Hacking Travel: Best websites to find the cheapest tickets
You would figure a form of transportation where you need to show up hours before departure, book way in advance, stand in security lines as they scan through your cloths and X-ray your items, where you need to unequivocally prove you are who you say you are, requires a five minute safety video every time you enter the transport, and requires hours of your time just to get through it all would be the most expensive form of travel. For many it is, but for some wise hackers it is actually cheaper than many other forms of long distance transportation. Air travel does not have to be expensive, let us show you how to hack air travel.
In this two part series we will be looking at the best ways to get cheap flights. The first part will be aimed at using the best ticket agencies, or in this case the best websites for booking tickets.
Many of these websites features methods to check different dates, different airports, the cheapest times to fly out to a destination, and price alerts. These price saving tips can make a flight up to %400 less expensive than what you may normally pay. Here are some different websites to use and how they can help save money.
Is one of my favorite websites and is one of the most well-rounded of the travel sites. This site has powerful features that let you find the best prices across many airlines, airports, and dates. Kayak additionally compares other travel sites to give you the best prices possible. My favorite part of the site is taxes and fees are included in the shown price, so what you see is what you pay.
Most of my time is spent using Kayaks simple and straight forward app. Upon opening the app you are greeted with options for finding flights, hotels, and even rental cars, but I will only talk about flights. I usually live in the app’s powerful search section for finding flights.
The search section lets you choose your destination and arrival airport and dates. The app lets you tick off a box that will check neighboring airports to give you the best price for your area. When checking dates you can also check up to 3 days before and after a specific date to give the absolute best prices for your trip. These two basic functions can provide huge price shifts.
If you plan on stopping in multiple cities or planning a complicated trip then Kayak has your back. The Multi-city search can help you narrow down the best prices for traveling to and from different cities.
The watchlist feature is a powerful tool for those who know where they want to go but dont know when to book. You can set different types of flight alerts which will notify you when prices drop. The app only has three types of alerts, and they might not cover the extensive range of parameters you might want, but they are still very powerful tools for getting the lowest prices possible.
The first alert is called “lowest fairs”. Here I can set an alert to notify me when is the cheapest time to fly, for example, from Charlotte, North Carolina airport to Porto airport in Portugal. I can say I want the cheapest flight from today to next year in which case it will find the lowest prices from all airlines within that time period. It is quite shocking how low the prices are that come up, but it needs to be understood the cheapest flights in this list are there for a reason. These are usually undesirable flights for some but can be very advantageous for others.
In addition, one could set an alert for just one specific month they might want to travel in. So, for example, I can set an alert for the month of August and get all the cheapest flights in that month for the two airports I choose. While this feature is powerful I would have liked to be able to add multiple airports as I am fortunate to live near 3 international airports.
The other useful watchlist alert is called “Exact Dates”. This lets you check prices from one airport to another, well, on an exact date. I do not use this feature as much as I use the normal searches and “lowest fair” watchlist alerts, but only because I would have liked to check a few days before or after the exact dates. For example, if I would not mind leaving on a Saturday or Sunday, but I might need to come home on a specific date because of my vacation time, I would have liked that ability to check a day before and after the dates. That one day could save me a good deal of money.
Update: The Kayak app is an all-around great app. You can track your flight or the flights of your loved ones. Also the app has the same feature listed under the google flights app.
Ticketing sites are not your only option here. There are email lists comprised of bots (and sometimes people) that scour large databases and sites for the best deals around. You can tell the companies of the email lists where you are thinking of going and they will be on the search for the best deals around.
Additionally, you can just let them recommend places for you to go. They might find an extremely low price, sometimes due to glitches in airline sites, to a specific country and send you an email. The advantage of this is they are specifically looking for tickets across multiple databases. They usually come up with some of the lowest prices around.
I have clearly not stated a specific email service as I only used one, but each one will have their advantages and disadvantages. You will need to do research on which one is best for you. One caveat of these lists is they usually have a monthly or an annual fee. For someone who loves to travel this may be worth the cost.
Google Flights can act as a basic flight checker for exact dates to exact airports, but the site has one very powerful feature not found anywhere else. The site can show you, based on the dates you selected, the cheapest flights to any airport in the world.
So I can say I have April 1st to April 7th off and google flights will show me a map of the world (similar to google earth) that I can zoom in and out of. As I zoom out it might show me the cheapest price for each state or country, but as I zoom in it will show me the cheapest flight for each region or airport. You can spend a good amount of time trying to find the cheapest flights around the world or the cheapest parts of a country to fly into. Check it out!
This is a great tool for deciding where you want to go. If flying to northern Italy is your cheapest option then you now have your next vacation.
Now we come to the less ethical part of this article. Love it or not this is a powerful way to get cheap tickets and has been a controversial site covered on the news. Skiplagged can operate as a basic travel site, but where skip lag prevails is in finding tickets to cities that are not the final destination of the ticket purchased. Let me explain.
You see, Skiplagged only looks at where you start and where you want to go but checks all flights, even the ones with only a layover in your destination city.
Why? Let’s take a look at this idea. It is sometimes cheaper to fly from New York to London to Norway than it is to have a direct flight from New York to London. I personally don’t know why this is but this is truly the case for some flights. What Skiplagged does is book you that flight for New York to Norway so that you can fly into London and stay in that destination without getting onto the flight to Norway. As you can see, this is the one trick airlines hate.
There is one downside to this: You won’t be able to bring a checked bag. Remember though that airlines do allow a backpack or purse and a carry on luggage, so if you can fit everything into these two containers you will be free to use this option.
There are more websites and lists then was stated in this article, but for me these are the best tools I found so far to get the absolute lowest prices on airfare. I used to pay around $800 to $1200 for my yearly ticket to see my grandparents overseas, but now I usually pay $250-$350 for that same ticket. These are powerful tools that need to be taken advantage of especially for those who have a passion for traveling. So what are you waiting for? Go plan your next vacation.