Travel hacks for finding cheap flights you can apply today
You have probably heard of at least one person who flies around the world thanks to collecting miles and opening credit card accounts. But these travel hacks take time and work mostly in North America. There are many other next level tricks that make traveling affordable. They work for everyone and don’t require that much effort or time. The travel hacking rabbit hole is deep but it doesn’t have to be complicated. All you need is a little time, imagination, and flexibility.
I recently booked flights to Dubai, Dar es Salaam, Johannesburg, Cape Town and Hong Kong for less than $900 in total. The same itinerary would have cost me between $1400 or $2500 if booked with one of the RTW ticket providers. And I even saved an extra $200 by doing my own research and by knowing some hacks most people don’t.
Add an extra flight and go one way
It sounds counter logical but adding an extra flight to a third destination can often reduce the cost of your ticket. You pay less and travel more. This travel hack works especially well with budget airlines. Never book a return flight with the same budget airline. Let’s say you are traveling from Milan to London. You might find your outbound flight for $20 but then the return flight will be $130. This is how the airline makes money. You see a cheap flight to somewhere, get excited, and by the time you are adding a return you have already typed your credit card number. In total, you will pay $150. But then let’s say that you find another cheap one-way ticket from London to Amsterdam for $35. The magic works when you find a city which has a cheap one-way flight from London and to Milan. So then you find a flight back to Milan from Amsterdam for $40. These prices are random but I have compiled similar itineraries in the past. In total, you will pay $95 instead of $170 and will also check an extra country.
This hack also works with regular airlines, although not as good. In this case, you won’t save much money but you will get to travel more. When it comes to travel hacking, the phrase multi-city is key. Sometimes a multi-city ticket to 3 destinations can be almost the same price as a return flight to one destination. I once flew from Istanbul to New York, San Francisco, Miami and back to Istanbul for $700. I return ticket from Istanbul to New York would have cost me between $500 and $600 at the time.
Search, search, search… and then cross-check
Comparing the prices on Kayak, Expedia, Orbitz and Skyscanner won’t get you big results. You may or may not find that one option is cheaper and book it. This is how you half-ass travel hacking. All these websites are search engines. And what is the best search engine? Google, obviously. Google Flights is a powerful tool for finding the best options, especially if you are flying to multiple destinations. You can put the city of your departure and it will pull a map with flight costs to every city in the world. You can also try the “I’m feeling lucky” option or track price changes. Google Flights pulls and compares price information from all other booking websites. It is also worth cross-checking with Kiwi.com which uses the same search methods but also has an option to search within a radius on the map to find the cheapest destination to fly to or from.
Create your own layout option
Sometimes a flight with a layover will be cheaper than a direct flight. But it’s also worth checking the same flights separately. When looking for flights between Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Cape Town, South Africa, the cheapest option I got was for $270 with a layover in Johannesburg. A separate flight from Dar es Salaam to Johannesburg was $169. I then found a flight between Johannesburg and Dar es Salaam for less than $50. That’s an instant $49 in the bank. This option is great if you want to spend an extra few days in a new city or if you are traveling without a checked luggage. Make sure you have at least two hours between flights.
Pay in local currency
Book directly with the airline and pay in the local currency of your departure destination. Airlines, travel agents, and third-party booking websites will often offer you a terrible exchange rate when converting to a currency of your choice. When paying in the local currency, you are exchanging money at the rate of your credit or debit card company (Visa, Mastercard, American Express, etc.). This rate is better than your bank’s rate and is very close to the official one. Keep in mind that Visa cards will convert your money through EUR while Mastercard is tied to USD.
Browse in incognito mode
When you look for flights you keep refreshing, search different options and dates, you open the airline’s websites several times. This sometimes makes the prices you see to go up. Delete your cookies or open an incognito mode window and check if there is a difference.
Pick airlines from one air alliance
You can earn miles with one airline and then spend them with another partner airline if both are in the same air alliance. Star Alliance, SkyTeam and Oneworld are the largest ones. There is also Value Alliance, Vanilla Alliance, and U-FLY Alliance that are smaller and more regional. If prices are similar, go for the airline that is part of the alliance which members fly to the countries you will most likely go to in the future. There is also a way to exchange your points with Points.com.