Booking flights has become easy. But finding the best flight for yourself, preferably the cheapest, is a challenge.
Here are some tips and tricks to find your ideal flights:
Book flights early
I’m spontaneous and don’t like to plan very much. But planning and booking early really pays off. Last-minute bargains are very rare.
A rule for domestic flights in Europe: According to a study, the flights are cheapest if you book about 6 weeks in advance.
According to this study, the tickets are 40-50% cheaper than on the day of departure. The prices increase rapidly as the departure approaches (empirical values are 21 days, 14 days, 7 days and 3 days before departure).
For long-haul routes (particularly when traveling during popular travel times), you should monitor flight prices beforehand.
Flexibility pays off
Be flexible about the day of departure and arrival. The cheapest day of departure is not always (as is often recommended) a Wednesday, but often Friday. However, only early in the morning or late in the evening. For flights within Europe, Monday is the cheapest return flight day. Experience has shown that Sunday is the most expensive. But if you come back from a long-distance trip, Sunday is often the cheapest.
Therefore: Take your time and check exactly what the flights cost 1-2 days earlier or later. You also have to be flexible with the departure times.
Avoid peak travel times & high seasons
Peak travel time is vacation time. Demand is high, tickets are scarce because everyone wants to travel. If possible, avoid school holidays or public holidays or travel from another federal state in which there are no holidays yet.
The time of day is also crucial. For destinations within Europe with several flights a day, flights at off-peak times are worthwhile. So the first flight in the morning and the last in the evening are often cheaper.
Use flight search engines to compare flights
The best way to find cheap flights (and also the fastest way) are so-called flight search engines. They search all airline platforms and websites to find you the cheapest offer or the fastest flight.
I prefer direct flights and avoid having to change planes more than once if possible. If you have to transit at some airports there are some risks and hassle. In general, flights with 1-2 stops are of course cheaper. So I leave it up to you to decide what is more important to you: saving time or saving money.
A good search engine for a first overview is Google Flights. You can easily specify multiple departure airports, open jaw flights and alternative nearby destination airports. The search is very simple and clear. Nevertheless, I noticed that not all airlines are always listed.
The search engine for joints is simple and really easy to use. As usual, you enter your departure airport, your destination and select a specific date or “flexible travel dates”. If you mouse over the date, the search engine will show you the day on which you can get your flight ticket cheapest.
You can even see how much a First Class flight would cost. You can also add other departure or destination airports. Sometimes it is worth driving to another airport. For me, Stuttgart and Frankfurt are practical. I always look for departures from Stuttgart and Frankfurt and then decide which one to choose.
Compare prices on various online search tools. Prices can differ greatly in some cases. Often forgotten: Look also directly on the homepages of the airlines. Attractive prices are also available here.
Check alternative airports
When choosing an airport, you should also consider well-connected airports nearby (such as Munich / Zurich) or even abroad (such as Warsaw or Amsterdam). Often there are completely different airlines with attractive offers to choose from. Also, airline fees are often lower at smaller airports, which in turn affects ticket prices.
Book with or without luggage?
It is cheaper to fly only with hand luggage. No problem in Europe, but often a big one on long-haul flights, since you are usually on the road for longer.
In addition, there is the problem that flight search engines will show you the cheapest price, but not include the prices for checked luggage.
Flying with hand luggage only is cheaper. In the meantime, all European airlines have introduced a “light fare” for short-haul flights, where you are only allowed to take one piece of hand luggage. Tip: If you realize after booking that you do need a suitcase, you should book an additional piece of luggage online. At check-in, the prices for extra baggage are very high!
Save money on flights with the currency trick
On many airline websites, you can specify different source countries for your booking. The ticket price is then displayed in the respective national currency. If you change e.g. from Germany to Poland, for example, the currency changes from Euro to Zlotys, but in some cases it is not converted correctly. This means that the price can sometimes be lower.
The trick with hidden cities
Hidden cities or “hidden airports” are so called because airlines withhold them from flight searches. The reason for this is that they are airports that are not served by the airline itself or as part of a cooperation with another airline. This means that there is no codeshare agreement. Therefore, if you book a flight with a transfer, only those airports are displayed that are served by the airline displayed or by a partner airline.
Various low-cost flight search engines take advantage of this knowledge (and their customers) by combining rival airlines. They also find nearby airports from which an onward flight may be cheaper without significantly increasing travel time. And if it does, you can perhaps use the stopover to get to know the city.
Saving money with hidden city ticketing
Instead of simply booking a trip from London to São Paulo, for example, book a trip from London to La Paz with a stopover in São Paulo – and simply let the last leg of the trip lapse. Sometimes the final destination can be reached much cheaper as a stopover than if you fly there directly. This is called hidden city ticketing, loosely translated as booking through a “hidden city.
Check the prices directly on the airlines’ websites.
Directly after the flight search engines, I visit the website of the airline. Sometimes you can find a cheaper price then. Unfortunately, not very often anymore, because the flight search engines often have contracts with airlines (supposedly) so they can offer the cheaper tickets.
Example booking via flight search engine: I found my flight from Milan via Dubai to Denpasar (Bali) for over half of at kiwi.com. It would have cost twice as much with Emirates directly.
Flights between countries with close relations
According to travel professionals, flight connections between countries that maintain close cultural, economic and/or historical ties are often significantly cheaper. Examples: Connections between Spain and Spanish-speaking South America, and between Portugal and Brazil are often cheaper. Likewise, it should be possible to save a little money on flights if one flies to various African countries from France. If one has the possibility of getting to the corresponding departure point inexpensively, this can be worthwhile.
Check Airline offers
Befriend the major airlines on social media. Airlines nowadays communicate special offers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and co.
Check here for cheap flights: