How to Get Cheap Flights in 2024: Save over half of the airfare.

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Getting cheap flights may seem impossible these days. Between rising fuel costs, packed planes, and busy travel seasons, airfare can be ridiculously expensive. But I’m here to tell you that scoring affordable flights is absolutely possible, even in 2024.

With some strategic planning, flexibility, and smart booking techniques, you can find budget-friendly airfare for your next trip. I regularly fly domestically and internationally for a fraction of what most other travelers pay. After years of experience and insider knowledge, I’ve mastered the art of finding cheap flights.

In this comprehensive guide, I’m sharing all my tried-and-true tips for getting affordable airfare in the new year. These actionable strategies can save you hundreds of dollars on your next airline ticket. You’ll learn how to:

  • Take advantage of the best days and times to book flights
  • Find error fares and flight deals
  • Use flight search engines effectively
  • Leverage airline sales and promotions
  • Book with budget airlines and lesser-known carriers
  • Get significant discounts on airfare as a student or senior
  • Use miles, points, and cash back to lower flight costs
  • Avoid extra fees that drive up your total ticket cost

Follow these pro tips to become a master of finding cheap flights in 2024 and beyond.

The Best Time to Book Cheap Flights

Timing is everything when it comes to getting the lowest airfare. By booking at the optimal time, you can maximize your chance of scoring a deal. Here are the ideal timeframes for purchasing affordable plane tickets:

Book Early for Domestic Flights

For domestic trips, aim to book flights about 1-3 months in advance. This “Goldilocks window” is late enough that airlines have released most of their seats into the system but early enough that you beat the huge price spikes that happen within 21-14 days of departure.

Last-minute domestic bookings almost always cost more. Airlines know that travelers scrambling to finalize trip plans close to their date of travel are willing to pay higher fares.

Booking 6+ months out can also be risky for domestic flights. Airlines typically haven’t loaded their full schedules and seat availability that far out, so your flight options will be limited. And if you need to change your travel dates, you’ll likely get slapped with hefty change fees.

Book International Flights 4-8 Months Out

For international trips, the prime booking window is 4-8 months before departure. This gives you the best shot at finding affordable economy class tickets before they sell out.

International flights often have less daily frequency than domestic routes. Waiting too long to book can mean getting stuck on itineraries with long layovers or less ideal flight times.

It’s also wise to book far enough in advance that you can reschedule if needed. Changing dates on international tickets gets very expensive within 2-3 months of departure.

Allow More Time for Peak Dates

If you’re traveling during busy seasons like summer or the December holidays, add even more lead time. The most desirable flights for popular travel periods sell out fast.

Aim to book summer travel by January or February and winter holiday flights by August or September. This ensures you get the best selection of affordable fare classes.

Last-minute trips during peak dates will be seriously expensive. The few seats still available this close to departure will be premium economy, business class, and first class tickets.

Be Flexible with Your Travel Dates and Airport

One of the easiest ways to find cheap airfare is to be flexible with your travel. Avoid boxing yourself into one exact set of dates and a single airport.

If possible, look at airfare for a range of dates around your ideal timeframe. Flying a day earlier or later can make a huge difference in ticket cost.

Expanding your airport options also opens up more possibilities. Sometimes flying out of a nearby airport can be drastically cheaper even after you calculate transportation costs to get there.

Don’t let yourself get fixated on only your perfect option. Stay open to reasonable alternatives and you’ll likely find some great affordable flight deals.

Consistently Check Flight Prices

Airfare fluctuates constantly, meaning that cheap seats you find today could be gone tomorrow. Signing up for airfare alerts and checking back regularly on ticket prices for your desired route increases your chance of scoring a deal.

Many flight search engines like Kayak and Google Flights offer price tracking features. You can set custom alerts for a specific route and get notified if fare prices drop. This way you’ll never miss a good deal that pops up spontaneously.

Checking flight prices daily or every few days in the month leading up to your travel window provides other opportunities. You may find a short-term sale, special promo, or pricing mistake that makes airfare temporarily very low. Being vigilant ensures you can snag these deals before they disappear.

Persistence and patience are key when searching for budget-friendly flights. The more often you check, the better the odds of catching an affordable airfare.

Look for Hidden City Ticketing Deals

An extremely effective way to get cheap flights is using the hidden city ticketing strategy. This is when you book travel based on your layover destination rather than your final arrival city.

For example, let’s say you live in Orlando and want to fly to Los Angeles. A direct flight would normally cost $350. However, you find an itinerary from Orlando to San Francisco with a layover in LA for only $250.

By purchasing this flight but disembarking in LA, you’ve just saved $100 on airfare. This works because airlines price flights based on mileage, and a trip with a layover costs less.

