How to Score a Cheap Flight

By Sofe Travel Editors
Posted on

Whether this is your first time traveling or you’re a seasoned traveler, this information will prove helpful as you begin to book your flights. Purchasing the cheapest and most direct roundtrip ticket from your nearest airport to the starting point of your Meetup Tour is obviously the easiest way to do it, but it isn’t always the cheapest. If you’re looking to potentially save hundreds on your flights, consider the following tips and process for booking.

When to Book

Depending on how far in advance you’ve confirmed your Meetup Tour, a good rule of thumb is to book as soon as you know you’re going. Rarely do airline tickets get cheaper as your departure date approaches. In general, the best window of time to book international flights is about two to three months before your departure date, and even earlier (five months ahead) if you know that you’ll be traveling to a destination during its peak tourist season. The reason for this is that budget airlines typically offer their lowest rates as a baseline price. As these tickets sell out, the remaining tickets increase in cost.

The Flight Booking Process

When you are ready to book, follow these steps to find the best fare and combination of flights to and from your destination.

Step 1: Perform a Broad Search

A good starting point for this broad flight search is Google Flights. Just keep in mind that not all carriers or region-specific airlines may be included in the results. That’s okay. This initial search is simply meant to give you an idea of the prices and possibilities for getting to and from your final destination. It’s also a chance to experiment with alternative departure and arrival airports that may be offering cheaper fares. We recommend having a pen and paper nearby or your Notes app open as you explore fares so that you can jot down and keep track of all possibilities for later review.

Once you’re on Google Flights, click on the “Explore” tab. There you can enter your departure city and your specific dates. You can also play around with one-way and round-trip flights as well to see which might save you more money for your dates. Oftentimes, it can be cheaper to buy two one-way flights, with your “to” flight being into or out of one airport and your return flight being into or out of a completely different airport. Keep in mind that some of our Meetup Tours do in fact start and end in different cities, so be sure to check your Meetup Tour itinerary before beginning your flight search. 

To start your fare exploring, keep the “where to?” field as broad as possible. For example, if ultimately you know that you need to fly into and out of Lima, Peru, start by searching with “Peru” or even “South America” in the “where to?” field. The reason being that there may be an even cheaper destination in Peru or South America that you could fly into. From there, you can book an often cheaper domestic or regional flight to Lima. The same goes for your departure city on the front end or your arrival city on the back end of your tour. It may be cheaper to fly into or out of another city in your home country and to book a cheap domestic flight to your final destination from there. The key here is to think creatively and explore all possibilities and prices.  

As you’re exploring on Google Flights, it’s smart to have a second or even third tab or window open for quickly plugging in those more domestic or regional flight itineraries. Specifically take note of how much that alternative route costs and if all of the flight times and legs align.

Step 2: Check for an Even Better Deal

Once you feel as though you’ve determined the cheapest flight path to get to and from your destination, it’s time to see if there’s an even better deal out there that Google Flights may have missed. To start, check out some other popular fare finder tools like Skyscanner and Momondo, both of which incorporate some of those budget airlines Google Flights tends to leave out. 

Another good idea is to check prices directly on the website of the airlines you’ve determined are the cheapest, as they may have an even lower fare listed than Google Flights, Skyscanner, or Momondo are showing. 

Finally, it’s worth doing a quick Google search to see if there are any other well-rated domestic or regional airlines in your destination that you haven’t seen come back on Skyscanner or Momondo. If you do come across any airlines that you haven’t yet taken into account, throw in your dates and destinations on that airline’s website to see if they’re offering an even cheaper fare than what you’ve found already.

Step 3: Make Your Decision and Book

At this point in the process, you should have all of the information you need to pick your itinerary and book your flights. Be especially careful to verify the entire route. When it comes to mixing and matching airlines across many sites and tools, mistakes can be made. Run through the itinerary you’re thinking of booking one more time. Make sure all dates and times sequentially flow with enough time between flights in case there are any mishaps or delays en route. Also make sure that you’ve read all of the fine print, especially if you’ll be flying on budget airlines, so that there are no financial surprises later. Things like bag fees, airport check in fees, etc.

Once you feel confident that you have an itinerary that works, book it. Remember that most airlines do allow you to cancel within 24 hours of booking, so there is a bit of a buffer if you do later realize that you made a mistake. We suggest setting an alarm on your phone at the time of booking for 23 hours later. This will give you a chance to triple check that what you’ve booked still works and it gives you some wiggle room to make adjustments if necessary.