Phew, 2020. What a disastrous year that was for travelers all around the world. Vacations cancelled left and right, refunds refused from hotels and airlines alike, and uncertainty about when the next adventure will be.
Although planning travel in 2021 also seem be a bit tough, the news of new vaccines being approved by health agencies around the world is making travel in 2021 seem like more of a reality. While it may be unsafe to fly right now because of COVID-19, the 2nd half of 2021 may just be your opportunity to get back on the road after enough vaccines have been administered.
To help those itching to book some plane tickets for later in the year, we decided to put together a list of our top tips for how to find cheap flights in 2021:
Use the Power of Travel Search Engines
Travel search engines like Google Flights and Momondo offer you a lot of research power as a traveler. Using one of these search engines, you can easily scan across multiple days or months to find the lowest price for a flight to a specific destination across multiple airlines.
These search engines can also give you some great inspiration for your next destination as well by showing you the locations with the lowest priced flights going to it during a certain time of the year. In Google Flights, this feature is found in their Explore tab. As you can see in the .gif below, you are able to tell Google a time frame for when you would like to travel and it will show you a bunch of options for cheap destinations
We often begin our planning for my next vacation with a search on either Google Flights or Momondo and I have had plenty of success scoring great deals to Europe and other destinations. We would highly recommend you start your search here as well.
Watch for Great Deals
While many of us are very excited to book our next trip as quickly as possible, we highly recommend being patient and waiting for a great deal. While you may be thinking, “where do I even find one of those good deals?”, there are many services out there that can actually let you know when good flight deals come around.
One of those services is Scott’s Cheap Flights, which claims that it can find flights for as much as 90% off of full price for you. I recommend signing up for their email list so that you can have the latest deals show up in your inbox – less work for you!
Another way to look for great deals is to search for mistake fares, which are essentially plane tickets that are usually pretty expensive showing up for way cheaper than they should be for a brief amount of time. Experienced travelers have gotten $2,000 business class ticket for well under $1,000 just by seeing the mistake fares in time.
One platform that can help you find mistake fares and other cheap flight deals is FareDrop, which was started by popular travel vloggers Kara and Nate. Similar to Scott’s Cheap Flights, you can sign up for FareDrop’s email list and have cheap deals and even the occasional mistake fare show up in your inbox.
Build Up Points & Miles
Want to find a way to save money on future travels? Well a great way to accomplish this is to build up points or miles to pay down (or even pay off) your next flight or hotel. The best way to go about this (besides flying a lot) is to get a credit card, which can allow you to build up points just by spending money on everyday things like groceries, gas, and eating out at restaurants.
There are many different travel credit cards out there, and different credit cards offer different types of point multipliers for various types of spending. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card (my personal favorite), awards you x2 points when spending money at restaurants or on travel-related expenses. It also has other benefits related to travel, like no foreign transaction fees, rental car insurance coverage, and baggage delay insurance.
I have personally purchased multiple round-trip flights to Europe using points from my travel credit cards, so I would highly recommend you try them out as well. A couple warnings, though:
- Most travel credit cards require you to have high to excellent credit (690 – 859)
- Credit cards are not free money. Running behind on paying bills can result in a negative impact on your credit score
Be Flexible with Travel Dates and Times
Being locked into traveling during one period of time can limit the number of flights you have to choose from. If you are able to, be flexible with when you travel so that you have the option to choose the best flight price possible for the destination you want to go to. Sometimes that could be a flight on a weird weekday, like a Wednesday, which isn’t exactly convenient. But if you are a budget traveler, this is a great way to save money on flights and have more spending money at your destination.
Keep Your Destination Options Open
If you are really looking to save some money, try to keep your destination options open as well. There are so many amazing places around the world to explore, and taking a leap of faith on a new place that you haven’t heard much about can result in some amazing adventures.
Use tools like Google Flights’ Explore tab to help you search for destinations with cheap prices. Who knows? Just $400 later and you may find yourself spending a weekend touring Shanghai’s Old City. Keeping your destination options open can not only lead to cheaper flights, but also amazing adventures.
Save Money with Budget Airlines
We’ve all heard horror stories from budget airline flights (we certainly have my share of Easy Jet stories), but there is a reason that we keep going back to book with them: they are so dang cheap. While it certainly isn’t glamorous to be shoved into a plane like a herd of cattle, the money you save from just getting to point A to point B can be crucial for many budget travelers.
Here are some budget airlines around the world to check out:
Don’t Be Afraid of a Transfer
Transfers can be a pain in the butt to deal with, especially when direct flights are an option for the same flight. But transfers can also be a huge cost saver for those willing to stomach the inconvenience. This can be especially true when flying internationally, like over to London, for example.
I recently had a flight from Minneapolis to Boston that transferred in Newark, New Jersey and I happened to have a layover there that was supposed to only last an hour. Whelp, it ended up being an 8 hour layover due to inclement weather in Boston. What could have been a rough situation turned into an amazing day because I hopped on a train from the Newark airport into the middle of New York City and spent the day wandering around Manhattan seeing the sites. It was an amazing day.
Moral of the story: embrace your transfers and layovers as just part of the adventure. You never know what can happen.
Bring on the Red Eye Flights
Catching a flight any later than 9pm sounds pretty dreadful, but it can also save you a ton of money. Red eye flights are the go-to options for budget travelers around the world because of just how much cheaper they are. And while they might have you feeling like crap the next day from lack of sleep, you’ll be smiling knowing how much money you saved. Just down some coffee when you get to your destination and go get on with the adventure!
Consider Booking on Multiple Airlines
One travel hack that we have used multiple times is to search for flights out of the nearest major travel hub (which has historically been New York City for us). This allows you to see flights going out of that airport, which has a possibility of being cheaper than what you are seeing from your local airport.
If you do end up finding something cheaper from the major travel hub to your destination, then all you have to do is book a cheap flight to to your major travel hub and then transfer to the other flight you booked. This is a tactic that many airlines don’t like people doing since it can often detracts from their profits, but it is nevertheless regularly done by budget travelers around the world.
A warning for this tactic is to make sure that you set up enough time for you to transfer flights. One common problem that arises when using this tactic is if your flight into the major travel hub gets delayed, your other flight will not wait for you since they don’t know you are coming in on a connecting flight. Try to give yourself a few hours to transfer flights just in case of a delay.
Look for Flights 3-6 Months Ahead of Time
Planning ahead for booking flights can lead to some big savings. We recommend you start searching around 3-6 months ahead of your departure date, since that is when you will usually find the best prices.
One tactic I would recommend is to use Google Flights to track the prices of flights for you. Google Flights will alert you when prices are above or below average for the time period you are looking to travel. Just wait until the price fluctuates down and hit that buy button!
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