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Become a cheap flight expert
Close out all those tabs. Turn off your incognito window. At Going, the most exciting flight opportunities find you. But that doesn't mean there aren't a few tips and tricks to get the best deal possible.
Start with Google.
While there are dozens of search sites for cheap tickets, Google Flights offers the most tools and features to help you quickly search for flights and find the cheapest tickets so you can book directly with the airline. Or, if you prefer to book with a site where you can earn booking rewards, start with Google Flights to see all your options and then move over to the other site once you've chosen your flight and are ready to book. No matter where you do your searching, the same best practices for finding cheap tickets apply.
Be as flexible as possible.
The more narrow your search, the fewer your options and the lower your chances of snagging a cheap flight. If you can be flexible on the days you fly, the airlines, and the length of your trip, you can increase your chances of snagging a great deal.
Focus on getting across the ocean as cheaply as possible.
You're probably wondering why you'd be flexible on where you're going. If you want to go to Amsterdam, you want to go to Amsterdam. But what if it was $300 cheaper to fly to Paris, which is just a few hours from Amsterdam by train? When you're flying long-haul internationally, take a look at options near your final destination. It may be cheaper to fly there and then connect to where you want to end up.
Book during the right window.
Meaning, not too far in advance and not too late. The best deals are usually found 1–3 months in advance for domestic flights and 2–8 months in advance for international tickets.
When airlines drop prices, they don't usually do it for long. If you want to snag a cheap ticket, you have to move quickly. Sometimes the price rises within hours or even minutes. Not sure if you can get the time off work? The 24-hour rule can help. This US DOT regulation says airlines have to offer you the chance to hold your fare or to get a cash refund within 24 hours of booking (and most airlines choose the latter). This means you can book and then figure out your plans. If it doesn't work, you can cancel within 24 hours and get a full refund.
Below, check out our in-depth guides to finding cheap flights.
Popular cheap flight routes
Frequently asked questions
Frequently asked questions
How to get cheap last-minute flights
Just like there are best practices for getting a good deal, there's some strategy in approaching tickets at the last minute. Start by checking surrounding airports. You might be able to fly out of New York’s LaGuardia, for example, at a lower price than JFK. You can also look at one-way tickets. This gives you the flexibility to book different airlines that offer the cheapest flight each way. If you're traveling in a group, it might be worth booking separately. Some people might want to avoid budget airlines, whereas others might like the idea of saving as much as possible. You can also book the cheapest seat versus trying to reserve five or more tickets.
When are flights cheapest?
Why do flights get canceled?
Weather is a big one. An airplane cannot safely navigate in some weather conditions, like snowstorms, hurricanes, fog, strong winds, or even extreme heat! Airlines will do their best to put you on another flight, but they aren't penalized for grounding a plane for weather conditions. This means that if you lose money for missed connections, delayed check-ins, or extended stays, you aren't owed compensation. This is where travel insurance, or a credit card with travel protections, can really help.
Airlines might also cancel flights for security reasons, particularly if an airport you're flying from or to has any threats or scares. You should never leave your baggage unattended or joke about harm, and you should always report strange or suspicious behavior. The TSA says it's more common than people think to have foolish people make bad jokes or pull pranks.
Planes have mechanical problems, just like your car might get a ‘check engine’ light or flat tire. It is in everyone's best interest to ensure planes are tip-top shape to fly. Typically, mechanical problems only lead to inconvenient delays, but sometimes flights are canceled if the plane can't be repaired quickly and there isn’t another one available. Always check individual airline policies when faced with this sort of delay or cancellation. Since this is within the airline's control, they can rebook you, potentially upgrade, or compensate you. And always be kind to airline and airport staff. When you smile through the pain, people are more likely to do the same.
Missing crew or missing aircraft. Just as your flight can be delayed or canceled, if another flight (completely unrelated to yours) gets grounded, an aircraft and its crew might be stuck elsewhere, and you can’t proceed as scheduled. When this happens, don't panic. Chances are that the airline is already working to remedy the situation. They will be scrambling to find new planes or flight crew, so there may be a delay or two before they resort to canceling the flight. If you booked an early-bird ticket, you have many more options of getting put on a different flight versus being stuck overnight. However, airlines might still owe you compensation, if you know what to ask for.
Why are flights so expensive?
When is the best time to get cheap flights?
When it comes to the cheapest time to travel, prices for flights (and vacations in general) are influenced by traffic. Many people travel during the summer and holiday seasons because of more flexible PTO, school breaks, good weather, and special occasions. This is known as a destination’s “peak season.” By contrast, fewer people travel during a destination’s “off-season.” For example, the monsoon season is Thailand’s “off-season.”. “Shoulder season” is the sweet spot for good weather conditions and decent prices right before or immediately after peak season. If you want to go to Europe, for instance, consider planning your trip during spring or fall. And if you absolutely have to travel during peak season, book tickets well in advance.