The key to hidden city ticketing is only bringing carry-on baggage. Since your ticketed final destination is further than where you actually get off, you won’t be able to check bags. Some other tips:

  • Be sure your layover city is at least 2 hours to leave buffer time for deplaning
  • Double check that the layover is a connection with the same airline to avoid risks
  • Read up on airline policies, as some expressly prohibit hidden city ticketing

When done correctly, this brilliant strategy can lead to major savings on airfare. The key is finding routing with a suitable layover that nets a lower fare.

Book Directly with Budget Airlines

Another way to score seriously cheap flights is to book directly through budget airlines. These include carriers like:

  • Spirit Airlines
  • Frontier Airlines
  • Allegiant Air
  • Sun Country Airlines
  • Breeze Airways

By cutting amenities and features, these airlines are able to offer bare bones airfare at discounted rates. It’s not uncommon to find flights for as low as $50-$100 each way.

Just know that budget airlines make up costs elsewhere through à la carte pricing for seat selection, carry-on bags, checked luggage, onboard food/drink, etc. As long as you travel light and don’t mind a no-frills experience, the base airfare itself will be extremely affordable.

Restricting yourself to only legacy airline booking sites like Orbitz and Expedia can cause you to miss out on budget airline deals. Always check the low-cost carrier sites directly as part of your research.

Use Flight Search Engines Wisely

Flight search engines like Kayak, Google Flights, and Skyscanner are amazing resources for finding affordable airfare. But simply entering your route in these sites isn’t enough. You need to leverage their tools strategically to reveal the lowest fares.

Make sure to check both nearby airports as well as the “Explore Destinations” tool on Google Flights. This map feature lets you easily see if a cheap flight deal exists to a city within driving distance of your intended destination.

When searching for dates, never just look at airfare for the single set of dates you have in mind. Be sure to check the calendar view for at least a week or two around your ideal travel timeframe. This will expose any cheaper days for flying.

It’s also essential to try searching for one-way flights rather than round-trip tickets. You’d be surprised how often two one-ways are cheaper than a round-trip booking. Don’t limit yourself to only rounded fares.

Lastly, always compare true costs across airlines. Some airlines include basic amenities like seat selection or checked bags, while you have to pay extra for them on budget carriers. Make sure you understand the true final price.

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Use Flight Deal Subscriptions and Alert Services

One of the best ways to effortlessly find cheap flight deals is through flight deal subscription services like Scott’s Cheap Flights. These sites do the heavy lifting for you by curating and sending deals on popular routes worldwide.

Scott’s Cheap Flights and apps like Hopper will track thousands of fares and then notify you when an exceptionally low rate becomes available for your home airport. This allows you to instantly book cheap flights with no hassle or constant searching.

Most services offer tiered subscription plans. For a small yearly fee, you’ll get customized alerts for cheap international and domestic airfare that align with your home airport and travel preferences. Upgrading to premium subscriptions provides access to even more exclusive discounted flight deals and perks.

Combine Miles, Points, and Cash Back

If you want to take your cheap flight finding to the expert level, start combining mileage programs, travel points, and cash back. This triple threat strategy can drop airfare prices to unbelievably low levels.

First, sign up for airline frequent flyer programs, hotel rewards programs, and credit card points systems like Chase Ultimate Rewards. Then start accumulating serious points and miles through your daily spending and travel.

Once you have a healthy balance of miles or points, look for opportunities to book “award flights.” Most programs allow you to use miles to book tickets with little to no cash cost.

Next, link your points accounts to your credit card that offers the highest cash back rewards rate on travel purchases. The cash back will automatically lower your out-of-pocket costs, creating huge savings.

With the right planning and strategy, you can even achieve the coveted dream of free flights through churning credit card rewards. Just make sure to avoid debt by paying balances off in full each month.

Watch for Airfare Sales and Promotions

Keep an eye out for airfare sales and promotions when searching for cheap plane tickets. Airlines frequently run limited-time specials that discount flights, waive fees, and offer travel vouchers or bonus miles.

For example, Delta and United often discount domestic flights by 15% or more during seasonal sales. Other airlines offer occasional mystery fare deals where you book now and find out the destination later.

Make sure to follow airlines, flight deal sites, and travel blogs on social media for news about specials and sales. Limited-time deals will sell out fast, so knowing early is key. Consider setting up alerts for sales announcements from your favorite carriers.

Sometimes you’ll also find one-time promotional discounts offered through third-party services like Groupon and LivingSocial. Paying attention across channels ensures you never miss a deal opportunity.

Book with Lesser-Known Carriers

Major legacy airlines like United, Delta, and American Airlines usually dominate flight search results. But lesser-known carriers actually often provide ways to get cheap plane tickets.

JetBlue, Alaska Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, and Frontier are examples of smaller carriers that frequently offer very competitively priced fares on domestic routes they service. Taking a few extra clicks to check their options can reveal more affordable options.

