Hack’d is our series that details how to travel for free or cheap. Today’s installment comes from Tiffany Eat World.
You read that right – $175. I can’t believe it either. Get out the confetti and let’s pop champagne – this is a cause for celebration if there ever was one. When I decided (or rather talked myself) into a 6 week Europe trip with my sister, calculations started going off in my head at lightning speeds (how much is this going to cost?!) and therein began my search for the cheapest ticket I could find. Naturally, I’m pleased to say I did it. I’m happy, but my bank account is even happier. Using these tips for booking insanely cheap flights, plus a little stroke of mishap turned luck, I’ll show you exactly how I scored a roundtrip ticket to Europe for the low. Bookmark this page, friends, you might need it later.
1. Leave room for flexibility
The only thing I knew for sure is that I was going to Europe. I didn’t know specifics like dates or what country I wanted to visit first. But I’ve always had this distant love affair with London so I figured that was a good start. After comparing ticket prices for different seasons, I saw how significantly the price dropped in the winter. That was my cue to aim for winter travel. Although summer in Europe sounds like a dream, the goal here was to book the most inexpensive ticket. Taking it a step further, I decided to fly on New Year’s Day instead of New Year’s Eve which saved a couple of hundred dollars in airfare.
2. Pick your hub wisely
My hometown in Virginia is very expensive to fly out of for international trips. I’m talking hundred of dollars more. So I decided to broaden my search to include larger airports in Washington D.C. It’s a 3 hour drive away which means I’ll have to build in extra time to allow for traffic and other mishaps, but it’s way more cost effective. Shoutout to my awesome parents – they’re more than happy to see us off and I’ve saved at least $150.
3. Never ever ever ever book last minute
According to a study by CheapAir, booking last minute tops the list of worst things you can do. I booked my flight in September, a whooping 4 months before my departure date. You don’t have to book as early as I did, but the key to a good deal is grabbing your seat before the flight starts to fill up. After that, tiny spies tell the airline that is time to hike up the fare. Ouch. Check everyday, multiple times a day, and when you see a price that looks good to you, book it!
Pro-tip: Clear your cache and browser cookies whenever you’re running the same flight search twice on the same website. You’ll sometimes find that ticket prices are increasing because airlines track your searches. Sneaky airlines. We can all learn a little from Antoine Dodson – hide ya cache, hide ya cookies, hide ya browser.
4. The power of an open jaw ticket
My search started with roundtrip tickets to London. I found tickets for $760 and thought that was pretty decent. Thank you, off-season. That’s great and all if you’re going to base your stay in one country, but my itinerary includes several countries. It is silly to add unnecessary backtracking, transportation costs, and stress to get back to London for my return flight back home. Enter the open jaw ticket. Using my favorite search tool, Kayak Explore, I saw that flying out of Instabul was cheaper than any other country in Europe – $574! It made perfect sense to book this ticket instead.
Travel Hacker Tip: Open Jaw defined – An open-jaw ticket is an airline return ticket where the destination and/or the origin are not the same in both directions
At this point, I had searched for what seemed like weeks and was ready to book. Here’s the thing that took my flight from $574 to $175.
5. Airline vouchers are your best friend
On a trip from Hong Kong a while back, my seat didn’t recline which is a big deal when you’re on a 15 hour flight in economy. Unfortunately, it was a full flight and the attendants could not move my seat. When I returned to the states, I left feedback for United Airlines online expressing my disappointment. A few days later, I was awarded a $400 voucher which I was able to apply to my trip by calling the airline directly. SCORE! Insert a ridiculous amount of smiley faces here.
Of course, I’m not encouraging you to complain all willy-nilly in order to get compensation. There has to actually be a problem! Leave feedback if the airline can better serve you. Maybe you’ve never experienced something like this, but here’s another way to score vouchers: volunteer as tribute. Simply put, give up your seat. If your flight is overbooked and your schedule has the slightest ounce of flexibility, fast walk to the podium to let the representative know you’re willing to give up your seat should the need arise. That travel voucher could be your ticket to a cheaper fare! Pun totally intended.
What are your favorite tips for booking cheap flights?
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