Ever since I studied abroad in Paris during the summer of 2017, I had this ever-growing desire to keep traveling and see the world. Because I grew up in the same town where I now attend college, I gained a newfound appreciation for traveling, especially to big cities that are bustling with sightseeing opportunities.
So in 2018, I wanted to make traveling a priority. Given my busy schedule as a college student, I would say that I was pretty successful. In the span of one year, I visited eight major metropolitan cities: Miami, Las Vegas, NYC, DC, Philadelphia, Seattle, Vancouver, and even Seoul.
As a college student however, I have many limitations, especially when it comes to budgeting. Flights are a huge cost when it comes to traveling. There are some obvious tips that most of us know, such as purchasing flights earlier rather than later and flying on discount airlines such as Frontier or Spirit Airlines. But in this blog post, I will bring you my five best secrets for scoring your next flight deal.
Use Google Flights as your flight search engine.
In 2018, Google improved the design and functions of Google Flights. I now use it as my sole search engine for flights because of its simple and customizable interface. I do not use other websites such as StudentUniverse or Expedia anymore, because I have consistently found better deals from Google Flights.
Do you know when you want to travel but are unsure of where your next destination should be? By simply inputting the dates you would like to travel, Google Flights can show you a list and map of different destinations and their respective prices.
This is a game-changer as you can explore various options for both domestic and international travel. Especially as a college student, you may be limited to just weekend trips or over holidays and long breaks. By knowing which dates you are free, you may find yourself traveling to a place you never considered before.
Most people know that return flights on Sundays are expensive, and flying on weekdays is significantly cheaper. Therefore, if you have a little bit more flexibility on your dates of travel, Google Flights can show you a price grid showing how much you could save if you simply adjusted the days you travel.
You can also check out the price of flights over the next few months by using their price graph. Depending on where you visit, flights in the summer and winter will typically be more expensive.
Caution! Google Flights does not show flights from Southwest Airlines. Don’t forget to double check Southwest’s website when conducting your search, as they can have some pretty awesome deals too.
Consider flying out of a different airport (somewhat) near you.
My local airport, Raleigh-Durham International, is the second-largest airport in North Carolina. While I have found many cheap deals out of RDU, it is still pretty expensive to fly out to certain cities in the United States, such as to the West Coast. Additionally, you will almost always have a connecting flight if you are flying internationally at RDU, which can make flights more expensive.
A huge tip that I have learned for saving money is to fly out of different airports that are bigger and tend to have more flights available. For me, Washington D.C. is a good option to look at, as there are three major airports that are a four-hour drive. Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, the largest airport in the United States, is about a six-hour drive. I have even considered flying out of any of the airports around New York City, which is an eight-hour drive. The sheer volume of flights at these larger airports makes driving instead of taking a connecting flight worthwhile.
For my upcoming spring break trip next week, my friends and I are flying out of Atlanta to catch a direct flight to San Juan, Puerto Rico for just under $300. Meanwhile, flying out of our local airport cost upwards to $800.
Again, for international flights, this is an excellent way to save money. There are many direct flights out of New York to destinations in Europe or Asia for under $400.
Find out which flights and airlines are most popular at your local airport.
If you don’t have a car and driving to a different airport isn’t a viable option for you, getting to know what your local airport has to offer can help you find cheap flights.
A quick Wikipedia search can tell you important statistics about your airport. At RDU, the top destinations are Atlanta, Charlotte, New York, Boston, Chicago, Baltimore, Dallas, and Orlando. Typically, flying to these cities will be cheaper, because there is a larger number of flights that service to these areas. On your search for your next trip, consider flying to any of these cities.
Furthermore, if certain airlines have larger shares at your airport, they will offer more flights that will also be cheaper. At RDU, Delta, American, and Southwest are head-to-head on their percent of market shares. Understanding this will help you narrow your search on which airlines to fly when you’re going to a specific destination.
Sign up for rewards programs or credit cards with travel benefits.
Check out the rewards programs for airlines that you fly most often. Signing up for these is essential, as the miles you fly can translate into steep flight discounts or even free flights. The more you fly, the more benefits you can redeem in the future. Airlines will also have credit cards that will offer amazing travel benefits such as free checked bags and priority boarding.
Credit card companies such as Chase or Discover will also have their own type of travel cards that translates your everyday spendings into rewards for flights on any airline.
By signing up for any of these programs, you will also receive exclusive emails for flights, so it is worth subscribing.
Sign up for Scott’s Cheap Flights.
Scott’s Cheap Flights is a free newsletter that emails you some of the best flight deals to international locations as they pop up. There is a premium version of $39 per year, where they email you ALL of the deals that they find. However, as a free user of the service, I have gotten about 2-3 emails per week, which I have been satisfied with thus far.
Each email will detail the location they found, the dates to fly, and which airlines these deals are on.
If you’re feeling spontaneous and want to travel somewhere new, Scott’s Cheap Flights can show you some really great deals across the world.
Let me know if you use any of these tips to find yourself a great deal!