Some international regions are also serviced by smaller local carriers that offer budget-friendly pricing. When searching flights to Central/South America or Asia, dig deeper for deals from carriers like Volaris, AirAsia, and Cebu Pacific.

Avoid overlooking airline options that don’t immediately come to mind. You might just discover some cheap flights you won’t find on Expedia’s front page.

Use Student and Senior Discounts

Special discounts exclusive to students and senior citizens can unlock cheap flights not available to the general public. Airlines offer discounted airfare to these groups year-round.

Students aged 13-25 enrolled in a high school, college, or university qualify for student rates from major carriers like United and Delta. Discounts are typically 10%-15% off economy fares.

Seniors aged 65+ also get access to senior airfare deals across most airlines. American Airlines even offers an up to 65% discount for seniors on domestic economy flights purchased at least seven days in advance.

Make sure to look up your airline’s policy and have proper ID/documentation ready to prove your eligibility for these discounts at checkout. Taking five minutes to verify student or senior status will guarantee the lowest fares.

Avoid Unnecessary Fees

The published base airfare is just one component of your total flight cost. Various airline fees can dramatically drive up the final price you pay if you’re not careful. Avoiding unnecessary fees is crucial for getting truly cheap flights.

First, always travel with carry-on luggage only if possible. Most airlines charge $30-$50 each way to check a bag, which adds up quickly. Packing light and avoiding fees for checked baggage will ensure the lowest possible airfare.

Also, pick your seat carefully when booking to dodge change fees. Many airlines make seat selection an extra cost or restrict seats with extra legroom to premium fare classes. Skip upgrading your seat and just take what’s available for free to prevent unneeded charges being tacked on after booking.

Lastly, saying no to add-ons like onboard WiFi and in-flight food/drinks keeps your total ticket cost down. Every individual item you pay for inflates your final fare.

Book Connecting Flights with Layovers

Nonstop flights are convenient, but they also tend to be more expensive. An easy way to score cheap airfare is to book connecting flights with a layover instead.

Layover routings are almost always more affordable than nonstop options for the same route. Although it takes a bit more time, the hundreds of dollars in potential savings are often worth an extra hour or two mid-journey.

Just be sure to leave at least 90 minutes between connections in case of any delays. I recommend 2+ hours if booking separate tickets on different airlines. This ensures you have plenty of buffer and won’t risk misconnecting.

Be willing to spend a few hours in a layover city in exchange for cheap flights to your final destination. It’s one of the simplest and most effective ways to lower your airfare costs.

Use Private Airport Shuttles

If your local airport doesn’t offer many affordable flight options, check routes from surrounding regional airports. Flying out of a smaller airport can lead to huge savings.

For example, I live in Portland, OR – flights from the main PDX airport are often very expensive. But when I book from smaller airports like Eugene (2 hours away) or Bellingham, WA (3 hours), I frequently find airfare hundreds of dollars cheaper.

To make this strategy work without the high cost of airport parking, use private airport shuttle services like Groome Transportation. For around $50 each way, private vans will whisk you from your home to surrounding regional airports that have cheaper flights.

When you calculate the shuttle fees plus airfare savings, this tactic puts money back in your pocket. I use private shuttles constantly to access major flight deals from alternate airports.

Book Mistake Fares Quickly

Every so often, airlines make glitches that result in drastically discounted mistake airfares. These are wildly low prices generally caused by computer errors in the booking system.

Mistake fares don’t happen often, but when they do it’s like winning the lottery. You may find $200 round-trip flights to Europe or $50 fares between major US cities if you get lucky.

The problem is mistake fares disappear fast, sometimes within hours. You have to act immediately after discovering them to book before the airline fixes the pricing error.

Setting fare alerts and checking flight search engines frequently improves your odds of catching these magical mistake fares. Being ready to book them instantly is key to actually scoring the deals for yourself.

Use Credit Card Rewards

There are dozens of travel credit cards that offer seriously generous rewards and bonuses. When used strategically, premium travel credit cards can helpyou book flights for pennies on the dollar.

Cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred offer 60,000+ signup points after meeting a minimum spend threshold. Their points can then be used to book travel including flights.

Even no annual fee cards like the Wells Fargo Propel American Express card offer solid rewards on travel purchases. The points can be redeemed for statement credits to erase flight costs.

Just make sure to always pay off card balances in full each month to avoid negating any rewards with interest charges. When used responsibly, travel credit cards take cheap flights to the next level.

How to Find Cheap International Flights

Scoring bargains on international flights involves some different strategies beyond domestic airfare deals. Here are the best ways to find affordable airfare for overseas trips:

Look for Discounted Economy Tickets

Most airlines offer tiered international economy fares based on amenity restrictions, changeability, and prior purchase. The upside is major savings potential on the lowest bookable fares.

For example, Delta’s economy tickets range from flexible but expensive V-class fares to super budget but restrictive Basic Economy U-class. U can be hundreds cheaper than V for the same route.

