superb information.

  5. Linda ~ Journey Jottings
    Linda ~ Journey Jottings says:

    Great collection of money saving ways to travel Shelley –
    I’ve used frequent flier points very successfully, but as you say, you have to pay off any money put on the card by the due date as their interest rates are killers and would totally annihilate any of the benefits!

  6. Suzanne Fluhr
    Suzanne Fluhr says:

    Another thing to do is to compare the fares you’re seeing searching from your usual browser with fares you find searching from an incognito browser setting. Supposedly, if airlines think you’re interested in a specific flight or destination, they might not show you lower fares. I usually have to travel on a specific date and find it very difficult to use my frequent flyer miles.

    • Shelley
      Shelley says:

      Thanks for the tip! Frequent flyer miles can be hard to use especially if it’s a popular date. I did once use mine to take my family to Florida at Christmas but I booked about 10 months in advance.

    • Touristsite
      Touristsite says:

      I haven’t used it yet to book an actual flight. But it’s fun to play with when I’m procrastinating other work 🙂

  7. Betsy Wuebker | PassingThru
    Betsy Wuebker | PassingThru says:

    Great tips, especially the newer resources under Item 2. We spent a month in luxury European hotels using points and status upgrades earlier this year. Even when I blogged about exactly how, people still didn’t believe it. Let them pay retail! 🙂

  8. Patti
    Patti says:

    Great suggestions! The other tip we often lean toward is looking for flights on Tuesdays. Research shows it’s the best day to book the best rates. Thanks for sharing these ideas! And that pool in Tuscany?! Oh my. Yes, please.


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