Tips From a Former Airline Employee on How to Find Deals and Book Cheap International Flights.
The inspiration for this article on how to get cheap international flights came from a discovery I made while working for airlines: how you make your searches can have a SIGNIFICANT impact on the price you see for the same flights.
Any traveler is aware that Google Flights and other aggregators (such as Skyscanner, Kayak, and others) save us a significant amount of time. These websites compare the prices of dozens, if not hundreds, of airlines in seconds.
They are not giving you the best deals for international travel.
In the following paragraphs, I’ll go over five key points for using flight search engines to your advantage.
- How to search flights from multiple airports (and use that to save money!)
- What is the cheapest month to fly to Europe?
- How to find international travel deals.
- How to find the cheapest flights to ANYWHERE.
(PS: If you are into budget traveling, check our article about the 3 most inexpensive and charming cities to visit in Europe during winter)
Tools to Find Cheap International Light Deals: Travel Dates, Hidden Airfare, and More.
It may sound not credible if I tell you that there is a proven method to find the cheapest flights for a given destination.
Because there is not! At least not one that works for every single airline.
BUT… there are a few methods that work for many cases.
People would be surprised with what they don´t do (at least not very efficiently) and the opportunities to save considerable money they waste.
A good part of the low-cost carriers, (like RyanAir, Wizzair, EasyJet, etc) operates in a system called “point-to-point” network, differently than legacy carriers (those that are not low cost) like Lufthansa, Emirates, British Airways, and many others that operate in a Hub and spoke network.
That means that low-cost companies, in general, sell a ticket to fly from one city to another without any stop in between, while legacy (or national) carriers have stops called hubs (like Lufthansa have in Frankfurt or Emirates in Dubai).
The answer is in how you look for a ticket price on the internet. Most people will simply search for the price of the tickets from the place where they are departing to where they are arriving. Always check for some of the best flight search engines.
Therefore, if you are planning to travel from Warsaw to New York, you can enter Kayak or Google Flights and look for flights departing from WAW airport to JFK (for example). It will show to you a lot of options, and currently, a round trip between those two cities would cost around 430 euros the cheapest option, with one or two stops in the way.
However, it is currently possible to travel from Warsaw to JFK for 285 euros. Regrettably, Google Flights and the majority of aggregators will not show me that.
The answer is simple:
International Budget Airlines Not Always Present o Google
In the case mentioned above, the cheapest way would be to fly to Norway with two of the low-cost carriers that do the route from Warsaw to Oslo. From them take another low-cost flight to New York.
Google will not show you that because those airlines work in a point-to-point system, as I mentioned above, remember? They are not optimized to sell flights with a stop in the way. But if you create this stop by purchasing two separate tickets, you can find much better prices.
Finding the Cheapest International Flight Tickets From Multiple Airports (Use That to Save Money!)
This will also answer another question you may have about how to get cheap flights during holidays, which is:
How to Get The Fare for Multi-City Flights
This is a very useful method for people who live in large metropolitan areas with numerous options for getting to and from the airport. If your first choice is too expensive, you can find cheaper options by searching multiple airports at once.
Delta Airlines is a good example of this, as they have flights from almost every city in the United States. They do, however, only fly out of specific airports. If you look at the prices on their website and compare them to Skyscanner or Google Flights, you’ll probably find that the prices are slightly lower when you include an airport that Delta does not serve in your search.
There are a few reasons why you should look for flights from multiple airports. One advantage is that you can use the partners of your preferred airline, which can sometimes be less expensive than the main carrier.
Assume you want to fly from Paris to Rome. EasyJet operates flights from Paris-Charles de Gaulle (CDG) to Rome Fiumicino (FCO) (FCO). The direct flight would cost between €100 and €120. Ryanair, on the other hand, flies from Paris-Orly (ORY) to Rome Ciampino (CIA), which is only 30 minutes away by bus. On Google Flights or Skyscanner, you can book this flight for as little as €30 roundtrip. **
Another reason to look into multiple airports is if you want to fly with a different airline than the one that serves your departure city. There is only one direct flight per day between Paris CDG and Barcelona El Prat Airport, for example (BCN). If you wanted to fly with Vueling or EasyJet instead of Air France, you’d have to take a train or bus through Madrid. However, if you search flights departing from both CDG and ORY, you will find a variety of options per day, the cheapest of which is €76 on Vueling.
How to Find Cheap International Flight Deals to Europe?
- The late fall and winter months are the most inexpensive times to visit Europe.
- The most affordable cities are typically large metropolitan areas with multiple airports, such as London, Rome, or Paris.
- As stated before, using a search engine, such as Google Flights, Kayak, or TripAdvisor, is the best way to find cheap flights. These websites will show you the cheapest routes and layovers in order to get you where you want to go.
- You can also check this article where we listed the 6 cheapest cities to fly to in Europe if you live in North America.
