How to save money with smart flight search

Small planes waiting to take off

It’s always a big challenge to find some affordable and suitable flights for your next location. Especially when you need to fly at specific times or to a specific place, it can get quite difficult, and you should have some extra tricks up your sleeve to get the best possible outcome. So let me try to put together the best tricks that worked for me over the years.

Where to find the best deals & inspirations?

If you are looking for inspiration, last minute opportunities, deals, error fares, or a general idea of travel routes that are available at affordable prices from time to time, check out the following sites or follow them on Facebook: (or your local version of the site)
Flynder – a subsite of holidaypirates, sometimes offering voucher deals itself
Fly4Free is giving you specific deals based on the region you select.

So next up, there are a couple of steps in regular flight search that can bring you to a better outcome. It might take some time, but I never regretted searching a bit longer, especially if it saved me quite some money.

Get inspired & search for your own deals!
Those not only give you a good idea on current deals, but also some deals that are recurring over time – here is an example: When booking my flight to South Africa and Seychelles from Europe, I just remembered that I had seen this combination a couple of times on the holidaypirates site. So I played around with the dates and departure airports, and ended up finding a connection for half the price of all regular flights at the time.

Which sites to use for finding flight connections?

My favorite option for checking for flights is, an aggregating search platform.
The platform is my favorite because it combines results of various search engines, and has a quite useful interface, even though there are still some limitations.
The most annoying thing about this platform is that flight connections are sometimes not updated properly – so you think you found a great deal, but get a bad wake up call when going through the actual booking process. Still, I haven’t found any aggregation site that does this better, and you get used to wait for the final confirmation before opening your champagne and telling everyone about your upcoming trip.

Here are my favorite tricks:

If you don’t do that, flight prices will go up in case you search for connections multiple times. Also interesting: results vary based on your location, as they will be based on different local provider results. My work and home are in different countries, and I was initially quite surprised how much my results differed across locations. If you can, you can use this to your advantage as well.
If you are looking for a simple one way or return flight, there are some good options to figure out if there are cheaper flights nearby:

Flight selection screen_nearby airports everywhere
1. Tick the box to include surrounding airports. Sadly enough, this is not possible for multi-city flights, but we will get to that later.

Flight search: flights to country
2. Type the country name instead of a specific airport. This will result in a list of possible starting points/ destination, giving you the lowest price options first.

3. Another great option is to check various hubs in your region for intercontinental flights. Buying that extra local ticket might be a good choice when the really expensive flight is half the price. If I want to fly intercontinental from Europe, I always check Frankfurt, London, Paris, Amsterdam and others for good options.

4. Don’t know where to go? Just look for flights to “everywhere”.
This is especially nice if you have a defined time frame but no clear idea on where to go – you can just choose for the best priced option you like.

Flight selection screen - full month

1. Instead of selecting a specific date, you can select an entire month for your departure and arrival date. You will get a monthly overview with some indications. Lowest prices are usually shown in green. If no price is given for a date, it does not mean that there is no flight – the calendar just provides you with a subset of options. Click the dates to get detailed pricing. This is a good way to find out if there are cheaper recurring flights, e.g. a low cost airline flying only Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, and to find the best flight dates if you can be flexible in your booking.

2. Another way to check for recurring flights is via the airline website. This makes most sense in case you are looking for a low cost flight. This way, you can see which surrounding locations an airline is flying to, and what the weekly schedule is. E.g. for Ryanair, you mostly find only 2-3 flights per week. With this, you can adjust your dates or combine multiple locations to get to your optimal schedule. Another way to find this info is by checking the departure schedules of your airport of choice.

Search screen: Ryanair flights

Flight search: multi-city

Another great option to get to unconventional solutions is the multi-city search. Sadly enough, it is lacking a lot of the flexibility of round-trip searches, and makes it only possible to look for fixed airports and fixed dates. So a bit of prep work can be beneficial – if you already know that lower priced flights are going from specific locations on specific dates, combining these in a smart way into a multi-city flight might save you a lot of money.

You can use this option for
• finding cheaper opportunities or better flight dates by combining trips from/ to various airports in your area. Let’s say you found out that there are cheap flights to your destination from city A, and cheap returns to city B. Combine the two in a multi-city search with your selected dates, and check if the outcome is better than single bookings.
• Avoiding extra travel time and cost on a trip that you would need in case of a return flight. An example: 2 years ago I went on a trip from Sao Paulo to Buenos Aires. Booking a return flight to Sao Paulo would have meant spending time and money on a one-way trip between Argentina and Brazil. With the help of the multi-city option, what I booked in the end was Europe – Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires – Europe. The price was slightly higher than a return flight, but it also saved us the significant cost of a separate flight ticket and the hassle of including yet another flight.

With multi-city flights, much is just depending on luck in finding a good deal. So far, I have not figured out any pattern that makes a flight high or low priced – you can add only 3 stops, or go a little crazy and add e.g. 1-2 day layovers in any city if you like. You will see in the results whether that was a horrible or great choice.

So, you found a great flight for an incredible price. There are certain options to book it from, maybe 10, or maybe just one. One is amazingly cheap, the others a bit more expensive. Just choose the cheapest one, right?
If you feel lucky, maybe that’s a good choice. But after having some bad experience I made it a habit to check ratings first. You can very easily do that on trustpilot – at least it gives you an idea of the risk you will take with each provider.

I hope this overview gave you some new ideas and will help you to get those cheap flights while they last! Let me know if you have any additions – or maybe you have a success story to share?

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