For as long as internet travel sites have been around, I found myself being the family travel agent. At first it was just booking tickets on airline websites but then I began branching out and searching sites like priceline.com, and kayak.com. Even inside of booking sites that claim to find the very best deals, you’re often left with sticker shock.

Sometimes to find the very best travel deals, you have to get creative.

The first and most important element to finding cheaper airfares is to broaden your search, particularly with the dates you plan to travel. Instead of looking for a flight departing Monday and returning Saturday, look for a flight that departs between Saturday and Monday and returns between Friday evening and early Monday morning. This way you still arrive on time and leave after your last obligation. Sometimes this alone can save you hundreds of dollars.

Another broadening technique is to search for nearby airports. Instead of flying into Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), it could be hundreds of dollars less to fly into Long Beach International Airport, which is only 21 miles away from LAX.

Another straight forward option is to wait and see if prices go down, assuming you’re booking way in advance. Some sites like Kayak.com include a chart at the top of their site that predicts if prices will rise or fall in the coming weeks.

Getting really creative

There are times when those airfares just won’t budge and it’s not possible to find a cheaper flight, especially if you are booking last minute. The battle isn’t over yet though! This is where we get really creative.

If you are taking another person with you, consider using a companion fare if you have one. Many airline credit cards offer a companion fare to their customers. Alaska Airlines offers a $120 companion fare. Therefore, if you spent $700 on the flight, your second flight will cost $120. Making the total only $360 per person, about half price!

If you have airlines miles saved up, using those miles is another great option when flights are expensive. A lot of people underestimate the power of airline miles. I cringe when I hear someone is going to use 40,000 miles to fly round trip on a flight that they could buy with cash for $300. The reason being, for 40,000 miles, you can fly roundtrip to Europe from the United States. However, if you are looking at flights and they are over $500 roundtrip, you should probably check to see how many miles it would cost, if you can find a base fare of only 12,500 miles each way, it may be worth it.

Getting really really creative

Sometimes you just have to go one step further and see if you can cheat the system. Completely legally, but still, airlines do not like the technique I’m about to tell you. Are you flying to an airport that is a hub of an airline? Los Angeles, Denver, Phoenix, Seattle, New York, Atlanta, etc? When you are flying to one of these hub cities, often there are thousands of flights that go through the same city and then on to another destination. Sometime, the next destination is cheaper to fly to then the hub city itself. For example, I often fly from Anchorage, Alaska to Phoenix, Arizona. I know from research that flights from Anchorage to Long Beach, California are much cheaper than flights to Phoenix. To stay competitive, American Airlines offers flights to Long Beach with one stop in Phoenix for the same price as the competitors offer non-stop flights to Long Beach. All I have to do is book the flight from Anchorage to Long Beach and then get off at my stop in Phoenix and miss the connecting flight to Long Beach, saving over a hundred dollars. Crazy right?

Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport

Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport

 

Here’s the catch, you can’t book roundtrip flights like this because as soon as you miss your connecting flight, they will cancel the remainder of your itinerary. Therefore, you need to book a separate one way return flight home. Still, it can save you a significant chunk of change.

To recap, there are lots of ways to save money when booking specific flights. The easiest is always just to find a cheap flight to begin with but sometimes it requires getting creative. Although InternationalEscape.com is designed primarily for those looking for an international getaway and aren’t too picky about their destination, you’ll find plenty of insight on all types of travel. So check back often for more deals, tips and inspiration!