Some other general tips to find cheap international flights to Europe:
- Experiment with flying into and out of various airports. This allows you to capitalize on the fact that airlines frequently sell tickets for routes with layovers but no actual stops. By flying into and out of the same airport, you can sometimes save money by avoiding additional baggage and seat selection fees.
- Avoid traveling during peak hours, when prices are higher (particularly around holidays). Instead, aim for off-peak travel times — midweek and shoulder seasons have the best airfare deals.
- Make your reservation between 3 to 1 month before departure. This is not a fixed rule but by my own experience of someone with over 100 flights in Europe. Airlines release lower-priced tickets earlier than higher-priced tickets, so the sooner you book, the better off you’ll be.
- If you’re looking for the absolute lowest price, consider alternate airports and routes — look at your options on a map before booking.
Beyond Booking Airline Tickets: How to Find Cheap Holiday Deals!
Holiday deals usually pop up around major holidays. If you’re flexible, you can easily find incredible deals by traveling last minute.
Last-Minute websites (I wrote before about my experience with last-minute websites) are also good if you are looking for bundled packages with hotels and flights. There are a lot of coupon sites out there like Groupon, Travelzoo, or LivingSocial that offer packaged travel deals.
If you don’t mind being flexible with your travel dates, try searching some of the following sites:
- Omio – This is a website where people can look for and book travel tickets for discounted prices. In Europe, you can do one search to compare trains, buses, and flights. For buses, there is also BusBud.
- CheapOair – Through its extensive agreements with top travel companies and a wide range of options, CheapOair is a leading source of airline tickets, hotel rooms, rental cars, and holiday packages.
Other Tips to Book Cheap International Flights to Any Destination
Use the 24-hour rule for airline tickets
When you spot a good offer, get it!
Super cheap airfares are seldom available for long. And, while it may appear scary, you have a reason to be bold with your purchase.
It’s known as the 24-hour rule.
All airlines in the United States are required by law to provide consumers with the right to seek a full refund for practically any flight within 24 hours after booking. It makes no difference whether you book with a domestic or international airline. You’re insured if your flight lands in the United States.
That means you can book a ticket for an awesome price as soon as you see it, then check if it works for you and coordinate the schedule of your family or companion.
Did your partner reject the idea of traveling on these dates? Cancel your flight within 24 hours and receive a full refund, no questions asked.
As explained by Conde Nast, however, it’s important to note that the 24-hour rule does not apply in a handful of cases:
- Flights booked at the last minute may not be eligible. Each airline’s policy varies, however some will not observe the 24-hour limit if you book with less than seven days of antecipation before departure.
- While most airlines will respect the 24-hour rule, many OTA (third-part websites that sell tickets, like Expedia) may not honor it.
Use Google Explore to discover flights to (literally) anywhere
This is probably my favorite of all the tips described here. It not only helped me to save money but to discover some insanely nice (and off-the-path) destinations like Georgia.
We’ve all been there: tired or in dire need of a holiday or getaway. “Just get me on the next flight out of here; I don’t care where it goes as long as it’s inexpensive.”
Google Flights features this little tool called Explore that can assist you in finding the cheapest ticket to any place in the world.
The Explore tool displays all flights departing from one or more selected departure airports to cities all over the world, as well as their corresponding fares.
You can choose to travel to Europe or go wherever you wish. You may also filter by the number of stops, the price range, the duration, the date, and so on.
It is really simple to use:
- Enter Google Flights
- Next, click the button written ‘Explore’ on the left side (if you are using a desktop), or in the menu, if you are on a mobile phone.
- Inside Explore, you can enter your departure hub in the top left while leaving the destination hub open to explore anywhere.
Conclusion: Tips to Find Cheap International Airline Tickets
Booking international flights doesn’t have to burn a hole in your pocket. With a little research and flexibility, finding a cheap international airfare is easier than you might think. Start by searching for flights several months in advance, as historical data suggests this is often the best time to book. Don’t just settle for round trip bookings; sometimes, booking two one-way flights along the same route can be more cost-effective. And remember, flight prices are subject to change, so keep an eye out for the best deals.
If you’re looking for cheap international flights, consider flying on less popular days of the week. Airlines may offer lower prices on days when there’s less demand. Also, don’t shy away from connecting flights. While they might add a bit of travel time, they can significantly save on international airfare. Loyalty programs offered by airlines, like American Airlines, can be a goldmine. Join them, score points each time you travel, and redeem these points to save on future journeys.
Lastly, always read the terms and conditions before booking. While cancellation policies or other stipulations might seem tedious, they’re crucial to understand.
Were you familiar with any of these tips to find cheap international flights? Tell me in the comment section!
Levi Borba is the founder of The Expatriate Consultancy, creator of the channel The Expat, and best-selling author. Some of the links of this article may be affiliate links, meaning that the author will have a commission for any transaction.