Just know that basic economy has drawbacks like no seat selection and no changes allowed after purchase. The trade-off for rock-bottom pricing is less flexibility and amenities.

Fly Budget Carriers on Short Haul Routes

European and Asian budget carriers like RyanAir, EasyJet, AirAsia, and Peach Aviation have expanded like crazy in recent years. Their ultra-cheap base fares make short haul international flights very affordable.

I’m talking prices as low as $15-$50 between nearby countries on routes under 3 hours long. The budget experience isn’t for everyone, but the airfare savings are undeniable.

These carriers open up cheap flights on routes like London to Dublin, Berlin to Prague, Bangkok to Phuket, Seoul to Tokyo, and thousands more pairings. Be sure to check their options for short regional hops.

Book Connecting Flights

Similar to domestic airfare, aim for connecting flights on international journeys rather than nonstop routing. The layover options create many more possibilities for finding affordable fares.

For example, flying from Los Angeles to London nonstop could be $800 or more. But booking a connection through Iceland on Icelandair might be $250 cheaper. The 1-2 hour layover is worth hundreds in savings.

I like using ExpertFlyer to search segment by segment and build connections between multiple airlines. You can find combinations the normal flight search engines don’t show.

Be aware of risks like misconnecting if booking separate tickets. But with ample connection time, using stops in international gateway cities leads to huge potential savings.

Consider Alternative Airports

Check all the airports serving a particular region when searching international flights. Some airports consistently offer cheaper deals than the main hub.

Flying into London Stansted, Treviso near Venice, and Frankfurt Hahn are good examples of alternate airports that frequently have discounted airfare to European destinations.

The same idea applies for Asian gateway cities like Tokyo, Bangkok, Hong Kong, and Singapore. The smaller regional airports provide budget access to these popular hubs.

You’ll often have to catch a short cheap commuter flight or ride a bus from alternate airports into the city center. But the total trip savings generally outweigh the transfer costs.

Fly Through Major Hubs Like Doha and Dubai

Two international airlines in particular offer ridiculously cheap fares when flying through their Middle Eastern hubs – Qatar Airways via Doha and Emirates via Dubai.

By booking a stopover in one of these cities on the way to your destination, you can score much lower airfare. For example, flights from the US East Coast to India are often hundreds less expensive when routed through Doha.

Both Qatar Airways and Emirates also frequently run global fare sales offering discounts of 25% to 50% off economy class tickets. Jumping on one of these promos is an easy win.

The only caveat is you’ll typically need an 8+ hour layover in Doha or Dubai to make these routes work. But you can just spend a night or two exploring the cities for an enriching mid-journey stop.

Maximizing Flight Deals with Memberships, Tools, and Resources

In addition to smart booking strategies, there are memberships, tools, and resources that provide access to low airfares not visible to the general public. Here are some of my favorites:

Google Flights Price Tracking

Google Flights has an incredibly useful price tracking tool. Just set your desired route and dates, then click “Track Prices.” Google will watch fares and email you anytime prices drop. This helps you jump on deals fast.

Scott’s Cheap Flights Premium

For access to the widest range of cheap international flight deals, a Scott’s Cheap Flights Premium subscription can’t be beat. Their deal experts dig up and email the best mistake fares and sales they find globally.

Dollar Flight Club Premium

Similar to Scott’s Cheap Flights, Dollar Flight Club Premium sends amazing domestic and international flight deals right to your inbox. Their sweet spot is finding peak season airfare sales that unlock cheaper flights during holiday periods.

Fare Deal Alert

For a free option, sign up for Fare Deal Alert’s email list. They send periodic cheap flight deals from major US cities to popular destinations in Europe and beyond. Deals come a few times per month rather than daily.

ExpertFlyer Flight Alerts

ExpertFlyer has a powerful flight alert tool that monitors fares based on specific routes, classes of service, fare types, and more. It’s ideal for sales involving premium cabins. There’s a cost to setup monitoring, but some deals are free.

Airline Email Lists

Sign up directly with your favorite airlines to get emails about their private flash sales and promotions. This ensures you’re the first to know when they release discounted fares.

Travel Blogs and Forums

Avid travelers share intel on sites like FlyerTalk, The Flight Deal, and Thrifty Traveler. You’ll discover flight deals and booking strategies you won’t find elsewhere.

Be Persistent and Flexible

At the end of the day, finding affordable airfare requires equal parts persistence and flexibility. Be willing to regularly check flight prices, tweak travel dates and airports, and pounce when discounted seats become available.

Cheap flights won’t just appear in your lap. But armed with the right insider knowledge, tools, and techniques, scoring budget-friendly deals is absolutely within your reach.

Start implementing the tips from this guide and you’ll be on your way to big savings. Happy travels and may cheap flights be in your future!

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