Finding a cheap flight is about being flexible and smart in where you go, when you go, and how you get there. Follow the tips above, but don’t waste forever finding a cheap flight. If you’re spending more than an hour booking a flight, you’re spending too much time. Spend 30-40 minutes finding and booking a cheap flight at a price you’re OK paying and move on with your life. I never second-guess myself on flights. You’ll go crazy if you do.
Fly out at the right time. As with most of these search related parameters, turns out what we want the least is what makes the cheapest flight. The earlier your leave on a flight, the cheaper it will be. Red eye flights (in the middle of the night) are by far the cheapest, followed directly by early morning flights. Although you might luck out on a rare evening steal, typically the later in the day you depart, the more expensive your ticket will be.
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Stopovers can range from a mere hour to even a full day (or more), so it's really up to you whether you would prefer paying less for your flights in exchange for doing some time at the connecting airport. The biggest issue is that time spent in airports eats into the "free" time you would otherwise enjoy at your final destination. If you do settle for a trip with a long layover, check into sights to see or activities to do near your layover airport. A 10-hour layover might provide the perfect opportunity to visit a famous landmark or explore a new city. To each, his own.
Most major cities in the USA have reliable public transport options to transfer you to the city centres. For example, LAX has a shuttle bus ‘G’ to the Metro Green Line and JFK has the AirTrain connecting to the New York subway. Buses and taxis are also plentiful if you don’t want to negotiate traffic. However, in some cities hiring a car may be the quickest and convenient option to get around especially if you plan on doing a road trip. You’ll find all the major car rental agencies at most US airports, including Budget, Dollar, Hertz and Thrifty.
You can even book your own multi-day layovers, essentially allowing you to see 2 destinations for the price of 1. Rather than spend a day sitting in the airport, you can spend multiple days exploring the city you are laying over in. AirWander is a specialized search engine for doing exactly this. Put in your origin, final destination, and number of days you want to stopover. AirWander will return a list of places you can visit on your stopover, often even cheaper than a regular flight search engine! To learn how to do this, read our guide on How to Get Free Extended Layovers & Hack One Trip Into Two.
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In fact, many people use their credit card to pay for travel without even knowing that doing so may entitle them to travel benefits. Perks which you may be entitled to when you use your credit card to pay, like medical evacuation coverage (The Platinum Card® from American Express, a GET.com advertiser) which can cover the cost of transporting you home in case of a medical emergency, airline credit towards incidental costs and even towards airfare, discounts at hotels and restaurants (Visa, Mastercard and American Express offer these, and your bank may offer more).
Our detailed how-to guide spells out how to find mistake fares easily on your own. Basically, AirFare Watchdog and Secret Flying are great resources to stalk for finding mistake and sale pricing as they conglomerate slashed ticket rates all in one spot. Another great approach is to search for flights for an entire month using Skyscanner (Tip #3 in this article). This will allow you to easily spot a significantly reduced fare against what's displayed that month, and has twice helped us stumble on error fares ourselves.