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Travel makes an incredible gift for the holidays or, let’s be honest, any time of the year. Unwrapping plane tickets with a brochure to a new destination is about the best thing ever and it’s a gift that never disappoints.
The good news is that you don’t have to be a wealthy millionaire to give someone or yourself the gift of travel. With proper planning, some research and a bit of good luck you’ll be able to score cheap flights and destinations and FlighHub and I are going to show you how.
Tips For Finding Cheap Flights
This is the number one tip for finding cheap flights. If you can be flexible on your travel dates and times you will have a much higher chance of securing affordable tickets.
It’s simple economics of supply and demand that drive most airline ticket prices. If the demand is higher then prices are going to be high.
For example, if you want to fly home for Thanksgiving the tickets are going to be off the hook expensive on the Wednesday before and the Sunday after. However, if you can fly earlier in the week and stay a day or two later chances are much higher that you’ll find a cheaper ticket.
When searching flights put alternate dates into the search box and see what comes back in the results.
This technique resulted in me being able to fly from Detroit to Los Angeles and back home for $50 round trip! That’s an incredible rate for just about any round trip flight, but with a little flexibility, I was able to snag a heck of a deal and spend a few days in sunny California.
A search engine, like FlightHub, allows you to see the price of multiple airlines for your travel dates. Gone are the days of opening up a search page for each and every airline. Instead, simply pop your travel destinations and dates into the search boxes and let the magic happen.
I’ve been searching for airfare from Detroit to Vegas in January. Sporadically I check and everything comes back over $350. That is not a cheap flight to me.
When I say cheap I want $250 or less. Today I entered my flight details and holy happiness. The flights are a lot cheaper, starting at $147!
Should You Book with a Budget Airline?
The advice on this is split pretty 50/50. Some will say never book with a budget airline. Others, like me, will say, it depends.
I have absolutely no problem flying budget airlines. It’s how I scored the $50 ticket to California. The trick is to be smart about it and make sure you include all your fees in addition to the ticket price to see if it really is a cheap flight.
Budget airlines are cheap because nothing, and I mean, NOTHING, is included in the ticket price. If you know this going in everything will be fine. If you expect seat assignments and carry on and checked luggage to be included you’ll be disappointed.
Let’s take the above example for my flight to Vegas. Frontier is $147 and now I need to add luggage each way at the fee of $76 round trip. That brings my flight total to $223.
Delta is just a few dollars more at $232, but that is basic economy the same price structure as the budget airlines so I’ll need to add extra fees on top of that ticket bringing the cost closer to $275.
At the end of the day, it comes down to personal preference and if you’d rather save extra money on the flight and if you’re ok with a budget carrier.
I have an entire post about what you need to know to fly Spirit airlines here that you may want to check out.
Check Nearby Airports
This is another great money saver and it may surprise you. Nearby airports can have much cheaper tickets than your “home” airport.
I live in northern Michigan. I’m pretty much going to have to make a decent drive to get to any airport so I check all the big ones in Michigan. Detroit, Grand Rapids, Flint all get searched and if I’m still not finding flights I like I’ll look at Chicago.
Now, Chicago is a bit further of a drive and would, most likely, require an overnight stay before a flight but if the tickets are cheap enough it’s worth it.
A friend was able to secure cheap flights to Europe for her family of 5 by flying out of Chicago instead of a Michigan airport.
Are you picking up on a theme here? Flexibility really is key to great flight prices.
How To Find Cheap Destinations
Travel During Shoulder Season
Many of the same tips for finding cheap flights apply when you are looking for cheap destinations. My biggest tip for this is to travel during a destinations shoulder season.
What does that mean? Let’s take Europe for example. Their tourism is booming during the summer. Like, a crazy insane amount of people traveling throughout Europe’s prime destinations–think Italy, France, UK, Germany, etc. in the summer months.
As a rule, I recommend you avoid Europe from the United States Memorial Day to Labor Day if you want to save money. Instead, travel in April and the first part of May or September and October. They are still gorgeous months to visit, but tourism has slowed down and more affordable hotels can be found.
The same can be said for many destinations across the U.S. as well. Traveling when it’s not as busy will save some dollars.
If you’re not sure of a destinations shoulder season call the destinations tourism office and ask. They are a great resource and should be able to help you find the perfect time to visit.
If you’re heading to a major city the cheaper accommodations may be on the weekend when business travel has slowed down. Look at different dates on a search engine and see where the cheaper dates fall. FlightHub has a hotel search as well that’s worth trying.
You may also want to consider hotel alternatives. There are any number of other accommodations that may fit your budget better including Air B&B and Vacation Home Rentals (VRBO).
If you’re traveling with a family I’d really recommend looking at renting a vacation home. It gives you a bit more space to spread out and you can save some extra money by eating breakfast at home versus going out.
Avoid Popular Places
I know, I know, you want to go to all the hotspots that your friends go to. Miami, LA, NYC, but what if I told you that you can have a great time at other destinations and you’ll save some serious cash. Want big city culture and excitement? Check out Detroit or Chicago.
Everyone is heading to Yellowstone, Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon, with good reason, but there are other fabulous National Parks that are just as stunning. Arches, Glacier and the Great Smoky Mountains come to mind.
Don’t overlook small-town charm either or consider splitting your time between a big city and a smaller destination. For example, head to New Orleans for a couple of nights of outrageous fun and then take a short drive to Bay St. Louis and the Mississippi Gulf Coast for some R&R in the sun.
#1 Tip For Finding Cheap Flights and Destinations
I’ve mentioned it above, but it bears repeating:
It is the number one way that you’ll be able to find cheap flights and destinations.
Flexibility on the dates and times you travel, flexibility on the airports you fly in and out of, and flexibility on where you go.
Wishing you all the luck in finding the best rates, dates, and places for your next travel adventures. With all the money you save using these tips hopefully, you’ll be able to take an extra vacation this year. <<—Best Year EVER!