By Gemma King
Love budget travel? When booking flights online there are a number of tricks and tools you can use to make sure you’re getting the cheapest deal possible. For one, it’s time to stop believing the myth that last-minute flights are cheap ones; your best ally when aiming for cheap fares is time, so book ahead whenever you can.
If that’s not an option, you can still save some dollars. Clear your browsing history before booking. Some sites can tell if you’ve visited before (through cookies) and assume you are more likely to buy the second time round, so they raise their rates. Yes, this makes us angry, too.
Traveling without checked baggage can also save you money if you’re flying an airline that charges for luggage. Or, choose an airline that offers free checked bags.
Finally, always check your flight on more than one site or app — especially the following — to make sure a cheaper version isn’t available elsewhere.
With budget travel in mind, here are some of the best apps for scoring cheap flights:
Hopper is particularly clever at telling you not only when to fly to get the cheapest fare, but when to book that fare at its cheapest, too. Until somebody can confirm that rumor that the cheapest time to buy is Tuesday at 3pm, six weeks before your flight (can anyone actually attest to this?) we’ll be using this app. Particularly great if you’re flexible with your travel plans and can work your way around the airlines.
A comprehensive search engine, Skyscanner searches across all the airlines offering flights on your route and compiles them into the one page. The app is useful for viewing all your options at once, plus you can ‘search by price’ to send the cheapest options to the top. Our own experience of researching across multiple websites has revealed Skyscanner doesn’t necessarily show you every flight available, so we recommend cross-checking with another service like Kayak (below) to be sure.
Cheapflights is exactly what it sounds like: the bottom line at this app is finding the cheapest deal. It’s a sleek and intuitive app for travelers on a budget, and is particularly helpful if you are flexible with dates or don’t mind stopovers. All these apps are geared at presenting your flight options as clearly as possible, but Cheapflights is the service most focused on price.
If you’re traveling to, from and around Australia, Webjet is a useful, comprehensive database of all Australian flights and airlines. The interface is clear and easy to use and all flight options are included. However, they take a $30 fee if you book directly with them. So we recommend you use the app to find your flight, and then book it with the airline directly to circumvent that extra fee.
A little bit sneaky, but very clever, Skiplagged is a controversial app with airlines, and a popular one with travelers. Basically, the app works with the pesky fact that it’s sometimes cheaper to book a route in which your desired city is a stopover, rather than a final destination. So if you’re looking to fly from LA to Cleveland, for example, but LA to NYC via Cleveland is actually cheaper, Skiplagged leads you to that elusive LA to NYC flight, and you just get off at Cleveland and skip your ongoing flight.
Kayak is very similar to Skyscanner (above), with a similarly intuitive interface and much of the same data. But considering their rates and flights can sometimes differ slightly, these two search engines are best used in combination with each other, to ensure you’re finding the best fare on the flight you want.
What are your favorite budget travel apps for finding the best flight deals? Please share in the comments below.
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