How to find cheap flights in 2024

by Сашка

8 tips for scoring the lowest airfares, according to experts

 

While airfare prices are so confounding they can turn a rational person into a conspiracy theorist, there is still hope for the average traveler. Because, like any sport or hobby, shopping for flights is a skill you can hone.

Unlike previous years, in which prices seemed to be skyrocketing, “you can see it very clearly in the data in fact, it’s gone the opposite direction,” said Scott Keyes, founder of the flight booking site Going. The travel booking app Hopper’s 2024 outlook shows the same, with domestic airfare remaining below 2023 (and pre-pandemic) prices for at least the next six months.

That doesn’t mean every flight you find will be cheap. “Averages don’t always translate to individual fares,” Keyes said. “But at the same time, with the way airfare works, today’s expensive flight might be tomorrow’s cheap flight and vice versa.”

For that reason, Keyes added, “it’s all the more critical to make sure that you’re getting the timing of your booking to get the best price.”

So how do you get the timing right? Here are our best tips, including price alert basics and a post-purchase hack.

Set price alerts

Tracking airfare can mess with your head. Are the airlines tracking my computer? Am I being punished for booking on a Wednesday instead of a Tuesday? The truth is that airfare prices are dynamic, and pricing algorithms are influenced by a long list of factors. The best way to track them is setting up alerts. Google Flights, Skyscanner and Hopper are among experts’ favorite price-tracking tools.

Sign up for deal newsletters

Price alerts are helpful when you have specific trips or dates and destinations in mind. But if you’re flexible or want some vacation inspiration, flight deal newsletters — free or for a paid subscription — are wonderful tools. You can sign up for newsletters from Going, Thrifty Traveler, Airfare Spot and Airfarewatchdog to get deals based on things such as your home airport or region. You may end up with a deal in your inbox that fits your travel needs.

Shop in advance — but not too far in advance

Keyes calls this the “goldilocks window”: the just-right booking period when cheap flights are most likely to pop up. For domestic travel, he says that’s one to three months out, and for international flights, it’s more like two to eight months. For peak season, when deals are harder to come by, add a few months to those recommendations.

Data from Google Flights shows prices for domestic flights are lowest between 21 and 60 days out. Those prices tend to bottom out around 44 days before takeoff. For Europe, it’s between 50 to 179 days, and for Mexico and the Caribbean, it’s from 37 to 87.

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Keep an eye out for mistake fares

Sometimes airline mistakes are a good thing, such as when it comes to fares. Even though much of the online booking process for flights is automated, there are still some humans required on the service side — and with them comes human error, according to industry experts. Mistake fares are rare, but you can spot them by setting price alerts or subscribing to deal newsletters (see earlier). Once you find one, book fast. Even if you don’t know whether you’ll use it, you can cancel and get a refund within 24 hours.

Learn how to work the airline sales

We’ve all seen them in our inboxes: Southwest fares for $49! JetBlue’s $44 flights! London on United for 22,000 points! But if you’ve struggled to actually get a fare that low, you’re not alone. Although advertised airfare sales sound enticing, it can feel impossible to take advantage of them. Sales are usually for specific routes, so be flexible in your booking. Also, make sure to check competitors’ prices, because experts say they will drop theirs when competitors have a sale. Check out our other best practices for finding deals during airline sales.

Stalk prices after you book

The savings don’t have to end after you book. By The Way editor Amanda Finnegan will track and rebook her flights multiple times if prices go down. (This works on rental cars and hotels, too.)

Many airlines dropped change and cancellation fees during the pandemic, so it’s easier to adjust your trip — even if that means just rebooking the same flights at a cheaper price. As long as you aren’t on a Basic Economy ticket and your airline doesn’t have change fees, you can cancel your flight, get a credit, rebook and bank the savings for a future trip.

Google even has a tool for this: If a flight with its price guarantee drops, it’ll pay the difference. Prices are tracked from the time you book until your departure. It has some technicalities to it, but you can read more about the tool here.

Don’t forget the secret best week for international flights

Holidays are typically some of the most expensive times to fly, but there’s a caveat: Thanksgiving week is the secret cheapest week of the entire year for flights abroad. This has been a longtime tip from Keyes. For many routes, transatlantic flights may cost less than domestic flights, he says. And unlike over Christmas or in the summer, in November you’ll have a fraction of the tourist crowds.

Skip the skiplagging

Skiplagging, or “hidden-city ticketing,” involves booking a trip where you plan on getting off at a layover city and throwing away the last leg (or legs) of a flight. It might seem counterintuitive: You’re ultimately flying fewer miles in the sky, so why should it cost more money? Well, airlines typically price flights with a connection at a lower rate than directs because the latter are often in higher demand.

But airlines hate it, and in fact, most contracts of carriage from major airlines expressly forbid it. If an airline catches you trying to skiplag, it could cancel your whole itinerary. So even if it saves you a few bucks, don’t risk it

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