Have you ever spent several hours looking for a plane ticket? Are you even certain you paid the best price?
While booking a plane ticket can be a daunting & expensive task, as almost anything, it’s hackable given the right process & tools! I’ve been using those cheap flight hacks for years & have verified that they work in most parts of the world including Europe, North & South America as well as South-East Asia.
A plane ticket is a backbone and a big expanse of any long distance or digital nomad trip. So how can you optimize your plane ticket research process, flight type, price & improve your overall experience?
The Cheap Flight Hacks Booking Process
First things first.
Here is the process I have been using for years when booking a plane ticket. Without processes & checklists in place, we’re all headless chicken not optimizing our time & money.
Read below to get the detail on how to use those hacks and get bonus ones!
1. Use Google Flights / Momondo / Ctrip (Asia) to get ; you first idea of available flights & prices at flexible dates.
Interesting story: While in Thailand, I was looking for a flight to Mandalay Myanmar. While looking on Google Flights, I saw that, even if the flight was at CAD$500 everywhere online, I could get it at CAD$100 from street travel agents. You bet I bought mine in the street!
2. Based all the advice below, choose the specific flight you want.
3. Use Hopper to find out if it’s the best time to buy the plane ticket. It’ll tell you if it’s the right time to buy your ticket.
When you’re ready to book:
4. Use Google to find discounts
5. Use the Private mode + VPN hacks to get the best price possible
6. At equal price, buy from the airline website
7. Pop a bottle of Champagne with the money you just saved!
The best flight type for your trip might not be the one you were thinking of. It’s often worth a little research and it’s another nifty cheap flight hack!
- Two one-way flights can be cheaper than one return flight.
This also gives you much more flexibility for your trip regarding where you’re leaving from and coming back to.
For instance, going from Montreal to Bangkok and then from Bali to France made my trip planning much cheaper, not to mention easier!
- For long round-the-world trips, consider STA Travel
If you’re going on a long trip and plan on doing multiple long-distance flights, Multi-City Flight Routes might be the way to go. Make sure to choose the MultiFLEX passes to be able to change your tickets for free.
- Have extra time? Care for a stop over?
When to Buy?
Choosing when to buy your ticket can give you a headache. You might have heard weird numbers like “47 days” or “3 months” as cheap flight hack when it comes to when you should buy your plane ticket. I don’t trust unproven general advice.
Instead, I prefer relying on machine learning with Hopper to tell me when to buy my plane tickets. Based on historical data for your flight segment, this app tells you when to buy your ticket and gives you updates via notifications, a no-brainer!
Geeky Technical Hacks
It’s no secret geeks have it good. What if I told you their hacks are also available to you?
- Switch your browser to private mode (or clear your cookies)
This one is a no brainer. Booking & airlines websites use your cookies to keep in memory that you’ve been looking for a specific flight (interest on your end) to raise prices the next time you visit their websites. Don’t give them a chance to know it’s you again: go anonymous!
This cheap flight hack alone allowed me to save 15% on a flight ticket with Vietnam airlines in June.
Ps: the shortcut is CMD+SHIFT+N on Macs and CTRL+SHIFT+N if you’re on a PC.
- Use a VPN to trick airlines companies regarding your location
Plane ticket prices tend to vary based on where you’re booking from. Using a VPN can save you quite some money to appears as browsing from another country. I use Tunnelbear as a VPN, especially when I travel as Wifi & Cafés wifi are not safe and easy to hack. Tunnelbear is really easy to set up, use and I really like that bear & brand! You can use their 7-day free trial to test it out!
A good start is looking at the price from the departure and destination country websites.
For instance, I’ve noticed that Air France tickets are cheaper if you book them “from” Canada rather than “from” France.
When booking on a foreign website, always make sure to pay in the local currency. Your bank will convert the transaction to your currency rather than the booking website that will make a commission on your back!
General Plane Tickets Booking Hacks
- It’s not all about the price.
When given a choice and if the price is correct, I almost always get the shortest or a direct flight. If you travel a lot, you know it’s a reasonable choice!
- Before buying a plane ticket, look for discounts on Google.
- Use SeatGuru to choose the best seats for you. I’m a window guy for long-distance flights, what can I say!
- At an equal price between the airline website and a comparison site, always book on the airline’s website.
If you need to make any change/cancellation or such, it will often be much cheaper and easier!
- Find out about change/cancellation costs.
If you know there is a risk changing your tickets date, the cost of changing or canceling your ticket should be a determining factor for you.
- Get one the main air loyalty programs.
Yes, there are a huge amount of airline companies with each one their loyalty card.
Most of them are part of a loyalty program that includes many other airlines. This way, by having only a few airlines loyalty cards, you get points from most airlines around the world.
Make sure you get at least one of :
- Flying Blue
Even though I’m part of the Air France loyalty program, I still got points with my trips with Aerolineas Argentinas or Vietnam Airlines.
- Get that Airmiles credit card.
If you don’t have one, you most certainly have thought about having one. Now is the time!
- New or lesser-known airlines are cheaper
Sometimes while looking at Google Flights or the likes, you’ll find a weirdly low price from an unknown company. Lucky you!
While in Cambodia, I was able to find a $50 plane ticket from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville on Ctrip. I was about to resign to the 12h hour bus trip when I found this ticket by a months-new company, JC International Airlines.
Check-in & Airport Hacks
- Check-in as soon as you can
This way, no risk of getting your seat canceled at the last minute!
- Here is a map of airport wifi passwords around the world
- Get to the airport early.
Not only to be less stressed but to have time to get some work done!
- Gain access to airport lounges.
Depending on the airline you’re flying with, your ticket category (business/first), you frequent flyer status or event your credit card type you can have access to airport lounges. Worst case you could always pay on LoungeBuddy!
- After security checks, fill your empty water bottle!
- Don’t stand in line as soon as they call for your flight’s check-in, you have still a LOT of time.
- If you feel like staying where you’re flying from one more night, you can volunteer to leave your seat if your plane was overbooked.
You’ll get free hotel stay & perks like a voucher for an upcoming flight as a gift.
- If one of your planes flying in/from Europe gets delayed, you could win big thanks to EU laws!
After getting my Amsterdam-Montreal flight canceled in 2015, I got a free night in a nice hotel, dinner & breakfast and some time to explore again. Oh, and a 600 Euros check!
WHAT ARE YOUR ADDITIONAL PLANE TICKETS BOOKING HACKS?
Have you tested some of my travel hacks and have a story to share? Special thanks to Emily Long, travel blogger at Jiminy Magazine for the STA hack and Naomi Larocque at FashionIsMyReligion for the volunteering trick:)
Do you have additional hacks that you’d like to share?
Shoot in the comments below!