How to Find Cheap Flights: Step 1 Travel Search Engines

| May 4, 2010 | 15 Comments
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Learning how to find cheap flights is a process that requires some time and patience, yet is a must if you want to travel far and often. I find that transportation and accommodation are usually accountable for around 70-80 % of my travel expenses, so whether you’re backpacking or not flying will take away one of the largest chunks of your budget. Assuming you want to save as much on your flights as I do, this section is meant to make our lives (yes, yours AND mine) much easier the next time we have to find cheap flights. Instead of having to remember all the good travel websites or look around the internet for those great low cost airlines (many of which not many people know they exist), this page has all this information plus a few travel tips to help you reduce costs. It should be a great resource .

how to find cheap flights

Finding the best priced flight is not easy...but well worth it!


How to Find Cheap Flights

When trying to find a cheap flight you should/ will choose one of the following methods depending on where and how long you plan to travel for

* General travel search engines
* Low cost airlines
* Around the world (RTW for short) and multiple stop flights

Many countries have their own sites that can find good deal, but there are way too many to list here. This section aims to provide all the necessary tools you should need to find your cheap flight at optimum cost regardless of where you are and where you are going. We all know that there’s a plethora of each a mouse-click away, so read along because these are the ones that consistently deliver the best results I can find when I travel.

Where to begin

Travel search engines are by far the most common way of looking for flights using the internet and one of the most effective. You have to assume though that finding a good deal will require spending some time in front of your computer, and it just might not be your best bet. Still, it’s part of the process with plenty of success stories and I never skip it- I suggest you don’t either. The following are the ones I always use and are definitely excellent options:



These guys used to be my favourite by far, although others have caught up. Nonetheless make sure you check them out, and they also have great flight+ hotel deals that sometimes can be the cheapest way of travelling.

Kayak.com Search Flights 120x90 - Search Flights on 450+ Websites
Who hasn’t heard about Kayak? It aggregates results from other consolidators’ sites and then redirects the visitor to that site. I like their grid display for near-by dates prices very much, and they have a new tool which will show where you can fly in the world from your city for your maximum budget. I think it’s great when you know you want to leave but don’t know where!


Expedia.com

Once Microsoft’s travel search engine, it has not given me the best price too often but I still check it anyhow just in case. They are pretty good with hotels though.

Very user friendly it is particularly good for flights within USA and (sometimes) to countries in the Americas. They have a similar-date grid display to that of Kayak that is very handy too.

Other big players in the market are
no one deals like we do!
Logo (120x60) CheapOair.com



Travel Tips You Must Consider

Once you have checked travel search engines you now have a very good idea of what the lowest prices are out there, but you can still play around further and improve your results a bit considering the following tips on how to find those cheap flights:

* Flying on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday will give you a better price. If you spend a Saturday night in your destination you might improve it further too.

* If you’re travel dates are flexible dates make sure you choose this option when browsing with the search engine and if it doesn’t have it check around yourself- it has lierally saved me hundreds of dollars.

* Make sure you get the frequent flyer memberships (it’s free) for an airline that belongs to each of the major airline alliances: Oneworld, Star Alliance and Skyteam. It will take some time before you get something for free, but you can earn more points when renting a car, staying at a particular hotel (company paid?) and many other ways. It is not uncommon for frequent business travellers to finance family vacations with airline miles!

* If traveling international make sure you check flights leaving from the 3 or 4 major airports (unless flying with a low cost airline) in your country and look for other flights (low cost?) or options (bus, car, train?) that will take you to that airport.

* Similarly, you can check on flights from major international airports in nearby countries and get there with a low cost carrier. For example, I went on holidays to Thailand last October and found the best price by looking for flights from London to Bangkok and first getting there with a Low Cost airline; I would have paid over 250$ more per person had I purchased the cheapest ticket I could find from Spain, which would have had a stopover in another European city anyhow!

* Once you have the cheapest flight you can find, go to the official airline website and look for that flight. Some companies have a minimum price policy that can reduce your ticket a wee bit more- remember that those 10$ you save will give you accommodation and three meals in many countries worldwide!

You now have plenty of information that will keep you busy for a while if you want to find the best bargain. However, you’re not done yet. These search engines do not include all major airlines nor do they check low cost airlines- and if you have the opportunity to use one don’t miss it.  Continue reading part two of this series  How to Find Cheap Flights Step 2:  Low Cost Airlines.


How do you look for flights when using travel search engines? Do you have any other strategies? If you have more tips on how to find cheap flights please share them with us in the comments section below!

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15 Responses to “How to Find Cheap Flights: Step 1 Travel Search Engines”

  1. Wow definitely a list of the most popular travel site to find a cheap flights

  2. Theo says:

    Awesome Blog.
    Great reading & tips.
    I also travel fairly often…
    & your right…Flights & Accomadation are costly.
    But then a friend on Facebook suggested a site to me…
    http://holiday-scout.net
    which offers…Flights…Accomadation…& Car Rentals.
    It’s easy & simple to navigate…
    & almost always I find great deals on there..!
    Another site to consider while searching.
    Enjoy !!

  3. Lucian says:

    Unfortunately not all the low cost airlines are present in the flight search engines you presented. Some of them (like Ryanair – the biggest low cost airline in Europe) do not agree paying commissions to third parties, so are not present in their search results.
    There are other sites (like http://www.lowcostroutes.com/ and WhichBudget) that offer the full list of low cost airlines flying on any route, so you may use them to find which are all your options!

    • maitravelsite says:

      This is why I have another article on finding cheap flights with low cost airlines… thanks for stopping by though!

      • Lucian says:

        You are right, SkyScanner is a very good resource too, listing almost all airlines. Rarely I found airlines that they don’t show within the results.

  4. I love using Kayak for cheap tickets. farecast.com is also great to view the prediction on plane tickets and whether or not they’ll go drop or raise in price. Have you found luck buying on a Monday or Tuesday?

  5. I have heard that searching late at night when demand is not as high may result in being able to find lower fares. A lot of people search around lunch time and after dinner which pushes the prices higher. I read about this on another site, and am going to give it a try.

  6. FlyerTalk is a good starting point too, though you’ll have to read through the Wiki and FAQ to get a handle on the jargon. If you’re flying small domestic carriers in developing countries, you might have to give your hotel a call and see if they have a promotion/deal — occasionally this will beat the price you pay “overseas” as a tourist

  7. These are some good tips to get cheap flights. Other tips include being flexible on the day of the week or time of day you travel. Flying at a less desirable time such as late at night or early morning can save you a lot. Also, if you can be flexible on the airline and maybe travel with hand luggage only you may save more with some low cost airlines.

    • maitravelsite says:

      Yup. Those eraly morning flights are usually cheaper, good point. And Ryanair is extremely cheap if you don’t check luggage as you mention.

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